Media frenzy stirs up violence against Minnesota congressman

Media frenzy stirs up violence against Minnesota congressman
© Greg Nash

Democrats and the media have a playbook for undermining Republicans, and their favorite themes are racism and misogyny. Comments have all too frequently been distorted to mean the opposite of what was actually said.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Camerota clashes with Trump's immigration head over president's tweet LA Times editorial board labels Trump 'Bigot-in-Chief' Trump complains of 'fake polls' after surveys show him trailing multiple Democratic candidates MORE has been the victim of lies many times. After Charlottesville last year, Trump was accused of calling white supremacists “very fine people,” when in fact he began his statement by condemning those very people.

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Congressman Jason LewisJason Mark LewisRepublicans must push through genuine health care reform Investigation concludes marijuana, medication impaired driver involved in GOP train crash The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority MORE (R-Minn.) has again found himself in the media crosshairs. Lewis was a radio talk show host for 20 years, until he ran for Congress two years ago. Just from slips of the tongue over those two decades, one would think that his opponents would have a target-rich environment to sort through, but they were forced to completely distort his statements — attacking him for supposedly promoting slavery and favoring rape.

 

The attacks in 2016 started with a newspaper blogger and were soon repeated by the Democrats. Fortunately, two local television stations ran fact checks on his Democratic opponents and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ads and found that Lewis’ words were not only presented “without context,” but with no or so little context that they mislead the viewer.”

This election, the media went back through Lewis’ radio shows once more, picking up quotes, even from shows that they had deemed not worth using last time.

CNN’s K-File investigative team broke the newest broadside last Wednesday, with the title: “A GOP congressman once lamented not being able to call women 'sluts' anymore.” In February 2012, Rush Limbaugh called women's rights activists and then-graduate student Sandra Fluke a "slut" because she wanted the government to pay for her birth control. Limbaugh suffered advertiser boycotts. In response to this backlash, Lewis asked his audience: “Can we call anybody a slut?” and “Have we really got to the point where you can’t refer to Madonna as a slut without being sued?

The media portrayed this as Lewis somehow singling out women for their promiscuity. But he explicitly acknowledged, “I know there's a double standard.” He didn’t defend this double standard in how men and women are perceived for sexual promiscuity. Lewis’ point was more philosophical, about whether people generally could be called out for behavior that might not be the wisest, or the best for them or society. His monologue was not a defense of Limbaugh’s use of the term “slut,” but was an attempt to get people thinking about the ethics of shaming.

The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Time magazine, and many others picked up on CNN’s story.

But CNN’s K-File wasn’t done with Lewis. On Friday, it ran another story on Lewis’ “long history of racist rhetoric about African-Americans.” They were upset about another 2012 monologue.

“What the welfare state has done to the black community, a hundred years of racism could not do. A hundred years of racism could not break it up, it could not destroy black families. Jim Crow could not do it. But what dependency has done, is it has caused unwanted pregnancy, illegitimacy.”

Lewis could have simply quoted black economists Thomas Sowell or Walter Williams. In a 2011 interview with Jason Riley of the Wall Street Journal, Williams argued: "The welfare state has done to black Americans what slavery couldn't do, what Jim Crow couldn't do, what the harshest racism couldn't do. And that is to destroy the black family."

So are Sowell and Williams racist?

Lewis also pointed out that there tended to be more violence by blacks against other blacks, and also more violence by blacks against whites than whites against blacks. Again, Lewis could have quoted Sowell and Williams. Williams notes in a 2017 column: “Blacks were about 52 percent of homicide victims. That means about 8,100 black lives were ended violently, and over 90 percent of the time, the perpetrator was another black.Blacks also kill more than twice as many whites as whites kill blacks.

What CNN seems incapable of understanding is that Lewis isn’t blaming blacks for crime. He blames the welfare system that has penalized black families for staying together and led to young black men being raised without fathers.

Again, this is an argument made by Thomas Sowell, who points out that before the 1960s "most black children were raised in two-parent families.” But by 2013, over 72 percent of blacks were born out of wedlock.

Lewis’ Democratic opponent this fall has already taken out ads repeating the media attacks against him.

But notice the media’s double standard. The same week that the national media was going after Lewis, another Minnesota congressman, Democrat Rick NolanRichard (Rick) Michael NolanHold off on anti-mining hysteria until the facts are in Minnesota New Members 2019 Republicans pick up seat in Minnesota’s ‘Iron range’ MORE, was caught engaging in actual egregious behavior.

In 2015, Nolan’s legislative director left office because of multiple sexual harassment complaints. Nevertheless, he was hired just months later by Nolan’s congressional reelection campaign.

There's a recording of Nolan telling his congressional staff: "A woman has got every right to be as fragile as she wants, but I am telling you women in the factories are a lot tougher ... There's a lot more fragility in the professional world than there is in the industrial, hard-working world."

If Lewis had suggested that some women are just particularly fragile, what would the media reaction have been? One difference is that Lewis is a Republican and Nolan is a Democrat.

Of course, CNN’s K-File’s mission is to go after Republicans for made-up violations. Last year it attacked former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke for plagiarism, using an inaccurate definition of what constitutes plagiarism.

But there is a real cost to this media bias. Right after the news stories broke last week about his “slut” comments, Lewis told me his two daughters were threatened with violence. Last year, mobs surrounded Lewis' home and frightened neighbors into calling the police. Threats were made about his townhall meetings.

The dark side of this “fake” news is that violence is being stirred up against people based on media lies.

John R. Lott Jr., Ph.D., is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author more recently of “The War on Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies.