CNN's 'Wingnut' Analyst Tougher on the Right Than Left

July 14th, 2009 8:44 PM
John Avlon, The Daily Beast |

CNN on Friday turned again to The Daily Beast’s John Avlon for his designated “wingnuts”on the left and right, but he was much more critical of his right-wing selection. Avlon picked Rep. Henry Waxman as his leftist “wingnut,” but still labeled him a “respected” man. He conceded no such quality for his other pick. During a second appearance on Monday, Avlon focused on his conservative “wingnut,” omitting Waxman.

Avlon first appeared during the 6 am Eastern hour of American Morning on Friday with anchor Kiran Chetry. She first asked about his pick for the left. He described how Rep. Waxman, during an interview with NPR, characterized the Republicans’ opposition to President Obama as “rooting against the country.” The DailyBeast contributor even got a shot at the Right during his analysis of the Democrat’s remark: “That’s demonizing the opposition, and the idea that Republicans just have to get in line, that there can be no reasonable opposition based on principle- but rather, going de facto against someone’s patriotism- well, that’s wingnut stuff. We called that out when the right has done it in the past, and it’s only right to do it now against the left.”

Both Chetry and Avlon then got tough on Waxman for his failure to even read the cap and trade bill which carries his name. The CNN anchor later asked, “When you call him out as a wingnut this week, is this an isolated incident for Waxman?” Avlon replied, “No question, Henry Waxman is on the left wing of the Democratic Party, but he’s- you know, he’s a respected man. Sometimes reasonable people say unreasonable things. When you say that the opposition is rooting against the country, that’s an unreasonable thing. That’s a wingnut remark.”

The Daily Beast contributor then turned to his “wingnut” on the right- Audra Shay, who was then running to be the chairman of the Young Republicans organization:

Kiran Chetry, CNN Anchor; & John Avlon, The Daily Beast | NewsBusters.orgCHETRY: All right- let’s turn to this week’s wingnut on the left- on the right. Who did you pick?

AVLON: This is an amazing story- talk about demonizing the opposition. Well, our next candidate, Audra Shay, is running to be chairman of the Young Republicans, a vote that will take place this weekend. Well, she has called no less than President Obama ‘anti-American’ repeatedly in the past. But her campaign became infamous this week when excerpts of a Facebook conversation became public before they were taken down. Let’s take a look at what she said. A Facebook friend named Eric Piker, wrote, ‘It’s the government making us commies.’ Then he went on to say, ‘Obama bin Laden is the new terrorist- Muslim is on their side- need to take the country back from these mad coons and illegals,’ to which Audra replied eight minutes later, ‘You tell ‘em, Eric. LOL.’

CHETRY: Which is ‘laugh out loud.’ Then apparently there were some- there were some people who really, on her Facebook page, took issue with the comments that this Facebooker, Eric Piker, put on there- and what happened?

AVLON: Well, she defriended the people who took issue with the comments, but kept Eric Piker on for another few hours before this whole thing blew up and started getting publicity on websites like Thirty-six hours later, she issued a formal apology, which we will read. She said, ‘I responded supporting the individual’s first post, to continue the fight against big government spending. I was not aware of the racial comments until sometime later. In no way are the comments posted by other individuals a reflection of me or my beliefs.’

CHETRY: What do you think? So this was- this was just one of those things where in the Internet world she responded to an earlier post, or do you think that she was responding after the criticism grew louder?

AVLON: There were eight minutes. The nice thing with the Internet is we know exactly what happened. There were eight minutes between her comment and the previous post calling President Obama ‘bin Laden’ and referring to ‘mad coons’ who were derailing the government. That seems to be a cause and effect. We got a problem with this and the Republican Party. We’ve seen a whole series of racist e-mails even in the last month- and signed up Republicans and Young Republicans this week have a chance to confront and deal with, because this is just a distraction from any hopes they have of reviving themselves as a party. They can represent the full diversity of Americans.

It appears that Chetry was at least willing to give Shay the benefit of the doubt. But Avlon pushed his analysis of the affair, and took the opportunity to forward some of the liberal talking points on the Republican Party, as he did during an earlier appearance with Chetry in May.

Avlon appeared again on Campbell Brown’s program on Monday evening. Brown brought him on for a basically identical feature to the one on American Morning, except called “The Wingnut Watch.” The segment, which began 44 minutes into the 8 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program, focused entirely on Shay as the “wingnut,” and the Daily Beast contributor again took the time to give his take on the state of the GOP.

John Avlon, The Daily Beast; & Campbell Brown, CNN Anchor | NewsBusters.orgCAMPBELL BROWN: Time now for a new segment we are calling ‘The Wingnut Watch.’ Our next guest, Daily Beast contributor John Avlon, calls out somebody on the left and right who divides us rather than unites us. And, John, I know, you’re looking for people who are playing to the extremes in politics. Who went a little bit too far this week?

JOHN AVLON: Well, this week we have a newly-elected chairman of the Young Republicans. Audra Shay, a 38-year-old from Louisiana, who- at normal times- it wouldn’t be much of a story. But it turns out that before the election, Miss Shay made a series of comments on her Facebook page and other places that were way over the line- racial comments and general ‘wingnuttiness, that made her a very controversial candidate, in light of her election this weekend was a surprise to many folks. Let’s take just a look at one of the things that threw a lot of ire. A supporter on her homepage wrote, ‘Obama-bin Laden is the new terrorist- Muslim is on their side- need to take this country back from all these mad coons and illegals.’ To which Audrey Shay replied, ‘You tell ‘em, Eric. LOL.’


AVLON: Wow. Yeah, so needless to say, this didn’t go over real well, and a lot of- especially young African-American Republicans were offended. Writing for The Daily Beast, I started digging and finding out that there was really a pattern of these types of comments on her sites. And, of course, all this does is cements stereotypes that are holding the Republican Party back big time. Now, once it started to get pressed, she did issue an apology,-we should say- straining credibility. But she did issue an apology.

BROWN: Well, as you say, not exactly the- the image, I think, as the Republican Party- as they struggle to try to attack- attract minorities right now- is wanting to convey.

AVLON: Not- the exact opposite- I mean, I think there is a culture war going on inside the Republican Party. But Abraham Lincoln is losing that culture war, as the party has basically a huge diversity deficit, a real problem attracting young people, and when this vote takes the step- to appear to endorse these comments, with full knowledge- all it does is put out a huge ‘not welcome’ sign in front of the GOP that solidifies all the negative stereotypes that they’re going to have to overcome to reconnect to a new generation and to broaden their base in terms of diversity. So it’s a real problem in this election- this figure is going to have real ramifications throughout the national party, I’m afraid.

BROWN: All right. John Avlon for us tonight.

AVLON: Thank you.

BROWN: John, thanks very much.