CBS's Idea of Average Minnesotans on Shutdown: Two State Employees and a Moderate

[Update, 11:10 am Monday July 18: Jenn Theis was identified on-screen by CBS as a "laid-off government worker." She wrote us to clarify that she was actually employed by a private business that is regulated by the Minnesota racing commission. Another guest from that segment, Chris Lapakko, wrote the author on Twitter on Saturday to call him a "dick."]

CBS turned to three Minnesota residents on Friday's Early Show for their take on the recent state government shutdown there, but their panel had a definite slant, as two out of three were state government workers, with one of them calling for "taxes on millionaires...to help the rest of us out." The third Minnesotan called on both sides to work it out. None of the three were clear conservatives.

Anchor Erica Hill interviewed Jenn Theis, Chris Lapakko, and Harley Reed during a segment 40 minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour, as they were sitting in a diner in Minneapolis. Hill first turned to Ms. Theis, who was identified on-screen as a "laid-off government worker," and asked her some softball questions about whether she was getting her job back and her feelings about the tentative resolution of the state budget impasse. The journalist also mentioned that the state employee has "gone through two weeks of no pay" and has a 13-month-old child.

The CBS anchor then turned to Lapakko, first mentioning that he had been "laid off at the beginning of the month" and that he has been "protesting at the state capitol." She asked him, "If you could talk to lawmakers at this point, who are trying to hammer out something in Washington, what would you ask them to do?" The second government employee let his liberal colors show:

Chris Lapakko, Minnesota State Employee; Screen Cap From 15 July 2011 edition of CBS's The Early Show | NewsBusters.orgLAPAKKO: Well, I think they would have to consider raising taxes on millionaires in this country. We've had- basically, the middle class in this country for the last 40 years has been slowly chipped away at, and the top income earners have gotten a bigger piece of the pie every year. It's about time that they pay a little more in taxes to help the rest of us out, and they haven't created the jobs. You know, people say that we can't raise taxes on them now. They're going to- not create jobs if we raise taxes. Well, they've had their tax cuts and they haven't done anything. We need to talk about entitlement reform. I'm not unrealistic with that. Republicans need to understand that we can't do it on the backs of everyday Americans. We need to actually raise income [taxes] on people that have been doing well since 2000 with the Bush tax cuts.

Though Lapakko  made his left-leaning views very clear in his answer, Hill didn't mention that he has received attention in the local media in Minnesota for his vigil outside the legislative building, even pitching a tent on the Capitol grounds. In these various reports, the state employee is on record as saying that he was "going to sit here until this thing works out....I blame Republicans, but the Democrats aren't much better. ... It's a pox on both their houses."
                                           
A Wednesday report from Minnesota Public Radio also noted that Mr. Lapakko heckled a Republican state senator during a press conference on the steps of the state capitol: "Give me your paycheck so I don't have to collect unemployment."

In her final question during the segment, Hill asked Mr. Reed, "There have been a number of people who said, look, this has turned into more politicking lately. Do you feel that way, Harley? Has it become more political than it is about the job they were sent there to do?" He replied, in part, that a solution "has to be done, both from a revenue standpoint, and also, a benefits standpoint, and also, reforms. We do have some areas that need to be addressed from a regulation standpoint and making government more efficient. And if they would look at those issues and really sit down and hammer them out, I think they can solve those issues."

The full transcript of Erica Hill's interview of the three Minnesotans from Friday's Early Show:

Erica Hill, CBS Anchor; Harley Reed, Minnesota Resident; Jenn Theis, Minnesota State Employee; & Chris Lapakko, Minnesota State Employee  | NewsBusters.orgERICA HILL: The two-week government shutdown in Minnesota is coming to an end. A budget deal was struck yesterday. For some in Minnesota, though, it was a very scary, frustrating two weeks. We've gathered three people who have some pretty strong feelings about the shutdown, not just in Minnesota, but also the future of what happens on the federal level in this country.

Joining us are Jenn Theis, Chris Lapakko, and Harley Reed. They're at the Uptown Diner in Minneapolis. Good to have all of you with us this morning. Jen, I want to start with you. You and your husband, as I understand it, were both laid off recently. Now that the shutdown is over, do you have any indication that you may get your job back?

JENN THEIS, LAID-OFF GOVERNMENT WORKER: We will. I think it's going to take about another week before they have a final agreement, and at that time, when they are up and running, then we'll be able to go back to work.

HILL: So, when you first heard the news, Jenn, that there had been this deal, what were your thoughts? Because you had gone through two weeks of no pay. I understand you have a 13-month-old. Obviously, a lot to take care of.

THEIS: Yeah, it is. We're excited. We're ready to get back to work and start bringing in some income again and paying our bills, and we're ready.

HILL: Are you concerned at all that this could happen again, or do you feel like, with this deal, you're safe for a little while?

THEIS: We're hoping that it doesn't happen again, but it might in a couple years, when they try to figure out the budget again. It's a good possibility, but we just- we hope that it doesn't. We'll have to plan a little bit better next time, in case it does.

HILL: Chris- as I understand it, Chris, you were laid off at the beginning of the month. You've been protesting at the state capitol. The Minnesota shutdown, obviously, now almost over. You have a lot of serious concerns, though, about the future of the national economy, and the impasse that we're watching out of Washington, DC. If you could talk to lawmakers at this point, who are trying to hammer out something in Washington, what would you ask them to do?

CHRIS LAPAKKO, FRUSTRATED WITH GOVERNMENT: Well, I think they would have to consider raising taxes on millionaires in this country. We've had- basically, the middle class in this country for the last 40 years has been slowly chipped away at, and the top income earners have gotten a bigger piece of the pie every year. It's about time that they pay a little more in taxes to help the rest of us out, and they haven't created the jobs. You know, people say that we can't raise taxes on them now. They're going to- not create jobs if we raise taxes. Well, they've had their tax cuts and they haven't done anything. We need to talk about entitlement reform. I'm not unrealistic with that. Republicans need to understand that we can't do it on the backs of everyday Americans. We need to actually raise income [taxes] on people that have been doing well since 2000 with the Bush tax cuts. So-


HILL: Harley, I want to bring you in on this, because you also are a little concerned about this situation nationally. Do you feel like lawmakers and politicians at both the state and the federal level understand the needs and the concerns of Americans like yourself?

HARLEY REED, FRUSTRATED WITH GOVERNMENT: I don't think so. I am frustrated and disappointed because- frustrated because it takes them so long to finally figure out what they need to do, and disappointed they don't address the long-term issues. As Jenn said, you know, this may happen two years again from now. They've kind of kicked the can down. We have to address both the revenue and the spending side. And, you know, we have to make sure that the people do speak out, and I encourage everybody to, you know, continue to write their congressmen and talk to them, to understand that there are other people making their case and we need to make our case for what needs to be done.

HILL: There have been a number of people who said, look, this has turned into more politicking lately. Do you feel that way, Harley? Has it become more political than it is about the job they were sent there to do?

REED: Yes, I think it's become, unfortunately, on both sides, it's become very difficult for them to make decisions. We got to remember we're all Americans. We're all in this together, and it tends to be, well, I'm taking this position, no new taxes, and the other side says, well, you can't change anything on the benefits side. And we have to address both. You can't get to where we need to go by only addressing one area. It has to be done, both from a revenue standpoint, and also, a benefits standpoint, and also, reforms. We do have some areas that need to be addressed from a regulation standpoint and making government more efficient. And if they would look at those issues and really sit down and hammer them out, I think they can solve those issues. But it has become so hard for them to make the right decision.

HILL: Harley Reed, Chris Lapakko, Jenn Theis, great to have all of you with us this morning. We appreciate your input. And, who knows? Maybe some folks are watching in Washington- are watching and listening to you this morning.

REED: Thank you.

LAPAKKO: Thank you.

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