Leave it to CNN to take a completely non-controversial post by Sen. Ted Cruz honoring Nelson Mandela and whip it up into a public image problem for the senator. Conversely, President Obama's handshake with Cuban dictator Raul Castro was spun into a positive.
Even though Cruz appeared at Mandela's memorial service on Tuesday, CNN focused on controversial comments by his Facebook fans over his praise of the late Mandela. And during the 9 a.m. ET hour of Newsroom, anchor Carol Costello dug up a critic's broadside of the Senator: "'when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.' Although that's probably a vile slur on dogs." Costello's guest, Rev. Raphael Warnock, then admonished Cruz for his "fringe" fanbase:
"I think the fact is, if you play to the fringe, if the mainstream goes out of its way to coddle the fringe, the fringe will become the mainstream and you'll find yourself sewn up in a bag that's difficult even for you to escape."
Warnock then tied the anti-Mandela vitriol from Cruz's Facebook fans to the backlash against President Obama:
"This is not the first time we've heard these kinds of words, Marxist, socialist, communist, terrorist. We've heard these kinds of ugly labels, if you will, code words aimed at another black president, President Obama, who I think paid a moving and powerful tribute to Nelson Mandela, who inspired President Obama and inspires all of us."
Costello then asked him to lecture Cruz. "You said that you hope Senator Cruz is instructed by Mandela's legacy. In what way?"
Compare this lecture of Cruz with Costello's adulation of Obama's eulogy:
"Mr. Obama's remarks clearly resonated. He received a standing ovation from the dignitaries and others at that stadium in South Africa. This moment also resonated. President Obama shaking hands with the Cuban President Raul Castro. It is an unprecedented gesture between the two men."
CNN's John Avlon called Obama's address a "powerful, powerful speech," and added that "It was a proud moment, I think."
And although critics decried Obama shaking hands with the Cuban dictator, Costello was awfully generous in thinking it might help end the "Cold War standoff" between the two countries:
"The handshake between Raul Castro and President Obama. USA Today was reporting that last month President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry told an audience in Miami, quote, "We have to reject the policies that we put into place in 1961." In other words, it's time to end the nation's cold war standoff with Cuba. I know what you said about this handshake, Jim, but this surely helps, doesn't it?"