CNN’s Double-Standards on Debates

For decades, mainstream U.S. news outlets have bent over backwards to appease conservatives and avoid the stigma “liberal media,” but there has been no similar accommodation for progressives, as Jeff Cohen notes about CNN’s handling of the upcoming Democratic debate.

By Jeff Cohen

At the CNN-sponsored Republican Party debate last month at the Reagan presidential library, one of the three panelists CNN selected to question the candidates was conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, affiliated with the proudly right-wing Salem Radio Network. But at Tuesday’s upcoming Democratic Party debate, CNN is not planning to include a single progressive advocate among its panel of four questioners.

It’s clear that who gets to pose questions has impact on the tenor of the debate. For example, Hewitt used September’s Republican debate to declare that President Obama’s “knees buckled” over Syria and that every Republican candidate was “more qualified than” Hillary Clinton. Hewitt pressed Jeb Bush from the right over his comment about making sure guns are not in the hands of the mentally ill: “Where does it go from what you said last week, how far into people’s lives to take guns away from them?”

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Along with Hewitt, the panel at CNN’s GOP debate was composed of two journalists CNN presents as neutral or objective: CNN anchor Jake Tapper and CNN correspondent Dana Bash. (Hewitt’s appearance was reportedly part of an agreement by which CNN and the right-wing Salem Media company are teaming up on three GOP presidential debates.)

At CNN’s upcoming Democratic debate, the panel is to be composed of four journalists CNN presents as neutral: CNN’s Bash and three CNN anchors (Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon, and Juan Carlos Lopez of CNN en Espanol.) Glaringly missing from this proposed lineup is an unabashed progressive advocate.

There are many qualified journalists for this seat — from respected progressive media institutions that haven’t taken sides in the Democratic primaries (like The Nation or Mother Jones, to name just two).

Today, the online activism group RootsAction.org (which I cofounded) launched a one-sentence petition to CNN: “For the sake of basic fairness and balance, you should add to your panel an unapologetic progressive for Tuesday’s debate.”

Jeff Cohen is cofounder of RootsAction.org, founder of the media watch group FAIR, and director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College.

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13 comments for “CNN’s Double-Standards on Debates

  1. Stygg
    October 9, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    There’s nothing “liberal” or “progressive” about the Democratic Party except the window dressing anyway.

  2. Abbybwood
    October 9, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    I would like to see Glenn Greenwald or Edward Snowden (via Skype of course) be allowed to ask some serious foreign policy questions.

    Cause there will NEVER be any from CNN that don’t paint poor Putin with the evil Hitler brush.

    Would love to hear some serious questions regarding why Israel and Saudi Arabia are still considered to be allies.

    If two countries ever deserved sanctions it would be those!

    • Teejay
      October 12, 2015 at 5:33 pm

      Ed Snowden posing questions to Hillary Clinton, priceless.

  3. undecided
    October 9, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    CNN is telling me if I’m not LGBT or Latino I don’t matter.

  4. Ray McGovern
    October 9, 2015 at 11:13 pm

    Don Lemon! A fair and balanced person if there ever was none. See how he nailed me!

    Is Julian Assange a Journalist? Wattayou Crazy?
    CNN Invites Ray to provide “balance,” after showing a segment of “Bonnie & Clyde” (5 min.)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVxkzRv-Zew

    Thanks Norm. Is this a great country or what!

    Ray

    • Joe Tedesky
      October 10, 2015 at 2:44 am

      I thought you did a fine job, in your CNN interview. In fact, you may have given CNN a real ‘Breaking News Story’, when you brought up the Afghanistan pedophilia goings on inside our U.S. Military bases. Thanks, Ray. You are what I call a real American Patriot. I don’t mean to embarrass you, but you do deserve a lot of praise. (Are you listening David Petraeus?)

      http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/10/09/the-use-and-abuse-of-culture-and-children-the-human-terrain-systems-rationalization-of-pedophilia-in-afghanistan/

    • Ray McGovern
      October 10, 2015 at 9:30 am

      Thanks again, Norm. You write:

      “But at Tuesday’s upcoming Democratic Party debate, CNN is not planning to include a single progressive advocate among its panel of four questioners. … the panel is to be composed of four journalists CNN presents as neutral: CNN’s Bash and three CNN anchors (Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon, and Juan Carlos Lopez of CNN en Espanol.) Glaringly missing from this proposed lineup is an unabashed progressive advocate.”

      I just remembered that I have had personal experience with Anderson Cooper, as well as with Don Lemon (the Lemon-Link is in my earlier comment above). Immediately after the impromptu 4-minute televised debate I had with then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on May 4, 2006 in Atlanta, Cooper called me on my cell phone, indicated he’d like to invite me onto his show that evening and added, in an awkwardly halting way, that first he needed to ask me an informal question: “Weren’t you afraid?” he asked. (I’ll let that speak for itself.)

      In contrast, Keith Olbermann was not afraid that evening; and for that — and no doubt other — violations of “mainstream media” etiquette, Olbermann was replaced.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1FTmuhynaw

      As for Dana Bash and her colleague Wolf Blitzer, I often dust off a very revealing one-minute CNN interview of a supporter of Ron Paul right after he did well in Iowa. I have found it a really good way to show college students and others what the Fawning Corporate Media — to include technical “glitches,” when needed — have become.

      U.S. Afghan Vet Blitzered and Bashed for Cause (1 minute)
      (The 9/11 tattoo led them to think he was a safe pick.)
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7yTCPDgDgo&NR=1&feature=endscreen

      Lastly, I am shocked, simply shocked, that there is no one among the hand-picked CNN journalists who might ask sensible questions about Iranian or Palestinian interests. :))

      Ray

  5. ex-PFC Chuck
    October 10, 2015 at 8:09 am

    Jeff, you should have also mentioned the fact that the announced candidate Larry Lessig was not invited although Joe Biden, who has not announced his candidacy, was. I don’t know if Biden is participating however.
    Lessig is the only candidate who has a concrete plan to make elections in the USA mean something again. Check him out.
    https://lessig2016.us/
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Lessig

    • Ray McGovern
      October 10, 2015 at 12:47 pm

      sorry; I meant Thanks, Jeff, not Norm. But BOTH do great work. ray

  6. Michael
    October 12, 2015 at 12:00 am

    They could use a Thom Hartmann or Rachel Maddow or Cenk Uygur or Amy Goodman on the moderation panel (or someone from Mother Jones or The Nation, as suggested above), but somehow it doesn’t seem likely. The entire mainstream establishment, both in government and media, seems deathly afraid of actual Progessive ideas.

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    October 16, 2015 at 2:54 am

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