As first reported by the Huffington Post, on Tuesday, April 6, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs blasted radio talk show host and CNN contributor Erick Erickson for telling listeners he would greet any census worker at his door with a shotgun.
Gibbs was responding to my question: "Robert, on the census. Erick Erickson's a commentator for CNN. A couple of days ago, he said he was not going to fill out his census form and if a census worker came to the door, quote, he said he would "pull out my wife's shotgun and see how that little twerp likes being scared at the door."
And what's the response from the rabid, right-wing blogs? Unable to defend Erickson, they've decided to attack -- me! Witness this headline on Newsbusters.org: "Former CA Dem Chairman Bill Press Smears Erick Erickson with False Census Quotation."
Echoing comments I heard directly from CNN, Newsbusters's Lachlan Markay levels four accusations against me: posing as a journalist; blaming Erickson for telling his listeners not to fill out the Census; failing to identify his target as an ACS worker; and trying to turn the whole issue into an attack on CNN. He's dead wrong on all counts.
1. Phony Journalist. True, I did serve as volunteer Chair of the California Democratic Party from 1993 to 1996. Before that, I had already worked as a TV commentator and radio talk show host for 13 years. I continued in those jobs while State Chair. And, since leaving California in 1996, I have served as co-host of CNN's "Crossfire," co-host of CNN's "Spin Room," co-host of MSNBC's "Buchanan and Press," co-host of WMAL's morning drive, and, for the last five years, host of the nationally-syndicated "Bill Press Show." I also write a weekly column for Tribune Media Services, blog for The Hill newspaper, and have written five books. I am no press room poseur.
2. Census Form. Read my question to Gibbs again. Clearly, I never accused Erickson of telling listeners not to fill out their census forms. Nor did I imply so. I simply quoted him directly, from comments on his radio show. Here's the audio. Listen to him yourself, where he boasts: "I'm not filling out this form."
3. ACS Worker. True, I said "census worker," and not "ACS employee." But what's the difference? The American Community Survey, which conducts more in-depth surveys in some households, is part of the 2010 Census. ACS employees work for the Commerce Department. They are federal employees. Again, what's the difference between pulling a gun on a regular census worker or an ACS census worker? Indeed, what's OK about pulling a gun on anybody who comes to your door, whether it's the postman or the pizza deliveryman?
4. Attack on CNN? This is pure rubbish. I identified Erick Erickson as a CNN contributor for one simple reason: Because he is! Period. End of story. Except for this: as a former CNN-er myself, I believe Erickson is unworthy of sharing the same political stage as Paul Begala, Mary Matalin, Donna Brazile, David Gergen, John King, Wolf Blitzer, Candy Crowley and other great CNN talent who know how to debate politics without threatening to pull out their wife's shotgun.
Bottom line: Feeble attempts to shoot me, the messenger, won't work. Because there are still two huge, unanswered questions:
1. Last week, nine members of a Michigan militia were arrested and thrown in jail for threatening the lives of federal agents. Three men have been arrested and jailed for threatening the lives of Nancy Pelosi, Eric Cantor, and Patty Murray. Erick Erickson also threatened the life of a federal employee. Why isn't he in jail?
2. And why is Erick Erickson still on CNN's payroll?