CNN's Yellin Cites Her Own Liberal Harvard Days in Defense of Kagan

On Tuesday's Rick's List, CNN's Jessica Yellin harkened back to her college days at Harvard as she defended Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan against charges by conservatives that she is anti-military: "When I was at Harvard, a full decade before she was dean of the law school, there was already institutional opposition to 'don't ask, don't tell' steeps the whole university." Yellin, actually, was a key left-wing student agitator during her time at the university, as revealed in several interviews with The Crimson, the student newspaper at Harvard. She was labeled a "prominent feminist activist in her own right" in a June 10, 1993 profile of Sheila Allen, her first-year roommate and self-proclaimed "dyke of the Class of '93." The then-student certainly earned this label, as she helped resurrect Harvard-Radcliffe Students for Choice after a "relatively inactive period," was a women's studies major, and, in an April 10, 1992 interview, bemoaned how Harvard was apparently opposed to her feminist agenda: "For people interested in women's issues or gender studies, this is an overtly hostile environment."

In a May 1, 1992 article, Yellin expressed how the acquittal of the four police officers involved in the controversial Rodney King arrest was "the most blatant evidence of the indelible racism... in this country."

Anchor Rick Sanchez brought on the correspondent just after the top of the 4 pm Eastern hour as the nominee continued her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committe. Sanchez first referenced how Senator Jeff Sessions was "grilling Kagan about banning military recruiters from an on-campus recruiting facility when she was Harvard Law dean." He then asked the correspondent, "Is it fair, based, Jessica, on what happened at Harvard, to charge, as Sessions seems to be saying- or alluding to or suggesting- that Elena Kagan has a bias against the military?"

Yellin defended Kagan from the very beginning and immediately cited her time at the Ivy League school:

YELLIN: I think that's apples and oranges, Rick, because, when I was at Harvard, a full decade before she was dean of the law school, there was already institutional opposition to 'don't ask, don't tell.' It was alive and well. So, beginning in 1979, when Harvard instituted this no-discrimination policy, there were people in ROTC- the Reserve Officers Training Corps- who could not train and drill on campus because, initially- a holdover from Vietnam- it continued because of 'don't ask, don't tell.' That was a decade before she was there.

Then, when General Colin Powell was invited to speak at graduation in 1993, there were massive protests over 'don't ask, don't tell.' I can't emphasize enough how this- it steeps the whole university. She was continuing with prevailing beliefs on campus, and this whole debate feels very out of context for someone who was at Harvard, because- to suggest this didn't predate her- saying that's a left-wing talking point is like arguing that reality is a left-wing talking point.

The correspondent does have a personal memory of the 1993 commencement, as she graduated from Harvard that year. The Clinton administration had introduced the "don't ask, don't tell" policy just months earlier, shortly after coming to office.

Later, the CNN correspondent excused Kagan's open opposition to military recruiters on the Harvard Law campus as merely a manifestation of the left-wing environment at most "elite" institutions of higher learning:

SANCHEZ: She was there in 2003.


SANCHEZ: Isn't this about the same time, though, that there was a lot of questions? Michael Moore had this movie that came out about that time [Fahrenheit 9/11], as I recall, where a big part of his movie was questioning whether recruiters had a right to go out there and get people to join the military, and that they were, maybe, not being all that honest with them. I mean, if you put it in the context of that time frame, there were a lot of questions being raised about recruiting by the left.

YELLIN: There have been since the Vietnam era, when some of these organizations were kicked off of these elite campuses then. I mean, there are a number of colleges that have resisted allowing military recruitment. But that's hardly unique to Elena Kagan or to Harvard. It might be- you know, some on the right have argued that that's the culture of elite universities, that are- you know, anti-military in some way. I don't buy that. I think that there's a tension there, but this is- the fundamental point here is that it's in no way special to her, and there were 24 faculties that joined in the lawsuit against this policy of requiring these military recruiters. Hers wasn't even one of them. So she wasn't even leading the charge on this.

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