In what was either the final faux scandal of 2018 or the first of the new year, Saturday Night Live alum Jane Curtin raised some conservative hackles with a comment aired during CNN’s New Year’s Eve Live. In a pretaped segment asking celebrities for their New Year’s resolutions, Curtin deadpanned, “My New Year’s resolution is to make sure that the Republican Party dies.”
Within minutes, the clip began making the rounds on social media, and it later appeared on Fox News. Her video was actually part of a much larger package, which included goals from the likes of Tyra Banks (“to be on time”), Patricia Arquette (to “stop caring about New Year’s resolutions”), and Harvey Fierstein (“to stop wearing all of this jewelry”).
It may be a new year, but this response from right-wing media is very old and very predictable. Like so many others, Curtin’s comment would be taken out of context, misrepresented, and ultimately used as an example of “violent rhetoric” among liberals.
As is often the case, Fox News played a major role in building on this tried and true narrative.
On the January 2 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy twisted Curtin’s comment into something far more sinister, mischaracterizing it as being “about killing Republicans.” Comedian Michael Loftus joined the show to weigh in:
MICHAEL LOFTUS, COMEDIAN: That was absolutely terrifying! Really terrifying! To make sure the Republican Party dies. She meant it. That wasn’t a joke -- that wasn’t a joke. That makes you glad that there’s a three-day waiting period on guns. Jane Curtin has lost it. She’s completely not funny. And here’s what I think. I think that this is what the left has been thinking for a long, long time. It would be so much easier if there was no opposition. They have no message, they can’t win a debate, so it would just be easier if all the Republicans were dead and gone. It’s terrifying!
STEVE DOOCY, CO-HOST: So in other words, she’s just being honest. That’s what she wants.
LOFTUS: I think -- I think Trump has them so frustrated, the mask is off. It would be so much easier for the left if they -- if all the Republicans could just get out of the way. And they could just take over and we’d all be Venezuela by the morning. It’s horrible. Jane Curtin has made a very good living playing cold, mean, calculating women. It turns out she wasn’t playing a part. She’s a cold, mean, calculating woman.
AINSLEY EARHARDT, CO-HOST: What do you think about folks in Hollywood, these actors that are giving their political opinions? Do you think they should do that?
LOFTUS: They can. If you want to give your opinion, go for it, but I’m not gonna hang out at any parties with these guys. Seriously, they want me dead! If I’m at a Hollywood party and Jane Curtin hands me an hors d'oeuvre, I’m gonna say “pass” and get to my car.
Townhall.com senior columnist Kurt Schlichter came away with a similar interpretation of Curtin’s comment, tweeting that “Jane Curtis (sic) is free to want me dead” before advocating that “Normal Americans buy guns and ammunition to provide a deterrent to such aspiring tyrants.”
Everyone understands full well that Curtin wasn’t advocating for violence, but feigned ignorance is a right-wing media ritual.
In October, conservative media went into a total meltdown after former Attorney General Eric Holder urged Democrats to fight back against voter suppression efforts, saying:
“Michelle [Obama] always says, ‘When they go low, we go high.’ No. No. When they go low, we kick them. That’s what this new Democratic Party is about. We’re proud as hell to be Democrats. We’re willing to fight for the ideals of the Democratic Party.”
Though it was obvious that Holder wasn’t actually advocating for Democrats to literally kick people, he took an extra step to ensure his comments wouldn’t be misinterpreted:
"Now, when I say, you know, ‘we kick ‘em,’ I don’t mean we do anything inappropriate. We don’t do anything illegal. But we’ve got to be tough and we’ve got to fight for the very things that John Lewis, Martin Luther King, Whitney Young, you know, all those folks gave to us. That stuff can be taken away. That’s what they want to do.”
Fox News, Breitbart, The Washington Times, The Federalist, The Gateway Pundit, The Daily Caller, Hot Air, and RedState all jumped on the Holder story. More than a week later, as part of the Republican Party’s “Jobs Not Mobs” campaign, President Donald Trump invoked Holder’s “kick” comment to illustrate that Democrats are “losing it.”
Absolutely none of this is new. For instance, during the 2016 campaign, Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson invoked a 2008 comment made by then-candidate Barack Obama. During a Philadelphia fundraiser, Obama quoted a line from the movie The Untouchables, saying, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”
From the March 14, 2016, edition of CNN’s The Lead:
KATRINA PIERSON, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: If we want to talk about inciting violence, where is the interview with [Democratic presidential front-runner] Hillary Clinton and [President] Barack Obama when they’re talking about bringing a gun to a knife fight? When they’re inciting violence against police officers. Today, we have police officers called out to fake calls so that they can be ambushed and potentially assassinated.
The twisting of Curtin’s words wasn’t the first time conservative press took a statement from a liberal out of context, and it almost certainly won’t be the last. That’s why it’s so important for readers and viewers to see past the outrage bait and look at the source material themselves.