Campbell Brown’s Despicable Newtown Rant

newtownFormer CNN/NBC anchor Campbell Brown demonstrates that “both sides do it” false balance is not just a problem with campaign journalism.  In a new post at the Daily Beast (12/21/12),  she explained that most reactions to the Newtown massacre have been touching and inspiring. But, she writes,

there have also been very unfortunate, even callous and disgusting, statements made by individuals who cannot help but use a slaughter of more than two dozen people, most of whom are children, to advance their ideology.

We see it on both sides.

Oh, here we go.

On the right, the examples are obvious: Brown mentions James Dobson linking the shooting to same-sex marriage and abortion, while Mike Huckabee pointed a finger at the removal of God from public schools.

Cambell Brown at Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Laguna Niguel, CA.

Campbell Brown (Photo: Fortune Live Media)

Vile stuff. So what’s the leftish version of that? Apparently it came from education historian Diane Ravitch, who Brown dubs “the unions’ newest patron saint.” And what did she do? According to Brown, “Ravitch described the teachers’ bravery not in individual terms, but by linking it to their union membership.”

Brown unfortunately included a link to the Ravitch piece in question, so readers can discover that she’s completely mischaracterizing Ravitch’s blog post.  “Everyone of them is a hero, those who died and those who survived,” Ravitch wrote. “Six of them died protecting the children.” She described the circumstances:

Vicki Soto, 27, put herself between the killer and her children. He killed her. Somehow some of them escaped. Six ran to a nearby house. They told the surprised homeowner: “We can’t go back to our school. Our teacher is dead. We don’t have a teacher.”

Anne Marie Murphy, 52, was a special education teacher who was devoted to the children she taught. When her body was found, little Dylan Hockley was in her arms.

What a monster, right?

In Brown’s mind, Ravitch was obsessed with their union membership: “The implication was clear: Nonunion teachers would not have acted the same way.” In reality, the mention of the teachers’ union comes after her tribute to the teachers’ heroism:

Oh, and one other thing, all these dedicated teachers belonged to a union.

And why did she bring this up at all? Because in our public debate over public schools, teachers’ unions have been singled out as the obstacle to success and “reform,” because they “don’t care about kids.”  Ravitch reminds readers that the governor of Connecticut had recently derided the tenure system, which he said awards teachers just for showing up.

To Campbell Brown, Ravitch is just like Huckabee and Dobson, “so dogmatic, so tendentious, and so drawn to bitter and contentious debates that they cannot help but use dead children as weapons in their culture wars.” It’s an absurd and disgusting comparison.  Brown has bashed teachers’ unions before; ironically, in a piece criticizing others for trying to score political points during a tragedy, she does exactly the same thing.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.