In the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections, right-wing media and Republican officials have found a new favorite scare tactic: hyping nonsensical claims of radical Democrats and an “angry mob” of “scary,” violent, liberal protesters trying to disrupt American values and take over the country. This transparent effort at turning out Republicans to the polls has been parotted by a number of right-wing pundits paid by CNN for their political analysis.
Right-wing media, especially the Trump-aligned Fox News Channel, responded to the confirmation battle of now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh by accusing Democrats, protesters (many of whom were sexual assault survivors) and the left broadly of violent radicalism. Republican politicians, including the president, have been quick to echo these claims. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) argued that Democrats “encouraged mob rule” during the Kavanaugh hearings, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) commended Republicans for standing “up to the mob.” During an October 9 rally in Iowa, President Donald Trump -- who regularly called for actual violence during the 2016 campaign and who said last year that there were “very fine people” at a white supremacist rally that resulted in one person dying -- condemned Democrats as an “angry left-wing mob” that is “too dangerous to govern.” The president insisted that the party cannot be trusted with power because “you don't hand matches to an arsonist.”
Conservative denouncements of left-wing violence are obviously absurd, and markedly hypocritical, but that hasn’t stopped right-wing CNN pundits from fearmongering about the supposed “mob behavior” of the left. On CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, commentator Steve Cortes called it “scary” that the left has been using “mob tactics” and “violence” to a “dramatic degree.” During the October 9 edition of CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, political commentator Alice Stewart claimed that Republicans were correct in calling protesters a “mob” because they were “banging on the doors of the Supreme Court and chasing senators out of public restaurants and yelling at senators in an elevator.”
During the same segment, CNN’s Matt Lewis equated protesters to the alt-right and specifically white supremacist Richard Spencer before host Don Lemon interrupted him. He then accused the protesters of “mob behavior,” and got into a heated exchange with Lemon about whether activists disrupting people who are complicit in the administration’s inhumane policies constitutes mob action. And on The Lead with Jake Tapper, network contributor Scott Jennings argued that the Kavanaugh hearings showed conservatives “what life would be like if you let the angry mob take over,” and claimed that if he were running a campaign he would use “video of this angry mob.”
There is, of course, tremendous irony here; CNN hired Corey Lewandowski as a political commentator after Lewandowski was forced out of the Trump campaign for assaulting a reporter. CNN was also duped by conservatives earlier this year into fretting over “civility” as it conflated examples of liberals being rude with conservatives being racist.
CNN’s model of false balance and “both sides” punditry and its obsession with employing and hosting a roster of right-wing ideologues is nothing new, but it does continue to lead to the espousal of extremist opinions on the network.