CNS' Battle Against Biden Nominees
CNSNews.com is going all in on anti-Biden bias by promoting right-wing attacks on his nominees to Cabinet posts.
By Terry Krepel
CNSNews.com is demonstrating that it will display at least as much anti-Biden bias as it has pro-Trump bias. Its treatment of Biden's nominees to Cabinet positions is a glaring example of that bias.
When California attorney general Xavier Becerra was nominated to be secretary of Health and Human Services, managing editor Michael W. Chapman cobbled together an article on how his fellow right-wingers "strongly denounced" the nomination, "noting his long pro-abortion record, anti-free speech actions, and opposition to religious liberty." He quoted Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser declaring that "Becerra is aggressively pro-abortion and a foe of free speech. As attorney general of California, he continued what his predecessor Kamala Harris started by persecuting citizen journalists who exposed Planned Parenthood’s role in baby parts trafficking."
That would be a reference to David Daleiden, an anti-abortion activist who secretly and illegally taped people at abortion industry conferences while falsely presenting themselves as workers for a fake company interested in buying fetal body parts. No crimes were found, and a jury ruled in 2019 that Daleiden should pay Planned Parenthood $870,000 in punitive damages for his attempt to try and destroy the organization under false pretenses. In December, the judge in the case order Daleiden and his associates to pay Planned Parenthood $13.6 million in legal fees. Chapman also wrote:
Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with the Catholic Association, said, "President-elect Joe Biden’s choice of Xavier Becerra to run HHS is a gross insult to Catholics. Becerra spent years tormenting the Little Sisters of the Poor in court, trying to force them to pay for things like abortion pills against their consciences. He also led efforts to force pro-life pregnancy resource centers to advertise for abortion."
Actually, it appears McGuire is lying a bit here. What actually happened was that Becerra sued the Trump administration in 2017 for broadening exemptions to contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and then the Little Sisters of the Poor filed to intervene and eventually became a party to the suit -- Becerra never directly filed any legal action against the order. In other words, if there was any "tormenting," the Little Sisters chose to have it happen.
Nevertheless, Chapman went on to uncritically quote another Catholic organization claiming that Becerra "has targeted the Little Sisters of the Poor."
From there, CNS lobbed attack op-eds at Becerra:
CNS editor Terry Jeffrey devoted his Jan. 6 column to bashing Becerra, citing a case where California attempted to make "crisis pregnancy centers" had to inform clients that they could go elsewhere to get an abortion if they decided they ultimately wanted one. Jeffrey didn't mention that these "pro-life pregnancy centers" have a long history of coercing women into not having abortions, which was the basis for the proposed law. He concluded by huffing that "Xavier Becerra if confirmed will lead a Biden HHS that is focused on advancing the killing of unborn babies and funding that killing with federal tax dollars."
A Feb. 20 CNS article by Chapman touted how right-wing activists "launched a $2 million-plus campaign to expose how President Joe Biden's call for "unity" in the country is questionable given the radical left background of some of his executive branch nominees, who are pushing extreme agendas that mirror the desires of the dark money donors who put Biden in office." It seems CNS may have gotten some of that money, because one of those targets was Becerra -- and it kept up those attacks as his confirmation hearing approached.
A Feb. 5 commentary by Donohue listed "16 reasons why Becerra should not be confirmed," one of which was rehashing the bogus claims that "he brought charges against pro-life activists who went undercover to film Planned Parenthood officials trafficking in aborted baby parts. He brought felony charges against them." Donohue also claimed that "Few Attorneys General in the United States fought more ferociously to deny the Little Sisters of the Poor their religious rights than Becerra." Again, Becerra initiated no legal action against the religious order. Nevertheless, Donohue repeated his bogus attacks again in a Feb. 24 column, huffing that "Becerra is no victim of anti-Catholicism. In fact, he is a master sponsor of it."
The same day, editor Terry Jeffrey highlighted hostile Republican questions to Becerra during his confirmation hearing:
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, who President Joe Biden has nominated to be the secretary of Health and Human Services, dodged a question at his confirmation hearing today about whether he believed an unborn child who is targeted for a late-term abortion should be given anesthesia to minimize the pain the child will suffer.
In a Feb. 26 article, Emma Riley touted how "63 pro-life leaders urged the lawmakers to reject Becerra, stating he is “an enemy to every pro-life policy and law, and has demonstrated complete disregard for the religious and moral convictions of those opposed to the brutal act of abortion.” Similarly, a March 11 article by Quinn Weimer highlighted how "some conservative leaders told CNS News why they oppose Becerra. Pro-life leader Lila Rose, in particular, stressed that, “Becerra is a pro-abortion activist and friend of the abortion industry, with no medical background.” Weimer didn't mention that most HHS secretaries have had no medical background; like Becerra, their background is in government.
CNS acknowledged Becerra's confirmation only in a March 18 article by Melanie Arter that began with an attack on on him by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, "saying he is 'woefully unqualified to lead that department,' because he has no medical or science experience or in logistics, having 'never so much as distributed French fries at a McDonald’s.'" Arter didn't mention that the HHS secretary under Trump, Alex Azar, also has no medical or science degree (though he was the former head of drugmaker Eli Lilly).
Riley returned with some conservative sore-loser complaining the next day, repeating how "pro-life leaders denounced the vote, stating that the confirmation is a 'blow to all Americans who value religious liberty and the sanctity of life.'" There was no mention of the $2 million campaign right-wing activists ran against Becerra, let alone that it could only be described as a failure.
CNS had a hard time finding ways to attack Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland the way it has done to other Biden Cabinet nominees. It didn't go after him at all when he was first nominated, and its articles cherry-picking responses to questions during his confirmation hearing were lame at best.
A Feb. 22 article by Susan Jones appeared to complain that Garland said he would prioritize the prosecution of "white supremacists and others who stormed the Capitol on January 6 -- a heinous attack that sought to disrupt a cornerstone of our democracy: the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected government." Jones complained the next day that Garland said, in response to questions from mostly Republican senators, that he didn't have an opinion on the Second Amendment -- despite the fact that, because it is his job to enforce the law and not make law, he's not supposed to have an opinion on it. Another article by Jones merely summarized his views on "racism, disparate justice, and implicit bias."
It wasn't until March 4 that CNS came up with a plausible line of attack. Jeffrey's column bashed Garland for, while serving as a judge, allowed a 17-year-old "illegal alien" arrested at the Mexican border to receive an abortion. "So, what was Garland thinking, if anything, when a pregnant alien teenager caught trying to illegally enter the United States came before his court, seeking his blessing to terminate her child?" Jeffrey huffed -- even though he repeatedly denied the humanity of the teen by repeatedly referring to her as an "alien."
And it wasn't until two days after Garland was confirmed by the full Senate on March 10 that CNS published an article by Emma Riley recounting how conservatives opposed Garland in a letter. "The letter cited Garland’s ambiguity over the law on whether attacking a federal court house at night or during the day constitutes 'domestic terrorism'; his unwillingness to condemn remarks that 'black people are genetically superior to white people'; and his unwillingness to denounce the comment that 'any pro-life advocate is unfit for office,'" Riley wrote -- again, ignoring the fact that the attorney general is not supposed to have an opinion on such things.
The fact that even the highly biased "journalists" at CNS couldn't find much to attack Garland tells us that he likely won't be as bad as they think.
CNS left it to its commentary section for the hit jobs on Kristen Clarke, nominated as assistant attorney general for civil rights. In a Feb. 1 column headlined "Biden Nominates Lawyer Who Outright Said Whites Are Inferior," Hans Bader claimed:
Clarke has said that blacks are genetically superior to whites.
In fact, it was clear then -- and was pointed out again during Clarke's confirmation hearing in April -- that Clarke's letter, published when she was a student at Harvard, was satire, a response to a controversial book (yet popular in right-wing circles) called "The Bell Curve," which tried to make connections between race and IQ and was co-written by a Harvard professor.
Nevertheless, this was followed by a Feb. 9 column by the Heritage Foundation's Hans von Spakovsky and Caitlin McDonough cited the satirical letter to claim "Clarke cited a number of 'experts' regarding what she called the 'truth' about the 'genetic differences between blacks and whites.'" The same day, Bader invoked the letter again to claim that Clarke "exhibited racism and anti-Semitism at Harvard Law School."
Despite publishing this misinformation, CNS refused to cover Clarke's confirmation hearing at which the truth was told about the letter. Instead, it published an April 19 column by Bader pretending that Clarke's satire wasn't clear at the time and that she only recently claimed it was satire:
Clarke now claims her anti-white statements were satirical, in contrast to the past, when she stood by them. But they occurred in a serious discussion, and she made these statements at a place and time where even shocking racial claims about whites were made in all seriousness.
Bader then cited right-wing publications claiming that it the satirical intent wasn't clear at the time, even though it came in the wake of "The Bell Curve," something Bader tried to downplay (not to mention the fact that Clarke was a 19-year-old undergrad at the time).
CNS also went after several other Biden nominees as well.
The nomination of Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense generated a Dec. 10 piece by Susan Jones trying to blame him for U.S. troops leaving Iraq:
The Obama-Biden administration's decision to pull combat troops out of Iraq in 2011 was heavily criticized at the time and years later for creating the vacuum eventually filled by the Islamic State. Obama ended up sending U.S. troops back to Iraq in 2014 to counter the rise of ISIS.
CNS' first reaction to Biden's nomination of Tony Blinken as secretary of state was an article by Goodenough promoting Republican Sen. Tom Cotton sneering that Biden was "surrounding himself with panda huggers who will only reinforce his instincts to go soft on China.” That was followed by a column from Ben Shapiro claiming that Blinken was "most famous for embracing the Iran deal and encouraging more American troops in Syria."
Jones penned a Dec. 2 attack on Blinken, uncritically quoting GOP Rep. Josh Hawley having "criticized Blinken as someone who advocates closer ties to China, a country that is and will be a continuing national security threat to the United States" and "noted that the election outcome is not yet settled, yet Biden already has nominated war hawk Tony Blinken as his secretary of state."
Craig Bannister bashed two nominees in a single Dec. 1 article:
At least two of presidential heir apparent Joe Biden’s cabinet picks support burdensome new taxes.
Bill Donohue devoted a column to smearing Tanden, declaring that "there is no reason to trust her" because she "was part of the email chain" of a group that was purportedly "fomenting a "revolution" in the Catholic Church." He concluded by ranting that "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should lead the fight to block her nomination as the new head of the Office of Management and Budget."
Jones wrote with glee of Tanden's confirmation hearing in a Feb. 9 article about how she "apologized on Tuesday for some of her partisan, inflammatory and insulting remarks directed at Republicans with whom she now must work." Never mind, of course, that Tanden's tweets were no more "partisan, inflammatory and insulting" than the tweets that had emanated from Trump's Twitter account. which CNS hade little problem with.
On Feb. 22, Jones touted how Tanden's nomination "is losing more support" because a "liberal Republican" senator decided not to support her. Her nomination was withdrawn shortly thereafter. And the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins did a victory lap in a March 4 column, cheering that "Tanden's baggage was just too much."