Charles C.W. Cooke | Media Matters for America

Charles C.W. Cooke

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  • The Atlantic fired Kevin Williamson for his abortion comments. Check out all this other stuff he said.

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN & JULIE TULBERT


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    After previously defending the hiring of former National Review writer Kevin Williamson as an exercise in ideological diversity, Atlantic Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg announced on April 5 that the outlet was “parting ways” with Williamson. In particular, Goldberg noted that Williamson’s defense of his belief that those who have had abortion should be hanged “runs contrary to The Atlantic’s tradition of respectful, well-reasoned debate, and to the values of our workplace.”

    Although some chose to write off Williamson’s comments on abortion as offhand statements, in reality, Williamson defended and expanded his belief that those who have abortions should face hanging in a 2014 edition of his podcast, “Mad Dogs & Englishmen.” In the episode, Williamson said that although he was “kind of squishy on capital punishment in general,” he was “absolutely willing to see abortion treated like regular homicide” and in particular had “a soft spot for hanging as a form of capital punishment.”

    Beyond his statements about abortion, Williamson also has a long resume when it comes to problematic articles and commentary, on a variety of topics.

    Before he was fired, Media Matters was reviewing additional episodes of Williamson’s podcast. Here are some previously unreported lowlights from other subjects Williamson discussed on “Mad Dogs & Englishmen”:

    On race

    KEVIN WILLIAMSON: But at the end of the day we also have to pay attention to the actual facts of the case. And the unhappy part of that story is that a lot of the complaint is based on fiction. A lot of what we have to say about it is based on fiction. It just simply is not the case that young black men are getting gunned down, unarmed, by police officers in any sort of significant numbers. It’s just not something that really happens.

    KEVIN WILLIAMSON: And I don’t think that a lot of people talking about this right now really even quite understand what the basic genesis of these protests were and where they came from. I think [football player Colin] Kaepernick is a fairly unsympathetic character because he seems to be someone who doesn’t actually know very much what he’s talking about and kind of likes to play radical, maybe to make up for the fact that his sports career wasn’t all that promising there at the end.

    KEVIN WILLIAMSON: Yeah, so the kid, as I was noting in my piece, he yells at me and calls me a “cracker” and “white devil” and whatnot. And the kid sort of looked to me like Snoop Dogg, the rapper. And, he had -- he was very thin, had that sort of pointy kind of wry face, and had some braids and everything too. So I mention in my piece, I sort of did the math, he was just under 4 feet high it looked like and Snoop Dogg is a bit over 6 feet high, that he looked like a three-fifth-scale Snoop Dogg. So apparently the fraction three-fifths now, according to Jamelle [Bouie], is inherently racist because --

    CHARLES COOKE (CO-HOST): Because of the Constitution?

    WILLIAMSON: Because of the three-fifths compromise over slavery in the Constitution. In which the unit in question, I note, was not three-fifths of a Snoop Dogg.

    On gender and sexual assault

    CHARLES COOKE (CO-HOST) But this notion that we will make it incumbent upon your boss to provide a health plan, then tell him what has to be in it, and then tell him that it’s none of his business is inherently absurd. 

    KEVIN WILLIAMSON: Someone just needs to tell these brave feminist warrior princesses fighting the patriarchy that it’s time to stop asking Daddy to buy you stuff.

    KEVIN WILLIAMSON: This makes me want to bang my head on the table, because it’s just complete B.S. So, this stat that we’re always treated to, endlessly discredited, that women earn 77 cents for every dollar that men earn, is produced this way: Take all the earnings of all the women who have full-time jobs and all the earnings of men who have full-time jobs and compare them. Yes, and you will come up with that. But that doesn’t tell you anything about what sort of jobs they’re in, or how long they’ve been in the workforce or what kind of education they have, or anything else.

    [...]

    Now, that may be that some nefarious, sexist cabal somewhere is shunting all the women over into HR and putting the men in sales jobs, but it could also be other things, like choices that people make. Commission sales is an inherently insecure job; women are more risk-averse than men are.

    KEVIN WILLIAMSON: So, people make different decisions about those sorts of things. And we all know this. I mean, you walk into an elementary school and you notice the male teachers because there’s relatively few of them. You go to other sorts of positions and you’ll notice women there because they stand out because there are relatively few women in those jobs.

    CHARLES COOKE (CO-HOST): Construction.

    WILLIAMSON: Construction, bouncers, things like that. Not that you would go into a strip club, but if you did go into a strip club you would notice a very pronounced division of labor between the people collecting the money at the door and the people performing on stage. They're just -- people make different sorts of decisions about things.

    KEVIN WILLIAMSON: A lot of the reaction against Trump, and I say this as an up-and-down-the-line anti-Trump guy, isn’t based on his policies, it’s based on the sort of people who are attracted to him and his candidacy. And that’s what was on my mind very much while watching these stupid protests and marches and riots and all of that kind of stuff. I want there to be opposition to Trump, but I want it to be intelligent, mature, patriotic, and authentically liberal opposition to him. Instead, we got a bunch of self-infantilizing people dressed in vagina hats, screaming about tampons and that sort of thing.

    KEVIN WILLIAMSON: So, let’s see, if the two candidates -- the two major party candidates were Bugs Bunny characters. … [Hillary Clinton is] a slightly Daffy Duck kind of character, I think in some ways. She’s got an annoying voice, she tends to blow herself up when there’s no particular reason to, things just tend not to go right for her, she’s an egomaniac. She could be sort of a Daffy Duck.

    KEVIN WILLIAMSON: This is something I bang on a lot about I know, and forgive me for bringing it up here again but I think it is relevant, that the idea that there is an epidemic of rape on college campuses is, first of all, demonstrably untrue. That there’s an epidemic of rape anywhere in the country is demonstrably untrue. Sexual assault have declined something like 68 percent in the last 20 years.

    On immigration

    KEVIN WILLIAMSON: When I’ve -- I’ve talked about using an income criterion as a kind of cut-off for not all of our immigration problems -- programs -- but a lot of immigration programs, and a pretty high way, say $200,000 a year is more or less OK. There’s background check and other stuff, but if you’re coming in at a wage like that, you’re not being hired probably because you’re the cheapest guy for the job. You’re being hired because someone is looking for a specific set of skills. Because I simply don’t think our country is going to made better off by importing a lot of poor people. It sounds callous to say, but I think we probably have enough poor people in the United States to start with. I don’t really look out at the country and see a shortage.

    KEVIN WILLIAMSON: One of the other problems with the purely economic libertarian arguments about immigration is that people aren’t capital. They’re just not. They bring other stuff with them. And that stuff has to be taken into consideration, I think, as well. 

    CHARLES COOKE (CO-HOST): Well, and people care about culture.

    WILLIAMSON: Yeah, they do care about culture. And that actually matters and it should be taken into account. And people think this is chauvinistic or racist or Islamophobic or whatnot, but there’s no reason that stuff should not be taken into account because we do care about the composition of our society.

    KEVIN WILLIAMSON: And this is where people start to get a little nervous on grounds of things that sound like discrimination to us, and maybe it is discrimination in a way. But I think it’s useful and healthy discrimination that obviously people who are looking to immigrate here from Pakistan or Afghanistan or Iran or Saudi Arabia should obviously, in my view, be subject to a much, much higher level of scrutiny than people who are coming here from Switzerland or Sweden.

    KEVIN WILLIAMSON: One of the things I think that we have to be even more forthright about is that we aren’t talking here about a geographic[al] question, we are here talking about a cultural question. We are talking about people who come from Islamic backgrounds. And that’s also going to hold true for many immigrants from the United Kingdom and from other Commonwealth countries that have large immigrant populations of their own from the Middle East. So, I’m thinking that someone who immigrated from Pakistan to the U.K. 20 years ago or 25 years ago, and now the family wants to immigrate to the United States, I would treat them essentially the same way as we would people immigrating from Pakistan. And that gets you into the problem, I guess, where you don’t really get to use the geographic dodge.

  • Right-Wing Media Slam Obama For Noting That Lax Gun Laws Lead To More Violence

    ››› ››› CYDNEY HARGIS

    During his eulogy at a memorial service for the five police officers killed last week in Dallas, TX., President Obama criticized easy access to firearms, noting, “we flood communities with so many guns that it is easier for a teenager to buy a Glock than get his hands on a computer or even a book.” Even though a majority of Americans support strengthening lax gun laws, conservative media slammed Obama for his remark, calling him “the worst,” “an asshat,” and “nakedly divisive.”

  • Conservatives: GOP Senate Should Block Any Obama Selection For Supreme Court

    Right-Wing Media Respond To Justice Scalia's Death

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Antonin ScaliaMinutes after the news broke that Justice Antonin Scalia had passed away, conservative media figures began urging Republican senators to block any selection President Obama would make to replace him:

    Scalia was part of a conservative bloc on the Supreme Court that regularly overturned progressive legislation and precedent, making any replacement a contested issue in both the Senate and the 2016 presidential election with major national implications. 

  • Conservatives Mock Obama For Crying About Child Victims Of Gun Violence During Speech

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Several conservative media figures attacked President Obama for crying as he spoke about child victims during a speech detailing executive actions designed to reduce gun violence.

    Conservatives Mock Obama For Displaying Emotion

    Fox News' Todd Starnes: "President Boehner."

    [Twitter, 1/5/16] 

    Fox News' Andrea Tantaros: "Check That Podium For Like A Raw Onion ... It's Not Really Believable"

    [Fox News, Outnumbered, 1/5/16]

    Breitbart's John Nolte: "He's Putting Something In His Eyes To Create The Fascist Tears"

    [Twitter, 1/5/16, 1/5/16]

    National Review's Charles C.W. Cooke: "All The Best Laws Are Made By People Who Can't Control Their Emotions."

    [Twitter, 1/5/161/5/16]

    Breitbart's Ben Shapiro: "HEADLINE: Obama Cries!!!!!!!1!!!! Give Him What He Wants!!!!!1!!!!"

    [Twitter, 1/5/16, 1/5/16, 1/5/16]

    Free Beacon's Adam Kredo: "Gotta Change Those Wet Pants."

    [Twitter, 1/5/16]

    Fox's Eric Bolling Asks If The President Thinks "ISIS Sees [His Tears] As Emotional Strength Or Weakness?"

    [Fox News, The Five1/5/16]

    The Drudge Report Mocks Obama: "Tears For Fears"

    [The Drudge Report, 1/5/16]

  • National Review Writer Defends Charleston Shooting Gun Sale Loophole

    NRA-Backed Amendment Implicated In Provision Allowing Shooter To Buy A Gun

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    National Review's Charles C.W. Cooke defended a provision in federal law that allowed the alleged perpetrator of the Charleston church mass shooting to obtain a firearm without undergoing a completed background check, arguing that Second Amendment rights purportedly protected by the provision outweigh the negative consequences.

    On July 10, FBI Director James Comey announced that Dylann Storm Roof, the man accused of killing 9 people inside of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, was ineligible under federal law to buy the gun used in the attack because of his admission to police officers that he was an illegal drug user.

    Due to paperwork errors, however, an employee at the FBI-administered National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which processes background checks for guns sold by licensed dealers, was unable to view Roof's arrest record, despite knowing that one existed.

    Under the current background check system, if a check cannot be completed within three business days it may proceed at the gun dealers discretion in what is known as a "default proceed" sale. According to the FBI, this is how Roof's sale was completed.

    This feature of the background check law exists because of efforts by the National Rifle Association to weaken the 1993 Brady background check bill that created the current background check system. The provision appeared in an NRA-backed amendment introduced by Rep. George Gekas (R-PA). The Gekas amendment allowed a "default proceed" to occur after one business day, which was later lengthened to three business days with a compromise amendment in the Senate.

    In a July 13 post, Cooke defended this state of affairs, arguing that no change should be made in the "default proceed" provision because on balance it is "a means of protecting the innocent" from government interference with Second Amendment rights where the benefits presumably outweigh any negative consequences (emphasis original):

    But it should be acknowledged for the record that the three-day exception was not a drafting error or an oversight, but a provision that was deliberately included within the law as a means of protecting the the [sic] innocent. Just as the police are forbidden from detaining suspects without charge -- and just as one cannot be imprisoned unless prosecutors can prove one's guilt -- the government is not permitted to remove your Second Amendment rights without good reason. If they can't find that reason within three days of your attempting to purchase a firearm, they have to stop trying.

    While Cooke wrote that the sale to Roof "seems problematic," he concluded, "As a matter of general principle, however, the legal protections from which he benefited are sound. We would not seek to do away with due process because the guilty are occasionally left free to offend again. We should not diminish the Second Amendment because the state screwed up either."

    This argument, however, presents a false choice between protecting due process and Second Amendment rights and ensuring that dangerous people are flagged by the background check system -- and is further evidence of conservative media's rush to dismiss any changes to gun laws following high-profile shootings. (While also indicating a willingness to balance the consequences of gun sales to dangerous people with the fact that some, although very few, eligible purchasers will have to wait to complete their checks.)

    While a system that allowed the government to indefinitely delay the completion of background checks without justification would raise constitutional concerns, several states have laws extending the three day requirement to give investigators a reasonable chance to determine if a potential gun purchaser is prohibited from buying a gun.

    For example, in Tennessee a dealer must allow authorities 15 days to complete an inconclusive background check. If the check is still not complete after 15 days, a dealer may proceed with the sale. Similar laws exist in North Carolina, California, Hawaii, and Washington, with time ranges of 10 to 30 days.

    Some states even impose waiting periods -- which comply with the Second Amendment -- on gun sales where the buyer has successfully completed a background check.

    There is strong evidence that the current "default proceed" waiting period of only three days allows prohibited purchasers to obtain firearms. As a 2009 report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns explained, "According to data provided by the FBI, default proceed sales are more than 8 times more likely to be associated with a prohibited purchaser than sales where the purchaser's background check is resolved within three days." Data collected by the FBI also indicates that in 2012 the "default proceed" provision put guns in the hands of 3,722 prohibited purchasers.

    Polling has indicated strong support, even among gun owners, to extend the time authorities have to complete background checks.

  • Conservative Media React To Domestic Violence Ad With Call For More Guns

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Right-wing media reacted to an ad depicting gun-based domestic violence with the dangerous claim that keeping guns in the home would prevent such attacks. In fact, the presence of a firearm in a home where domestic abuse occurs increases the risk a woman will be murdered.

    In an ad released on July 29, gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety depicted the harrowing scene of a domestic abuser breaking into his estranged partner's home and shooting her with a gun. The ad was released to bring attention to a July 30 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the relationship between guns and domestic violence. The Senate is currently considering legislation that would prohibit the purchase of firearms by individuals convicted of stalking and expand the definition of intimate partner violence "to include a dating partner."  

    Conservative media reacted to the ad by calling it a "mistake" and claiming that it "inadvertently proves why women need guns." Calling firearms "a great equalizer between men and women," National Review Online's Charles C.W. Cooke claimed that "the victim [in the ad] would have been better off with a gun in her hand than with a phone connected to the police department" and charged Everytown with supporting firearms policies that "put vulnerable people in danger." Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich wrote of the domestic violence scene shown in the ad: "All of this could have been prevented if the woman had a firearm in her possession as soon as she saw her ex-husband pounding on the door."

  • CNN Adopts Flawed Right-Wing Logic On School Shooting Numbers

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    CNN is adopting flawed right-wing media logic that seeks to downplay the numbers of school shootings in the last 18 months.

    Following an incident at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon where a 15-year-old student armed with an AR-15 assault weapon and a handgun killed a fellow student before taking his own life, gun violence prevention group Everytown for Gun Safety circulated a graphic that identified the locations of 74 school shootings since the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School:

    How Everytown reached the 74 school shooting figure is no mystery. On its website, the gun safety group clearly explains its methodology: "Incidents were classified as school shootings when a firearm was discharged inside a school building or on school or campus grounds, as documented in publicly reported news accounts. This includes assaults, homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings."

    The right-wing media has sought to debunk this statistic in order to downplay the prevalence of school shootings. Criticism of Everytown's graphic began on June 10 with a lengthy series of tweets from conservative journalist Charles C. Johnson that purported to debunk many of the 74 shootings as "fake shooting[s]."

    Shootings that Johnson believed had been mischaracterized as school shootings included incidents where, in his own words, "A gunman ran onto campus, was chased by police, shot student accidentally," "Honors student shoots self in front of class," and, "Northwest High School principal shot by her ex-husband on campus":

    According to Johnson, "It's not a school shooting when someone goes and shoots a specific person on campus. It's a shooting that happens to take place at school."

  • The National Rifle Association's Campaign To Stop Smart Guns

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Rifle Association has used its media arm to dissuade gun owners from embracing "smart gun" technology through falsehoods and the promotion of conspiracy theories about the federal government.

    Advances in technology that uses RFID chips, fingerprint identification, or other measures to ensure that a gun can only be fired by authorized users have been in the news following a Maryland gun store's failed attempt to bring a smart gun to market.

    Engage Armament, a gun store in Rockville, MD, planned to begin sales of the Armatix iP1 handgun -- the first U.S. market-ready smart gun -- but later changed course and apologized for being involved with smart gun technology after receiving death threats from pro-gun activists. An earlier plan by a California gun store to offer the iP1 suffered a similar fate.

    In a separate development, New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg has promised to repeal New Jersey's smart gun law -- which makes adoption of the technology mandatory once smart guns come to market -- if the NRA promises to not interfere with the retail sale of smart guns nor target manufacturers who develop smart gun technologies.

    While Armatix produced the first smart gun ready for sale to the public, a 2013 Department of Justice report identified 13 entities -- including gun manufacturers, universities, and other research entities -- working to develop smart gun technology. In its 2015 budget request, DOJ asked for $2 million "to support the Administration's challenge to the private sector to develop innovative and cost-effective gun safety technology." Ron Conway, a prominent Silicon Valley angel investor, has also announced a $1 million competition for the development of "technology that reliably authorizes approved use -- and blocks the unauthorized use -- of firearms."

    That the NRA is attacking smart gun technology -- and by doing so putting negative pressure on companies that would develop the technology with the hope of selling guns -- is ironic given the organization's philosophy on firearm sales. In an unhinged February 2013 op-ed that urged NRA members to "stand and fight" against gun safety measures proposed in the wake of the Newtown massacre, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre urged gun owners to "buy more guns than ever." And during a paranoid 2014 address at the NRA annual meeting LaPierre said, "there is no greater freedom than the right to survive and protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns, and handguns we want."

  • National Review Online: Everyone Should Get "Passes" For Using Anti-Gay Slurs

    Blog ››› ››› LUKE BRINKER

    National Review Online writer Charles C. W. Cooke urged fellow conservatives not to criticize the use of anti-gay slurs, writing that such "political correctness" would stifle public debate.

    In a December 2 column, Cooke weighed in on the controversy surrounding actor and former MSNBC host Alec Baldwin's apparent use of anti-gay speech during a confrontation with a photographer. Video captured by TMZ appeared to show Baldwin calling the photographer a "cocksucking fag." After announcing that it would suspend Baldwin's program for two weeks, MSNBC decided to end his Friday night show Up Late entirely.

    Cooke wrote that it wasn't surprising that Baldwin - a public supporter of LGBT equality and other progressive causes - would generate a backlash for his outburst, asserting that "[t]hose who live by the sword must watch out lest they die by it, too." Despite his political disagreements with Baldwin, however, Cooke argued that "passes" should be distributed to all users of anti-gay slurs "equally" (emphasis added):

    As sequels go, this was the last-ditch effort that even the most generous of critics couldn't excuse. Among the notable public figures who felt compelled finally to leave his side were the American-British writer Andrew Sullivan and GLAAD's own Rich Ferraro. Sullivan, who has evidently decided that Baldwin "cannot be defended any longer," contended that Baldwin's instincts under pressure "reveal who he actually is" and that what he "actually is" is a "raging, violent bigot." Ferraro simply lamented that Baldwin had declined to turn his shouting into a learning opportunity. As a reward for their troubles, Sullivan and Ferraro were termed by Baldwin as part of "the fundamentalist wing of gay advocacy" and accused of "killing" his show.

    The latter part of this is possibly true: Baldwin has certainly lost his act, and the signals that Sullivan and Ferraro sent presumably had no small part in opening the floodgates to the condemnation that poured down on Baldwin. But the claim that Baldwin was undone by extremists? No, he wasn't. In truth, he was undone by a movement of which he is a fully paid-up member. I agree wholeheartedly with The Partially Examined Life's Wes Alwan, who resisted the hive mind last week and postulated that judging individuals by their outbursts is unwise. But I am not sure that this is the most important point here, which is instead this: Those who live by the sword must watch out lest they die by it, too. [added space]Alec Baldwin is an outspoken progressive who as recently as last week was referring derisively to "libertarian trash" and who flies off the handle at the slightest misrepresentation of his private life. He himself has promised to end countless careers. To expect to be treated differently than he treats others is naïve and entitled.

    [...]

    Nevertheless, we can all react to these things, and how we react matters. However tempting it might be for the Right to celebrate when one of their antagonists is canned, it should take a deep breath and resist. One does not beat the would-be arbiters of speech by joining them, nor does one persuade people that a reflex is wrong by indulging in it when the other side is on the hook. As a rule, the Right has long prided itself on its disinclination to call for scalps, on the eminently reasonable grounds that such a precedent merely opens the door for all sorts of witch-hunting and leaves anyone even remotely controversial at the mercy of rapidly changing fashions. As a rule, it has recently been conservatives who have led the fight against speech codes, against political correctness, and against trying to punish people for what they believe. Why stop now?

    Andrew Sullivan is correct to observe that, because Baldwin is simpatico with the progressive agenda, doyens of the professional Left have long given him "a pass when they would never dream of doing so with anyone who was conservative or Republican." He is also correct to say that this represents "a glaring double standard" and one that "cannot stand any more." Still, there are two ways of ending a double standard. And, in a country that puts a premium on open discourse, it is infinitely preferable to insist that passes be handed out to everybody equally than to request that they be taken away from progressives -- the one political group that, however unfairly, still enjoys their protection.

    Cooke doesn't explain how calling someone a "cocksucking fag" contributes meaningfully to an "open discourse," but a writer who defends the armed intimidation of political activists is bound to harbor bizarre views about what words and actions should be part of a healthy public dialogue.

  • NRA News Goes To Bat For Activists Who Intimidated Gun Violence Prevention Group

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    National Rifle Association News defended the conduct of fringe gun group Open Carry Texas (OCT) after it intimidated four members of the gun violence prevention group Moms Demand Action (MDA) by displaying assault weapons as the four members met at a Dallas-area restaurant.

    While MDA founder Shannon Watts said the MDA members and other restaurant patrons were "terrified" by the sight of a group of about 40 OCT members milling around the restaurant parking lot, NRA News host Cam Edwards said there was "no evidence" OCT engaged in intimidation.

    Edwards' comments on the controversy came during a November 12 segment on Cam & Company that featured National Review Online writer Charles C.W. Cooke, who wrote a series of articles about the OCT protest that attempted to call into doubt MDA's claims that they felt intimidated by the armed protesters.