“There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media. The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far they have shown no comprehension of that.” - CNN President Jeff Zucker
One is left almost speechless at this statement issued the other day after the bomb threat against CNN.
Let’s start with this. CNN and MSNBC have been leading voices in the liberal media’s climate of hate. A climate of hate in which their main goal has been not to objectively report the news but to destroy a President. And by no means are CNN and MSNBC alone. Joined by the New York Times, the Washington Post and various other left-wing outlets in print, on air and online, they have all moved long past the role of legitimate critics of a President to foaming, ranting, eye-popping hatred. The President, we are told, is Hitler. A racist. He’s a fascist.
All of this - and so much, much more - has spewed forth on both networks and all the rest over the last three years. Yet even as the search was going on for what would turn out to be one Cesar Sayoc, a clearly troubled soul with a very long rap sheet - including one arrest for “threatening to use a bomb, and illegally possessing anabolic steroids” - out comes a statement like that from my old CNN boss Jeff Zucker.
Look. I have not the slightest doubt that CNN has been put through hell when one of these things was discovered in their New York bureau, a place where I seemed to be living during the 2016 campaign season. CNN, for all my professional or political criticism, is filled from top to bottom with good people who, suffice to say, do not deserve any of this. No one does.
But that said, the Zucker statement is significant for this reason. He says, again, this: “The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far they have shown no comprehension of that.”
Words are….words. And if they matter, then they matter no matter who in the public eye they are coming from. Back in January of this year in this space, I pointed it out here in this space. The headline: “By Don Lemon’s Twisted Logic, Should We Blame MSNBC for Scalise Shooting?”
Don had run a segment on his show that discussed the threats against CNN made by what Mediaite described as a “reported Hitler-fan” - and blamed the President for the threats. My response to Don then - and my response to Jeff Zucker’s missive now, which I also made Thursday night on Laura Ingraham’s Fox show, was this. As I wrote in January:
‘One of my favorite TV shows is The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.’
Who said that? Actually it was the lead sentence in a letter to the letters section of the Belleville News-Democrat, the paper of record in Belleville, Illinois. Who wrote it? That would be left-leaning James Hodgkinson, the man who shot and almost killed the Trump-supporting Congressman Steve Scalise while wounding several others as they practiced for a congressional baseball game between Republicans and Democrats in Alexandria, Virginia.
The point I was making then stands right now, perhaps even more so in the wake of the “bomb” planting at CNN and with all the other targets. Jeff Zucker says “words matter.” So if that is true, then the constant anti-Trump spewings from MSNBC and the anti-Trump rantings of Rachel Maddow are, by the Zucker definition, responsible for the shooting of Steve Scalise.
Amazingly, over there at MSNBC, as noted here at NewsBusters MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace appeared on NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers and this was reported: “Wallace also claimed the media was too afraid to blame President Trump for the recent series of suspicious packages mailed to prominent Democrats.”
Really? Really? Of course not. Trump has been blamed in one CNN chyron after another. As noted here by NewsBusters, CNN’s John King was on air saying “No one is blaming the President. Is anyone blaming the President?” Meanwhile, underneath King’s image as he spoke was a chyron that read: “CNN: Trump Has No Plans to Claim Any Personal Responsibility for Inciting Serial Bomber.”
And that chyron was not alone on the CNN screen. Others included:
“Manhunt for Serial Bomber Going After Trump’s Targets.”
“Trump Lectures Critics & Media, But Ignores His Own Rhetoric.”
“FBI on Suspicious Packages Sent to Trump’s Critics.”
In short, from the statement of CNN’s president to the literal chyrons on the screen, the point from the network where commentators have called the President of the United States Hitler and a racist and more was: words matter - just not ours.
The plain and simple fact is that when an act of violence is committed the person responsible is - the person that committed the act. In this case, that would be, according to the FBI, Cesar Sayoc.
MSNBC and Rachel Maddow are notoriously anti-Trump - and if Zucker and Wallace’s logic are to be taken seriously, then in fact, particularly incredibly coming from MSNBC’s Wallace, they are saying Wallace’s own network MSNBC and her colleague Rachel Maddow are responsible for Scalise’s shooting.
I’m not a fan of Rachel Maddow’s - I would be a conservative, she a frothing anti-Trump liberal. But it is appalling to suggest that what she says about Trump on television was responsible for the shooting of Congressman Scalise.
Also not to be underestimated is the damage Zucker’s missive and the sentiments behind it expressed by a wide range of others on CNN and elsewhere can have on a free press and the First Amendment. Let’s suppose, for a moment, God forbid, that another Scalise-like incident happens - with the target this time not a Trump-supporting senior Member of Congress but the President himself. Or Sarah Sanders or anyone else in the Trump administration. What would happen?
It takes no imagination to understand that in a nano-second fingers would instantly point in the direction of CNN, Jeff Zucker, MSNBC and their collective fleet of Trump-hating commentators and anchors and blame them for whatever attack had occurred. And Zucker’s words would be flung back in his face: “Words matter.”
This is unacceptable. Which is why the Zucker message is such a dangerous threat to a free press and the First Amendment. CNN and MSNBC and every Trump critic has a God-given First Amendment right to free speech. While I disagree totally with their viscerally anti-Trump sentiments, they have every right to say them. And - yes - so too does the President and White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.
Shifting the blame from the person responsible for an act of violence, in this case the alleged-would be bomber Cesar Sayoc, to anyone else - anyone - is as wrong as it is dangerous. Dangerous to a healthy free press and the survival of the First Amendment.
There is no question that many of the President’s supporters watch CNN and MSNBC and read or watch other anti-Trump venues and see a liberal media climate of hate. I certainly think that climate exists. And the person responsible for it is not President Trump. As must always be true, every individual in the media (and out of the media) has a right to speak their mind - and they are, yes, responsible for what they say.
But make no mistake. Blaming the President of the United States for the actions of Cesar Sayoc is merely the other side of the coin of blaming MSNBC and Rachel Maddow or any other media figure on CNN or elsewhere for the shooting of Steve Scalise.
It is wrong, and it is dangerous.
But it would be a good thing indeed if CNN and MSNBC and the rest of the liberal began to depollute the climate of hate that permeates the anti-Trump media. Not to mention stand up for a free press and free speech.