CNN’s Blow, Sciutto Defend Students from Criticism, Tout Their ‘Very Nuanced Positions’

Using a debunked photo of Parkland student Emma Gonzalez ripping apart the Constitution and a Facebook post from Republican Congressman Steve King (Iowa) as cudgels, CNN Newsroom fill-in host Jim Sciutto and New York Times columnist Charles Blow rallied on Monday afternoon to defend the anti-gun, far-left Parkland students from conservative criticism.

While Sciutto touted them has holding “very nuanced positions” on gun control, Blow spread some serious false news when he claimed that Pat Smith was not ridiculed in the media following the death of her son in Benghazi and when she addressed the 2016 Republican National Convention. 

 

 

The former Obama administration official set the tone with three teases about “far right-wing voices” unfairly attacking Parkland students. 

Just past the 3:33 p.m. Eastern mark, Scuitto ignored the vulgar language students have used, instead gushing over them as “driving the national conversation on gun control, their faces becoming the leaders, the symbols of this movement, but also the targets, sadly, of smear campaigns and attacks from some conservative politicians.”

Sciutto noted the King post and correctly pointed to the fake Gonzalez post, but if you thought he wouldn’t use that to paint conservatives writ large with a broad brush, you were sorely mistaken. Going to The Daily Beast’s Matt Lews, Sciutto lamented: “Matt, if I could begin with you, what is your reaction to these teens being turned into villains online and even by some Republican politicians. Are they fair game here?”

The CNN Republican cited how Senator Marco Rubio (Fla.) has been willing to compromise more than almost anyone but was nonetheless attacked at the March for Our Lives “essentially said he's got blood on his hands” (which doesn’t even include other attacks such as being a murderer and the same person as the gunman). 

When Lewis added that such awful language is “hard to sort of turn the other cheek and not pushback,” Sciutto interjected:

Matt, he's an elected United States senator, an adult, and these kids are teenagers. Some of them even tweens, right? I mean, the trouble seems to be that the attacks are personal in many cases rather than on the policy disagreements. 

The reality is Sciutto spoke right past Lewis. Sciutto is correctly condemning false, ugly attacks on the students, but chose not to rebut them when roles were reversed. Right on cue, Lewis shifted gears to play his role at CNN, knocking Republicans for criticizing them because “attacking them is fraught with danger, as you're suggesting here.”

Sciutto then turned to a more sympathetic voice in Blow:

Charles, I wonder what your reaction. Beyond the personal attacks and certainly the fake attacks, which no one, including Matt, is defending here, do you believe at least on the issues that the students by putting themselves out there, right, that they can reasonably expect to get at least some pushback? 

Blow invoked Russian trolls spreading fake news (yes, really) and then falsely claimed that “people still did not attack” Smith despite her RNC address. Over on MSNBC moments after her speech, almost a half dozen MSNBC hosts and pundits lit into Smith.

Later, Sciutto hilariously claimed that the “politically savvy” students who have said pro-Second Amendment politicians “have chosen death,” attacked gun rights supporters (aka NRA members) aspathetic f***ers,” and want to take people’s guns away have held “very nuanced positions.” 

After this writer tweeted at Sciutto, he responded

To see the relevant transcript from March 26's CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, click “expand.”

CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin
March 26, 2018
3:11 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: March Fallout; No, Parkland Student Did Not Tear Up Pic of Constitution]

JIM SCIUTTO: Plus debunking conspiracy theories and photo shopped images. Students who survived a massacre at their high school now turn into villains in the far right-wing media. 

(....)

3:23 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: March Fallout; No, Parkland Student Did Not Tear Up Pic of Constitution]

SCIUTTO: Plus, they marched for gun reform but now they are the targets of the far right. I also might mention they're children. Why fake pictures like this one of Parkland survivors are spreading online.

(....)

3:33 p.m. Eastern [TEASE]

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: March Fallout; No, Parkland Student Did Not Tear Up Pic of Constitution; Doctored photo of Emma Gonzalez went viral among far right-wing voices]

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, far right-wing conspiracy theories have gone viral, demonizing the young child survivors of the Parkland school shooting, teenagers, demonizing him as un-American. A photoshopped image showing one student apparently tearing up the Constitution. The fact is that's just not true. We're going to discuss the impact of this, next.

(....)

3:37 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: March Fallout; No, Parkland Student Did Not Tear Up Pic of Constitution; Doctored photo of Emma Gonzalez went viral among far right-wing voices]

SCIUTTO: The Parkland shooting survivors, just high schoolers driving the national conversation on gun control, their faces becoming the leaders, the symbols of this movement, but also the targets, sadly, of smear campaigns and attacks from some conservative politicians. This fake video going viral on social media showing survivor Emma Gonzalez tearing up the Constitution. The trouble is, that's not what she tear — tore up. Teen Vogue's executive editor set the record straight. The image was pulled from its cover shoot. The real image on the right, Emma tearing up a target post, not the Constitution. Gonzalez was also the target of criticism from Republican Representative Steve King's team with this Facebook post calling out Gonzalez for wearing a Cuban flag on her jacket saying it is ironic that she would wear the flag of a communist country while calling for gun control. Joining me now to discuss are CNN political commentators Charles Blow, who is a New York Times op-ed columnist and Matt Lewis, a senior columnist at The Daily Beast. Matt, if I could begin with you, what is your reaction to these teens being turned into villains online and even by some Republican politicians. Are they fair game here? 

MATT LEWIS: Well, it's a tough one. On one hand, they are going after Republicans. Marco Rubio, who actually has tried to present some, I think, common sense immigration reform ideas has been attacked by them from the stage, in fact at the March on Saturday and essentially said he's got blood on his hands. So they're coming after Republicans. It's hard to sort of turn the other cheek and not push back. I would say — I would say as far as —

SCIUTTO: Matt, he's an elected United States senator, an adult, and these kids are teenagers. Some of them even tweens, right? I mean, the trouble seems to be that the attacks are personal in many cases rather than on the policy disagreements. 

LEWIS: Well, I would say I think that attacking them is fraught with danger, as you're suggesting here. I mean, one is their age. Additionally, look, they do have a certain moral authority here. They are victims. They were part of this horrible shooting. I don't think that bestows them with absolute wisdom. It doesn't necessarily mean that they're correct about every policy issue, but it does, I think, give them a certain amount of moral authority to talk about this. So I think Republicans really need to tread carefully here when you go after them. 

SCIUTTO: Charles, I wonder what your reaction. Beyond the personal attacks and certainly the fake attacks, which no one, including Matt, is defending here, do you believe at least on the issues that the students by putting themselves out there, right, that they can reasonably expect to get at least some pushback? 

CHARLES BLOW: Yeah, but I don't think you can put aside the false attacks. I think that's part of what is fueling this and I actually believe that it is a — it back fires in a big way. One thing that the kind of fake news, Russia propaganda, all that stuff during the election had was to dampen enthusiasm among young people, particularly young people of color. What you're doing when you’re doing false images of people who literally spend their all day doctoring images and putting Facebook filters on things, they can spot a fake image a mile away much better than we old people can. So it just — it just makes your argument feel much more hollow, that you don't have anything real to say so you're going to the fake stuff. That's bad for you and it actually energizes them rather than dampens their spirits. I think that is a big backfire move, but in addition to that, these are victims, right? So if you recall during the campaign, there was one of the mothers of one of the people killed in Benghazi was a big person in the campaign and actually spoke, I believe, at the Republican National Convention and people were asked about how to respond to that and they did the right thing by saying she's in pain, she deserves to be able to say whatever she wants to say. She put herself out there. She was a part of the political process, and people still did not attack her personally. The fact that Republicans are coming after these kids personally and even though they are speaking out of their pain, problem, problem, problem. 

SCIUTTO: Yeah, Matt, why can't we do that? And fact let's be fair, you'll often hear personal attacks coming from both directions, right, rather than going after the policy disagreements, you'll go right at — folks get called un-American, these kids, you had an interesting comment from former Senator Rick Santorum, which I'm sure you heard this weekend saying they should be studying CPR, they shouldn't be, you know, in affect, out there making these political statements here. But why on this issue, Matt, can't it be about the policy and not about the personal side, the politics of personal insult in effect? 

LEWIS: Yeah, look, I agree. I think they have every right to be making political statements. There's nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with them having been a part of this, wanting to go rather than just learning CPR, which I think we should probably all do, whether or not that would help in this instance. But there's nothing wrong with them advocating public policy positions, whether I like it or not, liberal or conservative. I do think both sides here are making the same mistake about polarization. You know, when, if you looked at this rally, there's a lot of things that I would agree with them on. A lot of things a lot of us, including Marco Rubio, might agree on. For example, raising the age of buying a rifle to 21, as I think they just did in Florida from 18. Things like background checks, but I think that the tenor of this rally was really let's attack the NRA, let's attack Republicans. Let's kinda go to the hard left. I think that's a mistake and likewise I think when Republicans attack these kids and make it personal and vicious and especially the fake stuff, that's not bringing us together. It's driving us apart. 

SCIUTTO: You know, Charles, it's interesting, after this shooting happened, we asked that question that we asked after the Newtown shooting, right? Is this time different? Will there be substantive change on these issues? Matt mentioned one there about raising the age, something the President expressed support for but then backed off after his meeting with the NRA. You've had some steps, safe schools funding, looks like bump stocks are going to get banned. But do you think again, Charles, that it didn't really make a difference or at least hasn't made a difference yet in terms of real substantive gun legislation changes? 

BLOW: Well, I take issue with that. I believe that it has, right. So, in the omnibus bill, one of the things I've been harping on forever is that the CDC for 22 years was not allowed to study whether or not — study gun violence and how to deal with it. 

SCIUTTO: Great point. 

BLOW: Somebody was able to sneak into in omnibus bill language that clarified that to specifically say that the CDC is in fact allowed to research that. I believe that you cannot make sound policy without sound data and for 22 years we've had no data or limited data from people who are outside the government trying to cobble together enough data. This now says the government can do that work. Now, it doesn't go all the way. We still need to make sure we have specific federal dollars allocated to do that research, but that's big because for 22 years nobody has been able to get that done and that is now done and nobody would have done it were it not for these kids on their backs. So, I believe, yes, they have led.

SCIUTTO: That's a good point. No, it's a good point and I don't want to take anything away from them because the political climate as you know is a very difficult one, even following a tragedy like this to get legislation through. Matt, if I could raise another point, because one thing that has struck me about the Parkland students after this shooting is their political savvy on these issues. Not just keeping their voices out there, but taking very nuanced positions on a lot of these measures. One in particular, they noted this weekend their privilege, which is why many of them wanted to share the stage with activists from other shootings who did not get the same attention that their school shooting did. Not notable, Mark, is it not, them in effect trying to expand their group of support on this issue? 

LEWIS: Look, I mean, I think that they're incredibly well spoken, incredibly savvy in some ways. I would say, though, I hate to beat a dead horse here, but look, if you actually want to change things in terms of public policy, you're going to need 60 votes in a Senate to get things done. You're going to need some Republicans to be a part of it. You're going to need people like me to support some of these things and I think there are some things that can be done, whether it's background checks, you know, raising the age, different things that are sort of reasonable, moderate, modest gun reform positions. You're going to need some Republicans to support it and I think what this rally and this March, very good at sort of stirring up the left-wing. Not so good at winning hearts and minds of people who don't necessarily agree with that position. So that's my concern from an analyst standpoint. 

SCIUTTO: Charles Blow, Matt Lewis, thanks for talking it out. 

LEWIS: Thanks. 

BLOW: Absolutely. 

NB Daily Parkland School Shooting Guns March for Our Lives Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats CNN CNN Newsroom Video Matt Lewis Pat Smith Jim Sciutto Charles Blow Marco Rubio
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