CNN correspondent Ed Lavandera last week did some important reporting. He hopped on the campaign trail of Texas gubernatorial hopeful Greg Abbott (R) with a single question: Why was Abbott campaigning with Ted Nugent, of all people? After all, Nugent, notorious for saying whatever offensive thoughts occur to him, had said this to Guns.com about President Obama:
I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame, enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago Communist-raised, Communist-educated, Communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America.
Challenging Abbott on why he’d barnstorm with such an individual made a lot of sense. He tried to get Abbott to answer just that question, all but ambushing the candidate: “Mr. Abbott, would you give us a chance to clarify on Ted Nugent? Why would you associate yourself with someone who describes the sitting president as a subhuman mongrel? Will you use him again in a campaign?” The reporter then told viewers that Abbott didn’t answer and “headed back out on the campaign trail.”
CNN’s work in Texas came during what could well be called Abbott-Nugent week at the network. Especially for CNN eminence Wolf Blitzer, who pushed the story out of a sense of civility and accountability. In a chat with Newt Gingrich, Blitzer asked, “Would you do that if you were running for office?” Following protocol, Gingrich said he wouldn’t and then proceeded to hammer the media.
All the chatter prompted some welcome introspection on the set of CNN’s morning show “New Day.” Co-host Kate Bolduan ran through the journalism ethics of the coverage, as if she were CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter: “This is why I get so wound up about this a little bit because there is an element of — we get to pick what we put in the newscast. There is a limited amount of time. When the guy isn’t relevant, Ted Nugent, I don’t think, impacts anyone’s life beyond whoever…”
You tell ’em, Bolduan!
Then she softened a bit. “He can talk about whatever he wants,” said Bolduan. “Thank goodness for the First Amendment. Doesn’t mean we have to listen. I just think when he is not relevant we shouldn’t be giving him a louder megaphone. There are legitimate questions why someone who wants to run a state wants to associate with his comments.”
Co-host Chris Cuomo joined in: “You have to think about the relevance and context. Do you keep saying what Nugent says? Do you spread his message to the extent that it’s offensive? No. Do you judge the man who is putting him out there as a representative for him, especially when too often politicians use extremists as proxies on both sides. What’s the main answer? When you hear it from them or from their pundits, you know, their proxies on cable or wherever. They say, well, the other guys do it too. Not good enough.”
The upshot: Focus on Abbott, not Nugent.
Except on other CNN sets. Proof: Last night, CNN host Erin Burnett conducted an expansive interview not with Greg Abbott but with Ted Nugent. It spanned two segments.
The Erik Wemple Blog won’t re-air anything that Nugent said, out of respect to the Bolduanic news sensibility. In any case, the telltale moment in the interview came from Burnett herself, when she asked Nugent: “I want to understand why you used the word ‘mongrel’ when you did, okay?”
Stop right there. Why did Burnett want to understand why Ted Nugent used the word “mongrel” when he did? Who on earth really wants to understand why Ted Nugent used the word “mongrel” when he did? What would we all gain from understanding better why Ted Nugent used the word “mongrel” when he did?
In a preemptive attempt to justify spending so much airtime interviewing Nugent, Burnett pumped up his resume:
We still wanted to do this interview, because here’s why Ted Nugent’s words have gotten attention — he’s politically vocal and influential. His support is seen as a big win for many GOP candidates, even those running for president. Here’s what Mitt Romney’s son tweeted during the 2012 election. Quote, “Ted Nugent endorsed my dad today. Ted Nugent? How cool is that? He joins Kid Rock as great Detroit musicians on Team Mitt.” Nugent attended last year’s State of the Union address as guest of Texas Republican congressman Steve Stockman. He’s appeared with many big-name Republicans. He performed at Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s inauguration in 2007. He’s on the board of the NRA, a position voted on by some of the organization’s members, which are more than 4 million Americans. He’s delivered speeches at NRA annual conventions.
Nugent had to have been flattered. And after last night, he added another claim to fame — a 15-minute interview on CNN.