Late this afternoon, after increasing tensions in the House Democratic caucus seemed to pause in the wake of Donald Trump’s racist tweets about Reps. Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib, CNN anchor Jake Tapper had some news. The Democrats, Tapper reported in a multipart Twitter thread, were not as unified as they suddenly appeared. In fact, the more moderate members of the caucus were as mad as ever.
According to Tapper, he’d spent the day talking to a number of Democrats (all of whom he granted anonymity) who expressed frustration with the four freshman congresswomen known as “the Squad.”
It wasn’t just a Twitter thread, though. Tapper presided over an entire panel discussion of the anonymous mudslinging on his show. Here, Tapper never actually indicated how many Democrats he spoke to, simply saying that it was “a lot”:
I have spent the day talking to a lot of Democratic House members. They are very frustrated with the Squad. They are very frustrated with them for any number of reasons. You heard in the introduction one House Democrat saying, “We need to be talking about bread-and-butter issues, not the president’s tweets.” But others say they don’t want to be in the position of defending things that they disagree with from, say, congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
Well, one House Democrat told me, speaking on the condition of anonymity, that what Trump has done is brilliant. That he’s won this one. Because what he’s gotten them to do, what he’s established is, first of all, now “the Squad” is the face of the Democratic Party instead of Nancy Pelosi. And also that Nancy Pelosi had gotten all her lieutenants on board to try to marginalize “the Squad,” and then he did this racist tweet, and now she’s had to do a 180 and defend them. And a lot of people don’t like what they stand for. A lot of Democrats don’t like what they stand for.
In his Twitter thread, Tapper offered a little more information, providing quotes from at least four separate Democrats, two of whom he refers to as “Reps.” Throughout the thread, Tapper repeats these anonymous Democrats’ rehashing of right-wing talking points: that Omar has a “history of anti-Semitism” and that the four freshmen congresswomen argued that moderate Democrats were “against human rights.”
These are fairly serious claims, especially at a time when Donald Trump is doing everything in his power to demonize these women to his fan base. (Earlier this evening, after Trump also accused Omar of anti-Semitism at a rally in North Carolina, the crowd broke into chants of “send her back.”) Surely Jake Tapper, an objective journalist who prides himself on being an agent of truth in dishonest times, wouldn’t just present the backbiting of embittered rivals as fact without seeking a counterargument or providing the necessary context.
This was the question posed to him by the New Republic’s Alex Pareene (and, full disclosure, my former boss).
If Tapper had made such an effort to reach out to the offices of Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, and Tlaib as he claimed, it seemed odd not to have included it in his 12-tweet thread, so I decided to ask the offices myself. At the time of publication, two of the four said that they did not receive any outreach from Tapper prior to his Twitter thread, one of which confirmed that Tapper had reached out only after Pareene’s questioning. Weird. (The other two have yet to respond.) (Update, 10:15 a.m.: One just did, and also said that Tapper only reached out after Pareene’s tweet.)
We reached out to Tapper for comment, at which point he forwarded our email to a CNN spokeswoman. We will update this post if and when we hear back.