Updated | Ever since becoming a full-time employee of MSNBC, conservative columnist and pundit S.E. Cupp has seemed to take it upon herself to rebuke the conservative movement from time to time on air, for which, of course, she is rewarded with applause by her liberal colleagues.
Earlier this week on her program The Cycle, Cupp said that she will no longer speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) due to their policy refusing gay groups GOProud and Log Cabin Republicans from sponsoring the conservative gathering. Cupp had earlier accepted a speaking invitation (see screencapture below page break) for the 2013 event, and Cupp had no such objection last year, when she both spoke at and held a book signing at the conference. [See video after jump. MP3 audio here.]
Speaking with openly gay colleague and gay marriage advocate Thomas Roberts on his March 1 program, Cupp reiterated her dissatisfaction with CPAC:
It's just become increasingly uncomfortable for me to endorse an event that is in some ways excluding and in many ways marginalizing this core group of gay conservatives.
Cupp then continued to express her desire that CPAC and the Republican Party be bigger tents than they appear to be presently:
They have been told to remain quiet, they have been told that they are not as conservative and I think a number of Republicans coming out in support of this to say, we can be an intellectually diverse big tent. There’s room for your opinion here. It doesn't mean all conservatives have to embrace gay marriage but you have to embrace gay conservatives and you have to embrace conservatives who support gay marriage. We can't keep doing these purity tests, these purity tests that try to exclude hardworking conservatives who are begging to be let in. Who are begging to be on our side. That’s not just bad manners, its bad calculus.
Cupp seems to ignore the fact that in the past GOProud has been extremely hostile and disruptive at past CPAC events, and that rather than coming to promote the conservative movement, they have used the conference as an occasion to pick internecine fights over gay marriage, rather than focusing on issues which they agree with most conservatives on.
In December 2011, Andrew Breitbart -- who passed away a year ago today -- resigned from the GOProud board in 2011 to protest group's president outing a Rick Perry staffer who was in the closet.
By contrast, when Rudy Giuliani -- who is pro-choice and pro-gay marriage -- has spoken at CPAC in the past, he goes to promote conservative values, not rebuke conservatives for disagreeing with him on social issues.
Aware that conservatives are skeptical as to whether Cupp's decision to pull out of her scheduled speaking slot at this year's CPAC because of pressure from MSNBC, she denied that the suits at the Lean Forward network cajoled her into pulling out:
There's been this idea that somehow this network pressured me out of speaking at CPAC. Not even possible. But didn't happen. I also worked for Glenn Beck. I don't know if it gets more conservative than Glenn. My employers on either side were not a factor in this. This was my decision.
We'll take S.E. at her word, however it is odd that last Saturday, liberal host Chris Hayes publicly denounced CPAC by saying that he would decline an offer by the group to speak. CPAC had extended the offer in the interests of both goodwill and to create a lively panel discussion where Hayes, as a liberal, could bring a unique perspective and generate buzz.
Cupp was scheduled to speak on Friday, March 15, and she had also scheduled a Q&A session to follow her brief remarks. She could have attended CPAC and made a mention during her speech that she hopes CPAC will allow GOProud as a co-sponsor. Cupp could have attempted to make the so-called conservative case for same-sex marriage, explaining why she joined a friend-of-the-court brief in a Prop 8 case before the Supreme Court.
See relevant transcript below.
March 1, 2013
11:17 a.m. EST
THOMAS ROBERTS: Well, a bold step by the Obama Administration is moving the needle on marriage equality. The Justice Department filed a legal brief with the Supreme Court yesterday urging the court to strike down Proposition 8 which bans same-sex marriage in the Golden State. And this marks the first time that a sitting president has ever urged the nation's high court to allow gay couples to marry but the Obama Administration went a step further by suggesting that it's unconstitutional for states to offer civil unions to gay couples but deny them the right to marry. Now the push for marriage equality in the case of California’s Prop 8 is also pulling in prominent Americans. Just yesterday, actor Clint Eastwood added his name to a list of more than 100 Republicans urging the Supreme Court to overturn prop 8 and its organizers of the conservative conference CPAC are defending themselves for snubbing key Republican players for this year’s conference. Other Republicans, like my next guest, are boycotting it. Joining me now is S.E. Cupp co-host of "The Cycle" right here on MSNBC. And S.E. first off, explain why you decided not to go.
S.E. CUPP: You know, I've enjoyed a long relationship with CPAC. It's a highlight of my year to go and speak and connect with other young conservatives especially but it's just become increasingly uncomfortable for me to endorse an event that is in some ways excluding and in many ways marginalizing this core group of gay conservatives. These are people who have worked doubly hard on our behalf. Having to reconcile their private lives with their political lives. They have risked much more than we have in fighting to an advance conservative policies.
ROBERTS: The group you're talking about is GOProud?
CUPP: Well GOProud and Log Cabin Republicans. Both of which I've worked for in the past. They have worked incredibly hard to advance conservative principles and we should be we rewarding them with positions of prominence, not inviting them into the tent but then stuffing them into the back room.
ROBERTS: One thing that's interesting as we talk about how many Republican names have signed on for this amicus brief. You're one of the names that's included on that. Now, the administration is making its case to the Supreme Court as well so that they made it in under the filing deadline. Do you think that this is going to help the GOP re-evaluate and seeing, not from the White House, certainly not from the white house, but knowing that there are prominent republican names, and we’re talking about Governors, elected leaders, people that are serving with, you know trying to get Mitt Romney elected even that are seeing this change and understanding they’re reading the waves. If you’re looking at the ocean, the tidal wave is coming.
CUPP: Yeah I hope so. The problem isn’t that there has never been conservatives who support gay marriage. I wrote a book years ago in which I talk about conservative values being really in line with gay rights and there are plenty of conservatives who believe that. The problem has been they have been sort of shamed by the party leaders. They have been told to remain quiet, they have been told that they are not as conservative and I think a number of Republicans coming out in support of this to say, we can be an intellectually diverse big tent. There’s room for your opinion here. It doesn't mean all conservatives have to embrace gay marriage but you have to embrace gay conservatives and you have to embrace conservatives who support gay marriage. We can't keep doing these purity tests, these purity tests that try to exclude hardworking conservatives who are begging to be let in. Who are begging to be on our side. That’s not just bad manners, its bad calculus.
ROBERTS: Alright let’s talk about the purity test. Because there's one politician who’s very popular, a Republican in the state of New Jersey, a blue state, that’s not getting the invitation of CPAC. Al Cardenas, who is the organizer, spoke to that yesterday.
AL CARDENAS: We're going to have the most diverse and I think representative view of America this year’s CPAC. We've got Tim Scott, Artur Davis, Marco Rubio. And for the first time ever. I'm highlighting ten young conservative all across the nation, African-Americans, Hispanics, women. I think the whole theme is that the conservative movement needs to grow with the demographic reality so America, and we're going to be painting that picture at CPAC.
ROBERTS: And that Al Cardenas from this morning on "Morning Joe." But as we hear Al Cardenas there talking about how they’re trying to reach out. I would think that, alright so someone like yourself. They want a younger demographic, a female demographic. What are they really doing? Because when I looked the other day at their website of speakers and I haven't gone back in a couple of days. They had 41 speakers listed, 12 of which were female. I think they are continuing to add speakers along but where is their devotion to widening the tent. I mean they say they want it but where’s the actual deed.
CUPP: Well, Al's right in that it's an important project to sort of be at least visibly and policy wise a more inclusive party and movement and to their credit they've invited a lot of women to speak. I was invited to speak. I was scheduled to speak and he rattled off a list of great, diverse conservatives. That's important. But I think the purity test is evidenced in issues like go proud and Log Cabin Republicans. There are certain third rails that you still can't cross apparently and that’s a really outdated, outmoded way of seeing the party and a damaging one and it's going to ruin us in the future if we ever want to win elections again we can't keep doing this.
ROBERTS: And this was your choice. You weren't pressured?
CUPP: Yeah. I'm glad you brought that up. There's been this idea that somehow this network pressured me out of speaking at CPAC. Not even possible. But didn't happen. I also worked for Glenn Beck. I don't know if it gets more conservative than Glenn. My employers on either side were not a factor in this. This was my decision.
ROBERTS: Well we’ve emailed back and forth and obviously people don't know you because there's really no way to convince this woman to do anything that she doesn’t want to do.
CUPP: To do anything I don't want to do. True.