Blog ››› ››› JOHN WHITEHOUSE
Meet the Press hosted radio host Erick Erickson to talk about civility and the need for conservatives to believe in facts. This is like asking an exhaust pipe about the virtues of clean air, or a wolf about how to keep sheep alive.
Erickson has repeatedly pushed conspiracy theories:
Erickson pushed a conspiracy theory about the timing of the so-called "caravan," the migrants in southern Mexico fleeing violence in central America.
Erickson pushed a conspiracy theory that Parkland survivor David Hogg was not actually at his school when the shooting happened.
Erickson pushed a slew of conspiracy theories about Christine Blasey Ford, the professor who came forward to report that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh had assaulted her.
Erickson pushed conspiracy theories about former President Barack Obama taking away guns.
Erickson defended then-ESPN analyst Curt Schilling when he tweeted a conspiracy theory and smear of Muslims.
Erickson hilariously argued that mass shootings in America are "so rare."
Erickson also goes to absurd lengths to protect conservatives in the face of reported facts. He endorsed reported pedophile Roy Moore for a Senate seat until the very end, on the basis that Moore was "the only one standing" against "the left." He dismissed concerns about one of President Donald Trump’s cabinet members flying in private jets because he "needs to be protected." When Erickson is on Fox or on the radio, he's more than happy to defend Trump's behavior toward the mainstream press.
And then there's just the ugly. He wrote a book warning of a "leftist-homosexual mafia" and argued in 2017 that gay men in bars who wear certain clothing are asking to be assaulted. Erickson has also endorsed the horrific practice of anti-LGBTQ "conversion therapy," a practice more akin to torture than therapy. He also compared members of the LGBTQ community to terrorists.
Erickson is an unrepentant sexist. He said of the Women’s March, "I feel sorry for all the ham and cheese that won't get made into sandwiches while all those women are marching." He's argued that "the male typically is the dominant role" and that women should stay home while men bring "home the bacon."
He called Trump's Muslim ban "brilliant politics." Erickson shot up a copy of The New York Times when the paper published an editorial on gun violence, and he blamed Obama for mass shootings. When Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis was briefly jailed for contempt of court for not issuing same-sex marriage licenses, Erickson warned of a civil war. In 2009, Erickson asked at what point people in Washington state might "beat [their state representative] to a bloody pulp for being an idiot."
Needless to say, none of this came up on Meet The Press, with host Chuck Todd only offering a brief nod to “some people” who say Erickson pushes conspiracy theories. Instead, Erickson was portrayed as a reasonable conservative interested in the facts.
WATCH: Erick Erickson speaks to conservatives who spread conspiracy theories, now that we have facts about the bomb suspect #MTP@EWErickson: “If you’re a conservative who’s at war with the truth, you’re not really a conservative.” pic.twitter.com/yJOAbu16E4
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) October 28, 2018
There's a real danger here: Presenting an extremist as a moderate only pushes people more toward that extremism. My colleague Parker Molloy explained that phenomenon regarding Erickson just a few weeks ago, writing about a piece in which The New York Times’ Margaret Sullivan wrote that he is seen as moderate.
The long-term effect of the constant recalibration of what constitutes a moderate position can change perception not only in media, but in politics itself. Sure, what’s moderate in 2018 -- for instance, support for marriage equality -- would have likely be considered extreme in the 1950s. Recalibrations happen over time, but usually as the result of more organic forces, not ratings. This is the Overton window in action, being shifted not by a changing landscape of political views, but by the editorial decisions involved in boosting them. That should worry us.
All of this raises the question: What role do CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post play in establishing and upholding the Erickson-as-moderate mythology? I asked Sullivan.
In an email, she writes, “Although Erickson may be seen by some as moderate or may actually be relatively moderate compared to someone like Alex Jones, he’s not moderate in any real sense. And whenever we refer to him, we should be a lot clearer about that than I was in my column. We owe it to our readers not to reinforce a false idea.”
Molloy and Sullivan are correct: Erickson is an extremist, and Meet The Press just gave him cover.
Erickson takes zero responsibility for pushing this shit, Todd doesn’t really mention it. Erickson gets to make vague condemnations of “conspiracies” w/o addressing his own wink & nod to the Alex Jones set. He’s back to being the go-to Safe NeverTrump Republican. Rinse & Repeat. pic.twitter.com/6K8kLIYnW2
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) October 28, 2018
Media Matters emailed Chuck Todd for comment on Friday asking why the program was hosting Erickson. Todd has not responded.
Todd has said he wants to stop conservative media from taking over and discrediting the news. He should start with his own show.