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The Curious Case of Local Media and Sean Casten

By Kathleen Murphy

This is Breakthrough Ideas “Lighting Up the Media”

I’m Kathleen Murphy and this is the curious case of the Media and Congressman Sean Casten.

The Boston Globe recently reported that Casten made “a post office in a small Mississippi city the latest battleground between Republicans and Democrats.” A post office.

According to the Globe, “Sean Casten of Illinois, a Democrat, refused to allow Representative Trent Kelly, a Mississippi Republican who objected to the election results, to rename the post office through the usual, streamlined procedure for such uncontroversial bills on Tuesday night, saying he was unwilling to work with someone who did not support “democracy.”

“Instead, Casten forced a roll call vote — the first time the full House had to vote on a post office renaming that anyone could remember.”

Couple of things you need to know about this:

First, for Sean Casten this has nothing to do with Democracy. It is NOT the result of the Capitol Riots or Republican objections to election results. This is who Sean Casten is. He’s a bitter partisan who’s been aggressively divisive since before he ever took office.

As far back as August of 2017, before we had the results of the Mueller Investigation, candidate Sean Casten was pushing for impeachment.

In December of 2017, he called the GOP the “pedophile party.”

He took office in January of 2019.

The other thing that you should know is that the media in Chicago and its suburbs- our watch dogs - make sure the concerns about Casten’s character are rarely ever mentioned to his constituents.

I know this because I was the Communication Director on his opponent’s race in 2020. I spent 18 months trying to get local media to pay attention to his tweets, rants and general toxicity. I can count on one hand, the reporters and outlets who showed any interest in the fact that the suburbs of Chicago were home to one of the most toxic and divisive Congressmen in the nation.

I know Illinois’ not great, but listen, some of us have to live here, so let me run you through the press releases one more time in the hope IL-6 can be saved:

In June of 2019 - Sean Casten told MSNBC that “What the voters think should not matter.” No pushback. No requests for clarification. I mean, he’s only making decisions on your life… what’s the big deal?

In September of 2019, he publicly hyped the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh over sketchy sexual harassment allegations.

But later, endorsed Joe Biden - who was facing his own allegations of sexual assault. Not one reporter asked him to square that particular circle.

October 2019: Casten called Navy Seal and Congressman Dan Crenshaw a racist over a policy disagreement. Media says nothing.

January 2020: He told a suburban audience that, “Because we are still a nation where the majority voted for Hillary Clinton, we are still a nation of good people.”

On March 27, rather than buckling down with leaders in Congress to work on combating the coronavirus, Casten unleashed a lengthy Twitter rant blaming everyone from the President to Big Tech to the Koch Brothers to people who use social media for making the COVID Crisis worse.

No concerns about that.

On April 4, He said Trump supporters were “betting against the country.”

In the same weekend his foot-soldiers at Indivisible DuPage called Republicans “killers.”

Media said nothing.

On April 15, on a call with constituents, he compared his Republican colleagues in the House to Nazi Sympathizers. Must only be newsworthy when conservatives, like Gina Carano, do it.

On the same call, he bragged about using his Twitter account to cyberbully his GOP colleagues. Cyberbullying is a Class 4 felony in Illinois. But why start asking questions now?

Over the summer, he refused to call for calm amid the riots, condemn the looting that took place in his own district, or disavow the Defund the Police movement. And the media never pushed him on it.

On June 18, Sean Casten told constituents “the first places to fall are the places white,wealthy people move away from.” Seems racist, but no questions were asked.

On August 20, he used a graphic image of Cardi B to make a policy point.

Can you imagine if a Republican Congressman used a picture of a woman in fishnets and leather to discuss policy?

On August 21, He mocked Senator Marco Rubio for tweeting a Bible verse.

Religious bigotry: not newsworthy when Democrats do it.

He politicized the deaths of both Herman Cain…

… and Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Media said nothing.

On a call with college-students Casten discussed his own college drug-use, and said about legal gun-owners: “having small genitals is not a sufficient reason to own a gun.

That got the attention of a conservative radio host and NATIONAL media outlets reported the story. Local media was concerned that Casten’s aides had to answer angry phone calls from NRA members.

Then in September, a video of Sean Casten calling Republicans racists and looney in a RAP surfaced. I went to a contact at a national publication and gave him the exclusive. And it was a national story.

It’s really embarrassing that the - by and large - reasonable people of IL-6 have a representative like this DC. And he’s doing embarrassing things like holding up a pro-forma vote on renaming a post office to make divisive political statements.

Whoever Sean Casten’s next opponent is will need to understand the dynamic with the media in IL6. Because they won’t just take on his campaign. They will have to work over, under, around and through the Chicago Press Corp and their Suburban counterparts - who have demonstrated their willingness to protect Sean Casten, even at the expense of their own credibility.


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