CNN’s Erin Burnett conducted a saccharine interview with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf on Monday’s Erin Burnett OutFront, in which she sympathized with the Mayor for being “picked on” by the President.
Schaaf made headlines in March when she posted a tweet warning illegal aliens about an upcoming ICE raid in the Bay Area. To her credit, Burnett framed Schaaf’s actions as such while introducing her; however, she went on to permit her to repeatedly twist facts, while offering virtually no pushback in response.
Burnett generously framed President Trump’s recent recommendation that Schaaf be investigated for obstruction of justice as “picking on [the mayor] personally.” She had Schaaf respond to a clip of that statement, in which Trump argued that many illegal aliens who had seen the warning had fled and avoided being apprehended by ICE agents.
“That is a ridiculous statement that has come from our President,” the Mayor complained. When pressed to elaborate, she explained:
The accusation that I personally – that the warning that I gave, which was very general, which was really just advising people about their legal rights, and the resources as well as the responsibilities that they have – the idea that that caused any amount of people to not be apprehended as part of that operation just cannot be true.
But Schaaf’s defense relied on an entirely inaccurate framing her March announcement, which read in part:
Earlier today, I learned from multiple credible sources that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is preparing to conduct an operation in the Bay Area, including Oakland, starting as soon as within the next 24 hours. As Mayor of Oakland I am sharing this information publicly not to panic our residents but to protect them.
There was plenty there for Burnett to work with. Despite Schaaf’s claim that her warning could not possibly have “caused any amount of people to not be apprehended,” she had clearly believed just the opposite while authoring the tweet, as her stated desire to “protect them” indicated. To clear up any confusion about her interpretation of the word “protect,” she used the term again further on in her statement, in reference to an order forbidding Oakland police officers from “participating in ICE activities.”
Her characterization of the tweet as “very general” was similarly dishonest. In addition to revealing the time and place of the raid, her announcement also indicated that she was sharing all of the information available to her: “I am not aware of any further details of the ICE operation, such as precise locations.” In other words, Schaaf’s tweet was as specific as she was capable of making it.
Of course, Burnett chose not to address any of these factual discrepancies. She instead responded with a leading question about whether the Mayor’s detractors had been engaging in “fear-mongering” when they noted that her actions could have endangered ICE field officers.
The CNN host failed to push back against any of the Mayor's arguments throughout the interview. If Burnett was aware of the factual inconsistencies in Schaaf’s claims, her failure to hold Schaaf accountable would mean she was complicit in her guest’s dissemination of falsehoods. Note that Schaaf's efforts to exonerate herself of wrongdoing hinged upon misrepresenting her actions rather than attempting to justify them. This might explain why Burnett chose not to press her with difficult questions.
To read a full transcript of the interview, click expand below:
CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront
7:30 – 7:36 pm EDT
ERIN BURNETT: So now let's talk to the person the bill was named after, that King is threatening to send to jail, Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf. In her first national TV interview since President Trump started attacking her. Thanks so much for your time. Now you have this legislation named after you, threatening to put you in the cooler. What's your reaction?
MAYOR LIBBY SCHAAF: Listen, I'm not going to let the bullies in Washington, D.C. deter me from doing what I know is right for my community. In Oakland, we're very clear about what our values are. We value our immigrant communities. We value diversity. And we will not let anyone intimidate us. We will not apologize for those values.
BURNETT: So if legislation like this were to pass, obviously you could be going to prison. Is that something you're willing to do to stand up for what you believe in?
SCHAAF: So, it is not possible that legislation like that could be legal. Sanctuary city policies are legal policies. They've been well researched, they're within the confines of what local and state jurisdictions are allowed to do. That is part of the beauty of American democracy. A balance between local, state, and federal power. And I can tell you that I know a lot more about what makes my community safe than a congress member from Iowa.
BURNETT: So the President of course has picked on you personally, and that's why Congressman King went after you, right? At the California sanctuary state round table last week, President Trump said you should be investigated for obstruction of justice, and I want to play that for you, mayor Schaaf.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You had the mayor of Oakland, where I read that you had a thousand people, Tom you know this because it was your deal – had a thousand people together, many of these were illegals, they were criminals, and she informed them, and they all fled, or most of them fled, and that whole operation that took a long time to put together, I mean, you talk about obstruction of justice. I would recommend that you look into obstruction of justice for the mayor of Oakland, California, Jeff.
BURNETT: So you heard him there, mayor, saying you warned these people, a thousand of them, most of them fled – those are his words – said you should be investigated for obstruction of justice. What do you say?
SCHAAF: So I think what speaks volumes to how factually accurate that statement could possibly be is the fact that ICE.'s own spokesperson, James Schwab, resigned from his position because he refused to tell lies like that. That is a ridiculous statement that has come from our President. And it's just further political theater and a distraction from actually having the real and necessary but difficult conversation about how to fix our broken immigration system.
BURNETT: And look, they are necessary, and they are difficult. I just want to make sure I understand, when you say what's factually inaccurate, is it obstruction of justice or is it that he says that you warned a thousand people and they all fled?
SCHAAF: The accusation that I personally – that the warning that I gave, which was very general, which was really just advising people about their legal rights, and the resources as well as the responsibilities that they have – the idea that that caused any amount of people to not be apprehended as part of that operation just cannot be true.
BURNETT: The President, of course Congressman King, Attorney General Sessions, they all agree on one crucial thing. They say that by tipping off immigrants, officials like you are putting law enforcement officials' lives in danger, that they'll know they're coming into the community, this can cause a loss of life for law enforcement. Are you sure they're wrong? Is that fear mongering, or is there truth in it?
SCHAAF: Well, there has been a lot of fear mongering by this administration. ICE Itself confirmed that there were no injuries at all during this operation, to ICE Agents. The information I gave was very general in nature, no specifics. I do not see how it could have possibly endangered any law enforcement officials.
BURNETT: Significant that ICE Would confirm there were no injuries. Before you go, I have to ask you about something else the President has said, and, you know, this is a controversial thing. He's come under criticism for it, but he's owning it. Calling members of the violent MS-13 gang animals. Today the White House tripled down on that, the actually put out a press release and they titled it, “What you need to know about the violent animals of MS-13.” The President has repeatedly stood by those words. You obviously have seen this. Is that a fair use of the word?
SCHAAF: I believe that this President's language is racist. It is fear mongering and it is tryingto distract the American people from the job that elect the officials are supposed to do, and that's improve the lives of the people that we represent, instead of casting blame and dispersion against a very vulnerable population. That's what we're doing here in Oakland. Oakland is a very proud, diverse, sanctuary city. Our crime has gone down over the last few years. We are working on safety by lifting up our children, getting them college degrees. That's the work that politicians should be doing, not trying to blame others for their own failings.
BURNETT: Mayor Schaaf, thanks so much for your time. I appreciate it tonight.
SCHAAF: Thank you.