When CNS (Briefly) Stops Pro-Trump Stenography
When does CNSNews.com deviate from its aggressively pro-Trump agenda? When Trump doesn't hate gays enough, for instance, or when he approves a deficit-laden budget (and even then, it insists on laying part of the blame on Nancy Pelosi).
By Terry Krepel
One of these times was an Oct. 1 blog post by managing editor Michael W. Chapman looking askance at Trump tweeting "Congratulations to President Xi and the Chinese people on the 70th Anniversary of the People's Republic of China!" Chapman retorted by pointing that this is "a regime whose policies have killed more than 65 million of its own people, persecuted religious believers for decades, brutalized Tibet, and which operates concentration camps today holding close to 2 million people for 'reeducation.'" But in apparent deference to the president, Chapman didn't add any editorial criticism of Trump, instead simply recounting Chinese atrocities.
But CNS has done this a few other times in recent months as well -- though, of course, the instances of fawning pro-Trump stenography far outnumber such implicit criticism of the president.
CNS turned on a lawyer nominated by President Trump for a federal judgeship over a statement it deemed to be anti-Catholic (remember, Chapman and other religious CNS staffers consider themselves to be more Catholic than the pope).
An anonymously written May 31 article complained:
President Donald Trump has nominated to a federal judgeship a lawyer who argued in court against a Catholic farmer who would not allow same-sex weddings to take place on his farm because same-sex marriage violates his Catholic beliefs.
The article went on to complain that "Bogren finally said that he did stand by his comparison," even though it also included a transcript of questioning from a Republican senator in which Bogren pointed out that "I represent clients, not causes. This is not ideological."
But CNS decided otherwise, and using its new crop of summer interns, sent them out to pester three Republican senators and a Democratic one on whether they thought Bogren should withdraw his nomination because he "equated a Catholic family declining to host same-sex weddings on their farm to a KKK member engaging in racial discrimination."
CNS ultimately got its wish. Chapman happily wrote on June 11 that Bogren "withdrew his nomination to be a judge for the Western District of Michigan today." Chapman included a screenshot of the announcement made by Bogren's cousin, Margot Cleveland, which noted that the withdrawal was "a Pyrrhic victory at best." Chapman was silent on that in his article, instead rehashing right-wing criticism of Bogren.
In fact, Cleveland pointed out that Bogren "made clear" that "his words were not his personal views, but his legal advocacy," adding:
I have seen people I respect calling Mike an anti-Catholic bigot. And that is shameful. You might disagree with his decision to represent a client, or the arguments made, but unjustly slandering a good man, is something we should never do in the defense of religious liberty. Judgeship or none, is of no matter; but reputation is. As I was asking my son to pray for Mike this weekend, and he asked why, I simplified the situation, and in his innocence he asked, "Why doesn't he tell people he likes Catholics?" Life isn't that simple-you can't repair a man's reputation tarnished by soundbites with a simple statement of the truth.
CNS couldn't be bothered to report the full story, so it played a lead role in that slander.
CNS also followed up in a June 13 article by Mark Jennings, which misleadingly reduced the debate to claiming that "Bogren had compared Catholicism to KKK racism." Jennings didn't explain how active discrimination against a same-sex couple is a core tenet of Catholicism.
Hating Trump for not hating gays
CNS will also openly criticize Trump if he commits the offense of saying something nice about the LGBT community. Chapman is all about denigrating gays, and he, of course, was in charge of those rants. An Oct. 2018 article was critical of "openly gay" judges Trump had nominated:
President Donald J. Trump recently nominated the openly gay lawyer Patrick J. Bumatay to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Curcuit, historically a liberal legal redoubt. The Ninth Circuit covers federal appeals for Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and a few other districts.
For added attempted insult, Chapman included a picture of Rowland and her spouse, putting "wife" in scare quotes.
Chapman also rewrote Homann's achievement for maximum inflammatory effect. He translated a statement from Homann's bio that he "fought with the city to prevent it from shutting down the F Street adult bookstores or limiting the materials they sold" and " fought city efforts to license and restrict the operations of topless bars" into an endorsement of "hardcore pornography" and licentiousness at topless bars. Funny, we figured that Chapman, as a dedicated Trump conservative, would be totally down with making sure that a legal business was "not burdened by too many city rules."
Chapman had a similar sad in a scare quote-laden May 20 article reporting that Trump doesn't care that Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg "is gay and 'married' and that he appears on stage with his 'husband.'" Chapman also decided we needed to know that Buttigieg "met his 'husband,' Chasten Glezman Buttigieg, on the dating app Hinge."
Chapman wrote in a June 7 article that Trump "applauded gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans in a recent tweet" and that 'his administration has launched an international campaign to "decriminalize homosexuality' worldwide." Chapman's response to that was to spend six paragraphs of his article highlighting statistics that "Gay and bisexual men are the population most affected by HIV," including an entire paragraph on the hazards of anal sex.
The 'Trump-Pelosi' budget deal
CNS editor in chief Terry Jeffrey's continued reluctance to assign President Trump and Republicans their share of the blame for large federal budget deficits heavily informed CNS' coverage of a federal budget deal in July. As the deal was announced and as it wound through Congress toward Trump's signature, it couldn't be avoided any longer. However, CNS branded it as a co-equal deal between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, even though Pelosi, a Democrat, controls only one-half of the legislative branch and Republicans control the other half plus the entire executive branch.
"Pelosi and Trump Agree to Increase Spending Over Next 2 Fiscal Years; Put No Limit on Debt Until 2021" read the headline on an anonymously written July 22 article announcing the agreement, which "will allow increases in discretionary spending over the next two fiscal years and place no limit on the new debt the federal government can accumulate until July 31, 2021." Note that Pelosi appears before Trump in the headline, as if she has more power than the president of the United States.
Jeffrey followed two days later with a column grousing about "the Trump-Pelosi debt-and-spending deal," making sure to stay on-brand with his invented nomenclature (he uses the "Trump-Pelosi" term four times as well as in his headline): "The Trump-Pelosi debt-and-spending deal is a short-term political win for the Washington establishment of both parties and a long-term loss for the American people. Rather than serve a great national interest, it attacks a great national interest: the solvency and future prosperity of this nation. It will not help Make America Great Again. It will make America bankrupt sooner."
At no point did Jeffrey specifically criticize Trump for his role in brokering this deal; instead, he whined about the "bipartisanship" that allegedly brought it about.
The next day, Jeffrey gave Republicans more credit than they deserve in an article headlined "132 House Republicans Vote Against Trump-Pelosi Spending DealBut House Democrats Push It Through," blaming "overwhelming support from House Democrats" on its passage. He did note, though, that Trump urged Republicans to vote for the bill.
On July 26, CNS published another anonymously written article recalling a 2011 speech in which Pelosi said it's "time for this Congress of the United States to get serious about debt reduction." CNS did not run a similar article reviewing Trump's previous statements critical of deficit spending.
In an anonymously written Aug. 1 article noting the Senate's passage of the budget deal, Jeffrey's blame construct got a workout again: "Republican Senate Approves Trump-Pelosi Deal to Up Spending $320 Billion; Limitless Debt for 2 Years." The anonymous writer did admit that "President Donald Trump has aggressively promoted it and will sign it into law."
The next day, Mark Jennings touted Republican Rep. Rand Paul's objections to the budget bill, but he escaped Jeffrey's nomenclature by describing the bill as "arranged by President Trump and the congressional leadership" and not mentioning Pelosi by name at all.
With CNS' "news" side refusing to take any major digs at its favorite president the way it inserts editorial comment attacking Democrats, it was left to the actual labeled opinion side to call out Trump. A July 30 column by Daniel Mitchell claimed that Trump was "impersonating Obama with huge, across-the-board spending increases," failing to mention that Obama was dealing with a recession and deficit spending is an economically sound way to escape a recession and Trump doesn't have that excuse.
A column by Tony Perkins joined Jeffrey in blaming bipartisanship and refusing to call out Trump by name for his role in increasing deficits. An Aug. 7 column by Mark Hendrickson, meanwhile, complained that "Trump readily agreed to Speaker Pelosi’s domestic spending requests in exchange for relatively modest increases in military spending," but then shifted blame away: "Don’t blame President Trump. Blame the tens of millions of voters who keep electing big spenders."
And that would seem to be the limit of CNS' criticism of Trump. Not for his rampant corruption, of course; just for deviating from well-worn conservative narratives.