Even though Republicans kept the House, CNN was trying to bury the Tea Party on Wednesday. Anchor Carol Costello asked if the movement was dead while CNN's headline proclaimed the "end of the Tea Party movement."
"Is the Tea Party dead?" Costello ridiculously asked GOP strategist Ana Navarro. She took a shot at Fox News after Bill O'Reilly blamed some liberal media for "promoting ideology," to which Costello said "You mean like Fox?" Costello apparently believes she is non-partisan. [Video below the break. Audio here.]
The CNN headline proclaimed the "End of the Tea Party Movement" as a fact. A list of the Tea Party Express endorsements shows that eight of their candidates won while 12 lost. That's a bad record, but obviously not a death knell.
"But wasn't it because of the Tea Party, Anna? Wasn't it because of the Tea Party?" Costello went ahead blaming the Tea Party for notable GOP defeats.
"At what point, Robert, did the social issues start to invade the Tea Party and sort of diminish its strength?" Costello asked, simply assuming that social issues doomed the movement.
"No, I don't think it's dead," answered Navarro. "Look, I think it had a very good year in 2010. This was not as good a year for the Tea Party, but Carol, in politics everything swings like a pendulum, and the pendulum, I think for the Republican Party is swinging back to the center, or I hope."
A transcript of the segment, which aired on November 21 on CNN Newsroom at 10:29 a.m. EST, is as follows:
CAROL COSTELLO: Let's talk a little American politics here in the good old United States. Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, and now Florida Republican Allen West, the list of Tea Party candidates who suffered defeat in the last election just keeps growing. Founders of the Tea Party movement say their cause is very much alive, though, that they've been called down for the count since their inception. But now with more key members losing their seats in Congress, are we seeing an end to the Tea Party movement? Joining me now, Democratic strategist Robert Zimmerman and CNN contributor and Republican strategist Ana Navarro. Welcome to you both.
ROBERT ZIMMERMAN, Democratic strategist: Thank you. Good to be with you.
COSTELLO: Nice to be with you. So Anna, I will ask you a simple question. Is the Tea Party dead?
ANA NAVARRO, Republican strategist: No, I don't think it's dead. Look, I think it had a very good year in 2010. This was not as good a year for the Tea Party, but Carol, in politics everything swings like a pendulum, and the pendulum, I think for the Republican Party is swinging back to the center, or I hope. I do think that the Tea Party plays an important role, it plays an important role in the Republican Party. We should embrace them. They did a terrific job bringing people out to vote two years ago, but as Republicans I think it's time we really start taking a look at these primaries. We lost some important races, because we didn't pick the right person out of the primary.
COSTELLO: But wasn't it because of the Tea Party, Anna? Wasn't it because of the Tea Party?
NAVARRO: Carol, I'm not going to blame the Tea Party for some of the stupid things that Richard Mourdock or Todd Akin said. I don't think that they deserve the blame for that.
ZIMMERMAN: But Anna, they in fact were the Tea Party candidates. Richard Mourdock, who wanted to re-define rape in Indiana, or for that matter remember Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party candidate in Delaware who claimed, read a commercial announcing that she wasn't a witch, because the world was wondering about that issue, or Sharron Angle in Nevada. In fact, the Tea Party candidates really cost the Republican Party the majority in the U.S. Senate. Now I would agree with you, Ana, the Tea Party has an important grassroots role to play. And I differ with my party when my party tried to announce them as an astroturf movement versus a grassroots movement. But the problem is, they've been denounced, they've been co-opted by the kooks, by the fringe group, and I think until your party is prepared to recognize that and move the debate to the importance of government and how government can best serve efficiently and economically, then I think you're going to be in the same spot in two years.
COSTELLO: Okay, well, Bill O'Reilly on his show, he said some people – Bill O'Reilly actually, he's blaming the media for the Tea Party's demise, I guess. Here is what Bill O'Reilly said. Let's listen.
BILL O'REILLY: We're now living in a dishonest culture. The media is totally corrupt in this country. It does things that it could never have gotten away with even ten years ago. There are entire media operations that exist solely to promote ideology. Obviously a bad situation that is getting worse.
(End Video Clip)
COSTELLO: You mean like Fox? But I digress. Ana, is there a media conspiracy against the Tea Party?
NAVARRO: I don't think so, Carol. I think they are kind of an unorganized, unstructured party, a faction of the Republican Party. That's part of their beauty, that they are a gross-roots operation, that they are not a structured organization. And I think they do have a role to play, as I said before. If they stick to the themes of fiscal responsibility and smaller government, which is why they were born, I think they will continue to be successful. But again we have to be smart in the primaries and pick candidates that can win general elections. If not, we really are cutting off our nose to spite our face and it's not going to get us back control of the Senate or what we want.
COSTELLO: And I do think you're right, Ana. When the Tea Party was born, all it talked about was fiscal responsibility. It actually shunned social issues, saying social issues shouldn't be part of the discussion right now, because those are not the most important issues we have to deal with in that country. At what point, Robert, did the social issues start to invade the Tea Party and sort of diminish its strength?
ZIMMERMAN: You know, it's an interesting point. I think what really transpired in this past election is we had a real debate about the relevance of government. And I think the public voted, in fact voted by significant numbers, they recognized the success of the automotive bailout under the Obama administration. They saw the importance of the federal government in the wake of the Superstorm Sandy that hit the Northeast. They certainly have seen the importance in the debate of Medicare and Social Security about the relevance it has for so many millions of Americans' lives.
So as a consequence I think people recognize that government does have an important role. The Tea Party played a very important position in terms of fostering the debate and creating an important debate. But what happens is when you cower in front of fringe politics, which you saw the Republican Party do, to the politics of homophobia, the politics of discrimination against women, the politics of basically assault upon people's personal freedoms. When you see the Republican Party cower to that, then in fact you're going to see the Tea Party be co-opted by the fringe groups, which is what you saw by the candidates that were chosen.
COSTELLO: Okay, so that slides nicely into this Rush Limbaugh quote. You know Allen West lost in Florida, finally. Tea Party candidate. And many people might call him an extremist, right? So Rush Limbaugh said, quote, "Democrats moved heaven and earth to defeat African-American Mia Love, African-American Allen West, and replace them with white men. So the hypocrisy is rich, they're not about diversity, they're all about liberalism." Ana?
NAVARRO: Well, I don't agree with that statement. I think that's completely wrong. Look, they're not – the DNC, the Democrats were not going after Allen West because he was black, they weren't going after Mia Love because she was black. They were going after them because they were Republican, and the point of this game is to have as many of the people of your party able to get elected so that you can have the majority and then control the agenda and get things done.
ZIMMERMAN: I give Ana a lot of credit --
NAVARRO: So I don't agree with that at all. And I –
ZIMMERMAN: I'm giving you credit, because you're standing up to Rush Limbaugh when the leadership of your own party refuses to do so. Let's be clear, Rush Limbaugh is the Larry Flint of talk radio, because there's always a market for filth and exploitation, which is what he excels in. The difference is, Rush Limbaugh is an individual that the Republican Party leadership curries favors with, they seek to appear on his programs. And as long as you cater to that kind of extremism and exploitation, the Republican Party will always be an isolated fringe party. Let's also look at the facts. In the new Congress coming up, under Congressman Steve Israel's leadership, you've never had more diversity in the Democratic Caucus, and less diversity in the Republican Caucus. For example, 61 African-American Democrats serving in the House versus I think it's one African-American in the Republican Congress, or for that matter 60 women in the Democratic Caucus versus 20 women serving in the Republican Caucus. And if you look at the youth and energy in the Democratic Caucus, I think the Republicans have their caterers Meals on Wheels.