OPINION: The Mysterious Antics Of CNN’s Republican-Targeting KFile Unit

John Lott | President, Crime Prevention Research Center

I don’t like bullies. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece pushing back against Andrew Kaczynski and the rest of CNN’s KFile unit, which has made a mission of taking out certain Republicans.

Townhall published the piece, in which I defended David Clarke, Monica Crowley and Congressman Jason Lewis from CNN’s attacks. But Townhall immediately removed it after CNN’s Kaczynski said my claims were incorrect.

For example, I noted that the Naval Postgraduate School only found that Clarke’s master’s thesis had a technical violation of proper citation formatting, not plagiarism, as Kfiles states.

But KFile’s main political target this year has been Minnesota Republican Congressman Jason Lewis. They mischaracterized statements that Lewis made as a radio talk show host six years ago, going after him for supposedly condoning sexual harassment and lamenting that society frowns on calling women sluts.

For example, Kaczynski’s deep responses mention that “Lott claims our only story about Krysten Sinema was a story on her party ID,” but, in fact, I wrote that their “hard-hitting investigations of Democrats includes Arizona Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema” not mentioning her party affiliation in ads. My term “includes” was somehow interpreted as excluding another piece in which they discuss Sinema’s anti-war activism against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

I have cut out my claim that CNN sat on allegations that Democratic National Committee deputy chair Keith Ellison had physically abused a girlfriend. I cannot credit my off-the-record source, who is a long-time media person in Minnesota, with this information.

The Daily Caller has allowed me to make my case again. People can judge for themselves whether the attacks against David Clarke, Monica Crowley and Jason Lewis are justified or not.


Andrew Kaczynski and the rest of CNN’s so-called KFile unit ought to count their reporting as direct campaign contributions to Democrats.

Last year, in accusing Sheriff David Clarke and Monica Crowley of plagiarism when the Trump administration was considering them for positions, CNN omitted the authors’ footnotes, which contained the source attributions. CNN had one sentence acknowledging Clarke’s footnotes, but they left out the references when they showed readers the quoted passages.

As Steven Brill, the founder of Court TV and lecturer at the Yale English department, told the Yale Daily News in 2007, “Plagiarism is when you steal someone’s words and you don’t attribute it to that person.”

He went on to address the case of Yale Law School professor Ian Ayres, who copied large chunks of writing without quote marks — even more than a couple of paragraphs at a time:

I don’t think it quite rises to that, because he is attributing what he’s saying to the person [in the endnotes]. His intent could not have been terribly guilty, because he provided neon signs … for anyone to figure out what he’d done.

Perhaps the most famous book on plagiarism is Thomas Mallon’s “Stolen Words: Forays into the Origins and Ravages of Plagiarism.” The New York Times referred to it as, “The definitive book on the subject.”

Mallon told the Weekly Standard, “Constant paraphrasing without at least semi-regular attribution constitutes a form of plagiarism.” But even if one views Clarke’s writing as containing “constant paraphrasing,” he attributes the sources he used in each and every case.

While Clarke and Crowley were sloppy, their paraphrases were all correctly sourced in footnotes.

At the very least, these definitions are selectively applied. There is one definition when universities look at liberals such as Yale’s Sam Ayres or Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz and Charles Ogletree and find that no rules were broken; there is, however, quite a different definition when conservatives do something similar.

What passes for hard-hitting investigations of Democrats includes Arizona Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema who intentionally doesn’t mention her party affiliation in her television advertisements because she is running as an “independent voice for Arizona.”

Andrew Kaczynski’s No. 1 congressional target this year has been Minnesota Second District Congressman Jason Lewis. CNN had five articles in eight days during July, with three of them led by KFile. The others were follow-up articles by others.

Apparently, CNN noticed that Lewis is still in a very tight race because they targeted him again this month. This time, KFile attacked Lewis for comments he made as a radio talk show host in 2012:

Lewis repeatedly made demeaning comments about women during a period of 15 months on his show, including lamenting that women could no longer be called ‘sluts.’ Lewis later defended those comments, saying being provocative was part of being on talk radio.

But again, CNN didn’t provide the full story. In February 2012, Rush Limbaugh called women’s rights activists and then-graduate student Sandra Fluke a “slut” because she wanted the government to pay for her birth control.

Limbaugh suffered advertiser boycotts. In response to this backlash, Lewis asked his audience, “Can we call anybody a slut?” and “Have we really got to the point where you can’t refer to Madonna as a slut without being sued?”

The media construed this as Lewis singling out women for their promiscuity. But he explicitly acknowledged that men and women are perceived differently for sexual promiscuity. “I know there’s a double standard,” said Lewis.

His question was a general one about whether people generally could be called out for behavior that may not be advisable for themselves or for society. His monologue was not a defense of Limbaugh’s use of the term “slut,” but was an attempt to get people thinking about the ethics of shaming.

KFile also claimed that Lewis “once mocked women who felt traumatized by unwanted touching.” Lewis was commenting on Herman Cain’s denial during the 2012 presidential campaign that he had sexually harassed two women while president of the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s.

But Lewis did not condone sexual harassment or take a stand on Cain’s denial. Lewis was, again, raising a general point: that people make honest mistakes in interpreting whether a comment or a touch is welcomed.

There is a real cost to this media bias. The day after the CNN stories broke in July about Lewis’ supposedly demeaning comments about women, Lewis’ two daughters were threatened with violence.

As if it isn’t enough that Lewis is up against an almost $4 million political war chest in outside money funded by the Gabby Giffords gun control PAC (with assistance from Michael Bloomberg), the Environmental Defense Fund, and liberal women’s organizations. CNN’s out-of-context claims quickly end up in attack ads.

It is bad enough that the campaign ads are filled with questionable claims. It doesn’t help any when the media provides the “fake news” stories that serve as the basis for those campaign ads.

John Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author most recently of “The War on Guns.”


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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