There is zero excuse for the way Kasie Hunt and Jon Berman treated Louisiana Senate candidate Gary Chambers Jr. this morning before, during, and after his interview on CNN's New Day.
On Tuesday, Chambers took the internet by storm with his powerful 37-second commercial highlighting the real statistics of people being arrested and jailed for possessing marijuana.
On Wednesday, he'd nabbed this interview on CNN's New Day, and instead of paying attention to the deep wealth of knowledge and poignant advocacy on behalf of his fellow Louisiana citizens and their welfare, Hunt and Berman couldn't stop making jokes about pot. They ran his above ad, which is a clear indictment of marijuana laws and the havoc they wreak on people in poor communities, people in Black and brown communities, because of the criminal records they create and the incarceration that disproportionately affects People of Color.
Hunt asked him what he wanted people to take away from the ad, and he said as much.
"I hope people take away the glaring statistics in recognizing where Louisiana and the country are as it relates to this," he began. "Louisiana is the second most incarcerated place in the world. And so if we're going to have a conversation and talk about what needs to change, I think we need to talk about the lack of opportunity, and a part of that lack of opportunity comes as a result of the policies that we have on drugs in this country."
He talked insightfully about why John Kennedy is absolutely not fit to represent the people of Louisiana because Kennedy does not prioritize them. The state ranks at the bottom in all the categories that matter (infrastructure, education, crime, opportunity) and Kennedy voted against the infrastructure bill and doesn't support Build Back Better.
"Having a U.S. Senator who doesn't prioritize the people of Louisiana, doesn't prioritize working people, would rather spend time on Fox news making quips whether we taste like chicken to a bear, those are not things that bring value to the voters of Louisiana, or this country," Chambers said, bringing the receipts. "We need leadership that is going to talk about health care, that's going to talk about education, the child tax credit, how do we advance this democracy, protect the right to vote for every American citizen in this country, instead of being an obstructionist to the process of democracy. That's what we have in the U.S. Senator that represents Louisiana. And I think we can do better."
Then Hunt wanted to talk about crime, and tried to tie marijuana to rising crime rates around the country, asking if Americans "are prepared or interested" in easing penalties for, or even legalizing marijuana. The answer Chambers gave included everything from statistics on crime rates, priorities for policing, comparisons to other states, to the abject racism in the application of the current marijuana laws.
"I absolutely think Americans want to move on this issue," he asserted, before dropping the hard, cold fact: "Cannabis is not a contributor to crime."
Here come the receipts:
"Louisiana ranks 50th in crime, and we have had record-breaking homicides, car thefts, vandalism, right? We want our police officers focused on solving those crimes, not chasing people who smoke a joint, right? As a matter of fact, states who do better in crime than we do have legalization fully in their state. And so, when we look at this, it is a myth," Chambers insisted.
Then, addressing the serious issue of racism, he said, "It is something that has been a dog whistle to certain groups of people in order to to criminalize certain groups of people. But the data says that white people and Black people smoke cannibis at the same rate, yet Black people are jailed for it at an alarming rate, four times more than white people are. So I don't think it benefits us to have this archaic policy still in place," he insisted.
He laid waste to the GOP talking point that Democrats want to defund the police, saying, "What we need is policies that give our police officers opportunities to actually address the causes of crime that are scaring our communities, right, the violent crime. I don't want my cop chasing somebody with a joint, because California, Virginia, Colorado, Illinois, 19 states now, I believe it is, that have legalized recreational marijuana while Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, all these Southern states that are also in the bottom 10 of every major category in the country, these people are still jailing people or giving people citations for cannabis. It's stupid, period."
Damn. A serious journalist, or at least someone who had a mind to treat this man with any respect for the things he was saying, and the urgency and clarity with which he said it might have punctuated the interview with any of those angles.
Did either Hunt or Berman do that? You already know. In fact, you knew from the smirk planted on Hunt's face for nearly the entire interview. It's like she just couldn't wait for him to be done, so she could make her stupid pot pun.
"All right. Gary Chambers, perhaps a high point for your campaign. Thanks for joining us. Wah, wah." said Hunt.
Get it? High point? Har.
Berman went right along with it, admitting they were being frikkin' middle-schoolers, but keeping it gross anyway.
"I know we're supposed to be more mature than this, but I'm curious what happens in the debate between Gary Chambers and John Kennedy....Challenge Senator Kennedy to partake. I'm just saying," said Berman. How much more disrespectful could they have been?
In the meantime, every Democrat should model their ads after Chambers' because it is a winning issue. It is a vote-getter for Democrats for sure, and this ad should be a template for us. Journalists mock him at their ignorant peril, because he will bring people to the polls, and Kennedy needs to hold on to his wattles. He's in for a ride.