In the wake of the controversy that erupted when Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican Party's nominee for the U.S. Senate in Missouri, claimed it was "really rare" for victims of "legitimate rape" to become pregnant from the assault, CNN earned an unfortunate media distinction: Among the very few pundits I've seen defending, or trying to excuse, Akin's outrageous comments are Dana Loesch and Erick Erickson.
Both work for CNN.
Thanks to Erickson and Loesch, CNN today is associated with a radical position on the Akin story that outflanks anything even Fox News commentators are saying about the controversy.
This is the price CNN continues to pay for wanting so badly to be connected with representative of the right-wing press. Perhaps in search of shields to protect itself from the incessant whines about "liberal media bias," CNN's decision to legitimize the strange views of Loesch and Erickson remains a deeply misguided one.
Akin's comments about women not really being in danger of becoming pregnant during a rape because their bodies instinctively "shut that whole thing down" were so outrageous that many conservative commentators quickly condemned him, even demanding Akin step down as the Republican candidate challenging Democrat Claire McCaskill.
Some very prominent Republican politicians have also spoken out.
But not Loesch and Erickson. The CNN bloggers defiantly came to Akin's side, with Loesch claiming he had simply "failed a soundbite" trying to express a "medical statement about rape." And besides, Erickson argued Democrats are guilty of far worse crimes, like passing health care reform.
From Erickson last night:
Akin said something dumb. McCaskill voted for Obamacare. I'll take a dumb statement over a destructive vote
Akin failed a soundbite. McCaskill helped tank the economy. If you think his bad is worse, join the left.
That kind of yeah-but spin is not only juvenile, but it's completely irrelevant and embarrassing to watch. (Erickson even tried reviving an old falsehood about Obama supporting "infanticide" in order to advance his Akin spin.)
That brand of knee-jerk commentary represents an almost fundamentalist form of partisanship in which the likes Loesch and Erickson are incapable of independent thought or analysis. If There's an R in front of the politician's name, he or she must be defended no matter what, even if the politician suggests most "legitimate rape" victims aren't in danger of becoming pregnant.
Note that in the past when pressed about unthinking comments that Loesch and Erickson have made and that would embarrass any employer. (i.e. Loesch ranting about she'd love to urinate on the bodies of dead Afghan fighters), CNN responded with vague pronouncements of support:
CNN contributors are commentators who express a wide range of viewpoints -- on and off of CNN -- that often provoke strong agreement or disagreement. Their viewpoints are their own.
The implication being that CNN's just a hothouse of ideas, and who could possibly be opposed to a wide range of viewpoints?
But here's what one CNN employee told Media Matters' Joe Strupp earlier this year in the wake of the Loesch corpse story:
What's interesting is how the kid gloves are applied to outlandish comments made by the likes of Erick Erickson or Dana Loesch and how it has a negative impact on the CNN brand," said the contributor, who also requested anonymity. "There really is no pushback or no real conversation that says, 'Look, you make these kinds of comments or you write these kinds of wild, crazy stuff, that's just not what we're about.' It simply doesn't happen. I think there is fear of saying anything to them because they are Tea Party folks, and there has been a clear effort on the part of our political team to court that whole Tea Party thought process, if you will.
For anyone concerned about CNN's long-term reputation, the Akin story confirms this problem is not going away.
Crossposted at County Fair, a Media Matters blog.