The tweets in question are seven years old; Collins is 26. They stem from her days as a college student at the University of Alabama. One of them uses the word “fag” and the other says, “Idk if I wanna room with a lesbian.” According to the group’s Twitter bio, Log Cabin Republicans is the “largest Republican organization dedicated to representing LGBT conservatives and allies.”
The archival tweets caused a furor against Collins on Twitter Sunday evening, with detractors seizing on the apparent contradiction of a CNN reporter having a blemish on her scholastic record, while her network pursued now-Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh for his behavior during a similar period in his life. Collins apologized:
When I was in college, I used ignorant language in a few tweets to my friends. It was immature but it doesn’t represent the way I feel at all. I regret it and apologize.— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) October 7, 2018
A heartfelt apology in the year 2018, however, is no match for political anger. Have a look at these responses:
So what you're saying is, we shouldn't judge someone (no pun intended) by the way they acted in college? Or, say, high school?— Jeff Crenshaw (@JeffCren) October 8, 2018
You hate playing by your own rules don’t you? Getting owned and it’s such amazing theatre.— Travis Wayne (@HoosierTrav) October 8, 2018
Don’t worry, under the precedent set with Justice Kavanaugh, we will only hold this youthful indiscretion against you for the next 35 or so years.— merritt_w (@merritt_w260) October 8, 2018
Whether it was 10 years ago or 35 your side said it matters— Mike ⚓ Hawk (@Voted4Trump420) October 8, 2018
Nothing is blowing over.
Collins arrived at CNN from the conservative website the Daily Caller. There, according to a short bio, Collins “covered the 2016 presidential campaign for the Tucker Carlson-owned site while also leading the news outlet’s entertainment coverage.” On the latter front, Collins wrote up light content, such as how Jennifer Lopez is showing a lot of skin these days; how there are “nine hotties” named Autumn; and how people should celebrate Oktoberfest with “hot women and beer.”
Also at the Daily Caller, Collins covered the Trump White House. Her move to CNN was announced in June 2017, and she has done a fine job of pressing the president and his lieutenants on the issues of the day. Upon the announcement of a new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico last week, she jousted with the president over her insistence on asking a question about the Kavanaugh controversy. The president treated her rudely.
Gregory T. Angelo, the president of the Log Cabin Republicans, told the Erik Wemple Blog, “The left has made it very clear that past statements and even tweets are things that speak to the character” of people. “And there [are] instances where past tweets that have said far less than what Ms. Collins has have destroyed the careers of Republicans,” said Angelo. As an example of this alleged double standard, Angelo cited the case of a staffer for Jeb Bush who, in Angelo’s recollection, was fired over a tweet discussing how men at a San Francisco gym “undress you with their eyes.” But there were several other instances of offensive comments, as Gawker noted.
There was nothing special about the timing of the Log Cabin Republicans’ tweet on Collins, says Angelo. It was not a response to the controversy over Kavanaugh, despite the inferences that many are drawing about accountability for youthful mistakes. Angelo says there are “differences in the way that contrition is responded to in the United States today” — with folks on the left receiving forgiveness and folks on the right wearing the event as an “albatross.”
To round out the ironies in this episode, CNN is home to the “KFile” reporting hub, headed by former BuzzFeed digital archive wiz Andrew Kaczynski. Digging up old tweets, old videos and old blog posts is the specialty of that group, which has a number of adverse Trump personnel actions to its credit.
This has nothing to do with Kavanaugh. It has everything to do with friends of mine in the admin that have been terrorized by CNN & others, forced from their jobs or leaving their jobs after getting a call from one of those hacks. Their rules.— Arthur Schwartz (@ArthurSchwartz) October 8, 2018
Twitter archives can hurt. Sarah Jeong survived a backlash over demeaning old tweets about white people after she was hired for a position on the New York Times editorial board. Kevin Williamson, on the other hand, lost his brand-new gig at the Atlantic after the publication learned of an old tweet in which the conservative writer had riffed about “hanging” as a possible punishment for abortion.
The Erik Wemple Blog asked CNN whether it would be making a statement beyond Collins’ apology. No. Matt Dornic, the company’s vice president of communications and digital partnerships, tweeted:
I’m a proud gay man. And I am a proud friend of @kaitlancollins. Tho I’m disappointed that she ever used the word (even as an immature college kid), I can say with certainty it doesn’t reflect her feelings toward the LGBTQ community. She’s apologized and I accept that.— Matt Dornic (@mdornic) October 7, 2018
Unlike Bill Maher, the Erik Wemple Blog has always been a believer in airtight apologies, and Collins delivered just that.