CNN's Yellin Leans Against Fiorina, Labels Anti-Boxer Ad 'Mean'

On Monday's Rick's List, CNN's Jessica Yellin leaned against California Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina as she compared one of her ads against that of her opponent, Senator Barbara Boxer. While Yellin acknowledged that Boxer's ad was "negative," she also  complimented it as "very effective." The correspondent went on to label Fiorina's commercial "mean" [audio clips available here].

Substitute anchor Brooke Baldwin discussed the California Senate race with Yellin 17 minutes into the 3 pm Eastern hour. Baldwin first noted that the San Francisco Chronicle declined to endorse either candidate in the race, for in their view, "[i]t is a dismal choice between an ineffective advocate for causes we generally support and a potentially strong advocate for positions we oppose." She then asked the correspondent, "[I]s that more of a slap in the face at Boxer or Fiorina?"

Yellin replied that it affected the Democrat more: "For Boxer, by far- I mean, it's fairly stunning that...a Democratic-leaning newspaper...their op-ed page tends to be left-leaning- would not endorse the long-term Democrat in the state is very, very bad for Barbara Boxer. I mean, their conclusion there is essentially that Boxer, they think, is ineffective. Carly Fiorina, they argue, is too conservative, so they're not endorsing."

After Baldwin asked about the poll numbers, Yellin stated that "this poll came out right after Barbara Boxer launched a very negative ad- a very effective ad criticizing Carly Fiorina, and it does show that the ad had some effect." Repeating that it was "such an effective ad," the correspondent then played the ad in question, which highlighted how Fiorina apparently laid off 30,000 workers during her time as CEO of HP, and claimed that "while Californians lost their jobs, Fiorina tripled her salary, bought a million-dollar yacht, and five corporate jets."

The substitute anchor then raised Fiorina's ad: "Fiorina came back with a pretty biting ad as well." Yellin replied that since the Republican's ad came out after the poll was conducted, "we've yet to see the effect of her ad. But she basically attacks Barbara Boxer for, essentially, arrogance." Fiorina used an infamous clip of Boxer dressing down a brigadier general for calling her "ma'am" instead of "senator."

The CNN correspondent used her "mean" label of the ad immediately after she played it. Yellin stated that the ad "just gives you a sense of how bitter the environment is out there. This is one of the most fiercely contested races, and it's just mean. I mean, there's not really any issue at- that she points to in that ad." Baldwin agreed with her colleague's assessment, replying it was "downright mean."

It's not surprising that Yellin has this slant against a Republican candidate, given her background as a one-time "prominent feminist activist" during her days at Harvard University. Earlier in 2010, the correspondent cited her past at the Ivy League school in defense of then-Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, and helped forward the talking points of the pro-abortion lobby by highlighting NARAL's anti-Sarah Palin ad.

The full transcript of the segment from Monday's Rick's List:

BALDWIN: The San Francisco Chronicle has refused to endorse either Barbara Boxer or Carly Fiorina for California Senate. In fact, it calls the race- quote, 'a deeply unsatisfying choice for voters,' and that making no endorsement is a rare, but a necessary one. But even without that endorsement, Boxer is getting some good news. A L.A. Times poll- a USC/L.A. Times poll shows- and here are the numbers- that Senator Boxer holds an eight percentage point lead over the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, and likely voters favor the three-term senator 51 percent to 43 percent over Fiorina.

National political correspondent Jessica Yellin joins me from D.C.

YELLIN: Hey.

BALDWIN: Jessica, hello. I saw this op-ed, and here it is. I saw this yesterday and I read it, and just if I could read the- the crux of this was really summed up in the last two lines. In case our viewers hadn't read it, 'It is a dismal choice between an ineffective advocate for causes we generally support and a potentially strong advocate for positions we oppose. Neither merits our endorsement for the U.S. Senate.' So, Jessica Yellin, is that more of a slap in the face at Boxer or Fiorina?

YELLIN: For Boxer, by far- I mean, it's fairly stunning that this is a- San Francisco, a Democratic-leaning town, with a Democratic-leaning newspaper, essentially- you know, their op-ed page tends to be left-leaning- would not endorse the long-term Democrat in the state is very, very bad for Barbara Boxer. I mean, their conclusion there is essentially that Boxer, they think, is ineffective. Carly Fiorina, they argue, is too conservative, so they're not endorsing. But, boy, I mean, this is a killer race. This is one of the races I like watching the best, because Democrats should have this one locked up, and they are fighting for their lives, despite that poll.

BALDWIN: I mean, three-term senator-

YELLIN: Right.

BALDWIN: And, as you mentioned, massive slap in the face to Boxer, but then, when you look at the poll- and we said eight percentage points ahead- is Boxer- and some of those were talking- wow, that's a bigger lead than even some of us had thought.

YELLIN: Right.

BALDWIN: You know, how do Democrats feel, though? I mean, do they see this as a race that's a done deal for them, or not so much?

YELLIN: No. I mean, this poll helps them feel better, but the bottom line is- there are two things I want to point out. One, this poll samples heavily Democratic voters, assuming they'll go to the polls about the same way they went to the polls when President Obama was running for office in 2008, when there were so many excited Democrats. They are a lot less excited this year. So, especially Republicans, think that the poll findings are a little bit off. But, also, this poll came out right after Barbara Boxer launched a very negative ad- a very effective ad criticizing Carly Fiorina, and it does show that the ad had some effect. I'd like to play a bit of it for you-

BALDWIN: Go for it-

YELLIN: Just because it's such an effective ad. Here it is.

BALDWIN: Go for it.

UNIDENTIFIED NARRATOR (from Barbara Boxer campaign ad): As the CEO of H.P., Carly Fiorina laid off 30,000 workers.

CARLY FIORINA: When you're talking about massive layoffs, which we did, perhaps the work needs to be done somewhere else.

NARRATOR: Fiorina shipped jobs to China, and while Californians lost their jobs, Fiorina tripled her salary, bought a million-dollar yacht, and five corporate jets.

FIORINA: I'm proud of what I did at H.P.

NARRATOR: Carly Fiorina, outsourcing jobs, out for herself. I'm Barbara Boxer-

YELLIN (live): So, Brooke, you can see-

BALDWIN: Whew.

YELLIN: Devastating ad, and Barbara Boxer did pull out more of a lead after that aired.

BALDWIN: That's a poignant ad for Californians, especially given the budget crisis that they specifically are facing, and the 'L-word' being layoffs.

YELLIN: Yeah.

BALDWIN: I'm sure that made some people sit up. Yet, at the same time, Fiorina came back with a pretty biting ad as well.

YELLIN: Bingo- and Fiorina's ad- it's important to point out, came out after these polls. So, we've yet to see the effect of her ad. But she basically attacks Barbara Boxer for, essentially, arrogance. Watch this.

SENATOR BARBARA BOXER (from Carly Fiorina campaign ad): You know, do me a favor. Could you say 'Senator,' instead of 'ma'am'? It's just a thing. I worked so hard to get that title, so I'd appreciate it. Yes, thank you.

FIORINA: Twenty-eight years in Washington, and Barbara Boxer works hard for a title? I'll really go to work to end the arrogance in Washington. I'm Carly Fiorina, and I approve this message.

YELLIN (live): I don't think you could see it under there, but I think it says, 'too long, too wrong' under there or something.

BALDWIN: Yeah, I couldn't see.

YELLIN: Right. But you- I- I'm playing this for you because it just gives you a sense of how bitter the environment is out there. This is one of the most fiercely contested races, and it's just mean. I mean, there's not really any issue at- that she points to in that ad.

BALDWIN: Just downright mean.

YELLIN: It's just, we don't like her. (Baldwin laughs) You know?

BALDWIN: No, I can see. I can see why it's your favorite race. Jessica Yellin, thank you for showing both of those and going through this op-ed with me. I appreciate it. Thank you, ma'am.

YELLIN: Good to see you.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center