In the past couple of weeks, CNN put on full display its double standard in condemning Republicans for drawing congressional districts in their favor, but ignoring New York Democrats trying to gerrymander aggressively against Republicans until it backfired and hurt Democrats instead.
Since last fall, CNN's New Day and other shows on CNN and MSNBC have repeatedly devoted segments to hyping different stages of Republican map making in states like Texas, Florida, Ohio, Tennessee and Alabama -- in some cases from the designing of the maps to the final passage and legal challenges.
But when Democrats have enacted much more aggressive gerrymanders in large states like New York and Illinois, those cases have typically only been mentioned as an aside, sometimes with suggestions that Republicans deserved it. When Illinois Republican Adam Kinzinger announced his retirement immediately after the state's Democrat gerrymander was announced, CNN mostly ignored the gerrymander angle while making their coverage primarily about Kinzinger's opposition to Donald Trump.
But after New York's Democratic state legislature sabotaged the bipartisan redistricting commission and, in late January, passed a map aiming to cut the delegation to just four Republicans with 22 Democrats, CNN barely touched the story. During a February "Reality Check" devoted to Republican map-making in Alabama, John Avlon noted that the New York map is expected to hurt Republicans, and snarked that "you reap what you sow."
CNN daytime fill-in host Bianna Golodryga seemed to rationalize the double standard as she declared that Democrats have also engaged in gerrymandering, but that "it is Republicans, by and large, who have been accused of violating the Voting Rights Act, which was designed to protect minority communities from discrimination." Jim Sciutto asked Tennessee Democratic Congressman Jim Cooper if Republicans were "deliberately targeting race" in drawing maps.
In New York, after several levels of courts struck down the Democrat gerrymandered and ordered a new map designed by a special master, Democrats started throwing accusations of racism at one another and at the map-making process after white Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney was put in the same district with black Democrat Mondaire Jones and chose to run against his black colleague.
Veteran Democrat Hakeem Jeffries even invoked "Jim Crow" in attacking the court-backed map, even though nearly all the judges involved were appointed by Democrats.
But CNN's New Day regulars reacted by seeming to fret over the fact that some veteran Democrats would have to run against one another. Errol Louis defended the racial gerrymandering that had been happening for decades as the panel portrayed the court's anti-gerrymandered map as an "overcorrection."
(CNN and MSNBC have a history of pushing for gerrymandering that favors Democrats while claiming to oppose gerrymandering.)
Over on MSNBC, Hallie Jackson hinted incorrectly that the Democratic legislature had not been given an opportunity to take another stab at a redraw even though Democrats kept appealing rulings to higher courts and were allowed to submit a second map which turned out to be similar to the first gerrymander. One judge even warned Democrats that their persistent appealing the decisions could make things worse for them.
By contrast, Fox and other right-leaning media covered the New York case from beginning to end, and even showed viewers the very oddly drawn proposed 10th district. Ultimately, the court redraw is forcing veteran Democrats Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney to run against each other.
By contrast, just the previous week, when a court tried to block the arguably anti-gerrymandered map in Florida pushed by Governor Ron DeSantis, CNN and MSNBC anchors freaked out and repeated some of the misinformation they had already pushed before. MSNBC's Alicia Menendez even compared the Republican governor to former communist dictator Fidel Castro. CNN's Don Lemon and John King made sure to inform viewers that the judge who had ruled against DeSantis had been appointed by the governor, but the fact that nearly all judges involved in striking down the New York gerrymander were Democrats was not deemed newsworthy.
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CNN's New Day
May 17, 2022
6:27 a.m. Eastern
JOHN BERMAN: All right, we have two of New York's preeminent political reporters here, which is why it's interesting to discuss what just happened to the Democrats in New York state in terms of redistricting. I have never seen anything blow up like this appears to be blowing up. They tried -- the Democrats in the state -- tried to draw a very favorable congressional map like many parties do in states. I want to show you what their initial proposal was thrown out by judges. And now what is being suggested by a special master.
The Democrats wanted a proposal that would probably get them 22 of the congressional seats here. Now, they're looking at a map that gives them around 15. In this new map, five -- five of the Democratic incumbents all of a sudden won't live in the districts that they need to run in. They've been districted out of their own districts, in a way. And, with these new maps, there are four mash-ups among incumbents. Which really almost never happens at this level in redistricting. Errol, what on Earth is happening here?
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, look, there's apolitical redistricting, and then there's anti-political redistricting. And this is a little closer to the -- to the latter where you've got communities of interest that have long been recognized -- the only mostly Jewish district in the United States -- the district that includes the first Puerto Rican woman elected to Congress -- the seat in black Brooklyn that used to be held by Shirley Chisholm.
All of these have been scrambled -- incumbents thrown against each other -- the district that includes Wall Street has no incumbent. Nobody lives there at this point -- no incumbent lives there. It's really remarkable. And so, to the extent that communities of interest -- which is recognized by the Supreme Court as sort of a -- a basis for drawing an unusually shaped district -- completely ignored in this case. And so, obviously, a lot of the political establishment screaming and hollering, trying to make a case, trying to make a last-ditch effort to head this off. It could be finalized, though, as soon as Friday.
KAITLAN COLLINS, FILL-IN CO-HOST: And it's not just that you're going to see the most senior House Democrats running potentially against each other in primaries -- it has huge implications for their control of the House.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It has huge implications for their control of the House. The thing that you will hear from Democrats in this state privately is that the initial maps were an overreach -- that this was a mistake, that it should have been very clear that this was going to be a problem, and that this version is -- "anti-political" I think was your word -- this version is an overcorrection.
And so now it is absolutely going to hamper their efforts. You are seeing the DCCC chair having to make an argument about which district he's running in. I've never seen anything like this -- a lot of news we've never seen anything like today. But the idea that you are going to have two long-standing members in Manhattan potentially running against each other -- this is just absolutely unheard of.
BERMAN: Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney.
LOUIS: The chair of Oversight and the chair of Judiciary running against each other.
BERMAN: Written, you know, written into the same district or drawn into the same district. And Hakeem Jeffries -- who could be Speaker of the House or minority leader -- no longer lives in the district that he lived in. It just -- every step of the way here, it really seems to have blown up on Democrats.
COLLINS: Yeah, it's one of those things where you say, "Oh, this is a New York Democrats problem," but it means -- it means just so much for the party and what's going to happen to them potentially.
HABERMAN: Correct. And especially when, Kaitlan, you have this situation where, because of gerrymandering, there are fewer seats in play than I think Republicans would like there to be in the fall, given the climate, that the political climate is just bad for Democrats across the board. And so the saving grace for Democrats had been, in places like New York, they thought they were going to do well. This obviously blows that up.
BERMAN: It's also -- people should know -- based on New York state law -- is the reason this has not worked for the Democrats in their wake. Other states have other laws, which is why Republicans who have been in power in states have been able to gerrymander their states more. Interesting to watch. Maggie Haberman, Errol Louis, thank you so much.
MSNBC Reports with Hallie Jackson
May 20, 2022
3:50 p.m. Eastern
HALLIE JACKSON: We're also watching this other one related to more domestic politics and this potential new congressional map in New York kind of creating chaos among Democrats in that state with black legislators saying it could jeopardize their spots in Congress and maybe disenfranchise the black communities they represent. It all started with a really ambitious map -- let's call it -- what you're seeing here -- drawn up by New York's Democratic-controlled state legislature. It didn't take long before New York state courts ruled against them, calling the maps unconstitutional. But here's the deal: Instead of sending lawmakers back to the drawing board, telling them to take another stab at it, the court appointed an outside independent map maker to finish the job.
So this map maker -- also known as a special master -- went about his task, releasing this map earlier this week that was met with a, well, let's say, less than enthusiastic response from lawmakers, especially ones in the Congressional Black Caucus like Hakeem Jeffries.
AUDIO OF HAKEEM JEFFRIES IN AD: Now, they're trying to move the table, drawing a congressional map that robs us of power and takes a sledgehammer to black districts. It's enough to make Jim Crow blush.
JACKSON: You can probably figure out why Jeffries is so upset. The new map means multiple sitting Democratic incumbents now have to gear up for an intense primary fight against each other. That brings us to the chaos we mentioned earlier. Veteran members of Congress in a surprise matchup -- black lawmakers representing neighboring districts now grouped into one big one. And the powerful leader of the Democrats' powerful campaign arm -- Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney -- having to choose whether to run against two black freshman Democrats -- Congressmen Jamaal Bowman or Mondaire Jones. The special master is set to release a finalized map today. I want to bring in NBC News senior politics reporter John Allen. He's following this for us. I -- like -- it's drama, John. I mean, that's what it is.
MSNBC's MTP Daily
May 20, 2022
1:51 p.m. Eastern
CHUCK TODD: As we mentioned before the break, the likely New York congressional map has exposed some deep cracks in the Democratic party overall as some establishment incumbents are being forced to face off against each other. We have to bring in our senior Capitol Hill correspondent for this. Normally, look, you love covering House races, but this one is going to potentially break up leadership. Hakeem Jeffries is in leadership -- New York City Democrat -- Sean Patrick Maloney, Hudson valley Democrat, DCCC chair. This is a mess. Can it get resolved without Maloney losing his job as DCCC chair?