Partisan Crashers: CNN Knows What It's Getting with Erickson

You don't give a forum to a guy who worships at the swollen feet of Rush Limbaugh and not expect him to draw controversy; on the contrary, it's why you hire him in the first place.
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"I've joined the network. Starting next Monday, you'll be seeing a lot of me. I'm very excited by the opportunity. Thanks for the prayers and well wishes. This is the path God put me on and it was totally unexpected, but I go where the good Lord leads."

-- editor Erick Erickson, announcing to his readers that he's accepted a job as a paid regular contributor to CNN's new 7pm show, John King, USA

CNN Political Director Sam Feist calls Erickson "a terrific new addition to the BPToTV" (that stands for "Best Political Team on Television," for those of you with lives); he goes on to refer to him as a guy who's "in touch with the very people" CNN wants to reach -- proving that CNN is still misguidedly assuming it can somehow put so much as a dent in Fox's coveted NASCAR demographic.

If you know anything at all about Erick Erickson's reputation, you know that word of his new paying gig at CNN immediately caused the left-wing blogosphere to lose control of its collective bowels. Media Matters responded by quickly compiling what it sees as a damning list of ostensibly crude and hateful comments made by Erickson against favorite conservative targets on the left, like feminists (who he says need to "get in the kitchen and learn to cook"), liberal supreme court justices (he called the retiring David Souter a "goat fucking child molester") and, of course, Barack Obama (whose supporters he calls "brownshirts, goons and thugs"). Meanwhile, left-leaning Twitter uses have spent the past 12 hours inundating CNN political reporters' and managers' accounts with bloodthirsty outrage and a barrage of questions as to why CNN would allow itself to be so blatantly taken for a ride by the right, the implication seeming to be that somehow CNN wasn't fully aware of just who Erickson was when it hired him -- that the network hadn't properly vetted him.

Except that it was, and it did.

Make no mistake, CNN knows exactly what it's getting with Erickson -- and it wants just that. Sam Feist's a spectacularly pompous ass, and his fingerprints are all over this hire; as much as I'd love to wind up eating my words, I can't imagine a scenario in which a blogger uprising from the left would make Feist and CNN reconsider putting Erickson on the air. In fact, they're probably enjoying the immediate rush of attention that they'd counted on all along. You don't give a forum to a guy who worships at the swollen feet of Rush Limbaugh and not expect him to draw controversy; on the contrary, it's why you hire him in the first place. What'll be interesting to see, though, is how strong CNN's backbone is should Erickson, in fact, get off his leash and begin spouting even mildly inflammatory rhetoric on national television. Yes, CNN knows what it's getting itself into, but the surprising flame-out of Lou Dobbs -- the credit for which can indeed be laid partially on bloggers who felt that he should be held accountable for his incendiary rhetoric -- proves that the situation is always fluid. Still, it's really Erickson's gig to lose; if he pulls a Michael Savage -- which is highly unlikely since even Erickson isn't that much of a spiteful prick -- he could find himself kicked back to the media underbelly before he's even on a first name basis with the driver of his free CNN Town Car.

The issue that I have with the Erickson hire isn't so much that it somehow validates his often ass-backward opinions or the way in which he voices them; it's that by putting someone so flagrantly partisan on the air under the auspices of CNN's generally respectable and trustworthy political department, the network will now have to balance out his analysis with a point of view that's equally extreme in the opposite direction. What this will lead to is simply more of what Jon Stewart once justly decried as "partisan hackery" from CNN's political analysts. But once again, make no mistake, the kind of ridiculous, entirely predictable conflict that's sure to arise from Erick Erickson and whatever liberal counterpart they put against him is just what CNN wants to see on television.

Feist and Company think it'll make for great TV -- and it probably will. But it'll make for really mind-numbing political discourse.

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