MSNBC Features NYT Columnist to Deride Hypocrisy of Red State Conservatives

MSNBC's Carlos Watson on Monday provided a friendly forum for New York Times opinion writer Charles Blow to link red states and social conservatism with the hypocrisy of sex scandal-ridden politicians like South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. In his June 26 column, Blow attacked right-leaning voters, "And this kind of hypocrisy isn’t confined to the politicians. It permeates the electorate."

Talking with Blow on MSNBC Live, Watson cited a questionable study finding the highest rates of online pornography correlate with Republican states. The cable host highlighted this connection and Census data finding that eight of the ten states with the highest divorce voted GOP in 2008. He asked the columnist to explain how one could be pro-family values in light of "seeing these other statistics." Blow attacked, "Well, I mean, I think you have to put Republicans to the side for a minute. It is social conservatism. And that is highly correlated to religiosity. The more religious people are, the more socially conservative they are, particularly on these sexual issues."

Blow continued, "In the south, that's not just Republicans that's also a lot of blacks. In a lot of those southern states, you get up to, like a fourth of the population is black. 90 percent of them are going to vote for Barack Obama, but they are very socially conservative on those sexual/morality issues."

In his June 26 NYT column, the author asserted that the revelation that Sanford had an affair with an Argentinean would be a private matter, except "for the appalling hypocrisy" of another conservative Republican. Blow complained, "While conservatives fight to 'defend' marriage from gays, they can’t keep theirs together."

Earlier in the segment, which also featured former CBS anchor Dan Rather, Blow asserted, "There was a very interesting study done by a professor at Harvard about who subscribed to online porn, most of the states at the top of that list, again, red states." However, John Hawkins of Rightwingnews.com (among others) questioned the legitimacy of this 2009 study:

Okay, here's the very problem: the title references conservatives, "Porn in the USA: Conservatives are biggest consumers," but nowhere in the research does Edelman measure the porn consuming habits of conservatives.

"Oh, but he compared the difference between red states and blue states!" Setting aside the fact that not all Republicans are conservatives and not all people who vote for a Republican President are members of the GOP themselves, Red States are not solely made up of Republicans and Blue States are not solely made up of Democrats. If a state went 51/49 for McCain, it's entirely possible that the 49% that voted for Obama could be the ones watching most of the porn. Of course, the 51% that voted for McCain could be the ones doing it, too, but the point is that this study has no way of distinguishing one side from the other.

For more, see the March 4, 2009 NewsBusters post by the MRC's Erin Brown.

A transcript of the June 29 MSNBC Live segment, which aired at 11:20am EDT, follows:

MSNBC Graphic: "Red Light" States

CARLOS WATSON: In an interview this weekend with the Associated Press, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford is admitting he considered resigning after his affair with a woman in Argentina became public. Now, Sanford is the latest politician-

MARK SANFORD [Suddenly cuts to talking head clip]: You gotta listen to your critics in life. And then all of us will have critics in life and the higher we climb, I suppose, the more critics we'll have. But, part of my role is to listen to my critics, to try and walk humbly and try and learn from this.

WATSON: That's a little bit tough to hear. But, Sanford's the latest politician to admit he's engaged in an extra-marital affair. In fact, according to the USA Today and Gallup polls which were conducted last year, 54 percent of Americans know somebody who has been unfaithful. And, according to the Census Bureau's statistical abstract, states that voted Republican in November accounted for, get this, eight of ten states with the highest divorce rate in 2006. Now, joining me, again, is today's guest host, Dan Rather. I'm also joined now, very please, Charles Blow, first time he's here, one of my favorite new columnists in the New York Times. If you don't read his stuff regularly, you should. Charles, good to see you.

CHARLES BLOW (New York Times): Good to be here.

WATSON: So, Charles, you wrote a really interesting piece this weekend in which you kind of looked at some of the statistics. Red states versus blue states. Tell us a little bit what you've found in light of this Mark Sanford, David Vitter, John Ensign controversy.

BLOW: Right. So, if you look at, you already said the divorce statistics- eight of the top ten states with the highest divorce rates were red states. Also, if you looked at the teen birth rates, eight of the top ten states with the highest teen birth rates? Red states. If you looked at- there was a very interesting study done by a professor at Harvard about who subscribed to online porn, most of the states at the top of that list, again, red states.

WATSON: So, what's to account for that? What do you account for the states that would seem to most often vote for the Republican Party, which has- which proudly set themselves forward as the party of values, and especially family values and moral values, you know, seeing these other statistics. Do the experts offer any sort of theory?

BLOW: Well, I mean, I think you have to put Republicans to the side for a minute. It is social conservatism. And that is highly correlated to religiosity. The more religious people are, the more socially conservative they are, particularly on these sexual issues. In the south, that's not just Republicans that's also a lot of blacks. In a lot of those southern states, you get up to, like a fourth of the population is black. 90 percent of them are going to vote for Barack Obama, but they are very socially conservative on those sexual/morality issues. So it makes- if you look at the red states in another way, it's even redder than you think it is on those-

WATSON: If you add in the black populous and the social conservatism there.

BLOW: Absolutely.

WATSON: Dan, what are your thoughts when you see this? Because, it is interesting to see, again, not just one, because people make mistakes on all sides. But, now to see at least a half dozen to go back to Mark Foley and Senator from Idaho, Larry Craig, what do you make of the Republicans brand at this point?

DAN RATHER: Well, first of all, the core of their brand is, one fiscal responsibility and, secondly, family values. I'll put it in those terms. They have worked so hard for so long to make that their bedrock foundation and they do have a core constituency for that that is very difficult to make the change. Clearly, they're looking for the so-called big tent. About every paragraph you read from them now, or anywhere on television, is about the big tent. This is a real problem for them. However, helping them- I think these things have a way of passing. We're all caught up in the Sanford thing. But, they have a way of passing. Democrats have had their problems with this, but the Democrats have not made it part of their core brand. And, frankly, I'll be surprised if they come off of it to any large degree.

WATSON: All right. Let me be the guy who bets that Rahm Emanuel and the rest of the Democrats are running a lot of ads with pictures of David Vitter and the rest asking who's consistent and who's not.

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