CNN Double Standard: Steve King's Latest Remarks vs. 2011 Tea Party Comments

On CNN's New Day Tuesday, co-host Chris Cuomo recapped his interview on the show yesterday with Iowa Representative Steve King as the Republican congressman "just trying to provoke conversation." This comes in the midst of King facing backlash over a tweet, agreeing with far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders. "Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny," King tweeted.

However, in 2011, CNN casually treated anti-Tea Party remarks, such as California Democratic Representative Maxine Waters saying at a townhall meeting that the "Tea Party can go straight to hell" and Indiana Democratic Representative Andre Carson decrying at a similar venue that the "Tea Party movement would love to see you and me hanging on a tree."

On August 31st of that year, reporter and Trump sparring partner Jim Acosta seemed to sympathize with the anti-Tea Party movement and said, "If President Obama is searching for a way to energize parts of the Democratic base, look no further than the Tea Party. The conservative anti-big government movement which just scored a big victory in the debt deal on Capitol Hill, has liberals in Congress hopping mad."

JIM ACOSTA: If President Obama is searching for a way to energize parts of the Democratic base, look no further than the Tea Party. The conservative anti-big government movement which just scored a big victory in the debt deal on Capitol Hill, has liberals in Congress hopping mad.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: The Tea Party can go straight to hell. 

ACOSTA: At a series of town halls and job fairs in Democratic districts, members of the Congressional Black Caucus have accused Tea Party-backed Republicans of kicking the poor and even outright racism in their zeal for cuts in government spending.

REP. ANDRE CARSON (D), INDIANA: Some of them in wrong right now of this Tea Party movement would love to see you and me hanging on a tree.

ACOSTA: Asked about those comments later, Congressman Andre Carson defended his remarks to CNN.

CARSON: I stand on the truth of what I spoke. My intentions weren't to hurt anyone or any group.

ACOSTA: As the Tea Party Express was launching its latest bus tour across the country, the group's chairwoman seemed to wear some of the criticism as a badge of honor.

Moreover, the sympathy continued the following day:

CAROL COSTELLO: A Democratic lawmaker refusing to back down from some inflammatory comments about the Tea Party movement. California Congressman Andre Carson at a Black Caucus event last week accused Tea Party backed Republicans of outright racism and their push to cut government spending.

REP. ANDRE CARSON, (D) INDIANA: Some of them in Congress right now with the Tea Party movement would love to see you and me, I'm sorry, chairman, hanging on a tree.

COSTELLO: Questioned by CNN about those strong words, Carson defended them.

CARSON: I stand on the truth of what I spoke. My intentions weren't to hurt anyone or any group. I wanted to speak to the issues that concern me and the philosophical issues that concern me as it relates to certain leadership within the Tea Party organization. Not the entire Tea Party, but certain elements that have concerned me deeply for quite some time that I think should really reevaluate what it means to be an American, and we shouldn't go along the path of taking America back to the good old days, because those days weren't good for everyone.

COSTELLO: Tea party officials for their part have rejected the notion that the movement is racist.

Carson's comments even made it as a "Quote of the Day" on CNN's American Morning: Wake-up Call. "Quote, 'Some of them in Congress right now of this Tea Party movement would love to see you and me hanging on a tree,' end quote. Who said that? Well, it was Democratic Representative Andre Carson," then-anchor Carol Costello said. "He later clarified to CNN that he was not talking about -- not all but some members of the Tea Party. Carson says he stands by the remarks. He's a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Now you know."

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On September 5th that year, the network's Situation Room nonchalantly treated labor leader and attorney James P. Hoffa's anti-Tea Party tirade at a Labor Day rally. The son of the missing labor union boss declared legally dead in 1982 said, while introducing President Barack Obama, "Let's take these son of a bitches out and give America back to where America, where we belong."

JAMES HOFFA: But he needs help. And you know what? Everybody here has got to vote. If we go back and we keep an eye on the prize, let's take these son of a bitches out and give America back to where America, where we belong.

WOLF BLITZER: All right. That last line is causing a huge uproar, a lot of reaction, including from the Tea Party Express chair, Amy Kremer, just issuing a statement. "Jimmy Hoffa's remarks are inexcusable and amount to a call for violence on peaceful Tea Party members, which include many Teamster members. We have called on President Obama to condemn this inappropriate and uncivil rhetoric, which has no place in the public forum. He should chastise Mr. Hoffa, his vice president, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Congressman Andre Carson and the other Obama supporters who have been outrageous in their comments." Donna Brazile, you're looking at me and you're getting ready to -- what do you think about this? Was James Hoffa over the line in saying those words, "Let's take these son of a bitches out and get America back to where we belong"?

DONNA BRAZILE: You know, every time the Democrats or the progressives throw a punt, the Republicans cry, they whine, they say stop beating us, stop hitting us. Jimmy Hoffa was talking about his members, his workers, the unions. They're under attack. They're under attack each and every day with their jobs, with their health care and their pensions. And what he was doing was rallying them to say we're going fight, we're going to continue to fight. He wasn't personalizing the battle. This is a battle over ideas, and that's what he was talking about.

BLITZER: You think Donna is right, Will?

HERMAN CAIN: No, I don't. You it was, what, only about a year or so ago that we had a call for civility and a new tone? I just don't know how you rationalize that with what we just heard. I will agree with Donna that Jimmy Hoffa probably had some substantive statements there in his critique. When the Congressional Black Caucus had to say so many rough and tumble things about the Tea Party a week ago, there was no substance behind that. Today, you know, Hoffa has some substance, because I can tell you as a conservative, we're not very happy with the state of unions in the country right now, and we would like to see some reform there.

BRAZILE: But organized labor is not happy with the state of American working people, the middle class. And that's why they're going to fight. And let me just say this. I listed to the Black Caucus. They had a lot of substance to talk about. They talked about what we could do, both the private and the public sector, to create jobs in this country. And they were talking about 17 percent of African-Americans being unemployed. So they had a lot of substance. It's just, unfortunately, the Tea Party and many others are not listening to members of the Black Caucus.

BLITZER: We'll continue this discussion down the road.

On the show, Democratic strategist, former interm DNC chair, and question-sharing Clinton buddy Donna Brazille defended the remarks. "You know, every time the Democrats or the progressives throw a punt, the Republicans cry, they whine, they say stop beating us, stop hitting us," she said. "Jimmy Hoffa was talking about his members, his workers, the unions. They're under attack. They're under attack each and every day with their jobs, with their health care and their pensions. And what he was doing was rallying them to say we're going fight, we're going to continue to fight."

"He wasn't personalizing the battle. This is a battle over ideas, and that's what he was talking about," she added. 

In that conversation, conservative pundit Herman Cain responded that while there was "substance" behind Hoffa's statements, there was "no substance" behind critiques of the movement by the Congressional Black Caucus, such as Waters'. "No, I don't [agree with Donna Brazille]. You it was, what, only about a year or so ago that we had a call for civility and a new tone? I just don't know how you rationalize that with what we just heard."

Cain added, "I will agree with Donna that Jimmy Hoffa probably had some substantive statements there in his critique. When the Congressional Black Caucus had to say so many rough and tumble things about the Tea Party a week ago, there was no substance behind that. Today, you know, Hoffa has some substance, because I can tell you as a conservative, we're not very happy with the state of unions in the country right now, and we would like to see some reform there."

While there is no way to defend King's remarks, there's no justification of CNN's double standards. 

Here is the transcript of the exchange on Tuesday's New Day over King's remarks:

New Day

03/14/2017

6:41:22 AM [4 min., 55 sec.]

[HIGHLIGHT OF NEW DAY INTERVIEW WITH REP. STEVE KING]

CHRIS CUOMO: A Muslim American, an Italian American, a Christian American, a Jewish American. You do realize that they are all equal, right? They are all the same thing. We don't need babies from one of those groups more than we need them from other groups. Do you agree with that? 

REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN STEVE KING (Iowa): Well, I would say that -- 

CUOMO: Why do you pause on a question like that, congressman? What do you mean, it doesn't depend on any definition?

[END OF CLIP]

CUOMO: Steve King had my hands going. The Iowa Republican congressman slow to answer in an interview about the equality of all different kinds of Americans. He was doubling down on a controversial tweet voicing concern for a right-wing anti-immigrant Dutch politician saying we can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies. Lawmakers in his own party even turning against him. Let's bring back our panel, Abby Phillip, Patrick Healey, Matt Lewis. Abby Phillip, I was surprised. We have Steve King on a lot. And I know he gets a lot of heat for things. Sometimes, I think he's just trying to provoke conversation. But this one left me with my head scratching. I don't understand where he was trying to go with this. And we saw a very quick rejection of him by a lot of his people. Even Jeb Bush came out and said this was the wrong thing. How did it play down there in D.C.? 

ABBY PHILLIPS: I think it was remarkably slow, the degree to which it took quite a while for his Republican colleagues to condemn it. But beyond that, Steve King has been saying things like this for quite some time. Months ago, in the campaign, he talked about how European civilization had really been the only civilization to contribute to modern society, which is factually inaccurate. But, it's also something uncommon with -- for this particular member of Congress and it's surprising that, you know, it took hours and hours for folks to come out and give some fairly tepid condemnations and beyond that, no one is saying, “Hey, I think it's time for you to step aside.”

POPPY HARLOW Right. And so to your point about sort of the tepid reaction from some of his fellow Republicans, Paul Ryan saying, you know, I don't think this statement reflects what is special about this country. But then he said, I would like to think, and I haven't spoken to Steve about this, but I would like to think he misspoke and wasn't really meaning it that way and how it sounded. Hopefully he's clarified that, he didn't. Matt Lewis, he doubled down on it last night on another network. And he has tweeted things akin to it in the past. So why would Paul Ryan respond that way? 

MATT LEWIS: Well, he's trying to duck the question. And I think Paul Ryan does a have a very noble and positive position on things like immigration. He comes from the same kind of school that I come from, called a Reagan/Kemp School that believes that more people equals more ideas. And that we're benefited -- we benefit as a country from having diverse viewpoints. So, I think what Steve King said is dangerous. It's actually representative of a sort of fringe strain that's becoming more popular on the right, right now, both internationally and in America. I do though, think, that there are elements within what he was trying to say, that I'm sorry to see get caught up in this. I think most mainstream conservatives would say, more Americans, white, black, whatever, should be having more babies. And that a civilization needs to be basically reproducing and having kids in order to survive. Part of the reason we need immigrants, frankly, is because we're not having -- Americans are not having enough kids. And I also think it's just fine to defend Western Civilization. Starting in 1215 with the signing of the Magna Carta, until today, Western Civilization has created great things, including the rule of law and tolerance. There are elements I think he's right about, but the larger point, I think is very toxic and pernicious. 

PATRICK HEALY: Can I follow up one point about what Matt is saying? I remember being in Iowa in January of this last year during the caucuses and Steve King has a really power base there. The Republicans, you know, were all sort of courting him. Ted Cruz, you know, got him, got his support. And Steve King wasn't talking about babies back then. You know, he was talking about civilization and American values and the importance of that. But he wasn't using this kind of language. And I just think there's something to what Matt is saying about the fact that this sort of language has become -- is -- there's a power to it. It's becoming the empowered kind of far-right, being able to sort of say these things and not have them being swatted down. To feel that there's a sort of normalization going on around it. It's different than it was a year ago. 

POPPY HARLOW: It comes with a movement that we've seen arise of white nationalism across this country. 

HEALY: Sure.

HARLOW: Thank you all very much. Coming up for us, conflicting accounts of the last hours of Michael Brown's life. What does this surveillance video that a lot of us are seeing for the first time, what does it really show and why does it matter. What could it mean? 

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