Tennessee Republicans Push Fake News Bill Targeting Post, CNN

(CN) – A resolution condemning the Washington Post and CNN as fake news for allegedly saying support for President Donald Trump is cult-like passed a Tennessee General Assembly subcommittee on Tuesday.

When introducing his resolution, Representative James “Micah” Van Huss, a Republican representing a section of rural Appalachia in eastern Tennessee, said the measure would recognize the two news organizations as “part of the media wing of the Democrat Party.” While speaking, Van Huss wore a miniature AR-15-style rifle pinned to his lapel.

The Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville. (Photo via Kaldari/Wikipedia)

“In 2016, over 60% of Tennesseans voted for President Trump,” Van Huss said. “My constituents are tired of these elitists in the media denigrating them and they’re tired of fake news and they’re tired of Republicans that don’t fight.”

The nonbinding resolution, considered by the House Constitutional Protections and Sentencing Subcommittee, passed onto the full House Judiciary Committee with the support of four lawmakers. One voted against the resolution and two abstained.

The issue started Oct. 3, 2019, when an editor for the Washington Post allegedly said that “President Donald J. Trump has cast a spell on the Republican Party,” according to the bill.

While the bill did not name the article in question, Washington Post senior editor Marc Fisher reviewed the book “The Cult of Trump” by Steven Hassan and the piece was published Oct. 3.

Hassan, a cult deprogrammer, was a former member of Korean religious leader Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, which has been criticized as a dangerous cult.

According to the bill, an unnamed CNN host also suggested on Nov. 24, 2019, that “Trump supporters belong to a cult and that our president is using mind control.”

Representative Martin Daniel, a Republican representing an area around Knoxville, said it wasn’t the Legislature’s purview to praise or condemn any specific media outlet.

“I think it’s a good conversation to have anytime, over a beverage, but I think I’m going to respectfully abstain from voting on this,” he said during the subcommittee meeting.

Meanwhile, Bo Mitchell, a Democrat lawmaker from Nashville, said the First Amendment gives lawmakers the right to pray before meetings and critique news companies. But he was “shocked” a veteran like Van Huss, who has represented House District 6 since 2013, would use his office to push the fake news resolution.

“It’s not our role in our position to use time and money in our positions to push our political agenda onto people,” Mitchell said. “I think that was tried in the Soviet Union.”

Representative Bruce Griffey, a Republican representing rural Paris, said while he thinks Tennessee is home to some good journalists, it is apparent after a brief viewing of networks such as MSNBC or CNN what their view is of people who support Trump.

“I think this is important for us to send a signal,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Washington Post said the paper did not have “anything to share” in response to the resolution.

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