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Hot Air alum Noah Rothman pointed this out on Twitter this morning and I think he’s really onto something. While various hosts at CNN are engaged in arguments to defend the honor of left-wing protesters running people out of restaurants, it was pretty common to see the Tea Party described as a mob 7-8 years ago. Here are some examples:
Sep. 2010 – Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi: “Beneath the surface, the Tea Party is little more than a weird and disorderly mob, a federation of distinct and often competing strains of conservatism that have been unable to coalesce around a leader of their own choosing.”
June 2010 – NY Times Opinionator: “In a bracing and astringent essay in The New York Review of Books, pointedly titled “The Tea Party Jacobins,” Mark Lilla argued that the hodge-podge list of animosities Tea party supporters mention fail to cohere into a body of political grievances…He calls Tea Party activists a “libertarian mob” since they proclaim the belief “that they can do everything themselves if they are only left alone.”
April 2010 – Slate: “Historical fraudulence is like a disease, a contagious psychosis which can lead to mob hysteria and worse. Consider the role that fraudulent history played in Weimar Germany, where the “stab in the back” myth that the German Army had been cheated of victory in World War I by Jews and Socialists on the home front was used by the Nazis to justify their hatreds…It may be true that the Tea Party will disintegrate before it acquires any real power, as more and more of its leaders are revealed to be fanciers of racist jokes and bestiality videos. But one can’t be assured of it.”
May 2010 – HuffPost: “It doesn’t make me nervous as all,” the congressman said, when asked how the mob-like atmosphere made him feel. “In fact, as I said to one heckler, I am the hardest person in the world to intimidate, so they better go somewhere else.”
April 2010 – The Root – “Imagine that white members of Congress, while walking to work, were surrounded by thousands of angry black people, one of whom proceeded to spit on one of those congressmen for not voting the way the black demonstrators desired. Would the protesters be seen as merely patriotic Americans voicing their opinions, or as an angry, potentially violent, and even insurrectionary mob?”
August 2009 – Politico – Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s office is calling the protesters who swarmed him in Austin over the weekend a “mob,” and blaming the chaos on the local libertarian and Republican activists….”This mob, sent by the local Republican and Libertarian parties, did not come just to be heard, but to deny others the right to be heard.”
August 2009 – LA Times – Headline: “Town hall attacks on health care — mob rule or democracy in action?”
February 2010 – Christian Science Monitor: “The left paints the movement as a largely white and middle-class mob – and as including kooks who equate President Obama with Joseph Stalin.”
March 2010 – Think Progress: “Last weekend, as the House vote on health reform legislation neared, Republican lawmakers whipped tea party crowds into an angry mob.”
I don’t see any instances of CNN using this language but it’s very clear that lots of other people were doing so at the time and I don’t remember CNN making a point of objecting to this characterization.
There were at least two other responses to the Tea Party that were very popular on the left at the time. One was to mock them as “Tea Baggers.” That’s something several MSNBC hosts and at least one CNN host did bring up on air (though he later apologized for it). The other was to suggest the Tea Party was racist. There was a fixation on a handful of signs which appeared at rallies across the country. That’s one issue CNN was happy to focus on. Here’s Jim Acosta from 2010:
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