CBS parent company Viacom's stock has plummeted more than 50 percent in the past week, perhaps due to the underwhelming quality of its journalism.
Wesley Lowery, the former Washington Post employee best known for spending several minutes in jail after getting arrested in a McDonald's, conducted the interviews for the piece. The controversial journalist was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2016. Since leaving the Post in 2020, Lowery has become a prominent critic of objectivity in journalism, as well as an author who specializes in writing in the first person.
Lowery introduces Boudin as being "among a wave of progressive prosecutors who have been elected across the nation who are trying to turn protest into policy" by cracking down on law enforcement. Unlike most district attorneys, Lowery notes, Boudin's own life has been "directly touched by incarceration."
That's because Boudin's parents were members of the militant left-wing Weather Underground—an "activist group," as Lowery describes it; a terrorist group, according to the FBI—and were sent to prison for taking part in a 1981 armed robbery that left two police officers and a security guard dead and several others severely wounded. For all intents and purposes, Boudin is presented as someone who is intimately familiar with the unfairness of the American justice system.
Boudin's mother, Kathy Boudin, was released on parole in 2003 and is the co-director of the Center for Justice at Columbia University. His father, David Gilbert, is still serving a 75-year minimum sentence at a maximum security prison in New York. After his parents were incarcerated, Boudin was raised by Bill Ayers, the Weather Underground leader best known for his association with former president Barack Obama.
Other aspects of Boudin's radical ideology are left unmentioned, such as his fondness for left-wing authoritarianism. He has worked as a translator for Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez, for example, and even praised the dictator's controversial campaign to abolish term limits. Boudin's grandfather worked as an attorney for Fidel Castro.
Since Boudin's election in 2019, Lowery reports, "crime remains a potent wedge issue" in San Francisco, mostly due to the fact that the city's crime problem is out of control. Walgreens has closed multiple stores in San Francisco due to rampant shoplifting. Boudin's efforts to decrease the prison population, whether by releasing inmates early or by showing leniency to repeat offenders, have been criticized by police officers and city residents alike.
In the past year, several people have been killed by repeat offenders who might have otherwise been in prison for past criminal acts had they not received lenient treatment by Boudin's office. Earlier this month, the San Francisco Department of Elections approved a recall campaign against Boudin that will trigger a special election if enough signatures are collected by August.
The CBS segment pits Boudin—white, privileged, educated at Oxford and Yale—against his critics in the police department, including the Hispanic union president and the black chief of police. "The city saw an uptick in homicide and significant spikes in arson auto theft and burglaries last year," Lowery explains, adding that "some have been quick to blame [the increase] on Boudin's efforts to keep people out of jail."
Indeed they have. Some have even gone so far as to seize on the controversy. The organizers of the campaign to recall Boudin, for example, immediately slammed his appearance on 60 Minutes, suggesting it was a desperate attempt to spin the narrative surrounding his controversial tenure. Boudin's appearance was "a slap to the face of every one of San Francisco's victims of crime," the organizers said, and was "clearly and solely in response to his deeply unpopular stance among our city's residents."