The Kavanaugh Playbook At CNS
Like its Media Research Center parent, CNSNews.com had marching orders to push through Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination and attack his accusers.
By Terry Krepel
Given the MRC mandate to defend Kavanaugh and attack the women who accused him of sexual misconduct as a youth, CNS' treatment of the story went pretty much the way you'd expect: with lots of biased stenography and omission of inconvenient facts.
CNS's coverage began by obsessing about its favorite subject, abortion.
A Sept. 5 article by Susan Jones seemed to be upset that Kavanaugh said that Roe v. Wade is "an important precedent of the Supreme Court that's been reaffirmed many times."
An anonymously written article the same day -- credited only to "CNSNews.com Staff" grumbled that Kavanaugh called outgoing Justice Anthony Kennedy "a mentor, a friend and a hero," disdainfully adding that "Kennedy co-authored the court’s opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Caseywhich upheld Roe v. Wade’s declaration that abortion is a constitutionally protected right" and that "In 2015, Kennedy wrote the court’s opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, declaring same-sex marriage a constitutional right."
Another anonymously written article huffed that "Lisa Blatt, a pro-abortion attorney who backed Barack Obama and then Hillary Clinton for president and who says she wished Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had 'all nine votes' on the Supreme Court, introduced Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Judiciary Committee." The headline on the article called Blatt a "pro-abort" -- a derogatory slang term within the anti-abortion movement, of which CNS is a part.
A Sept. 6 article, also anonymously written, focused on Kavanaugh's role in a case earlier this year in which a federal appeals court on which Kavanaugh sits allowed an underage "illegal alien" to obtain an abortion. CNS complained that Kavanaugh "accepted the conclusion that Planned Parenthood v. Casey did apply to the detained illegal alien’s case" and that "Kavanaugh did not contest that she had a right to an abortion in the United States. He argued that she did not have a right to get the abortion 'immediately,' only 'expeditiously.'"
Meanwhile, CNS editor in chief Terry Jeffrey spent half of his Sept. 5 column on abortion, grousing that Kavanaugh quoted Kennedy, who wrote the Casey decision that upheld the right to abortion, saying that "Justice Kennedy established a legacy of liberty for ourselves and our posterity," to which Jeffrey sneered, "Unless your posterity happens to be unborn." Jeffrey also declared that the appeals court judge who opined that the "illegal alien" teenager who sought an abortion did not have a right to one "answered it correctly."
When Catherine Blasey Ford's allegations that Kavanaugh attempted to sexually assault her at a prep-school party, CNS went to full defend-and-attack mode.
A Sept. 19 article repeated Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's lament that the accusation was made public "right at the end" of the process -- even though there's no hard-and-fast rule regarding how long the process must take -- and that "it's pretty obvious this is all about delaying the process." Jones didn't mention that McConnell was all about delaying the process in 2016 when he stopped President Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court from even reaching the hearing process. He even said that "One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, 'Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.' "
CNS managing editor Michael W. Chapman touted how Juanita Broaddrick tweeted that if the FBI investigates the allegations Christine Blasey Ford made against Kavanaugh, then it should "investigate my RAPE allegations against Bill Clinton, too." Chapman the recounted the story of how Broaddrick "has long maintained that Bill Clinton, when he was the Arkansas Attorney General, raped her -- a 'forcible, brutal rape' -- in a hotel room in Little Rock, Ark., on April 25, 1978." But Chapman curiously forgot to report that not only did Broaddrick spend 20 years denying that any such "rape" occurred, she made a sworn affidavit to that effect to the Ken Starr independent counsel investigation of Clinton.
Chapman also wrote that "President Bill Clinton apparently has never denied Broaddrick's rape allegation. His attorney, David Kendall, has denied it on Clinton's behalf." But if Clinton's lawyer is denying it on his behalf, that means Clinton is denying it. Weirdly, this is the second time in recent years that someone at the MRC has tried to argue that the statement from Clinton's lawyer doesn't count as an actual denial because it didn't come from Clinton personally.
A Sept. 19 article by Melanie Arter reported that "The brother of Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, worked for a law firm that hired Fusion GPS, which produced the fake dossier on President Donald Trump." But Arter somehow forgot to report that Ford's brother left that law firm in 2004 -- seven years before Fusion GPS was even founded and several more years before its involvement with the dossier (which, by the way, is not "fake").
CNS also dutifully highlighted all the various defenses of Kavanaugh -- two women who dated Kavanaugh, 87 women who knew Kavanaugh -- and offered copious stenography of conservatives sticking up for Kavanaugh. In addition, it highlighted any claim that cast doubt on the veracity of the accusers' claims.
As ConWebWatch has already documented, Jones used the Kavanaugh accusations to go on a retro attack on Anita Hill, continuing the MRC's continued obsessive loathing of the woman. CNS also reprinted Clarence Thomas infamous "high-tech lynching" speech in response to Hill's allegations against him. (In other words, CNS' editorial policy in a nutshell.)
The rest of the confirmation process played out as right-wing-friendly as one would expect from CNS: whining about the additional, limited-scope FBI investigation; whining that Democrats pointed out it was limited in scope; weirdly obsessing over Ford's statement that she didn't know that congressional staff allegedly offered to fly out to California to interview her; attacking the credibility of Ford; and mocking concern over oddly named drinking games at Kavanaugh's prep school.
CNS also weirdly obsessed over Republican Sen. Susan Collins' claimed reasoning on how Kavanaugh might rule on Roe v. Wade. An Oct. 7 article, anonymously written and credited only to "CNSNews.com Staff" and headlined "Sen. Susan Collins Explains Why She Doesn’t Believe Kavanaugh Will Vote to Overturn Roe v. Wade," featured how Collins -- one of the swing votes who eventually voted for Kavanaugh's confirmation -- "explained why she did not believe Kavanaugh would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade."
The next day, Susan Jones wrote an article that covered the same exact territory under the very similar headline "Collins: 'I Do Not Believe That Brett Kavanaugh Will Overturn Roe v. Wade'," offering a little more context for the weird concern: "Collins cast one of the deciding votes in favor of Kavanaugh's confirmation on Sunday, despite her support for abortion. Bash noted that Planned Parenthood gave Collins an award last year for her work on protecting reproductive rights."
Jones also lazily and uncritically repeated Collins' incorrect assertion that "Planned Parenthood opposed three pro-choice justices just because they were nominated by Republican presidents -- David Souter, Sandra Day O'Connor and Justice Kennedy." In fact, while Planned Parenthood opposed Souter -- because he didn't make his position on abortion clear during the confirmation hearings, not because he was nominated by a Republican president -- it actually endorsed O'Connor but took no position on Kennedy.
Flaking out over Flake (and Obama, for some reason)
When Republican Sen. Jeff Flake successfully stalled the nomination process of Brett Kavanaugh by forcing a weeklong FBI investigation into him, the pro-Kavanaugh forces at CNSNews.com knew what they had to do: attack and mock Flake.
An Oct. 1 blog post by Craig Bannister promoted how right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro called Flake a "sucker" purportedly duped by Democrats into pushing for the investigation and ranted that Flake "collapsed" because "some protesters screamed at him in an elevator. I’m not kidding. At all."
This was followed a half-hour later by a blog post from managing editor Michael W. Chapman, who seized on Flake's statement that he would not have pressed for the investigation if he were running for re-election to engaged in a Heathering campaign to bash him for failing to be sufficiently right-wing, grumbling that "Flake has been a staunch critic of President Donald Trump and compared him to the Soviet genocidal dictator Joseph Stalin" and adding: "While in Congress, Flake introduced legislation to provide a 'pathway to citizenship' for illegal aliens. He also voted to repeal the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Act. Flake supports abortion in the cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother." Chapman never explained the context of Flake's Stalin reference: that Trump's use of the term "enemy of the people" to attack media outlets that fail to be pro-Trump stenographers -- you know, like the website Chapman manages -- is an echo of language Stalin used against his enemies. Nor does Chapman dispute its accuracy.
Two hours after this, Chapman decided that he found it amusing that Flake "was born and raised in the small town of Snowflake, Arizona," featuring this trivia under the headline "Sen. Jeff Flake is a Native Born Snowflake." ("Snowflake," of course, is right-wing slang for a liberal who can't handle opposing views, though it appears that Chapman is the real snowflake here for his assault on Flake because the senator doesn't share his dogmatic right-wing ideology.) Chapman again groused that Flake "once compared Trump to genocidal dictator Joseph Stalin" and repeated a poll claiming "only 18% of Arizonans approved of Sen. Flake's job performance."
Of course, CNS' two-minutes hate -- in the form of three Flake-bashing blog posts in a two-and-a-half-hour span -- would seem to prove Flake right ... and put the onus on Chapman to explain why his "news" outlet is so willing to attack whomever Trump deems must be attacked.
The next day, In an Oct. 2 post, Chapman sounded even more like he'd rather be managing WorldNetDaily than CNS by going the Obama derangement route in order to handwave Kavanaugh's heavy drinking as a youth:
While liberals express outrage over the fact that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh drank beer -- reportedly sometimes to excess -- in high school and college, they and the leftist media have largely ignored the extensive partying of former President Barack Obama, who has confessed to heavy pot smoking and cocaine use in high school and college.
Chapman somehow missed the salient facts that 1) Obama ran for president, not a judicial nomination, 2) Obama disclosed much of his history in his autobiography, whereas Kavanaugh's drunken past came to light only after Ford came forward with her allegations, and 3) nobody has ever accused Obama of sexually assaulting women while under the influence, then or now.
Chapman effectively conceded that second point, spending the rest of his post copy-and-pasting out-of-context excerpts from Obama's "Dreams From My Father" and a separate biography of Obama with all the references to drugs and alcohol painstakingly bolded. He also added a couple images form a college-era photo shoot in which he was pictured smoking a cigarette.
Chapman even took a page of the anti-Obama birther handbook and referenced the idea that Obama once used his stepfather's surname of Soetoro. But Chapman misspelled it as "Sotero," and it's irrelevant in this context anyway because Obama hasn't used it since age 10 (not that Obama-haters didn't try to claim otherwise by creating a bogus college ID with that surname).
Such lazy, reflexive liberal-bashing in the service of whataboutism to defend a conservative in trouble is an increasing part of what CNS under Chapman has become.
Mocking and biblical wrath
When CNS' brand of supposedly straight "news" didn't get the biased job done, it resorted to mocking.
Blogger Craig Bannister had written disdainfully of a Democratic congressman for mocking Republican Sen. Susan Collins' claim that she's receiving threats related to the battle over confirming Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court justice by claiming she has Secret Service protection as a senator and that she didn't mention that the woman who has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school has also received death threats. After the congressman apologized, Bannister typed that up too, adding that the congressman "deleted his offensive tweet."
But a few days earlier, Bannister was cheering those who mock -- when the target is Kavanaugh's accuser. Bannister approvingly wrote in a Sept. 17 post:
“You can talk to me,” comedian Terrence K. Williams jokes in a video mocking Christine Blasey Ford’s last-minute allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
It seems that that Bannister's outrage over Collins being mocked was more than a tad hypocritical.
CNS devoted no small amount of editorial space to fretting about the harm to Brett Kavanaugh's reputation over Ford's accusations. For example:
By contrast, CNS had no problem publishing smears of Ford that were intended to harm her reputation.
A Sept. 25 article by Chapman touted right-wing attorney Joseph DiGenova's smear (on Fox News, natch) of Ford and her attorney regarding speculation that Ford would not testify before a Senate committee: "She really doesn't want to testify because when she does, she's going to look like the loon that she is. She may very well believe everything she's saying and that is one of the signs of lunacy, believing something that isn't real. But her lawyer is even loonier."
Ward didn't comment on the shamelessneess of a right-wing attorney viciously smearing a woman because she stood in the way of a conservative judge's Supreme Court nomination.
CNS also touted DiGenova's insults of other people as well:
CNS is not publishing DiGenova's insults because it disapproves of them. Quite the opposite: It loves his nasty smears.
CNS ultimately called out the big guns: the Bible. An Oct. 5 blog post by Craig Bannister resorted to some creative Bible interpretation to portray Kavanaugh as a "just one" and his critics as "wicked":
You don’t have to be religious to see how this Bible passage applies to the treatment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh and to politics, in general.
Bannister didn't explain how he determined that Kavanaugh is "just," despite not knowing his heart and motivation any better than those who have "grievously beset" him. Apparently, merely getting nominated by a Republican president was enough.
"What’s happening in D.C. is very unusual,” Bishop Jackson said during an Oct. 2 discussion on TCT Today. “It’s the worst dimension of warfare we’ve ever seen and I believe that God has drawn a line in the sand and he wants to restore and renew America. But the spiritual forces that be want to thwart that."
Chapman went on to tout Jackson's Trump fanboyism, asserting that Jackson said that "the very strong economy under President Trump is helping minorities and women and this is maddening to the forces of evil."