CBS Gives Platform to Russ Feingold to Bash Herman Cain As 'Un-American' For Criticizing 'Occupy Wall Street'

CBS sided with supporters of the "Occupy Wall Street" protests on Monday's Early Show, bringing on former Democratic Senator Russ Feingold to boost the left-leaning demonstrations, with no Republican and/or conservative critics appearing as guests during the program. Feingold slammed Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain as "un-American" for his critique of the protests.

Near the end of her interview of the Wisconsin politician, anchor Erica Hill raised Cain's attack on the continuing anti-corporate rallies: "Republican candidate Herman Cain, weighing in over the weekend. He said that, basically, it's un-American to protest capitalism. Businesses have to make money, and if they can do a better job making money oversea- it's an unfortunate reality for many Americans- but they're concerned about their bottom line. Can there be some sort of common ground here?"

Feingold used the Georgia businessman's own label against him in reply and went further:

FEINGOLD: There's nothing more un-American than a person like Mr. Cain trying to intimidate people from exercising their right to protest. There is nothing more American than peaceful protest. And if people are being hurt, if they can't get a job; if students go to school for five or six years and take out student loans and come out and see they're getting no job and no opportunity, and people on Wall Street continue to get whatever they want, or not properly regulated- that's time to protest. This is the time to protest. It is the most American thing you can do.

Herman Cain is "trying to intimidate"? If Feingold was a conservative politician, someone might accuse him of racism for more or less hinting that his foe was a scary black man. Also, both Hill and Feingold failed to realize that this line of defense could very easily be applied to Tea Party rallies. However, back in 2010, then-host Harry Smith wondered if the conservative grassroots movement would make Republicans unelectable.

Earlier in the segment, Hill set up her guest to attack big corporations by playing a clip from a recent 60 Minutes interview of GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt:

Erica Hill, CBS News Anchor; & Former Senator Russ Feingold, (D), Wisconsin | NewsBusters.orgHILL: You just heard from Jeff Immelt, who was talking with Lesley Stahl- it aired on '60 Minutes' last night- talking about the notion, in his words, that it's the population of the U.S. against the big corporations, is just wrong. Who is wrong there? Is it Jeff Immelt who doesn't have the right view, or is it, perhaps, people protesting down on Wall Street?

FEINGOLD: Well, Mr. Immelt is not recognizing that you root for corporations when corporations are making sure your jobs stay here in the United States. His corporation has had more to do with shipping jobs overseas than almost any corporation in the world. And so, the deal here is we root for corporations and we support them if they're fair to us. But these people who are protesting are recognizing that just about everything that has happened to working people has been unfair in recent years. You have the greed on Wall Street. You have the very wealthy insisting that they not contribute at all to solving our deficit and our debt problems. You have corporations buying up the political process through secret donations. People have had it, and it's time to say- not we hate corporations- but people have to acknowledge the pain and the suffering that is going on throughout this country.

The Democratic politician also connected the newer "Occupy Wall Street" protests to the mass rallies against his state's governor, Scott Walker, earlier in the year: "This is a great way to make change...I'm excited about it. A few yards from here, some of the biggest protests in the history of this country occurred when our governor ripped away the collective bargaining rights of public employees in Wisconsin...I think this is going to happen all over the country, because people have been kicked when they're down over and over again. You can only kick people so long before they react."

The transcript of Erica Hill's interview of former Senator Russ Feingold, which began five minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour of Monday's Early Show:

ERICA HILL: You may have seen on Sunday in a '60 Minutes' interview, General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt told Lesley Stahl Americans should not oppose big corporations like GE.

JEFFREY IMMELT, GENERAL ELECTRIC (from interview on CBS's "60 Minutes"): I want you to root for me, you know? Everybody in Germany roots fo Siemens. Everybody in Japan roots for Toshiba. Everybody in China roots for China South Rail. I want you to say- win, GE.

LESLEY STAHL: Do you not see any reason that, maybe, the public doesn't hold American corporations up here in the highest-

IMMELT: I think this notion that it's the population of the U.S. against the big companies is just wrong.

HILL: And joining us now is former Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. He created a political action committee earlier this year called Progressives United. Sir, good to have you here with us this morning.

RUSS FEINGOLD, (D), WISCONSIN, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: It's almost morning here in Wisconsin. (laughs)

HILL: It's- (laughs) closer to- the sun will be up eventually. So thank again for getting up especially early for us-

FEINGOLD: Good morning to you-

HILL: (laughs) You just heard from Jeff Immelt, who was talking with Lesley Stahl- it aired on '60 Minutes' last night- talking about the notion, in his words, that it's the population of the U.S. against the big corporations, is just wrong. Who is wrong there? Is it Jeff Immelt who doesn't have the right view, or is it, perhaps, people protesting down on Wall Street?

[CBS News Graphic: "Politics Of Protest: 'Occupy Wall Street' Movement Gains Steam"]

FEINGOLD: Well, Mr. Immelt is not recognizing that you root for corporations when corporations are making sure your jobs stay here in the United States. His corporation has had more to do with shipping jobs overseas than almost any corporation in the world. And so, the deal here is we root for corporations and we support them if they're fair to us. But these people who are protesting are recognizing that just about everything that has happened to working people has been unfair in recent years. You have the greed on Wall Street. You have the very wealthy insisting that they not contribute at all to solving our deficit and our debt problems. You have corporations buying up the political process through secret donations. People have had it, and it's time to say- not we hate corporations- but people have to acknowledge the pain and the suffering that is going on throughout this country.

[CBS News Graphic: "Politics of Protest: Linking 'Wall Street' Movement To Real Change"]

HILL: A lot of people would acknowledge that pain and suffering. They are feeling it firsthand every single day. When people look at these 'Occupy Wall Street' protests, though, support has grown across the country as we've seen, especially over the weekend. Is this the best way to go about making change, and if it is, how do you turn the support into some sort of a movement?


FEINGOLD: This is a great way to make change. I don't just understand what the protesters are saying, I'm not just pleased about it- I'm excited about it. A few yards from here, some of the biggest protests in the history of this country occurred when our governor ripped away the collective bargaining rights of public employees in Wisconsin. We did it here, and I think this is going to happen all over the country, because people have been kicked when they're down over and over again. You can only kick people so long before they react. So this is time now for accountability, and this is a good way to show people how strongly we feel- that the working people of this country have been treated very brutally, and it has to change.

HILL: Republican candidate Herman Cain, weighing in over the weekend. He said that, basically, it's un-American to protest capitalism. Businesses have to make money, and if they can do a better job making money oversea- it's an unfortunate reality for many Americans- but they're concerned about their bottom line. Can there be some sort of common ground here?

FEINGOLD: There's nothing more un-American than a person like Mr. Cain trying to intimidate people from exercising their right to protest. There is nothing more American than peaceful protest. And if people are being hurt, if they can't get a job; if students go to school for five or six years and take out student loans and come out and see they're getting no job and no opportunity, and people on Wall Street continue to get whatever they want, or not properly regulated- that's time to protest. This is the time to protest. It is the most American thing you can do.

HILL: Former Senator Russ Feingold, thanks for being with us this morning.

FEINGOLD: My pleasure.

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