CNN Tonight tried to scare viewers that new GOP election laws like the one in Georgia were the same as “Jim Crow” racial segregation rules of the South from over half a century ago.
If you think that sounds ridiculous, well, that’s because it is. Yet host Don Lemon still pushed forward the absurd notion:
“There are more than 250 proposed bills and at least 43 states that are aimed at restricting access to the ballot. It is being called the new Jim Crow,” Lemon touted to start the hysteria driven, fact-free report from correspondent Joe Johns.
“Jim Crow is making a comeback,” Johns hyped, while CNN played footage of a 1941 film showing a “Jim Crow” character in blackface. He added that new election security laws will turn America back into to the racially segregated South:
Jim Crow is also the name used to describe unequal racial segregation rules that banned black people from eating at white owned restaurants, staying in white owned hotels, and fully participating in the election process. Now, as hundreds of new proposals to scale back voter participation, the parallels with the past are inescapable.
Johns then talked to a self-described “civil rights activist” from Virginia who was arrested for doing a sit-in at a whites-only lunch counter in the early 1960s. Johns hyped how those laws of the past weren’t even as bad as they are now. “But comparing today’s proposals to limit voting to Jim Crow laws of the past, can only go so far.” The activist he interviewed added, “What is happening now is worse than anything I would think could ever happen to a democracy. Living in America.”
The uncritical CNN reporter then touted the left-wing Brennan Center for Justice blaming President Trump’s “big lie” about election fraud to be the inspiration behind these bills. The activist claimed Republicans were using this lie to “blatantly” tell black voters, “We are going to keep you from voting.”
Johns touted the Brennan Center again calling these laws racist with an additional soundbite:
JOHNS: And some of those proposals have already become law like the one in Georgia making it a misdemeanor to deliver food or water to people standing in line to vote. Proponents of the measure claim it is not racist. It's just to keep people from trying to influence voters on election day. But the Brennan Central for Justice says, Jim Crow election laws were also presented as neutral at the time.
The CNN report ended with hopes that Congress will intervene and use its power to “make its own rules” or “undo” these election security measures.
“So in theory at least, anything the states do, the Congress can undo if there is only enough political will. That of course is a big question mark right now,” Johns hopefully added.
Lemon praised the fearmongering report as the two chatted some more pressuring Democrats in Congress to stomp out states’ rights:
DON LEMON: History really shows us why it is so important for Congress to be involved here, right?
JOE JOHNS: Absolutely. And there’s a real question of congressional neglect. Back in 2013 the United States Supreme Court essentially eviscerated parts of the Voting Rights Act. They did tell Congress that it needed to pass some new measures along with the Voting Rights Act which has not happened now in eight years. Of course, that's the reason why we see such a big push up on Capitol Hill to change voting rights, once and for all.
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Read the transcript below:
DON LEMON: There are more than 250 proposed bills and at least 43 states that are aimed at restricting access to the ballot. It is being called the new Jim Crow. Here's CNN's Joe Johns.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jim Crow is making a comeback, the fictional black-faced character from minstrel shows who came to symbolize second class citizenship for millions of Americans.
JOHNS: Jim Crow is also the name used to describe unequal racial segregation rules that banned Black people from eating at white-owned restaurants, staying in white-owned hotels, and fully participating in the election process. Now, as hundreds of new proposals to scale back voter participation in elections make their way through state legislatures, the parallels with the past are inescapable.
Elizabeth Johnson Rice was 19 when she went to jail fighting Jim Crow 61 years ago as a college student at Virginia Union University.
JOHNS: She and 33 other students were locked up for a sit-in at a local department store. The alleged crime is trespassing at a whites-only lunch counter in Richmond [Virginia].
ELIZABETH JOHNSON RICE "CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST": If you wanted a meal, you had to go into the alley, to the door, and let them serve it to you through the door in the alley.
JOHNS: Virginia, like many states, also had strict voting rules with poll taxes and literacy test, while other states had something known as the Eight Box rule requiring a separate box and separate sheets of paper for ballots for each office. Slight variations could cause ballots to be thrown out.
JOHNSON RICE: And every time you vote for a person, it got to be the right box and the right size paper because so many were illiterate.
JOHNS: But comparing today's proposal to limit voting with Jim Crow laws of the past can only go so far.
JOHNSON RICE: What is happening now is worse than anything that I would think could ever happen to a democracy living in America.
JOHNS: How could it be worse? Because Johnson Rice says the new proposals, more than 250 in 45 states and counting, according to data from the progressive leaning Brennan Center for Justice, are inspired by former President Donald Trump's big lie claiming the last presidential election was stolen due to massive voter fraud.
JOHNSON RICE: I mean it is really upsetting for people to take a lie, take an untruth, and spin it and spin it and spin it, and then blatantly in front of you let you know, this is what we're going to do for you, we are going to keep you from voting.
JOHNS: And some of those proposals have already become law like the one in Georgia, making it a misdemeanor to deliver food or water to people standing in line to vote. Proponents of the measure claim it is not racist. It's just to keep people from trying to influence voters on Election Day. But the Brennan Center for Justice says Jim Crow election laws were also presented as neutral at the time.
MICHAEL WALDMAN, PRESIDENT, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: They look neutral on their face, so did so many of the Jim Crow laws, but in their impact, they really hit voters of color and young voters and poor voters much harder than other people. These proposed laws are carefully tailored to make it harder to vote for some people but not for others.
JOHNS: Elizabeth Johnson Rice says trespassing conviction was eventually vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court and the expectation is the courts will have to intervene against the flood of current legislation. But given the current composition of the high court and its conservative majority, she's not so sure they will have the final say this time around.
JOHNSON RICE: I think it's going to be the voice of the people so loud in a nonviolent way.
JOHNS: Now, it's the Constitution that gives essentially the state legislatures the power to control the time, place, and manner of elections. But the United States Congress has the power to make its own rules or alter any rules made by the state.
So, in theory, at least, anything the states do, the Congress can undo if there is only enough political will. That, of course, is a big question mark right now. Don?
LEMON: Joe, such a great report. Thank you so much for doing that for us. History really shows us why it is so important for Congress to be involved here, right?
JOHNS: Absolutely. There is a real question of congressional neglect. Back in 2013, the United States Supreme Court essentially eviscerated parts of the Voting Rights Act, but they did tell Congress that it needed to pass some new measures along with the Voting Rights Act, which has not happened now in eight years. Of course, that's the reason why we see such a big push up on Capitol Hill to change voting rights once and for all.
LEMON: A really important story. We also put it out on social media. Joe, thank you really again, great reporting.