CNN journalist Elise Labott has been suspended by the network for two weeks for tweeting a message of disappointment on Thursday after US lawmakers passed a bill that would restrict the influx of Syrian refugees.
Labott, global affairs correspondent for CNN, tweeted “House passes bill that could limit Syrian refugees. Statue of Liberty bows head in anguish” along with a link to CNN’s story on the piece, which Labott did not write.
Labott was referencing a measure that would require all Syrian and Iraqi refugees to be personally approved by three top US national security officials before being welcomed into the country. The House of Representatives passed the bill on Thursday in a 289-137 vote, a strong enough majority to override a presidential veto.
The bill now moves on to the Senate, where Democrat Harry Reid, the minority leader, has said it will not pass.
The tweet, of course, was divisive, with conservatives lashing out at Labott in the wake of last week’s terror attacks in Paris that killed 129 people. Others, including some fellow journalists, have accused her of showing bias.
Labott ended up apologizing hours after the original tweet, saying “Everyone, It was wrong of me to editorialize. My tweet was inappropriate and disrespectful. I sincerely apologize.”
But there are some who have criticized CNN – rather than Labott – including journalist Glenn Greenwald, who said the network demonstrated a double standard by suspending Labott.
In an article published Friday on The Intercept, the website he co-founded, Greenwald wrote:
“Labott’s crime wasn’t that she expressed an opinion. It’s that she expressed the wrong opinion: after Paris, defending Muslims, even refugees, is strictly forbidden. I’ve spoken with friends who work at every cable network and they say the post-Paris climate is indescribably repressive in terms of what they can say and who they can put on air.”
Greenwald goes on to describe incidents dating back as far as 2010 in which CNN – which he said “has basically become state TV” – did not reprimand its on-air staff for voicing their personal opinions, some of which he views as anti-Muslim.
“I could literally spend the rest of the day pointing to opinions expressed by CNN journalists for which they were not suspended or punished in any way,” he wrote.
On the other hand, Greenwald noted, CNN fired two longtime employees – one who expressed a sympathetic sentiment about a Muslim imam who recently died and a second who criticized Israel.
But more importantly, Greenwald continued, the Paris attacks have led to an “anti-Muslim climate” in which GOP presidential candidates are advocating for forcing Muslims to register in databases (Donald Trump), banning refugees from predominantly Muslim and/or Arab countries (Rand Paul), excluding Muslims altogether (Ted Cruz) and welcoming only “proven Christians” (Jeb Bush).
“And journalists” Greenwald wrote, “have historically not only been permitted, but required, to raise their voice against such dangers. Indeed, that is one of the primary roles of journalism: to serve as a check on extremism when stoked by political demagogues.”
But CNN’s suspension of Labott, he said, has only served to discourage the next journalist from doing so.