A Tale of Two Interviews: CNN's Morgan Shows Contempt for Tea Party

In two separate interviews of Republican presidential candidates, CNN's Piers Morgan exhibited an obvious contempt of Tea Party politics as well as a double standard toward moderate and conservative presidential candidates.

In Monday's interview with Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, CNN's Piers Morgan baited the moderate candidate to criticize the Tea Party for its unwavering defense of its principles. In contrast, Morgan used the same rhetoric the week before to put Tea Party champion Ron Paul on the defensive.

Huntsman criticized the Tea Party on Monday for its refusal to compromise in the debt ceiling debate. Morgan set him up with plenty of ammunition. For instance he asked if Huntsman felt sympathy for his "friend" President Obama having to deal with the "intransigent" Tea Party faction of the GOP.

"But if you're the Republican nominee, how are you going to control these Tea Party side of the GOP, because they are so intransigent," Morgan later asked Huntsman.

However, one week earlier Morgan pressed conservative presidential candidate Ron Paul over the same issues – only Paul had to defend himself from Morgan's criticism, rather than being able to criticize his political opponents. "Many people don't like your total intransigence over any tax increase," Morgan confronted Paul, adding that "People don't like your intransigence over abortion."

The CNN host then challenged Paul, asking "are you prepared on some of these more extreme lines you have taken to soften, to moderate, to, in short, make yourself more electable?"

In both interviews, Morgan pressed the candidates on social issues. While he questioned Ron Paul if he would "moderate" his opposition to abortion in cases of rape or incest, he asked Huntsman, who is okay with abortion in such cases, if he thought a stance like Paul's is "bordering on bigotry."

"When you see, again, intransigence by some of the – particularly the Tea Party end of the Republican party on this kind of thing, do you think again that it's bordering on bigotry?" he asked of Huntsman.

A transcript of the segments is as follows:

CNN
PIERS MORGAN
8/15/2011
9:07 p.m. EDT

PIERS MORGAN: (to Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) Let me put this to you, Ron, because you're a charismatic guy. You did very well in this straw poll. It doesn't mean an awful lot. But it's an indicator that you have a popular vote there. You nearly won it. What I hear about you is very experienced, charismatic, people like you. But the thing that holds you back is when you stray into extremity. You know, they don't like the fact you're so completely opposed to any foreign aid. They don't like the fact you want to legalize heroin.

Many people don't like your total intransigence over any tax increase, especially when you have someone like Warren Buffett saying, come on, hit the super rich harder. People don't like your intransigence over abortion, for example, where you don't believe even if someone is raped that they should be allowed an abortion.

Are you prepared at this moment when everyone is wondering which way the Republicans are going to go – are you prepared on some of these more extreme lines you have taken to soften, to moderate, to, in short, make yourself more electable?

CNN
PIERS MORGAN
8/22/2011
9:40 p.m. EDT

PIERS MORGAN: The problem though, as we saw over the battle over the debt ceiling, a very spurious battle many would argue, is that if the Tea Party got into actual government, there is a sense that they would just never compromise with anybody. And normal process of government, given you all have to compromise, becomes paralyzed – as we saw over the debt ceiling route. And the victim in all that is America and its economy, as we saw.

JON HUNTSMAN, Republican presidential candidate: You've got to run the country at the end of the day. You've got to get out from our respective corners politically. And you've got to make a deal. You've got to make the country function. I was the only candidate who stood up on the debt ceiling debate and said this country shouldn't default. We should cut a deal that allows us not to – we're 25 percent of the world's GDP.

MORGAN: So when you heard all the Tea Party candidates, to a man and woman, saying no compromise, presumably you think that is completely unacceptable.

HUNTSMAN: I thought it was the height of irresponsibility. The height of irresponsibility. We're 25 percent of the world's GDP, the United States of America, that has never defaulted before, just let it go over a cliff. You can imagine what the marketplace would have done in response. The marketplace is trashing everybody right now. I mean, assets are under water, 401(k)s, retirement. You can only imagine what this country would look like today if we had defaulted. It was complete lunacy for people to even talk about that.

MORGAN: Do you have sympathy for Barack Obama, who's been a friend of yours personally? Do you have sympathy for him in the position he found himself in, where you have such an intransigent part of the Republican Party really just refusing to compromise?

HUNTSMAN: He appointed me and I stood up and took the appointment to serve my country. I love this country. You serve her. But in terms of any personal relationship, there's not a personal relationship. You know, you work for – you work for your President when you're asked to serve.  He had two and a half years to get this country right. He had two and a half years to do the most important thing demanded by the American people – fix the economy, create an environment that is conducive to job growth. And he's failed us. He's a good man. He's earnest, but he has failed us on the most important issue of our day.

MORGAN: But if you're the Republican nominee, how are you going to control these Tea Party side of the GOP, because they are so intransigent. They've got their gander up. They have held the president to ransom successfully. They're all sitting there thinking we've got them on the run here.

HUNTSMAN: Well, I think they're going to say here's somebody who has a fiscally conservative world view, who basically cut taxes historically in his state, who created the most business-friendly environment, who balanced his budgets, who comes from the private sector. All of that I think they're going to like. And ultimately, the stamp of approval in 2012 is going to be around someone who can expand the economy, create jobs and get the country moving.

MORGAN: When Michele Bachmann speaks in public, how many times do you find yourself shaking your head? Where would you disagree with her?

HUNTSMAN: Well, on the debt ceiling. I mean let's just talk about the most fundamental of issues right there. I mean is there an issue more important than meeting our obligations as a country? I mean, first and foremost, it's how we proceed in our responsibility as a country is meeting our obligations. That is about as fundamental as it gets.

(...)

MORGAN: What is your view of abortion?

HUNTSMAN: I am pro-life. I mean I've got two little adopted girls who remind me every day about the value of life. Their mothers, for whatever reason, I'll never get to meet them, one from China, one from India. They chose life. They didn't have to. They lost their girls. They dropped them off. They were both born into extreme, dire poverty circumstances. We now have them in our family. And every day I look at the contributions they're making through their own lives and I appreciate that and I respect it.

MORGAN: Do you think there are any circumstances where you would think an abortion is acceptable?

HUNTSMAN: Rape, incest and life of the mother would be the exceptions that I could live with.

MORGAN: When you see, again, intransigence by some of the – particularly the Tea Party end of the Republican party on this kind of thing, do you think again that it's bordering on bigotry?

HUNTSMAN: All I have to say – I don't have a lot of patience on a lot of the non-economic issues. People know where I am. I'm pro-life. I'm pro-Second Amendment. But this country is collapsing economically. And every minute we spend talking about non-economic issues is to me something that is not a good use of our time.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014