WaPo's Kathleen Parker on CBS: Tea Parties 'Dangerous;' Internet Journalism 'Like Terrorism'

On Sunday's Face the Nation on CBS, host Bob Schieffer asked columnist Kathleen Parker about her views on the tea party: "the rhetoric that's coming out from the right side, especially from the tea party....you think it may be dangerous." Parker replied: "this heated rhetoric and some of these words...that are pretty loaded, 'reload,' 'targeting'...there's a danger there."

Parker, syndicated with the Washington Post Writers Group, claimed she was not casting negative aspersions on the whole political movement: "I'm not saying the tea party people are violent or racist or any of that....I'm not saying that the tea partiers are bad people or dangerous," but warned: "I just think we have to be very vigilant....and be extremely careful, because I do think there is a lot of anger and it could become something else."

Schieffer brought up internet journalism as a possible source of some of the "dangerous" anger: "some of this really nasty rhetoric that shows up on the Internet....the only vehicle to deliver news that has no editor....And that is the added factor to the volatility of this stuff and where it goes." Parker agreed, and moments after warning of tea party extremism, made this comparison: "It's, sort of, like terrorism. You know, we don't know where to aim our bombs, so we can't go after a country because there are – you know, there's no one place to focus on it. And it's the same thing with – with the Internet. You can't really – you don't know who to go after."

After making such an over-the-top analogy, Parker again warned of hateful rhetoric from the Right: "people who are not well-grounded and who may have these more violent tendencies suddenly find a place where they can convene and find validation and even find company. And I don't know where that all leads, but it's – it's, kind of, scary."

Speaking of questionable stories on the internet, on Friday, the White House went after CBS News over a column posted on CBSNews.com in which author Ben Domenech claimed potential Supreme Court nominee and current Solicitor General Elena Kagan was "openly gay." CBSNews.com editor Dan Farber admitted that the article: "just got through our filters."

Of course CBS is certainly not immune from having false information on its broadcasts as well, as demonstrated by the forged national guard memos ex-Evening News anchor Dan Rather promoted in a 2004 story, in an attempt to damage President Bush in that year's election.  

Later in the Face the Nation segment with Parker, Schieffer turned back to the tea parties: "This is really the core of the opposition to Barack Obama....they have a greater dislike of Obama than even those in the mainstream of the Republican Party." Parker proclaimed:

I don't think that helps them, and I don't think it helps the Republican Party, because being anti-Obama, some of these – a larger percentage of tea partiers than anyone else also believe he was not born in this country. And so they get associated with this sort of birther attitude....these sort of fringy elements are going to undermine their credibility and I think ultimately hurt them, as long as the Republicans are associated with them.

Here is a full transcript of the segment:
10:46AM

BOB SCHIEFFER: And we are back now with brand-new Pulitzer Prize winner Kathleen Parker. So now that you're a regular on Face the Nation, so we can now say that Face the Nation has won a Pulitzer.

KATHLEEN PARKER: I owe it all to you, Bob.

[LAUGHTER]

SCHIEFFER: We will be the first broadcast outlet to win one, since broadcasters are not eligible.

PARKER: That's right.

SCHIEFFER: I'm just teasing. Congratulations.

PARKER: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: That's a well-deserved honor. You're a conservative columnist by nature. And yet you were one of the first to, sort of, talk about Sarah Palin. And you write this morning about some of the rhetoric that's coming out from the-

PARKER: From the-

SCHIEFFER: -right side.

PARKER: Right.

SCHIEFFER: -especially from the Tea Party. And you – you point out that you think it may be dangerous.

PARKER: Well, I think we have to be cautious. And, by the way, as to my being a conservative and having these things to say, I always like to quote George Will, who famously said, 'Being a conservative does not mean we have to take a leap into the darkness.'

And I think – you know, I want to make clear that I'm not saying the tea party people are violent or racist or any of that. I think there are some people who attach themselves to any crowd scene and can – can tarnish, you know, our perception of the organization, or the movement, in this case. So I'm not saying that the tea partiers are bad people or dangerous. But I think that the – the zeitgeist now, with all this heated rhetoric and some of these words that carry – that are pretty loaded, 'reload,' 'targeting,' all that sort of thing, you know, there's a danger there. And I just think we have to be very vigilant.

And when someone does say something that incites volatility, I think we have to call them on it, if it's a politician or a pundit or just someone in the crowd. We have to self-police and be – and be extremely careful, because I do think there is a lot of anger and it could become something else.

SCHIEFFER: Someone made an interesting point to me recently, in talking about how, you know, some of this really nasty rhetoric that shows up on the Internet, where you don't know who said it. There really is no accountability, the Internet being the only place, the only vehicle to deliver news that has no editor. You don't know where this stuff comes from, whether it's true or false.

And this person said to me, you know, we've always had opinion that comes from various places, like, during Lincoln's day, every newspaper had an editorial point of view. But this person said the difference was, in those days, you knew which paper it was coming from. Now you don't know where some of this is coming from. And that is the added factor to the volatility of this stuff and where it goes.

PARKER: Yeah, it's interesting. People will say anything when they have the – the cloak of anonymity. It's, sort of, like terrorism. You know, we don't know where to aim our bombs, so we can't go after a country because there are – you know, there's no one place to focus on it. And it's the same thing with – with the Internet. You can't really – you don't know who to go after.

And you and I – I'm sure you share some of the – the wonderful experiences I've had of being attacked and threatened and whatnot. And it's – it's, sort of – it feeds on itself, you know, builds. And people who are not well-grounded and who may have these more violent tendencies suddenly find a place where they can convene and find validation and even find company. And I don't know where that all leads, but it's – it's, kind of, scary.

SCHIEFFER: Where do you think the tea party is right now? And does it pose a greater danger to the Republican Party, per se, because, if it becomes a third party, you have a Ross Perot kind of movement. And we know, when Ross Perot got into it, Bill Clinton got elected, because you had three people out there competing for the votes. Or does it pose a greater threat to Democratic officeholders?

PARKER: Well, I think Democratic officeholders are in big trouble come November. The tea party movement, it's hard to settle on who they are, what they are, what they believe. But the – I think essentially, it's anti-big government, it's anti-more taxes. And that's why they claim Scott Brown, of course, is because his platform happens to coincide with what they believe. But if you are, I think, you know, some Republicans may be in danger, but mostly it'll be the Democrats.

SCHIEFFER: It is, most of all, if you look at the results of our CBS News poll last week, it is the anti-Obama party. This is really the core of the opposition to Barack Obama. This is a party that is wealthier than most Americans. The people are more educated, it turns out, than the average American is. And they have a greater dislike of Obama than even those in the mainstream of the Republican Party.

PARKER: Right. And I don't think that helps them, and I don't think it helps the Republican Party, because being anti-Obama, some of these – a larger percentage of tea partiers than anyone else also believe he was not born in this country. And so they get associated with this sort of birther attitude.

I know a lot of people who are actually – who would identify with the tea party or who in fact are sympathetic to the tea party fiscal constraint philosophy. But these sort of fringy elements are going to undermine their credibility and I think ultimately hurt them, as long as the Republicans are associated with them.

SCHIEFFER: I know when you win the Pulitzer, they submit a body of work. And I guess you – not you, but your editors picked out a number of columns that you wrote, and one of them was about Scott Brown. What do you make of Scott Brown?

PARKER: Well, I think Scott Brown, I think what you see is what you get. You know, he is just – he's a very independent fellow. And he's going to tick off somebody every time. You know, the tea partiers like to claim him, and then, you know, the Republican Party wants to claim him. But he is – he votes, I think he said to you, he votes according to each issue, and he approaches each issue as independently. And I think he is that. He's a very straight shooter and a regular guy. He's a good guy. But he's going to make people mad.

SCHIEFFER: We have about 20 seconds. Do you think it is politically risky for Republicans now to be identifying with Wall Street bankers in light of these outrages that keep coming to light?

PARKER: I think so. I think they're going to – I think they're going to have to – you know, the banks have become even bigger and more powerful. And I think that's certainly a part of what the Republicans are going to have to confront. And I think that's – they're on the other side of that.

SCHIEFFER: Kathleen Parker, thank you so much. And again, congratulations on a very well-deserved honor.

PARKER: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC