CNN, MSNBC aired Donohue's criticism of Edwards bloggers without noting his bigotry
Research ››› ››› JOSH KALVEN
In a February 7 segment on the controversy surrounding two bloggers hired by John Edwards' presidential campaign, CNN aired a clip of Catholic League president Bill Donohue criticizing the bloggers for their "insulting," "incendiary," and "inflammatory" writings. Donohue repeated his criticism of the bloggers during an appearance on the February 7 edition of MSNBC's Tucker. But like similar reports by The New York Times and the Associated Press, neither CNN nor MSNBC noted Donohue's own history of "incendiary" and "inflammatory" commentary. Further, CNN informed viewers that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) hired conservative blogger Patrick Hynes as an "e-consultant," but did not report that Hynes has apparently engaged in smears of his own against Democratic officials and others.
Following the original Times and AP reports on the Edwards controversy -- in which Donohue was quoted describing the bloggers as "anti-Catholic, vulgar, trash-talking bigots" -- Media Matters for America compiled a list of Donohue's own "vulgar" and "bigot[ed]" comments: his statement that "[p]eople don't trust the Muslims when it comes to liberty," his reference to the "gay death style," his demand that homosexuals "apologize to straight people for all the damage that they have done," his assertion that Hollywood "is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular," and his claim that Hollywood "likes anal sex" and "abortions."
Furthermore, Media Matters pointed out that Donohue's outrage over the bloggers' previous writings on Catholicism appears highly selective. Indeed, Donohue previously chose to dismiss anti-Catholic bigotry on the part of a key GOP operative, Jerome Corsi, in 2004. And following actor Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic comments in 2006, Donohue said of Gibson, "There's a lot of people who have made comments which are bigoted who are not necessarily bigots."
But in her segment on the Edwards story, which aired on the February 7 edition of The Situation Room, CNN correspondent Mary Snow included a clip of Donohue slamming the bloggers, while making no mention of his own "inflammatory" comments.
Likewise, on the February 7 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, host Tucker Carlson allowed Donohue to accuse the bloggers -- whom he described as "two little brats" -- of "speak[ing] in the most disparaging way" about Catholics. Donohue went on to assert that "[i]f they had used the n-word even once in their career, they'd have gone by now" and claimed that he does not "want Muslims to be disrespected." But at no point in the interview did Carlson bring up Donohue's own insulting comments toward Muslims and other minorities. Nor did he challenge Donohue regarding his defense of Gibson following Gibson's anti-Semitic remarks.
Further, Snow's CNN report was followed by a segment from Internet reporter Jackie Schechner on the number of presidential campaigns "reaching out to prominent bloggers to try to drum up support." Schechner noted that McCain had hired Patrick Hynes, a blogger for the conservative AnkleBitingPundits.com, as an "e-consultant." But while host Wolf Blitzer had said Schechner would be offering "some context" regarding the Edwards controversy, she made no mention of Hynes' own controversial record, including his apparent past description of Chelsea Clinton as "hideously ugly" and his strong support for the Swift Boat Veterans and POWs for Truth, whose baseless smears and attacks against 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry (D-MA) McCain denounced as "dishonest and dishonorable."
As Media Matters has noted, the media have largely ignored McCain's hiring of Hynes and various other controversial GOP operatives for his 2008 presidential campaign.
From the February 7 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
BLITZER: A lot of presidential candidates are going to be at the various debates we'll be hosting in Nevada, as well as New Hampshire -- certainly, one of those candidates is John Edwards. He's taking some heat right now. It involves some internet bloggers and some very upset Catholics. Mary Snow is watching this story for us from New York. Mary?
SNOW: Well, Wolf, everyone agrees the bloggers are provocative, as many bloggers are, but one Catholic group says they go too far and it's calling on John Edwards to fire them -- not for what they said during the campaign -- but in their past jobs.
[begin video clip]
SNOW: On John Edwards' own website, it's called the first big test of the campaign. A conservative Catholic group took aim at two bloggers who work for Edwards, calling them "anti-catholic, vulgar, trash-talking bigots." The blogs in question were written before the two joined Edwards' campaign. One of the postings that angered Catholic League president William Donohue said the church's opposition to birth control forces women to, quote, "bear more tithing Catholics."
DONOHUE: Don't use insulting language like this. This is incendiary, it's inflammatory, it's scurrilous and has no place being a part of any kind of someone's resume, who's going to be working for a potential presidential contender.
SNOW: Donohue points to blogger Melissa McEwan, who makes reference to President Bush's "wingnut Christofascist base," and blogger Amanda Marcotte's entry on the pope and fascists.
Also gaining notice, Marcotte's writing that sarcastically chides the news media's coverage of the Duke lacrosse players who were accused of sexual assault. Her entry read, quote: "Can't a few white boys sexually assault a black woman any more without people getting all wound up about it? So unfair."
DONOHUE: It should be a message to everybody in -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- you'd better carefully go through these kind of things. Otherwise, you're going to get burnt in the end.
SNOW: Now, more than ever, bloggers are playing a big role in presidential campaigns.
K. DANIEL GLOVER (NationalJournal.com contributing writer): They're passionate. That's what they're known for and that's why the campaigns are hiring them. They want people who will defend the candidate and be the voice for them and to have a strong message and a strong voice.
SNOW: And blog-watchers say: with those strong opinions, expect to see controversy surface in other campaigns in the 2008 race.
[end video clip]
SNOW: Now, this afternoon, a spokeswoman for the Edwards camp said she would have no comment about Donohue's call to fire the bloggers. We also did try reaching out to both bloggers involved. We have not so far gotten a response. Wolf?
BLITZER: Mary, thanks. We'll stay on top of this story.
And we're also seeing more and more '08 presidential campaigns reaching out to prominent bloggers to try to drum up support. Let's get some context from our Internet reporter, Jackie Schechner. Jackie?
SCHECHNER: Wolf, political campaigns want to hire the most experienced bloggers. But the more content they have online, the more content there is out there to be scrutinized.
Senator Hillary Clinton hired Peter Daou to help out with her possible presidential bid. He used to blog at Salon.com under something that used to be called The Daou Report, now The Blog Report. We reached out to the Clinton campaign to get some more information about their hiring and their vetting of Peter Daou, but they declined to comment.
Senator John McCain also has an e-consultant. He uses Patrick Hynes, who blogs at anklebitingpundits.com. The McCain campaign wouldn't talk about their vetting or hiring process either, but they said that they're happy to have Patrick on board.
Bottom line, today, is that bloggers on both the right and the left are disappointed in what they say appears to be John Edwards' campaign's failure to vet the bloggers that he's hired. And some of the liberal bloggers are upset, saying that if Edwards' campaign does go and fire these bloggers, it would look like the campaign is caving in, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jackie, thank you for that good story happening in Washington.
From the February 7 edition of MSNBC's Tucker:
CARLSON: We're mere months into the '08 race for president and already Democratic hopeful John Edwards is being told to fire two members of his campaign team. They're bloggers who posted anti-Catholic opinions on blogs before they were hired by Edwards earlier this year.
One of the comments in question was one regarding the Catholic Church's opposition to contraception. It said, quote: "The Catholic Church is not about to let something like compassion for girls get in the way of using the state as an instrument to force women to bear more tithing Catholics." It gets a lot zestier from there. Unfortunately, we can't read them on the air because I'll get fired if I do. But they're pretty rough.
Heading up the campaign to get the women fired from the Edwards campaign is Bill Donohue. He's president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, and he joins us now. Bill?
DONOHUE: Thank you for having me.
CARLSON: Now, as I understand it, these women wrote this -- this stuff before they were hired by Edwards?
DONOHUE: Yes, that's correct, but you know what's interesting, one of the comments, which I can't repeat on the air, is actually up and advertised under this woman's "greatest hits" and the very first hit is something, which is amazing for anybody to read. So, they're braggadocio about it and so I think that I want to let everyone know about it.
CARLSON: So, OK. So, you're -- I mean, you're not an employee of MSNBC, so you're not going -- I mean, you've probably a little more freedom to describe these comments in greater detail than I do. Just give our -- give our audience a sense of what these two bloggers, who are hired by the way after they wrote this stuff online -- hired by the Edwards campaign to help whip up the lunatics in cyberspace. Describe what these comments were.
DONOHUE: Well, first of all, they're not working on environmental issues or agricultural issues. I'd still be offended. They're working as communications people. So what exactly do they communicate?
You should see the stuff that they said about our Blessed Mother, about the Virgin Mary. The most vile disgusting things dealing with orgasms and sperm and the like, which -- it is absolutely mindboggling that this -- these kind of sick people would ever get a job working with any public official. If you want to disagree with the Catholic Church, go ahead.
Do you have to call us "Christofascist" phobic people, speak in the most disparaging way, the likes of which I, you know -- I, look, I'm not naïve. I've seen what's on the blogosphere. What is shocking to me is that these people were not -- obviously not vetted or, worse, they were taken through a filter and somebody knew exactly what they were hiring and decided they have a rightful place in communications in the Edwards campaign.
There's a big conversation in this country right now about the propriety of the use of the n-word. I think that's a good conversation. If they had used the n-word even once in their career, they'd have been gone by now. Now there are unconfirmed reports that they've been fired, but I'll wait to find out exactly what's happening.
CARLSON: Well, on February 26, one of them, Melissa McEwen, described religious Christians as lousy M-Fers, etcetera, etcetera. It just goes on and on and on. Has the -- has the Edwards campaign responded in any way? What has -- what has been their response to your complaints about this?
DONOHUE: I'm getting reports all day the Edwards campaign is a state of disarray. There's an unconfirmed report they've been fired. I can tell you this much. It doesn't surprise me, Tucker. If these were veteran people, they would have taken the fall for the big guy. They would've done the right thing. But these are two little brats who obviously have been getting away with this for a long time and they're going to go out kicking and screaming.
Edwards is probably going to have to wind up firing them, which is obviously what the man does not want to do. I want to make it clear. I have nothing against John Edwards. I think he's a decent man, and if he had known what I know now, and what he knows now, about these people, the content of their communications, there's no way in the world that he would have hired them. And I don't think the man is anti-Catholic. However, he's got a problem on his plate. He's got to deal with these two beauties.
CARLSON: How prevalent do you think anti-Christian -- 'cause it strikes me as not just anti-Catholic, but anti-evangelical, anti-Orthodox Christianity in general. How prevalent is this stuff in the kind of fervid blogosphere?
DONOHUE: If you take a look at some of the stuff on the blogoshpere that's said about Christians in general, Catholics in particular, it's absolutely mind-boggling. Muslims are given more respect. Look --
CARLSON: Of course.
DONOHUE: -- I don't want Muslims to be disrespected. I'm simply saying that in a country that's 85 percent Christian -- that was founded by Christians -- you would think that we might at least be able to catch up with Muslims. I mean, it's -- that's because, you know, there's the cultural left in this country, which sees Christianity because of it's sexual reticence, as the enemy -- and the Catholic Church in particular. And the kind of respect that is afforded to everybody else is not afforded to us.
Just today [ABC's The View co-hosts] Rosie O'Donnell and Joy Behar went on lashing out against the Catholic Church today on a subject which had nothing to do with Catholicism. They're talking about [former president of the National Association of Evangelicals] Ted Haggard, and [The View co-host] Barbara Walters sat there once again. Had they attacked Islam or Judaism, she would have raised almighty hell.
CARLSON: Well, they would have been fired yesterday --
DONOHUE: That's right. So, you don't even have to go to --
CARLSON: -- if they -- they would have been out of there. They actually both would have been in rehab for sensitivity issues. There would be some kind of 12-step program to get them back into the PC orthodoxy. No, you're absolutely right. I don't think there's any -- I don't think any reasonable person -- I don't care how left wing, right wing, apolitical you are -- could disagree with what you just said. That's just true.
DONOHUE: Well, Mara Vanderslice in 2004 worked for the Kerry-Edwards campaign. I found out about her background and they had to silence her. Then I got Brenda Bartella Peterson to quit or be fired because of what -- because of her background. What I'm saying is this: These people are somewhat clueless. They're somewhat naïve. They need to find out who's working for them. You know, you've got to vet these people. You've got to have a gatekeeper, and [inaudible] they don't have one.
CARLSON: Well, I have the feeling they're going to have one from now on.
DONOHUE: Well, I hope -- I hope the Republicans and the Democrats are all watching this carefully because there's a lot of Bill Donohue's out there, which are watching this.
CARLSON: Yep. Thanks a lot, Bill. I appreciate it.
DONOHUE: Thank you so much.