CBS came under fire after devoting an interview on its flagship current affairs show, 60 Minutes, to Marjorie Taylor Greene, the far-right pro-Trump congresswoman from Georgia who has espoused conspiracy theories and faced censure for threatening behaviour towards Democrats.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York progressive congresswoman among those threatened by Greene, told Semafor: “These kinds of extreme and really just unprecedented and dangerous notions are getting platforms, without much pushback or real kind of critical analysis.”
Matthew Gertz, of the progressive watchdog Media Matters, told the same outlet: “Anyone who believes that the congresswoman from QAnon is serious about renouncing far-right radicalism and conspiracy theories should make me an offer on my Jewish space laser.”
Greene memorably suggested California wildfires could be caused by solar technology connected to the Rothschild family, giving rise to the “Jewish space laser” meme.
Gertz also pointed to Greene’s support of Donald Trump, who last week became the first former US president ever to be criminally indicted after a New York grand jury handed up charges against him.
On Tuesday morning, Greene is set to address a protest in support of Trump outside the New York courthouse where the former president will be arraigned.
Gertz said: “Less than 48 hours after CBS News gives her a mainstream platform to airbrush her image, Marjorie Taylor Greene will be rallying with Jack Posobiec of Pizzagate fame and the quasi-fascists of the New York Young Republican Club to defend Donald Trump from what she calls the ‘political persecution’ of a ‘Soros-backed’ district attorney.”
Gertz also said Greene was “a rightwing extremist us[ing] a credulous mainstream press outlet”.
Greene is part of a far-right group on which the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, relied to secure his position. In turn, McCarthy has restored Greene and other extremists to key committees.
CBS titled its interview with Greene “From the far-right fringe to the Republican party’s front row”.
“She’s gained her national celebrity,” it said, “some say notoriety, with a sharp tongue and some pretty radical views like her proposal for a national divorce where red and blue states would go their separate ways. But she has managed in just two years in Congress to accumulate real power, landing on important committees, and influencing the direction of Republican policies.”
The interview took place before news of Trump’s indictment. Much criticism of CBS centered on a passage in which Lesley Stahl, the interviewer, asked why Greene called Democrats paedophiles.
Stahl said: “The Democrats are a party of paedophiles?”
Greene said: “I would definitely say so. They support grooming children.”
“They are not paedophiles,” Stahl said. “Why would you say that?”
Greene said: “Democrats support – even Joe Biden, the president himself, supports children being sexualised and having transgender surgeries. Sexualising children is what paedophiles do to children.”
Stahl said: “Wow. OK. But my question really is, ‘Can’t you fight for what you believe in without all that name-calling and without the personal attacks?’”
Greene said: “Well, I would ask the same question to the other side, because all they’ve done is call me names and insult me non-stop since I’ve been here, Lesley. They call me racist. They call me … antisemitic, which is not true. I’m not calling anyone names. I’m calling out the truth, basically.”
Stahl said: “Paedophile?”
Greene said: “Paedophi– call it what it is.”
Greene also claimed not to have called the Parkland school shooting a “false flag” operation or to have threatened Nancy Pelosi, the former House speaker.
The CNN columnist Dean Obeidallah noted: “Stahl didn’t mention Greene spoke at a white nationalist event a year ago while a member of Congress or her extreme anti-Muslim views and her defense of January 6 rioters.”
David Corn, DC bureau chief for Mother Jones, wrote: “It’s a failure on CBS and Stahl’s part to give [Greene] such an unimpeded platform to spread such garbage.”
CBS did not comment.
The network did receive support from public figures.
The Parkland school shooting survivor and campaigner for gun reform David Hogg, who has been harassed by Greene, said he was “glad 60 minutes gave Marjorie Taylor Greene airtime. It’s important to interview one of the main leaders of the Republican party so the American people know everything and I mean everything they support. Including denying school shootings.”
Asked how she thought the interview had gone, Greene told Semafor: “I thought it was pretty good.”
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