ABC's Banfield on CNN: 'I'm Not Going to Cast Aspersions' on Rosen

On Wednesday's AC360 on CNN, ABC's Ashleigh Banfield punted on Nir Rosen's offensive Tweets against CBS's Lara Logan and tried to explain them away: "We're using a lot of electronics to get information out as fast as we can nowadays before we can really digest the ramifications of what we say...And so, I'm certainly not going to cast aspersions on Mr. Rosen. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

Anchor Anderson Cooper turned to Banfield and's Joan Walsh immediately after playing his taped interview with Rosen during the 10 pm Eastern hour. Cooper first asked Walsh for her take on the controversy, and she promptly criticized the disgraced journalist: "I thought it was horrible, Anderson, and I assumed that he was making light of a sexual assault...So, I'm not going to call him a liar. Only he knows what he knew. But it was incredibly insensitive, and even...aside from the sexual assault aspect, to be mocking someone that you don't like who has been injured and mistreated, I would rather think that we don't have those responses...Maybe that's naive of me."

The CNN anchor then asked his ABC colleague, "When you heard his Tweets, what did you think?" Banfield made her wishy-washy answer:

BANFIELD: Well, I think my first impression was that it was horrifying, but I, you know, wanted to withhold judgment until I knew the whole story, and I certainly think, Anderson, you and I and everybody else in this business, we're using a lot of electronics to get information out as fast as we can nowadays before we can really digest the ramifications of what we say, and also, perhaps the background to which we're referring. And so, I'm certainly not going to cast aspersions on Mr. Rosen. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. But, you know, I hope that, for his sake, he's certainly going to make amends and think before he Tweets next time.

She clearly wanted to give Rosen the benefit of the doubt, something that she was unwilling to do during a May 4, 2000 interview with Dr. Laura Schlessinger on MSNBC:

BANFIELD: I'm going over a shopping list of things you are against: divorce, living together, working moms, premarital sex, lying, immoral behavior, homosexuality, family differences and day care. Now I'm going to go over the list of some of the rules that you've broken in your lifetime. You have been divorced. You lived with your current husband before you married him, Lou Bishop. You also posed nude for photographs and then lied about the photographs at first and then claimed the rights to those photographs. You fired your own mother when she worked for you and you have not spoken with her for fourteen years and you also put [son] Derek into day care when he was three years old. You're also a working mom. I guess I just have to ask you what leg do you have to stand on to talk about suggestions for people and the way they live?

On the other hand, Walsh again lashed out at Rosen later in the segment for his insensitivity towards Logan: "Even as he talks to you, his final self-defense, which is- well, it's terrible that it happened to her, but what happens to a white celebrity reporter is now going to obscure what happens to Egyptian women and non-celebrities- I think that's pretty poor, too. I think that it's our job to care about injustice and mistreatment wherever it happens....Just because she's white and just because she is a celebrity is really no reason to lose compassion."

The editor-in-chief also tried to draw in right-of-center figures who also wrote negative things about Logan:

WALSH: If I can also just jump in and say, though, there are a lot of people on the right who are not getting half the attention of Nir Rosen who have said some pretty despicable things and are sticking by them. There's a whole wave of people on the blogosphere- Gateway Pundit and Debbie Schlussel- who are basically blaming Lara Logan for her- for what happened to her because she dared to go report on Islam, rather than treating it as this sexist, brutal religion, and I would like to see those people come in for a little bit of criticism and examination, too. It's not just what Nir said on Twitter.

Near the end of the segment, Cooper asked Banfield one more question: "What do you think the response to all of them, you know, all these kind of different comments that have been made online- what do you think it says about the way people...view reporters or female reporters, or, you know, sexual assault on women?"

The ABC correspondent's answer was revealing:

BANFIELD: ...I'm trying to get in the head of Mr. Rosen here, but I can tell you this: from my experience covering rallies, demonstrations and crowds in the Middle East and predominantly Muslim countries, it's always men. There are no women around. It is whipped into a frenzy within seconds, and the TV cameras kind of fuel the fire. So, add a blonde woman to the mix, and, good God, it's troublesome, and I really, honestly, can't say that I don't know a lot of my female colleagues who have been war correspondents who haven't had something happen. I've had stuff happen. It's disgusting. But we have just become complacent to it because we love what we do and it's part of the deal, just like you got knocked in the head. You're not going to stop doing it. It was unpleasant, but you know that it can happen, and we sort of think it can happen, too, and I think probably Mr. Rosen has heard it happens a lot, too. So, perhaps, he was thinking it was just one more of these episodes that we really don't talk about. I don't- I never reported that stuff from the Middle East.

Even after trying to draw anti-Logan statements from the right into the discussion, Walsh criticized uncompassionate statements from the left:

COOPER: Joan, do you think this says something about where we are as a society, in terms of how people are reacting to this?

WALSH: You know, it worries me a little bit, Anderson. I think that there's just an immediate going to the barricades when something bad happens to another fellow human being. I happened to be on Twitter the night that Rush Limbaugh was rushed to the hospital, and there was kind of a debate, you know among people who criticize his politics, and I was on the side- I was raised to say a prayer when you heard an ambulance go by- in New York, you did a lot of praying. But, you know, I think that we have lost that sense of compassion for one another, and if- on the left or the right- that your first reaction to the hardship of somebody you don't like is to say- oh, well, you know, they brought it on themselves, or to make jokes about it- it's disturbing.

- Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.