Late last week, CNN announced its plan to team up with the Tea Party Express to co-sponsor a Republican presidential debate in September. While this creates the possibility that Republican candidates will actually face questions of interest to Republican primary voters (as opposed to the typical liberal media agenda), it’s also probably the first time a media organization will partner with a group that its on-air correspondents and commentators have trashed over the past two years.
CNN’s liberal commentators have been savage to the Tea Party. Back in 2009, longtime CNN house liberal Paul Begala slammed the Tea Party as “a bunch of wimpy, whiny, weasels who don’t love their country.” A couple of weeks before this year’s election, CNN’s 8pm ET co-host Eliot Spitzer said the Tea Party was “vapid” and leading America “down a dangerous road....They’re going to destroy our country.”
But CNN’s supposedly objective correspondents and anchors have showcased a similar hostility to the Tea Party, attacking them as racist, extremist, pawns of Fox News, or using the vulgar “tea-bagging” nickname favored by left-wing activists to disparage the group. A few of the choicer examples from the MRC’s archive (including video):
“We’re talking about violence and the name-calling and that sort of thing....We have seen it on the Republican and the conservative side much, much more than on the Democratic side. The name-calling in groups, with signs, calling people, you know, epithets, comparing them to Hitler. We’ve seen it much more from the conservatives, from the Tea Party movement. And listen, I believe in free speech and the right to protest and the right to express yourself. But let’s be honest here, it’s coming mostly, mainly from one side.”
— CNN’s Don Lemon filling in as anchor of Rick’s List, April 9, 2010.
Anchor Wolf Blitzer: “Within the [Tea Party] movement you’re going to find individuals outraged over taxes, health reform, gun control and more. But, most disturbing, a very small but vocal minority, they’re targeting President Obama’s race....”
Reporter Elaine Quijano: “Within the larger Tea Party movement that’s gained steam across the country, a small but passionate minority is also voicing what some see as racist rhetoric....[Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence] Page says the vehement racial resistance that’s emerged is another sign any notion of a post-racial society after Barack Obama’s election was wishful thinking.”
— CNN’s The Situation Room, September 14, 2009. The onscreen graphic asserted: “Racial Tinge to Tea Movement.”
“Running through this whole sort of subculture that’s developed around these Tea Parties, it is a bit of a dark undercurrent. You have the bulk of the people that are there for low taxes, less government control, but there really is an element that’s got these kind of outlandish conspiracy theories about death camps and about the, you know, this takeover — people comparing President Obama to Hitler, and that really is a sizable thread. It’s not just a couple of people on the edges.”
— CNN producer Jim Spellman on CNN Newsroom, September 12.
CNN analyst David Gergen: “Republicans are pretty much in disarray.... They have not yet come up with a compelling alternative, one that has gained popular recognition. So-“
Anchor Anderson Cooper: “Tea-bagging. They’ve got tea-bagging.”
Gergen: “Well, they’ve got the tea-bagging....[But] Republicans have got a way — they still haven’t found their voice, Anderson. They’re still — this happens to a minority party after it’s lost a couple of bad elections, but they’re searching for their voice.”
Cooper: “It’s hard to talk when you’re tea-bagging.”
— CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, April 14, 2009. “Tea-bagging” is a vulgar slang term for a certain variety of oral sex.
CNN’s Susan Roesgen: “You know, Kyra, this is a party for Obama bashers. I have to say that this is not entirely representative of everybody in America....[to protester] You’re here with your two-year-old and you’re already in debt. Why are you here today, sir?”
Man holding child on his shoulder: “Because I hear a president say that he believed in what Lincoln stood for. Lincoln’s primary thing was he believed that people had the right to liberty and they had the right-”
Roesgen, interrupting: “Sir, what does this have to do with taxes?...Do you realize that you’re eligible for a $400 credit?...Did you know that the state of Lincoln gets $50 billion out of these stimulus? That’s $50 billion for this state, sir....We’ll move on over here. I think you get the general tenor of this. It’s anti-government, anti-CNN, since this is highly promoted by the right wing conservative network, Fox. And since I can’t really hear much more and I think this is not really family viewing, I’ll toss it back to you.”
— Live coverage of anti-tax protests during the 2pm ET hour of CNN Newsroom, April 15, 2009.