CNN Panel Doubles Down, Blasts Kelly ‘Discrediting’ Wilson; ‘Totally Out of Place’

Instead of being responsible in this sad dispute concerning the death of Sgt. La David Johnson, CNN has shown repeatedly (here, here, and here) that it wants to have it both ways in attacking John Kelly for his Thursday remarks but bemoaning criticism of Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (Fla.).

Thursday’s CNN Tonight served as one such example, whether it was host Don Lemon knocking Kelly’s advice to President Trump about what to tell Johnson’s widow or American Urban Radio Networks correspondent April Ryan crying foul about Kelly “discrediting” Wilson.

 

 

Lemon set the tone one minute into his two-hour show, placing blame for the Johnson situation not on Wilson for discussing a private phone call, but Trump’s misinformed comments about past presidents not reaching out.

He continued on the attack while knocking the Trump administration’s P.R. tactics:

But that was never mentioned during the press conference today. General Kelly attacked Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson for listening to the phone call to the widow and then for later answering a reporter's question about that phone call. Never mind that he and other members of the Trump administration listened in on the call on the President's end. Never mind that it was a reporter's question that elicited President Trump's initial brag about calling Gold Star families in the first place, but in this White House, you must always counter punch, always be on the attack.

Lemon could have pointed out that the Congresswoman might have responded to media questions by stating that such conversations with the President were private. But, alas, the burden must remain on Trump!

The CNN host played a clip of Kelly criticizing Wilson and sighed at Kelly’s use of the phrase “empty barrel” before, again, trying to have it both ways by saying “this isn't about Kelly but about his boss, who didn't have to send Kelly out there to defend his bad behavior.”    

Once he brought in his starting panel, Lemon reiterated his respect for Kelly, but quickly hit back at Kelly’s advice to the President:

[B]ut General Dunford was saying to General Kelly, who’s a military man to a military man about a military man, and that is a different context than telling a 24-year-old civilian woman, who is with child and two, one of them standing by her side or about to stand by her side at a casket. The context is important and that is important and sometimes people just don't know what they don't know and I understand if a military man said that. I would — I'm sure someone would understand it, but when you're speaking to a civilian, I don't think that that's the right way to hear that — I don't think that she wanted to hear that in that moment. 

Again, it’s amusing to watch the media say one thing (in this case, accurately admitting that they can’t imagine having to call the family of a fallen soldier) and then do another thing (which was criticize the words chosen by someone who had to make the phone call).

“I take it that the congresswoman that she put it out there as well that she has some degree of responsibility. Whatever you feel about that, she is not the commander in chief. She is not the President of the United States. She does not have to be the consoler in chief and so the President of the United States should always take the high road and if he did not intend to say it, if that wasn't his intention, tell that to the widow,” Lemon added in comments directed at CNN Politics editor at large Chris Cillizza.

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Cillizza responded by lamenting that the issue in this ugly controversy “is the constant doubling down, the attacking, the saying that this congresswoman, whether it's General Kelly and the empty barrel stuff which I felt totally out of place....or just the whole idea like it's fabricated.”

Ryan interjected to cry out: “He's trying to discredit her. He's trying to discredit her for telling the truth.” She continued after a commercial break: 

I was saying, you know, this is about discrediting a congresswoman who told the truth. There were several pieces of that statement today from General Kelly that really stood out to me. One, the fact that he said that he had to go to Arlington National Cemetery and walk around for an hour and a half. That really hit me hard because his son is there. His son — he is a member of the Gold Star families now, unfortunately. But we thank him for his service and his son as well, but at the same time, this congresswoman who told the truth, who did not — she was not an interloper. She was not doing it secretly. She was in the car when the master sergeant played it[.]

Similarly to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Ryan then engaged in some, at best, questionable statements about what the U.S. special forces were doing in western Niger. Ryan claimed that “another piece that I think that the White House is upset about why they're trying to discredit her, because she has information that they don't necessarily want out right now” with it being the threat of Boko Haram.

Along with the fact that it’s not damaging to reveal that the U.S. is fighting terrorism and particularly a ruthless group like Boko Haram, a Twitter thread from Colby College’s Laura Seay revealed that the ambush in Tongo Tongo involved different militants.

Ryan cited a retired military official as her source, but Seay noted that Boko Haram has been a source of struggle in southeastern Niger (ex. Diffa was one city in particular). However, the ambush occurred in Tongo Tongo, which Seay argued is 733 miles away.

“Geography alone shows that there's no way that withdrawal of Chadian troops endangered American special forces operating in Niger's west.......against a completely different group of militants fighting in a conflict very different from that involving Boko Haram in the east. We don't know all the details of why this tragedy happened. It occurred in under very difficult conditions in very difficult terrain,” Seay explained across three tweets (here, here, and here).

Well then. 

CNN’s late-night liberal bias was sponsored by network advertisers E-Trade, Mitsubishi, SoFi, and Stein Mart.

Here’s the relevant transcript from October 19's CNN Tonight with Don Lemon:

CNN Tonight with Don Lemon
October 19, 2017
10:01 p.m. Eastern

DON LEMON: And who could or would argue with a Gold Star family about that loss and that devotion? So how did we get here? That's also important. Why did the President's chief of staff even have to stand at that podium today? Where did all these claims of politicizing this controversy come from? The entire thing started with the man Kelly works for, and that's Donald Trump, the commander in chief. But that was never mentioned during the press conference today. General Kelly attacked Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson for listening to the phone call to the widow and then for later answering a reporter's question about that phone call. Never mind that he and other members of the Trump administration listened in on the call on the President's end. Never mind that it was a reporter's question that elicited President Trump's initial brag about calling Gold Star families in the first place, but in this White House, you must always counter punch, always be on the attack. So —

GEN. JOHN KELLY (Ret.): And the congresswoman stood up and in a long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise stood up there in all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building. Now, she took care of her constituents because she got the money and she just called out President Obama and on that phone call he gave the money, the $20 million to build a building and she sat down. We were stunned. Stunned that she had done it. Even for someone that is that empty a barrel, we were stunned.

LEMON: Empty barrel. In that same press conference Kelly lamented that he felt women were no longer held as sacred in our society. Perhaps he should look across the resolute desk at his boss, grab ‘em by the P word, blood coming out of her wherever, Rosie O'Donnell is a fat pig, Ms. Venezuela is Ms. Piggy, Ms. Housekeeping. I could go on, but I don't have all night and I have to get to the show. What I'm trying to convey is that this isn't about Kelly but about his boss, who didn't have to send Kelly out there to defend his bad behavior. One of three generals he sent out today to cleanup his mess and vouch for his behavior in the wake of Niger. Kelly, Mattis, McMaster. All Trump had to say was, I'm sorry, full stop and if he need to go on if he needs to say something else, he could have said that that was not my intention and I am deeply sorry. He could have called her again personally, the widow. He could have called the congresswoman to explain himself. He could have put class above one upmanship. He could have put patriotism above personal grievance.

(....)

LEMON:  And listen, I have the utmost respect for General Kelly, but General Dunford was saying to General Kelly, who’s a military man to a military man about a military man, and that is a different context than telling a 24-year-old civilian woman, who is with child and two, one of them standing by her side or about to stand by her side at a casket. The context is important and that is important and sometimes people just don't know what they don't know and I understand if a military man said that. I would — I'm sure someone would understand it, but when you're speaking to a civilian, I don't think that that's the right way to hear that — I don't think that she wanted to hear that in that moment. 

(....)

LEMON:  Listen, I take it that the congresswoman that she put it out there as well that she has some degree of responsibility. Whatever you feel about that, she is not the commander in chief. She is not the president of the United States. She does not have to be the consoler in chief and so the President of the United States should always take the high road and if he did not intend to say it, if that wasn't his intention, tell that to the widow. Don't make up for some mistake that you've made by bringing everybody else into it. 

CHRIS CILLIZZA: And don't tweet, by the way.

LEMON: Exactly —

CILLIZZA: Don't tweet something about fabrication. I mean, that this is —

LEMON: — and don't send out General Kelly who’s lost his son sadly, you know, in Afghanistan in 2010, don't send him out there to cleanup your mess. Take responsibility and we would be talking about it all.

CILLIZZA: That's enough of it, Don. I think that's the central pivot point, which is I think you could explain this as Donald Trump, as Jim mentioned, was trying to do something that's extremely difficult.

LEMON: Right, I agree.

CILLIZZA: And something he doesn't do and had never done before — you know, he hasn't done it a lot in his life. It's not something he's done. He's a businessman, he had never done this. You are dealing with a widow who is struggling with grief. You can understand the possibility that miscommunication, what he said and what she heard.

LEMON: Right.

CILLIZZA: What he meant and what she took it to be weren't right. Fine. The problem is the constant doubling down, the attacking, the saying that this congresswoman, whether it's General Kelly and the empty barrel stuff which I felt totally out of place —

APRIL RYAN: He's trying to discredit her. He's trying to discredit her for telling the truth. 

CILLIZZA: — right or just the whole idea like it's fabricated, just say, you know what? I can never understand this sort of grief. I did the best that I could. I wanted to call if what I said wasn't how it was received, I deeply regret that. There's no harm done there and we're not talking —

LEMON: End of the story and we would not be talking about it and the story would be over. But stick around. I've got — you guys are going to come back. 

(....)

RYAN: I was saying, you know, this is about discrediting a congresswoman who told the truth. There were several pieces of that statement today from General Kelly that really stood out to me. One, the fact that he said that he had to go to Arlington National Cemetery and walk around for an hour and a half. That really hit me hard because his son is there. His son — he is a member of the Gold Star families now, unfortunately. But we thank him for his service and his son as well, but at the same time, this congresswoman who told the truth, who did not — she was not an interloper. She was not doing it secretly. She was in the car when the master sergeant played it, but here is another piece that I think that the White House is upset about why they're trying to discredit her, because she has information that they don't necessarily want out right now. She's getting information — intel that they have not put out and this Boko Haram issue is real. I called a retired general who has vast knowledge as it relates to that part of the world and the U.S. efforts with Niger. This general, this retired general said to me, look, this is not a unique effort. We have trained before as well as advised the Niger military when it comes to Boko Haram. Boko Haram and ISIS are linked, so she is giving information that they don't want out. They want to control the narrative and they're trying to discredit and this is what I don't understand.


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