MSNBC Features GOP Logo in Segment on Violence and the 'Radical Right'

MSNBC featured the Republican Party's elephant logo in a segment on Wednesday's "MSNBC News Live" about the possible rise of right-wing hate groups. Anchor Contessa Brewer introduced the piece by asserting, "The White House is warning that a bad economy, combined with the election of the nation's first black President, could draw new extremist right-wing members, especially war veterans, to a dangerous cause." An onscreen graphic behind her featured a red and blue Republican elephant and fretted, "New Right-Wing Threat?" Even if one were to believe the report, how fair is it for MSNBC to link one of America's two major parties to such violence?

A second graphic for the remainder of the segment hyperbolically wondered, "Rise of the Radical Right?" Brewer interviewed Washington Times correspondent Eli Lake, who broke the story of the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report on Tuesday. After Lake pointed out that a footnote in the DHS analysis defines right-wing extremists as both hate groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, and also those concerned with state rights, Brewer inquired, "Are there any of these groups that have shown violent tendencies, trying to organize, overthrow the government or anything along those lines?" Lake chuckled and mused, "I mean, other than, I guess, you know, people in the Revolutionary War in 1776?"

To be fair to Brewer, she did appear skeptical of the report at times. In one instance, she asked "how realistic" this supposed threat is. The host also queried as to whether the analysis was an effort to push "people who disagree with the administration, disagree with the stand on stimulus, trying to push them into something far more radical?"

Of course, she also seemed to buy into the controversial concept, put forth in the DHS report, that returning military veterans could possibly sign up for such right-wing hate organizations. Brewer claimed, "On the other hand, is there something to be said for, especially if they're concerned about returning war veterans, these guys have been through a lot of stress, many of them suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and then to come back, to feel some dissatisfaction with your government, as well as maybe coming home not to find a job." She then added, "You can see how that might lead to some concern that they are vulnerable to radicalization."

At this point Lake explained that the "FBI did do a report in 2008 which found a little over 200 returning war veterans were in some ways connected with some of these extremist groups." He noted, "But, that's 200 out of, you know, tens of thousands more than 100,000."

A transcript of the April 15 segment, which aired at 10:53am, follows:

MSNBC graphic: New Right-Wing Threat? [Republican elephant logo is onscreen]

CONTESSA BREWER: The White House is warning that a bad economy, combined with the election of the nation's first black President, could draw new extremist right-wing members, especially war veterans, to a dangerous cause. The Homeland Security report says in part, "the department is concerned that right-wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to boost their violent capabilities." Eli Lake is a national security correspondent with the Washington Times. How realistic a threat is that?

MSNBC GRAPHIC: Rise of the Radical Right?

ELI LAKE: Well, it's, the report, which we broke in yesterday's paper, does not have any specific examples of any kind of plotting activity and provides no numbers in terms of recruitment. If you contrast that with a report from January on left-wing environmentalists, extremists and anarchists there were specific examples in that report which is somewhat lacking in this Department of Homeland Security report.

BREWER: And it's already, I gather, getting some reaction here. Republican congressman Lamar Smith, who's the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, responded "As far as I can tell, the only thing this report does do is attempt to stigmatize people who disagree with the President." I mean, is there- is there an attempt that you're being able to gather from your reporting here, Eli, about pushing people who disagree with the administration, disagree with the stand on stimulus, trying to push them into something far more radical?

LAKE: Well, a footnote in the nine page report from April 7 defines right wing extremists as both hate groups, which everybody would agree- like the Ku Klux Klan- are, you know, violent extremists, with people who are concerned about, maybe, issues what we call federalism which is prefer state and local government to the federal government or against the federal government or people who are dedicated on single or extreme on one particular cause, such as abortion or gun rights or something like that.

BREWER: All right. All right, well, let's take, for instance, federalists. Are there any of these groups that have shown violent tendencies, trying to organize, overthrow the government or anything along those lines?

LAKE: I mean, other than, I guess, you know, people in the Revolutionary War in 1776? I mean, no, I think that federalists for the most part is a mainstream conservative position. They would consider themselves to be patriotic Americans just like I'm sure, you know, many liberal Americans would. And I think they resent the idea they would be lumped in with, sort of, white identity militias who clearly are against the government and not patriotic.

BREWER: We heard that Rush Limbaugh was coming out against it, again, you know, trying to say you're painting conservatives as radicals. On the other hand, is there something to be said for, especially if they're concerned about returning war veterans, these guys have been through a lot of stress, many of them suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and then to come back, to feel some dissatisfaction with your government, as well as maybe coming home not to find a job. You can see how that might lead to some concern that they are vulnerable to radicalization.

LAKE: Well, the FBI did do a report in 2008 which found a little over 200 returning war veterans were in some ways connected with some of these extremist groups. But, that's 200 out of, you know, tens of thousands more than 100,000. So it's a very, very small number. And, as we know, earlier this week, the commander of the American Legion, one of the largest veteran organizations wrote a letter to Janet Napolitano, asking to sit with her, basically, saying American veterans, you know, are not the enemy. The terrorists are. I think that's a direct quote.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org