Liberal pundit and radio show host Bill Press misled White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs into attacking RedState Editor Erick Erickson by misconstruing comments Erickson made about filling out the census. (RedState, like HUMAN EVENTS, is owned by Eagle Publishing, Inc.).
At Tuesday’s White House press briefing, Bill Press, a former California Democratic Party chairman as well as a former CNN contributor who no longer works for the network, said, “Erick Erickson‘s a commentator for CNN. A couple of days ago, he said he was not going to fill out his census form and if a census worker came to the door, he said he would quote ‘pull out my wife’s shotgun and see how that little twerp likes being scared at the door.’”
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, under the delusion that Bill Press was telling the truth, replied, “It should concern CNN, if — probably first and foremost. It probably concerns his wife as well.”
Here’s the real story: Last Thursday, filling in on a local radio station in Georgia, Erickson launched into a ten minute defense of filling out the census, delving into its impact at the local level, and ridiculing those who claim the information requested by the census is unconstitutional. You can listen to the audio here. It is quite clear that Erickson strongly urges his listeners to complete the census. No one who listened to Erickson’s broadcast could have concluded otherwise.
Among the choice bits, Erickson said, “It’s a constitutional obligation. How can a 21st Century society function without knowing how many people are actually living in the country, legally versus illegally for that matter? What’s the harm with filling out the census? The Constitution — for those of you who say I’m not filling out the census — it’s in the freaking Constitution. You got to fill out your census.”
About nine minutes into his radio monologue, Erickson switched gears and began to discuss the American Community Survey (ACS), a survey carried out by the Commerce Department’s Census Bureau. Many conservatives say the ACS is an overreach of the Commerce Department’s authority to conduct the census. Among other things, this survey, which is not the census, requires individuals to tell the government details about their finances, whether they have a flush toilet in their home, their commute to work, and other matters in a clear invasion of privacy.
There have been documented reports of ACS surveyors appearing at individuals’ homes demanding the answers to the survey and threatening individuals with $5,000.00 fines for failing to comply. Daniel Freedman, writing in the Weekly Standard, highlighted one act of surveyor abuse that affected him personally. Erickson incorporated part of Freedman’s story into his monologue and concluded saying, “What gives the Commerce Department the right to ask me how often I flush my toilet? Or about going to work? I’m not filling out this form. I dare them to try and come throw me in jail. I dare them to. Pull out my wife’s shotgun and see how that little ACS twerp likes being scared at the door. They’re not going on my property. They can’t do that. They don’t have the legal right, and yet they’re trying.”
The surveyors have no authority to send anyone to jail and was clearly hypothetical based on Freedman’s writing. Erickson, nonetheless, subsequently clarified repeatedly both that he never said he would shoot the ACS surveyor, commenting that only an anti-gun urban liberal would confuse “scared” with “shoot”, and that, as he said but the left chose to ignore, the scenario only played out if the “ACS twerp” tried to “throw [him] in jail.”
Writing at Big Government, Larry O’Connor noted, “So, of course, over the past few days the headlines have not been ‘Erick Erickson Admonishes Listeners to Obey the Law and Fill Out Census’. And, the headlines have not been ‘Erick Erickson Details Don Freedman’s Harrassment at the Hands of the Commerce Department’. They aren’t even: ‘Erickson Threatens to Scare ACS Worker at Door if They Come to Put Him in Jail.’ Instead, in a Media Matters-led rampage of ambush journalism, the headlines have been “Erickson Threatens to Shoot Census Workers.”
Now Bill Press is calling for the RedState editor’s arrest. Erickson, recounting the Media Matters smear on his radio show, said he filled out and returned his census several weeks ago, even answering the question on race.