CNN's own legal analyst scoffed at CNN's notion that 75 Republicans supporting legal gay marriage is a "big turning point" for the party. Anchor Ashleigh Banfield did her best to drum up the matter on Tuesday, for the network that has repeatedly shown a bias favoring gay marriage.
"Next, a big turning point in the Republican party. 70 high profile Republicans just signed a brief supporting gay marriage," Banfield touted. "I really disagree with the premise that this is a lot of people," responded CNN's legal analyst Jeff Toobin.
Toobin dismantled CNN's hype: "There are almost 300 members of the House and Senate who are Republicans. They got two people, two obscure members of the House to sign. They have a very distantly failed presidential candidate. A failed gubernatorial candidate." The list contains former Bush advisers and former governors, but only two current GOP members of Congress.
"The Republican Party is united on this issue against same-sex marriage, and I don't think this brief makes a bit of difference to dissuade that idea," Toobin continued. He added later, "where are the people? There is just no one on that list that anyone's ever heard of."
CNN touted Republican signers Jon Huntsman (who reportedly got 0.44 percent of the total GOP primary vote in 2012), failed gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, and the two congressmen.
Banfield kept trying to drum up the story, though. "John, is it baby steps?" she turned to CNN contributor John Avlon.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on CNN Newsroom on February 26 at 11:38 a.m. EST, is as follows:
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD: Next, a big turning point in the Republican party. 70 high profile Republicans just signed a brief supporting gay marriage. And if you just said "what?!" we did too, this morning. The Republicans signed a friend of the court, it's like an amicus brief, in support of striking down Proposition 8, that's California's ban on gay marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court is going to hear arguments on this next month, as well as another case too that challenges something called the Defense of Marriage Act. Two separate cases, similar issues. And among those who have signed on to this brief, former presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, Meg Whitman, who supported Prop 8 when she ran for governor of California in 2010, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, and New York Congressman Richard Hanna.
Joining us with their take, CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and CNN contributor John Avlon. Jeff, let me start with you. With the amicus brief, those who don't know what that means, it's essentially what it sounds like, a friend of the court, a paper saying what your opinion is, hoping to sway the justices. How important are amicus briefs? How important might this one actually be?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN senior legal analyst: They can be important, but Ashleigh, I've got to tell you, I really disagree with the premise that this is a lot of people. There are almost 300 members of the House and Senate who are Republicans. They got two people, two obscure members of the House to sign. They have a very distantly failed presidential candidate. A failed gubernatorial candidate. The Republican Party is united on this issue against same-sex marriage, and I don't think this brief makes a bit of difference to dissuade that idea.
BANFIELD: John, is it baby steps?
JOHN AVLON: This is a significant step and I don't think it should be diminished. Look, 75 is 75 more than there was a little while ago. It's the beginning of the Republican party reconciling its present with its history as the party of Lincoln. And these folks deserve a lot of credit for having the courage on to come forward and say we need to be the party of individual freedom and that applies to social issues and same-sex marriage, as well. This is a great step forward for the Republican party and the country in terms of depolarizing this issue.
TOOBIN: "There are many people" – where are the people? There is just no one on that list that anyone's ever heard of.
BANFIELD: Well Jon Huntsman's not a nobody. And he certainly is a Mormon as well. And Carlos Gutierrez as well, I should mention. Let me suggest these people instead. And these are the people whom the court serves, the American people. If I give you the statistics on the latest CBS poll, Jeff, 54 percent say gay marriage should be legal now. 39 percent say it shouldn't be. And 8 percent aren't sure. Certainly when you break that down into the parties, it's completely different with Democrats representing 63 percent of a positive vote that it should be legal, Republicans suggesting only 29 percent of them. I think that should be 29, but I've got 29 – the graphic says 28. Nope, sorry, I'm misreading it. You get my point here. I suppose the question would be to you Jeff, does it matter what the people think when the justices are weighing in, or are they just absolutely myopic when it comes to statue and to constructionism?