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CNS' Double Standard On Offensive Remarks is ON IT when a Democratic politician says something deemed to be controversial -- but it works to downplay the story when a Republican politician does the same thing.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 6/4/2019

Susan Jones

After a Republican member of Congress made an offensive comment, the response of CNS in covering it and the aftermath was decidedly free of hyperbole and drama -- at least, when it actually got around to covering it.

When comments by Republican Rep. Steve King stating that he didn't understand how terms like "white nationalist" and "white supremacist" became offensive went public on Jan. 10, CNS initially said nothing. It took a full four days for CNS to notice -- and that was only when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced that he would take action against King over the remarks.

The headline on Melanie Arter's Jan. 14 piece read "Kevin McCarthy: ‘Action Will Be Taken’ Against Steve King," not explaining who McCarthy is or the reason he intended to take action against King. Surprisingly, the story itself was filled with criticism of King, and Arter's lead paragraph did describe what King said.

Of course, none of that appeared on CNS' front page, only the bland headline did. And the photo accompanying the front-page promotion was of McCarthy, not King -- as if the response, not the original offense, was the newsworthy part.

That take, of course, couldn't be the dominant tone of coverage. Enter Susan Jones, who penned an article the next day under the similarly bland headline, "Stripped of Committee Assignments, Rep. King Blames ‘Political Decision That Ignores the Truth’" -- which, again, failed to mention King's exact offense -- that gave King a platform to defend himself and blame liberals for being outraged over his remarks:

As expected, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) stripped Rep. Steve King, one of the most conservative Members of Congress, from his committee assignments on Monday for "defending racism," as one liberal media outlet described it.

In response, the Iowa Republican said, “Leader McCarthy’s decision to remove me from committees is a political decision that ignores the truth.”


King said his remarks, as quoted in a Jan. 10 New York Times story, have been “completely mischaracterized.” In a tweeted explanation, King offered the “context” that “accurately reflects my statement.”

King said he was talking about “Western civilization,” not white nationalism or white supremacy, when he questioned, “How did that language become offensive?”

Being a loyal right-winger spouting the anti-media narrative of her employer, the Media Research Center, Jones made sure to also inject some opinion into the "news" piece: "It should be noted that the Jan. 10 New York Times report used Rep. King as a way to slam Republicans in general and President Trump in particular." She then cited a paragraph that stated how "Mr. King’s ideology and his language maligning undocumented residents helped shape the Republican message in 2016 and 2018 and define Mr. Trump’s agenda and prospects for re-election," Jones did not dispute the accuracy of that statement.

CNS has published no more articles devoted to King's remarks. But in a Jan. 18 article, Jones complained that in a TV appearance, Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar was asked about "Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), whose quote in the New York Times made it look like he was defending 'white supremacy.' King said he was talking about 'Western Civilization.'" She then devoted four paragraphs to King's defense despite the fact he was not even the subject of this story.

None of these articles, by the way, mentioned King's long history of racially inflammatory remarks. That's because CNS has previously touted King's remarks that more closely adhere to the right-wing narratives it and its Media Research Center parent embrace. For instance:

That's the kind of right-wing rhetoric that earns you a pass from CNS when you spout racist stuff.

CNS vs. Tlaib and Omar

By contrast with this extremely subdued take on King, CNS just a couple weeks earlier obsessed over a comment by a Democratic member of Congress that it deemed offensive -- so much that it inserted the comment in the headlines of articles that had nothing to do with the comment (while not including King's offensive remarks in any headline).

CNS' response to Rep. Rashida Tlaib -- which cranked out five articles in four days referencing her profanity-laced call at a celebration in a bar to "impeach the motherfucker" President Trump -- was full flood-the-zone mode.

Susan Jones kicked off the aggressive tsk-tsking in a Jan. 4 article noting that the "consensus" at CNN was that Tlaib "had gone too far." She also cited an op-ed Tlaib co-wrote discussing the need to impeach Trump in which she asked, "This is not just about Donald Trump. This is about all of us. What should we be as a nation? Who should we be as a people?" Jones lectured in response: "Tlaib has made it clear that she and others who agree with her should be the ones to answer those questions -- not the voters who elected Trump." The same day, Craig Bannister lamented that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "said she has no intention of trying to limit the vulgarity of her party."

Two days later, though, CNS seemed to have settled on a strategy on referencing Tlaib's comment about Trump in the headline and/or lead paragraph of every story it published on her.

An anonymously written Jan. 6 article had to go back seven years, to a 2012 speech she made as a Michigan state legislator, to find something to attack Tlaib with in addition to her Trump comment. The headline reads "Rep. Tlaib Who Called Trump ‘Motherf*****: ‘Stop Having Sex With Us, Gentlemen. Find Somebody Else to Do It With’," and the lead paragraph restates that Tlaib is "the newly elected congresswoman who last week called President Donald Trump a 'motherf****r'."

A Jan. 7 article by Patrick Goodenough again restated that Tlaib is "the new congresswoman from Michigan who last week called President Trump a 'motherf****r'." The same day, an anonymously written article broke with the pattern by not referencing the Trump statement at all but, rather, highlighting that Tlaib "told the New York Times in August that her 'Allah is she'" (though the URL indicates her Trump comment was in the headline at one point).

That's five articles in four days after Tlaib made her Trump statement. But CNS wasn't done.

On Jan. 8, Bannister featured how Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin claimed to offer an apology to "all Americans" for Tlaib's "deplorable" comments.

An anonymously written Jan. 11 article resumed the pattern by carrying the headline "Rep. Rashida—Trump’s a ‘Motherf*****’—Tlaib Gives First Floor Speech—on Drunk Driving" and stating in the lead paragraph that Tlaib is "the newly elected congresswoman who stirred controversy by calling President Donald Trump a 'mother*****.'" -- even though that had nothing to do with the subject of the article, which summarized her first House floor speech on the subject of drunk driving.

And yet another anonymously written article, on Jan. 14, carried the headline "Rep. Rashida (Trump’s a ‘Motherf*****’) Tlaib Says ‘Congress Will Never be the Same’ With Her in It" and stated in the lead paragraph that Tlaib "gained significant publicity for declaring President Donald Trump as “mother*****.'"The anonymous CNS writer didn't note that this was the seventh article CNS had published since that remark was made -- six of which referenced the remark and five of which put the remark in the headline even though most of those article were not about the remark.

In other words, CNS itself is going out of its way to give Tlaib's remarks "significant publicity." It's hypocritical for it to complain about that.

By contrast, CNS was much more deferential to a Republican politician who similarly used a swear word. After President Trump reportedly used the term "shithole countries" in reference to other countries from which immigration is purportedly undesirable, Jones uncritically repeated a statement from Trump denying he used the word, and later claimed that "not everyone is distracted by the president's poor word choice," citing white nationalist Fox News host Tucker Carlson's assertion that "Trump said something that almost every person in America actually agrees with."

When Rep. Ilhan Omar made comments in February critical of Israel that were widely interpreted as anti-Semitic, CNS pounced with four articles in the 24 hours after the remark was made:

The next day, CNS added an article on President Trump weighing in: "Trump on Rep. Ilhan Omar's Anti-Semitic Comments: 'I Think She Should Resign from Congress.'"

By contrast, again: CNS waited four days to write about King's offensive remarks.

The aftermath

After the King controversy was successfully tin-plated, CNS returned to promoting his pithy remarks. A Feb. 11 article by Jones touted how "A Christian-owned grocery store in southeast Arkansas, known for sending messages in its weekly ad mailers, has attracted the attention of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who tweeted the store's latest message on Monday: "Heaven has a wall, a gate and a strict immigration policy. Hell has open borders. Let that sink in[.]"Jones made no mention of the fact that King was stripped of his committee assignments just a couple weeks earlier for offensive remarks, nor did she stick "White Nationalist" in the headline to remind readers of what he said.

The last time CNS mentioned King's remarks was in a March 8 article in which Melanie Arter was in full stenography mode, giving McCarthy a platform to claim that House Democrats mishandled Omar's comments, unlike what he did with King:

House Republicans removed Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) from all of his committee assignments over his comments about white supremacy, an action McCarthy said didn’t require them taking something to the House floor to vote on.

“The action we took with Congressman Steve King was based upon what we heard in our own party saying, that is not what this country believes, and it’s not what the party of Lincoln stands for. We took action. We didn’t have to take something to the floor. We didn’t have to wait weeks. We didn’t have to water down our action at all. We removed him from every single committee,” McCarthy said.

Arter failed to mention that King had been making offensive comments for years, and that only this year were House Republicans moved to respond.

By contrast, CNS is continuing to pounce on anything Tlaib or Omar say that could be considered remotely controversial -- even to the point of falsely misrepresenting those remarks.

A May 13 article by managing editor Michael W. Chapman again focused on Tlaib:

Commenting on Rep. Rashida Tlaib's (D-Mich.) remarks that the Holocaust gives her a "kind of calming feeling" because it was her ancestors, Palestinians, "who lost their land," their "livelihood," and "their human dignity" to "create a safe haven for Jews" in Israel, President Donald Trump tweeted that Tlaib "obviously has a tremendous hatred of Israel and the Jewish people."

Chapman did later put Tlaib's comments in context -- then repeated right-wingers taking them out of context and accusing her of being anti-Semitic, falsely claiming that Tlaib said that the Holocaust gives her a "calming feeling."

Still, CNS went on to embrace the out-of-context narrative. Craig Bannister fully went there in a May 13 article by claiming that "House Majority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are calling on President Donald Trump and Republicans to apologize to Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) for criticizing her comment that she gets 'a calming feeling' from thinking about the Holocaust."

Bannister followed up the next day by taking her out of context again: "Appearing on NBC’s Late Night on Monday, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) suggested she may have to 'talk like a fourth grader' in order to get through to “the racist idiots” who were offended by her comment that thinking of the Holocaust gives her 'a calming feeling.'"

Chapman returned to be slightly less bad in another post: "House Rep. Rashida Tlaib's (D-Mich.) remarks that the Holocaust produces a 'calming feeling' in her because some of her Palestinian ancestors 'lost their lives' to 'create a safe haven for Jews' in Israel are deceitful, said the world-renowned Rabbi Shmuley Boteach." Chapman didn't mention that Boteach is a self-promoting, Trump-loving rabbi who is apparently only somewhat less obnoxious than CNS' favorite Trump-loving rabbi, Aryeh Spero.

That's what's called media bias. CNS and the MRC should look into that sometime.

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