April 28, 2014

Keying off news about "tea party" Rep. Michael Grimm's indictment, the Washington Post's Aaron Blake has penned an interesting piece on "the misappropriation of the tea party label."

As Blake notes:

The question during the election, often asked in this newsroom and (we would presume) others, was, in what situation is the tea party label appropriate?

If a candidate is endorsed by a local tea party group, does that make him or her a "tea party candidate?"

Just because someone is challenging an establishment or more well-known candidate, does that make them a "tea party candidate?"

And do reporters wait for a candidate to define themselves as a "tea party candidate," or can we make that judgment on our own based on their public statements and stances?

The answers to these questions were all too often muddled in the hectic runup to the 2010 midterms. In the end, it became pretty easy to apply the label to all kinds of Republicans who didn't necessarily fit the bill. [Washington Post]

Part of the problem, I think, is that the term makes for convenient shorthand for journalists who are looking to write a short headline, or a clickable 140-character tweet. This leads to convenient, if misleading, classifications.

Let's take, for example, the now-infamous case of Todd Akin, whose comments about "legitimate rape" helped ignite the "war on women" narrative, and likely cost the GOP at least one Senate seat in 2012. Some amorphous entity called the tea party was blamed for Akin's comments. But as Slate's Dave Weigel notes,

The 2012 Missouri primary was a three-way race between Akin, businessman John Brunner, and former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman. "Todd Akin is often called a Tea Party candidate," says Tea Party Express strategist Sal Russo, "but we didn't support him in the primary. [Slate]

Headlining a story "Tea party candidate Todd Akin today..." is much sleeker and simpler than adding all sorts of disclaimers and caveats like: "Todd Akin — who some consider a tea party candidate, but [since he's an incumbent congressman] might be more accurately described as an establishment social conservative..." At a certain point, the caveats become absurd.

And so, the term tea party has become a victim of its own success. It sold out; went mainstream. Just as "alternative music" became a meaningless label after 1992 (once alternative music became mainstream music), the tea party label no longer means much of anything — except nominally conservative.

Now if only I could quit using it in my pithy headlines. Matt K. Lewis

10:01 p.m. ET

At a rally in Ohio Thursday night, Donald Trump told supporters his running mate was "pretty close to grave, grave danger" after his airplane skidded off a runway in New York City.

Sources say Trump spoke with Pence not long after the incident at LaGuardia Airport, but he didn't bring up Pence's wellbeing until later in the event. "He's OK," Trump said. "He was in a big accident with a plane. The plane skidded off the runway and was pretty close to grave, grave danger. … He's fine, he got out, everybody's fine, everybody's fine." Pence had a calmer response, tweeting less than an hour after the incident, "So thankful everyone on our plane is safe. Grateful for our first responders and the concern and prayers of so many. Back on the trail tomorrow!"

The Boeing 737 landed in rainy and windy weather at 7:41 p.m. ET, skidding down the runway before stopping at a perimeter fence, the FAA says. Two airport officials told ABC News the plane was stopped from heading onto the adjacent highway by a concrete "arrester bed," which was crushed. None of the 37 people on board were injured. Catherine Garcia

8:32 p.m. ET

While landing in stormy weather Thursday night in New York City, Mike Pence's airplane skidded off the runway at LaGuardia Airport and came to a stop at the perimeter fence.

None of the 37 people on board, including members of Pence's staff, the press, and his wife and daughter, Charlotte, were injured. The Republican vice presidential nominee was flying in from Fort Dodge, Iowa, for a fundraiser at Trump Tower, which has since been canceled. The flight was delayed two hours due to rain in New York, and Vaugh Hillyard of NBC News, who was on the plane, called it a "tough landing. … we felt skidding, and the plane started to swerve to the right. There was some bumping, then the plane stopped." The airport is now closed, and an investigation is underway.

Update 8:58 p.m.: On Twitter, Mike Pence said he is "so thankful everyone on our plane is safe. Grateful for our first responders and the concern and prayers of so many. Back on the trail tomorrow!" Catherine Garcia

8:06 p.m. ET
Handout/Getty Images

A jury on Thursday found brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy, the leaders of an armed group who took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for nearly six weeks earlier this year, and five others not guilty of conspiracy to impede federal workers from their jobs.

Additionally, several of the defendants were charged with possessing a firearm at a federal facility, and they were also acquitted on that count. The standoff began on Jan 2., with the participants claiming it was to protest two local ranchers being sentenced to five years in prison for two counts of arson on federal land. The Bundy brothers still face charges in Nevada, where in 2014 they engaged in another standoff, this time with federal agents who attempted to take their father's cattle after they grazed on public land for years without a permit. Catherine Garcia

7:23 p.m. ET
Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin shrugged off accusations that his country is meddling in the U.S. election, asking, "Does anyone really think that Russia can influence the choice of the American people in any way?"

"Is America some sort of banana republic? America is a great power. Please correct me if I'm wrong," Putin said during remarks at the Valdai Club, a gathering of world policy experts. Despite Putin denying Russia's involvement in the email hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that the Obama administration is certain the country is behind it.

While Putin would not say if he would prefer to see Clinton or Donald Trump in the White House, he had good things to say about the Republican nominee's strategy. "Trump has chosen his own way of reaching the hearts of voters," he said. "He is acting extravagantly, but not so pointlessly. He represents the interests of the part of the society tired of the elites that have held power for decades. He is representing the common people, and he is acting like a common guy himself." Catherine Garcia

6:40 p.m. ET

The EU's 2016 Sakharov Prize for human rights has been awarded to Nadia Murad and Lamiya Aji Bashar, two Yazidi women who escaped sexual slavery by the Islamic State.

The award is named after Andrei Sakharov, a Soviet dissident, and bestowed upon those who defend human rights. In December, Murad shared with the U.N. Security Council the terror she experienced, along with other Yazidi women and girls, when they were abducted in August 2014 after Sinjar, Iraq, fell to ISIS militants. She was raped repeatedly, and fled after three months. Bashar attempted to escape from ISIS four times, and was successful this March. With ISIS fighters following her, she was scarred and blinded in her right eye when a land mine exploded; the two people she was traveling with both died. ISIS views the Yazidi minority as being heretical, and hundreds of Yazidi women and girls who were kidnapped by ISIS are still in captivity in Syria and Iraq.

Murad and Bashar are "inspirational women who have shown incredible bravery and humanity in the face of despicable brutality," Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the European Parliament's ALDE group, said Thursday. Parliamentarian Beatriz Becerra Basterrechea said the women have fought "throughout their life. Both have impressively overcome the brutal sexual slavery that they were exposed to by jihadist terrorists and become an example for all of us." Catherine Garcia

5:48 p.m. ET
Darren McCollester/Getty Images

A 12th woman has come forward to accuse Republican nominee Donald Trump of sexual misconduct. Former Miss Finland Ninni Laaksonen, now 30, told Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat in an interview published Thursday that Trump grabbed her before an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman in July of 2006.

"Before the show, we were photographed outside the building. Trump stood right next to me and suddenly he squeezed my butt. He really grabbed my butt," Laaksonen said. "I don’t think anybody saw it, but I flinched and thought: 'What is happening?'"

Laaksonen noted someone had told her at another event that year Trump liked her "because I looked like Melania [Trump] when she was younger." Trump married his third wife just one year prior to the alleged incident.

Laaksonen made the allegations after being contacted by Ilta-Sanomat, as part of an effort by the paper to interview Finnish women who have met Trump. She had never before discussed her experience. Trump has not yet responded to Laaksonen's allegations, though he has steadfastly denied those of the other 11 women who have come forward in recent weeks. Becca Stanek

5:13 p.m. ET

On Thursday, President Obama set the record for the most commutations ever granted by a president in a single year by shortening the sentences of another 98 prisoners. That brings Obama's total for 2016 up to 688 commutations; throughout his entire presidency, Obama has commuted 872 sentences as he pushes for reforms to the criminal justice system.

"While there has been much attention paid to the number of commutations issued by the president, at the core, we must remember that there are personal stories behind these numbers," White House counsel Neil Eggleston wrote on the White House website Thursday afternoon. "These are individuals — many of whom made mistakes at a young age — who have diligently worked to rehabilitate themselves while incarcerated."

All of the prisoners whose sentences were commuted Thursday were serving time for non-violent, drug-related offenses; 42 of the 98 were facing life sentences. Some of the prisoners will not be released until 2018, and others will have to enter residential drug treatment programs after they are released. Becca Stanek

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