Politics

Ben Shapiro: ‘NBC News is a disaster area, an unholstered weapon for the left’

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro says in a new book that conservatives are getting bullied by the liberals — even by mild-mannered NBC news anchor Brian Williams.

“Brian Williams is an excellent example of how the media bullies the right,” said Shapiro, author of the new book “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences Americans,” in an email.

“He claims objectivity, but he’s obviously a leftist. I don’t mind bias – I’m biased. But I don’t lie about it. He sits atop NBC News, then allows his news outlet to slander George Zimmerman as a ‘white’ guy (he’s Hispanic), cut Zimmerman’s 911 tape to make him look racist, and broadcast repeated accusations of a racist cover-up in Sanford, Florida. He questions whether Sarah Palin should have run for vice president not because he questioned her credentials, but because she had a newborn child (imagine if he’d done that to any liberal woman).”

“NBC News is a disaster area, an unholstered weapon for the left,” he added. “Brian Williams heads it. Meanwhile, he pretends at sitting above the fray. It’s despicable.”

Shapiro’s book argues that liberal bullying occurs in many different arenas — not just the media — and it’s time for conservatives to fight back. But does he really believe that conservatives are so enfeebled?

“Not all conservatives are enfeebled,” he said. “But they are on the defensive. Instead of responding to accusations of racism by calling out their accusers as cheap smear artists who forward racism by watering down the term, conservatives try to explain why they aren’t racist. That’s a losing tactic.”

But more than “typical conservatives” being bullied, Shapiro argues “apolitical Americans who just want to keep their heads down and do their jobs” are being bullied by the left to keep their conservative opinions to themselves.

“They are cast as the bad guys, though, if they dare to question liberal policy,” he said of these apolitical Americans.

See TheDC’s full interview with Shapiro about his book, how conservatives should respond to the bullying he writes about and if any of his views have changed in the decade since he became the youngest conservative columnist in the country at 17.

Why did you decide to write the book?

In 2008, America was promised a new era in politics. Then-Senator Obama campaigned on the idea that he was a uniter, not a divider. He said he wanted not red states or blue states, but the United States. He was a liar. Since the election of Barack Obama in 2008, however, the left has shed all pretense of civility. They’re not interested in political conversation. They see it as an obstacle to their agenda. Why bother discussing the best solutions to America’s problems when you can simply label your opposition morally deficient in some way?

Now, that tactic is nothing new – the left has been playing the race card, the sexist card, the class warfare card for decades. But it has accelerated to the point where the President of the United States now uses the power of his office to cow his opposition by combining with forces outside government like Media Matters. That is something new. And it should be a troubling development for everyone who considers politics a business of solutions rather than a business of demagoguery.

What do you mean by bullying? How exactly do liberals bully conservatives?

There are many types of bullying. Obviously, the worst form is the sort of physical intimidation we see from union thugs in Michigan, or the New Black Panthers threatening voters with nightsticks in Philadelphia – and the Department of Justice ignoring all of it. But in general, by bullying I mean the tendency of those on the left to attempt to silence their opposition by driving them from the political square entirely. Republicans lost in 2012 because of this bullying. Conservatives are used to a generally civil debate; Mitt Romney attempted to define President Obama as a good man, a patriot who was largely incompetent. Barack Obama and the left defined Mitt Romney as an evil fellow who fired employees so that their wives would die of cancer, strapped dogs to the roof of his car, forcibly chopped the hair of gay kids, and carried around binders full of women because he hated them. Conservatives wanted to talk about policy; the left wanted to talk about character. Many conservatives shut up because of that. And we lost.

When you say liberals bully conservatives, it suggests conservatives are weak and feeble and can’t stand up for themselves against the big liberal ogres picking on them. Are conservatives really enfeebled?

Not all conservatives are enfeebled. But they are on the defensive. Instead of responding to accusations of racism by calling out their accusers as cheap smear artists who forward racism by watering down the term, conservatives try to explain why they aren’t racist. That’s a losing tactic.

There’s nothing worse in this country than being called a racist. Or a sexist. Or a bigot. The left has made it easier for conservatives to be quiet than to face the brutality of the slurs they cast around with alacrity.

More than the typical conservatives, though, there are the apolitical Americans who just want to keep their heads down and do their jobs. They are cast as the bad guys, though, if they dare to question liberal policy. Catholic businesspeople who don’t want to violate their religious scruples are called woman-haters. Americans who think we spend too much on social welfare programs are called racists and ignoramuses. No wonder they stay quiet. They just want to take care of their families, not fear for their careers. But the left has made the political personal. So for many Americans, the choice to hold non-leftist ideas means choosing to put themselves and their families in harm’s way.

Where are the biggest liberal bullies found?

The biggest liberal bullies can be found in the nation’s most powerful institutions. Leaving aside President Obama and his thug administration, they’re found in the media, where they claim to be objective reporters of the truth while bludgeoning their opposition; in the universities, where they excise and punish those who disagree with them; in Hollywood, where holding non-leftist positions can be a career-ender; in the non-profit world, where the left targets individuals and businesses, all the while living on the dollars of their special donors. The right thinks individually – we like to convince people on a one-to-one basis. The left thinks institutionally. They want to control Americans on a top-down basis, so they take over the nation’s major informational distributors, then propagandize that their opposition is evil.

Let me challenge you on some of your bullies. You’ve listed NBC anchor Brian Williams as a bully. I mean, he may have a liberal slant, but how exactly is he a bully?

Brian Williams is an excellent example of how the media bullies the right. He claims objectivity, but he’s obviously a leftist. I don’t mind bias – I’m biased. But I don’t lie about it. He sits atop NBC News, then allows his news outlet to slander George Zimmerman as a “white” guy (he’s Hispanic), cut Zimmerman’s 911 tape to make him look racist, and broadcast repeated accusations of a racist cover-up in Sanford, Florida. He questions whether Sarah Palin should have run for vice president not because he questioned her credentials, but because she had a newborn child (imagine if he’d done that to any liberal woman). NBC News is a disaster area, an unholstered weapon for the left. Brian Williams heads it. Meanwhile, he pretends at sitting above the fray. It’s despicable.

You also say George Stephanopoulos is among the top liberal bullies. Again, Stephanopoulos was once a paid democratic operative, but he doesn’t strike me as an imposing bully. Why does he deserve to rank among the biggest liberal bullies?  

Stephanopoulos’ bullying is of the most damaging sort. Like Williams, he claims objectivity. But he’s a leftist operative dedicated to making conservatives appear to be nasty human beings. Remember that infamous January 7, 2012, Republican presidential debate in which Stephanopoulos randomly asked Mitt Romney whether he thought states could ban contraception? There was nobody in the field who had even spoken on the topic of contraception. Ever. Stephanopoulos’ question was a deliberate leftist tactic to make it seem as if Republicans hated women – it led off the war on women. It was no coincidence that on January 20, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced that under Obamacare, religious employers would be forced to provide health care including contraception. Stephanopoulos’ question was a way of framing the debate. That’s what he does from his perch at ABC News, confident that no one will remind the viewing public that he was once – and still is – a Democrat hack.

How should conservatives respond to what you see as liberal bullying?

We need to punch back twice as hard. That means calling out the tactic and those who practice it. Those who don’t want to have a real debate on the issues, and instead want to demagogue their opponents, do not deserve civility. They do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. Their tactics are morally deficient. When President Obama trots out little children to push gun control, implying that those who oppose him do so because they don’t care if kids get shot, that’s bullying, and it’s nasty. It’s illogical. It contributes nothing but vitriol to the debate. It is our obligation to call it out when we see it, and force them to either abandon that tactic and engage in real discussion, or to be excised from the realm of civility altogether.

You have a fascinating background. You started in national conservative commentary at 17 when you got a syndicated column. Since then, you’ve written several books and graduated from UCLA and Harvard Law School. In the last decade, how have your views changed, if at all? Are there any issues on which you’ve become more conservative or liberal on?

I have probably become somewhat more conservative on abortion; like most college students, I didn’t care deeply about the issue when I was at UCLA. Now, I believe the widespread tolerance for abortion to be the greatest moral blind spot of our time, and a blind spot that future generations will condemn us for in the harshest possible terms. The science of child development simply does not support the widespread and nonsensically radical rhetoric from the left about the right to choose up to the date of birth.

I’ve probably moved slightly on immigration; I believe in a pathway to citizenship for those who are already here illegally, but I also believe that a precursor to such a pathway must be closing the border.

What three books most shaped your worldview?

On economics, my early reading of Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson” certainly shaped my views. On America’s value to the world, the wonderful “Four Days in July” by Cornel Lengyel (1963) is a fantastic way to teach children about the incredible perspicacity and vision of the founders (it’s out of print, but should be brought back immediately). Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t cite the Bible, which has had a huge impact on my values, and remains the basis for the Judeo-Christian values underlying American liberalism.

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