Right Wing Red Meat in Cruel April

After lauding CNN for its in-depth Haiti and stimulus coverage in a previous post (CNN Un-Dobbed!), I'm disheartened that the channel that finally found the backbone to dump Lou Dobbs has decided to redobb up on the angry white man punditry, this time with RedState.com's Erick Erickson. Erickson had barely signed up as a CNN contributor when he let rip some vio-sympatico spoutings about grabbing a shotgun to scare big government off his lawn. It would be unfortunate for CNN to stand by its man, as it so far has, any time of the year, but especially now, during the cruelest, militia-crazed month of April.

We haven't even reached the peak pique dates of the Waco and Oklahoma City anniversaries, yet we've already had: slavery-ignoring Confederacy lovers in Virginia; a would-be cop-killing militia in Michigan; the murder by plane of an IRS employee in Texas; arrests for serious threats to lawmakers; the N-wording of black congressmen, including civil right hero John Lewis, followed by conservatives like Laura Ingraham and Andrew Breitbart denying the word was ever hurled because no video caught it (like, why take a black man's word for it?). Not to mention assorted pipe bombs, severed gas lines, and widespresad Census paranoia.

It's on that last point that Erickson entered the fray. On an April 1 radio show, he said that while he supports the basic, 10-question Census form, no way, no how would he ever fill out the Census's more detailed American Community Survey, which samples about 2 percent of the population and could require house calls if the forms aren't returned. "I'm not filling out this form," he said. "I dare them to try and come throw me in jail. I dare them to. Pull out my wife's shotgun and see how that little ACS twerp likes being scared at the door. They're not going on my property."

Small fact: The government doesn't throw people in jail for ACS noncompliance; it could charge a fine, but rarely if ever does.

Why Erickson would use his wife's shotgun must be another story. But the day after his rant, he went off on his critics: "Where do you get off misconstruing that I'm agitating for killing Census workers when you people are out there advocating for the killing of the unborn on a regular basis?"

And he was right: Erickson didn't advocate actually killing Census workers, only threatening them. The problem is that any hypothetical Census worker, looking down the wrong end of shotgun, might not immediately appreciate the difference. And neither would all of Erickson's actual, perhaps incitable, listeners.

This weird denial was even weirder because, just days earlier, Erickson had told CNN's Howard Kurtz that he has "evolved" and has "had to grow up" since his old incendiary days. But, in fact, Erickson is still defending some of those incendiary remarks, like the one about taking out a gun to defend his right to use (get this) dishwasher detergent with phosphates, which Washington state, and now 14 other states, are banning as environmentally unsafe. "Were I in Washington state," Erickson blogged in March, 2009, "I'd be cleaning my gun right about now waiting to protect my property from the coming riots or the government apparatchiks coming to enforce nonsensical legislation." You've been warned, bubble police.

Granted, Erickson has done his major dissembling on radio and in his blog, not on CNN. But if only to avoid being blamed for stirring up gun-owners with grudges in the month of McVeigh, you'd think that "the most trusted name in news" would have asked its new contributor to at least "clarify" his shotgun remark on air.

But no. On Friday, discussing the GOP on John King, USA (the show that replaced Lou Dobbs Tonight), King didn't ask and Erickson didn't tell a thing about scaring off Census workers with firearms. Meanwhile, CNN refuses to officially comment on Erickson, and apparently it has no plans to ease him off camera. An occasional bad-boy controversy may even create a blip in CNN's tanking ratings, which continued to decline even (especially?) during its terrific Haiti and economic stimulus coverage. CNN apparently can no more quit its penchant for spicy rightwing flavoring than Erickson can his guns.

Remember, CNN wasn't home only to Lou Dobbs; Glenn Beck got his TV start on CNN's Headline News. The gutsy Joy Behar is now on HLN, Rick Sanchez leans progressive, and CNN tapped David Schuster for a pilot (for this, he was unfairly fired by MSNBC, as if he were the first TV person to ever test other waters), so you can't say that CNN overall tilts right. But it does tilt bland. They've tried to remedy the blah with everything from a techno-manic "magic wall" of digital delights to, now, grabbing a new media, red-faced red-stater off the shelf.

These days, CNN might even regret that it axed its right/left screamfest, Crossfire. But Jon Stewart's famous warning to its hosts, Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala, that they were "hurting America," which pretty much killed the show, still holds true. Or, as Stewart now says, CNN could "lead a new generation of truth-seekers on an anti-talking point jihad"; instead, they hired Erickson.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c

CNN Hires Erick Ericksonwww.thedailyshow.com

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