It had been just one hour since President Biden finished an emotional defense of his withdrawal from Afghanistan, but MSNBC had found a more compelling story.
Nicolle Wallace led off her second hour with a warning about the Republicans.
“You can imagine the alarm we felt when we heard about this on Sunday from Congressman Madison Cawthorn,” she said.
Two hours later, Joy Reid led her show “with the Republicans who continue to pour gasoline on the flames of January 6th.”
She used a Nazi reference in describing “junior brownshirt Madison Cawthorn,” who was “pushing the Big Lie,” issuing what would “be better described as a threat.”
And the North Carolina lawmaker is, in Reid’s view, “an embarrassing, creepy, tree-punching but sitting member of Congress.”
Next, Chris Hayes got his chance at the top of his program: “Civil War is coming, people. You know, there`s supposed to have a building crescendo for a second Civil War, a flirtation with thoughts about it among some of the right. We saw that on full display, of course, on January 6th.” And then he turned to Cawthorn.
On what planet are some heated remarks by a freshman congressman more important than the end of our 20-year war in Afghanistan, marked by the death of 13 service members and some Americans tragically left behind? Especially when the president has just given a forceful and somewhat angry speech defending his handling of the disaster?
On what planet are some heated remarks by a freshman congressman more important than the end of our 20-year war in Afghanistan?
It’s almost as though these MSNBC hosts said whew, glad the war is over, now we can go back to saving the nation from Republican extremists. Biden’s role in the chaotic end to the war was obviously not a good story for a network catering to liberal viewers, which sees anything related to Trump and the Capitol riot as in its sweet spot.
MEDIA AND PUBLIC COULD GRADUALLY LOSE INTEREST IN BIDEN’S AFGHANISTAN CATASTROPHE
In fairness, these programs did cover Afghanistan later on, and other hosts — Ari Melber, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’Donnell — led with the war.
I wrote Wednesday that the political damage to Biden might be lessened if the media move on from the lost war. But I was talking about a month or so, not a few short hours.
Biden’s role in the chaotic end to the war was obviously not a good story for a network catering to liberal viewers.
I’m not saying that the Cawthorn controversy isn’t worth covering. But as with Marjorie Taylor Greene, he’s a Washington newcomer with no power on the Hill or within the GOP. Both parties, and all the networks, play up wild-sounding voices from the opposite ideological side. But leading with Cawthorn hour after hour?
At a North Carolina event, the congressman — who spoke at the Trump rally on Jan. 6 — delivered a dire message from the stolen-election camp.
“The things that we are wanting to fight for, it doesn’t matter if our votes don’t count,” he said. “Because, you know, if our election systems continue to be rigged and continue to be stolen, then it’s going to lead to one place — and it’s bloodshed.”
Well, that’s a scary word.
The local GOP posted a video of the speech on Facebook — it’s since been taken down — and a Democratic aide pushed it out on Twitter.
The 26-year-old Cawthorn, who is partially paralyzed from a car accident, also uttered these ominous-sounding words:
“I will tell you, as much as I am willing to defend our liberty at all costs, there is nothing that I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American. And the way that we can have recourse against that is if we all passionately demand that we have election security in all 50 states.”
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Cawthorn’s spokesman issued a statement saying the congressman was “in no way supporting or advocating for any form of violence.” In fact, he is “CLEARLY advocating for violence not to occur over election integrity questions” and “fears others would erroneously choose that route.”
You can decide whether he was sending not-so-subtle warnings or not. By the way, Cawthorn has also called for Biden’s Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment, saying: “I will remove Joe Biden from office, and then, when Kamala Harris inevitably screws up, we will take them down, one at a time.”
He naturally didn’t mean anything unlawful by “take them down,” his PR person insists.
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Other media outlets, including The Washington Post, have jumped on this as well. CNN’s Chris Cillizza says Cawthorn “hasn’t grasped that angry and inflammatory rhetoric in the service of political expedience has real-world consequences.” Liz Cheney says Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans should “condemn” Cawthorn’s remarks and explain why they’re “dangerous.”
But on another level, this is all talk by someone who wields no real clout. Cawthorn has clearly learned how to use the media — one could say the same about AOC, in a very different context — to amplify his message.
That doesn’t mean the press has to play along, even if MSNBC gives it top-story treatment.