DETROIT — Justin Terry, 14, has mastered the MAGA argument against CNN. Lies are the problem, he says: “That Trump colluded with Russia — that was a big one.” Brother Randy Terry, 16, has more. “And then talking about the Mueller report and going on and on for like three years now saying Trump colluded with Russia and now after all of this, everyone found out — it was all a false trail,” says Randy.
Another sore spot: CNN’s coverage of the January episode at the Lincoln Memorial, when Kentucky high school student Nick Sandmann came face to face with Native American activist Nathan Phillips. “CNN and other news sites were going on and on about how horrible this boy was who harassed,” says Randy Terry.
Such sentiments, of course, are widely available online, on Fox News and elsewhere. The Terry brothers, however, have something of a throwback platform for their media criticism: a teen MAGA band that plays its flagship tune — “CNN Sucks,” a musical take on the Trump-rally chant — at political gatherings. The grinding slam-tune became a topic of some gossip among attendees at the two-night Democratic primary debate extravaganza here at the Fox Theatre, which was hosted by CNN.
The band members — in addition to Justin and Randy, there are Michael, 15, and Killian, 13 — are the children of Randall Terry, a fierce pro-life activist who launched an issue-based candidacy for president in 2012. “I am trying to cause a defeat by creating a crisis of conscience,” Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, told the New York Times. “The goal is to drive child killing to the front and center of the political debate.” After the killing of late-term abortion provider George Tiller in 2009, Terry called him a “mass murderer” and said, “We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God.”
CNN detractors can find the video of the Terry brothers on TheTerryTrain.com, a site whose donation module connects with père Terry’s own Web property promoting his antiabortion activism. A self-proclaimed musician, Terry says he wrote the music and the lyrics for “CNN Sucks,” which features thoughts such as these: “Turned on my TV, what did I see? / CNN lying again to me / Went to my daddy to ask him why / Anger filled his eyes . . . He said/CNN sucks!"
Asked whether the family is seeking to sell “CNN Sucks,” Randall Terry responded, “Not yet.” The song debuted on July 17 at a Trump rally in North Carolina.
We asked Randall Terry if “CNN Sucks” was the first teen-band tune to take aim at a particular cable-news channel. Yes, as far as he knew, responded the father. Let’s just stipulate that it’s the first such song to receive mention in the political coverage of the New York Times. Which is saying something. So successful are Trump’s nonstop attacks on CNN that a group of teenagers find their groove in attacking not clueless parents, or cops, or vacuous classmates, but rather: Erin Burnett! They sing, “Erin Burnett, can you hear us yet?” Other targets include correspondent Jeff Zeleny, Trump inquisitor Jim Acosta and CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker.
As the Erik Wemple Blog talked media and politics with the band, former pro-life senator Rick Santorum happened to approach. Randall Terry offered to have his kids play “CNN Sucks” for the former senator. But Santorum, a CNN senior political commentator, begged off, proclaiming that the network treats him well.
The Terry children are eager political commentators. They know their TV news anchors and don’t hesitate to voice their preferences. Speaking about Fox News, Michael Terry said, “At least they kind of give the opposition a chance a little bit. For instance, Tucker Carlson: He invites all kinds of liberals and Democrats on his show, which is actually kind of enjoyable because he outsmarts all of them.”
For most of the discussion, Randall Terry stayed on the sidelines, preferring to let his kids handle the questions. “This is good pressure on you,” he told his children. When we asked about former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s findings regarding obstruction of justice, however, the father interceded with a tutorial for the band members. “Think about the discussion we had about whether there was an underlying cause,” said Randall Terry. “President Trump was being accused of trying to obstruct the Mueller investigation, but the investigation was not investigating any crime that ever happened. Remember we discussed — if you don’t commit a murder and someone is trying to investigate if you committed a murder, if there’s no underlying cause, how can there be obstruction?”
“Yup,” responded Justin Terry. “Like he just said, if there was no actual crime committed, obstruction of justice isn’t real.”
Actually, the Mueller report disagrees: “Obstruction of justice can be motivated by a desire to protect non-criminal personal interests, to protect against investigations where underlying criminal liability falls into a gray area, or to avoid personal embarrassment. The injury to the integrity of the justice system is the same regardless of whether a person committed an underlying wrong.” CNN, of course, has reported as much.
Justin Terry, who plays drums and does vocals on “CNN Sucks,” isn’t buying it. “Well, we were just saying how false the Mueller report was.”