CNN Slams Republican for 'Racist Roast,' But Ignores Democrat's Racial Gaffe

In a clear double standard, CNN was in an uproar on Thursday and Friday over an Arizona GOP legislator's racist jokes about Latinos but has yet to report a Florida Democrat's gaffe about immigrants.

"As if lawmakers in the state of Arizona didn't already have enough negative national attention, there is this," Anderson Cooper piled on. He played state representative John Kavanagh's "racist roast" of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and added that his jokes "set off a firestorm in the Latino community." Yet a few days ago, Florida Democrat Alex Sink emphasized the importance of immigration reform because of the need for landscapers and hotel workers and CNN has said nothing.

Below is a transcript of Sink's remark:

"Immigration reform is important in our country. It's one of the main agenda items of the beach's chamber of commerce, for obvious reasons. Because we have a lot of employers over in the beaches that rely upon workers, and especially in this high-growth environment, where are you going to get people to work to clean our hotel rooms or do our landscaping? And we don't need to put those employers in a position of hiring undocumented and illegal workers."

Sink lost to Republican Rick Scott in the 2010 gubernatorial election and is now running in a special election in Florida's 13th congressional district. Yet for a politician of her profile, CNN didn't deem her gaffe newsworthy.

Yet CNN reported Kavanagh's comments on Thursday's 2 p.m. ET of Newsroom, Thursday's Anderson Cooper 360, and Friday's 8 a.m. ET hour of New Day.

Below is a transcript of Thursday's Anderson Cooper 360 segment:

CNN
ANDERSON COOPER 360
2/28/14
[8:42 a.m. EST]

ANDERSON COOPER: Welcome back. As if lawmakers in the state of Arizona didn't already have enough negative national attention, there is this. It comes from Arizona Republican state's representative John Kavanagh. He is actually one of the leading defenders of the now-vetoed SB 1062, and took great care to say it was really no big deal.

This weekend, as the controversy over 1062 was heating up Mr. Kavanagh spoke at a roast for Phoenix's controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the guy who was at the center of Arizona's last controversy over SB 1070, the so-called "papers please" immigration law. Here is part of what the state representative said at this roast.

(Video Clip)

JOHN KAVANAGH (R), Arizona state legislature: I'm not the federal monitor. How many Hispanics did you pull over on the way over here, Arpaio, huh?

 Sheriff Joe is the kind of guy that you've got to love – as long as you have papers.

Going out with Sheriff Joe is always an adventure because usually when we walk into a restaurant, most of the wait staff and cooks dive out the back window. And when they don't, I never know what the hell's in my food. There's a great one. Get 'em, Sic 'em!

(End Video Clip)

COOPER: Well as you might manage those remarks set off a firestorm in the Latino community. We wanted to ask Mr. Kavanagh what he has to say about it. We invited him on the program of course. He accepted, then later he backed out. The invitation stands.

In the meantime, the question remains, is this kind of thing really what Republicans nationally want to be known for – or at least, even in Arizona? Joining us CNN political commentator, GOP strategist, and fellow at Harvard's Institute of politics, Ana Navarro and CNN correspondent, Ana Cabrera.

So Ana, you actually met up with Sheriff Arpaio today. You got some reaction from him. What did he have to say?

ANA CABRERA, CNN correspondent: He graciously accepted our request for an interview. He answered all of our questions. He adamantly defended his friend Representative John Kavanagh who of course made those controversial comments. And then he sort of turned the tables, Anderson, and started talking about he feels he has been victimized by what many would consider hate speech. Listen to this.

(Video Clip)

CABRERA: And were you laughing? Did you find his roast funny?

SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO, Maricopa County, Arizona: Well, it was a little funny, yeah. But it's not -- it's jokes. It's a roast. It's a little different. Now, there's a double standard around here. Everybody's talking about him. What about all the activists and these civil rights that call me Nazi and Hitler? For four years they've been doing that. On street corners and everywhere else. Where isn't there an uproar about going after me, calling me every name in the book? Why are they worried about just some roast?

(End Video Clip)

CABRERA: So bottom line, you hear him say he feels that these comments were maybe unfairly picked apart or at the very least maybe people overreacted to the roast. But clearly, Anderson, there are a lot of people who don't agree.

COOPER: Ana, what do you think of this as a Latino, a Republican?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN political commentator: Look, Anderson, first of all, I'm beginning to think that the legislature in Arizona has just overspent my outrage level per state quotient. I mean, I don't know who else they can possibly offend at this point. They've offended Latinos. They've offended gays. They've, you know, offended Muslims. It's really ridiculous and yes, there is a double standard.

And that double standard is this, when you are a public official, you are held up to a different standard, a different level of scrutiny. You represent peoples of all makes and models, colors and ethnicities, and you should have some degree of sensitivity. You are a public servant. You are at the service of the public, which includes all these different types of people.

And so what may be funny to him is certainly not funny to many Latinos like me, and it's not funny because it strikes so true. And because of his record. So I would say, yes, there is a double standard because you have chosen public service and to put yourself out in the public eye. If you want to be a comedian, of course, you need some comedic humor and you need some talent if you want to be comedian. But if you want to be a comedian, go and do that. If you want to be a public servant, behave accordingly.

COOPER: So Ana, you're saying this is different. If this was a roast for a comedian or whatever, this would still be offensive. But it wouldn't be -- it would be different than it is now with this guy being a public servant.

NAVARRO: Well, it would be different if it wasn't a public servant, and it would be different if it wasn't a public servant that's been accused of racial profiling. Part of the reason why it's offensive is because it strikes so true and so close to the bone.

COOPER: Ana, what did Sheriff Arpaio say about the timing of all of this?

CABRERA: Well, certainly the timing is interesting. Two things we talked about with the timing. He first wanted to get across he doesn't understand why this group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, decided to release this video when they did. That roast happened on Saturday. They didn't release the video until just yesterday, which of course was the same day that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer came out and vetoed that bill.

And Arizona was in the national spotlight for another controversy and more talk about discrimination. Now, the other side of all this has to do with the timing and just kind of this ripple effect that's happening and the focus on Arizona that has created in many ways a perception, at least from outsiders looking in, that Arizona is battling with a culture of divisiveness and perhaps even intolerance. And when he talked about that he just sort of dismissed that idea all together, Anderson.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014