The antipathy most inside-the-Beltway journalists have for conservatives was on display on Friday’s Washington Week on PBS. Viewers heard how the Republicans’ “anger caucus” was “willing to blow things up” in Washington, while new Speaker Mike Johnson was a “deeply, deeply religious conservative” who has “dehumanized the LGBTQ population in this country.”
There was no debate about any of these insulting characterizations; rather, the journalists who volunteered them acted as if they were objectively explaining political reality.
First, fill-in host Lisa Desjardins recalled how last week regular moderator, The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, had lampooned Republicans who favor spending restraint as “the anger caucus.” Desjardins was evidently so tickled by the label, so she employed it when asking USA Today’s Susan Page to explain how difficult it is to work constructively with House conservatives.
Page responded by talking about “this group of Republicans who are very conservative — not just conservative, but willing to blow things up....It goes back 1994 and Newt Gingrich winning control of the House of Representatives for the first time in decades.”
“The dilemma for the Republican leaders,” Page continued, “is that their highest priority is not what most of Washington thinks of as the fundamentals of government like keeping the government doors open.”
Later on, Desjardins asked New York Times White House correspondent Carl Hulse about Speaker Johnson’s Christian views on social issues. “In the past he has dehumanized the LGBTQ population in this country,” she asserted without evidence, asking “should we expect him to go back to that kind of Mike Johnson?”
[Last month, an MRC study found PBS’s NewsHour, where Desjardins is a lead correspondent, tilted 90% against religious conservatives when it came to “LGBT issues.”]
“I think that he is trying to steer clear of it right now, but this is clearly who he is,” Hulse replied. “He is a deeply, deeply religious conservative. And I think he’s going to have a hard time not discussing this at some point.”
Here are longer transcripts of those exchanges (click expand):
# PBS’s Washington Week with The Atlantic
November 24, 2023
Fill-in host LISA DESJARDINS: We heard the word “concessions” there. But [The Atlantic’s] Jeffrey [Goldberg] called it last week “the anger caucus,” the Republicans. How does Mike Johnson deal with that “anger caucus,” and I especially want to ask you about the roots of that. The Freedom Caucus is relatively new, but where does this go back to, and how does that help Johnson in facing it?
USA Today’s SUSAN PAGE: You know, I think this group of Republicans who are very conservative — not just conservative, but willing to blow things up, not so interested in governing, more interested in making a point. It goes back 1994 and Newt Gingrich winning control of the House of Representatives for the first time in decades. And since then we’ve seen different iterations of this group, with the Tea Party and now with the Freedom Caucus. But the dilemma for the Republican leaders is that their highest priority is not what most of Washington thinks of as the fundamentals of government like keeping the government doors open. Their fundamentals are more making a political point regardless of the cost.
LISA DESJARDINS: I do notice that in all this discussion — immigration, many divides, talking about Israel, talking about Ukraine, talking about spending — Speaker Mike Johnson, Carl, I noticed has not talked about abortion. He hasn’t talked about social issues like LGBTQ and — talking about dehumanizing, in the past he has dehumanized the LGBTQ population in this country. Is this something as Speaker that he’s just putting off? Do you think — is he deciding, pragmatically, he shouldn’t be talking about it? Should we expect him to go back to that kind of Mike Johnson?
New York Times’s CARL HULSE: I think one thing that’s occurred is, I don’t think they had any expectation about how deep people were going to go into his record, and I’ve heard this from people around him. They’re just surprised, but everyone has found all these things he has said, and then he says “Well, I don’t even remember saying some of those things.” Well, unfortunately for him, he said them on tape —
DESJARDINS: And in op-eds!
HULSE: Right, and on paper. I think that he is trying to steer clear of it right now, but this is clearly who he is. He is a deeply, deeply religious conservative. And I think he’s going to have a hard time not discussing this at some point. But abortion as we saw in the elections here earlier this month is just a big issue for Democrats. And how he handles this is going to be a big part of his persona going forward.