Sure: CNN’s Baldwin Says It’s ‘Dangerous’ to Wonder If Town Hall Protesters Are Organized

The double standard continues, folks. On Tuesday afternoon’s CNN Newsroom, host Brooke Baldwin seemed dismayed and testy when it came to questioning whether or not the attendees at solid congressional Republican town halls are liberal protesters, bemoaning the idea as “dangerous” rhetoric to be articulating. 

Of course, NewsBusters readers will find this story to be quite humorous after recalling how this same network dismissed conservatives at town halls in 2009 and 2010 as astroturf or paid brown shirts.

After Baldwin applauded ABC’s Jonathan Karl for asking White House press secretary Sean Spicer about the town halls, she welcomed on CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel and wondered: “I mean, even if there are some people who organized this, how — how dangerous is it to — to paint with such a broad brush these constituents?”

A defensive Gangel noted that Spicer emphasized that “a bit of” the people in attendance were activists, but quickly went into P.R. mode by ignoring how attendees are openly being cobbled together by groups like the Indivisible Project or labor unions.

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“Is it possible there are a few activists at some events? Of course, yes, but when you look at this what Sara Murray just reported when our reporters go to the ground go to these events, these do not appear by and large to be activists,” Gangel proclaimed.

Gangel spoke about how there were more town halls planned, but she concluded with her earlier point as Baldwin agreed: “So but these are not — you know — for the most, part paid activists were there.”

Later in the 2:00 p.m. Eastern hour, Baldwin welcomed on Rose Mudd Perkins, who angrily confronted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at a recent town hall. Baldwin was extremely sympathetic, going so far as to invite Perkins to tell viewers “what you’re struggling with.” 

Needless to say, it was not the kind of sympathy the media showed to members of the Tea Party seven and eight years ago.

The topic arose in the next hour as Baldwin brought on freshman Republican Congressman Scott Taylor (Va.) to discuss how his recent string of town halls have gone. Once again, the CNN host used the occasion to flaunt the position that it’s “dangerous” to suggest those screaming at members of Congress were protesters:

Let me just ask you more broadly on the folks who are showing up. Again, you have — you know, town hall number three tonight and — you know — you have the White House and with the President's tweet and even Sean Spicer saying, you know, half of these people, you know, have valid issues but half of them, he said are some professional, manufactured protesters. I mean, how dangerous is that sort of language or do you agree with the President, with the White House with their criticism of these people? 

Taylor responded by informing Baldwin that he “can only speak for my district” and that he definitely knows that some in the audience are from “the local opposition party” in addition to “a couple of people I can point them out to you who are trying to incite the crowd and make them shout.”

“That being said, there’s also people organically concerned coming out to these town halls to express these concerns and I think that's great that they’re concerned and I want to hear them. I want them to have a seat at the table and I want to listen to them,” Taylor added.

Baldwin remained displeased with the answer:

BALDWIN: But then, Congressman, how dangerous is it? I’m listening to you and I hear what you’re saying. 

TAYLOR: How dangerous is what, sorry?

BALDWIN: There are people —  how dangerous is it to have the President lump all these people together as organized by liberal activists which is precisely what he did in that tweet? 

If Baldwin wants to go back to how she and her network covered the Tea Party’s inception in 2009 and 2010, let’s do that. 

Back around the Fourth of July in 2009, Baldwin had this short take on Tea Party members demonstrating near the U.S. Capitol: “Of course, exercising that First Amendment right to protest, but hopefully, they'll clear out of the way for the fireworks tonight.”

On the relevant topic of ObamaCare being repealed and replaced, Baldwin knocked Republican Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) in a June 2012 for possibly being a “sore loser” for fighting to make changes to the health care law.

Here’s a few other examples from CNN disparaging the Tea Party: 

- April 14, 2009: Anderson Cooper’s infamous and sexually-explicit comment that “[i]t’s hard to talk when you're tea-bagging”
- April 15, 2009: then-correspondent Susan Roesgen rudely cut-off someone at a Tea Party rally to denounce the movement as “anti-government,” “anti-CNN” and offering rhetoric that’s “not really family viewing” 
- September 2009: then-correspondent Jim Spellman snickered that there’s “a dark undercurrent” in the Tea Party akin to Nazism not devoted to smaller government but “outlandish conspiracy theories about death camps”
- November 2, 2009: AC360 suggests the Tea Party could be “driving moderates out of  the GOP” and toward “fringe” status while Democrats would continue to have a “big tent”

Here’s the relevant portions of the transcript from February 22's CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin:

CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin
February 22, 2017
2:02 p.m. Eastern

BROOKE BALDWIN: And so, you can understand why Jon Karl pressed Spicer because of the President’s words in that tweet, “organized by liberal activists” after being suggested to being planted, paid, organized to be there and so we needed an answer. 

SARA MURRAY: Well, that's absolutely right, Brooke. We did want an answer about how the White House is viewing these outcries that we’re seeing among member of Congress at the town halls and we sort of got some mixed reviews. They seem to believe that some of it is legitimate and some of it is manufactured, but what we’re hearing from our reporters who are going to these town halls is that there are people who really are concerned about what happens when you peel away ObamaCare and what the replacement plan is going to be. We don't have a good idea what that replacement plan is.

(....)

BALDWIN: And Jamie, let me just turn to you on the town halls, on the way Sean Spicer responded. I mean, even if there are some people who organized this, how — how dangerous is it to — to paint with such a broad brush these constituents? 

JAMIE GANGEL: I think what was very important was three little words that Sean Spicer used. He said a bit of, when he was talking about activists. Is it possible there are a few activists —

BALDWIN: Yes.

GANGEL: — at some events? Of course, yes, but when you look at this what Sara Murray just reported when our reporters go to the ground go to these events, these do not appear by and large to be activists. One — there are going to be town halls tonight. I was looking at Senator Cotton of Arkansas’s Facebook page. He had to change his location two or three times because so many people want to come to these town halls and I’m told that they expect that town hall to be big and loud, so but these are not — you know — for the most, part paid activists were there.

(....)

BALDWIN: Let's take a deep breath and let me just step back three steps cause not everyone knows what you're facing in Kentucky. I understand you lost your son to heroin. You are —

PERKINS: I did.

BALDWIN: I'm so sorry, but that’s just the piece of it. You are unemployed. You know, this is coal country too. I know a lot of folks don’t have work and part of the problem is you feel like your voice isn't heard. Tell me what you are —

ROSE MUDD PERKINS: Oh, no kidding. 

BALDWIN: Tell me what you're struggling with. 

PERKINS: A lot of things. One thing I’m struggling with is you call those numbers and you call and call and call, I don't even know if he's keeping count of the constituents that call, but it always says the same thing that you can’t leave a message. He doesn't want to hear it. He doesn't want to hear from us.

(....)

BALDWIN: Let me just ask you more broadly on the folks who are showing up. Again, you have — you know, town hall number three tonight and — you know — you have the White House and with the President's tweet and even Sean Spicer saying, you know, half of these people, you know, have valid issues but half of them, he said are some professional, manufactured protesters. I mean, how dangerous is that sort of language or do you agree with the President, with the White House with their criticism of these people? 

REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN SCOTT TAYLOR (Va.): Well, I don't know where they're getting their data from. I’m not sure. I haven’t spoken to them.

BALDWIN: But you have been there. 

TAYLOR: I can only speak for my district. I will tell you sure, there's the local opposition party. The faithful opposition has organized, have shouted, stuff like that. There are a couple of people I can point them out to you who are trying to incite the crowd and make them shout. That being said, there’s also people organically concerned coming out to these town halls to express these concerns and I think that's great that they’re concerned and I want to hear them. I want them to have a seat at the table and I want to listen to them, so I want to hear them and listen to them and not be shouted at. 

BALDWIN: But then, Congressman, how dangerous is it? I’m listening to you and I hear what you’re saying. 

TAYLOR: How dangerous is what, sorry?

BALDWIN: There are people —  how dangerous is it to have the President lump all these people together as organized by liberal activists which is precisely what he did in that tweet? 

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center