CNN is President Trump’s favorite punching bag. In fact, it’s the Right’s favorite punching bag. The network has tried to position itself as a middle of the road network that has panels of rabid advocates ripping each other apart for ratings. The network is also on an insufferable self-righteous track with their “fact first’ campaign, which seems to omit that they couldn’t accurately report on the president feeding coy fish with the Japanese prime minister and how they botched email dates in their story about Donald Trump, Jr. Wikileaks emails. In that story, which was a total fiasco for CNN, the network reported that the Trump camp got a decryption key from a donor that accesses troves of documents from the DNC and John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, before they were publicly released. CNN said that this email was sent on September 4, 2016. It was actually sent on September 14. The Wikileaks dump dropped on September 13. Then, there was the Russia nonsense, with the network noting that Attorney General Jeff Session didn’t disclose his contacts with the Russians when he was a U.S. Senator. These meetings with foreign officials weren’t required to be disclosed, which they included in their original report last May. Yet, obviously they didn’t believe this was true until last December when they finally said that the FBI told Sessions that meetings with foreign officials in his capacity as a sitting Senator weren’t required to be disclosed. Oh, and the non-bombshell that Trump was the first president since Bush 41 to not take questions from the press on his first visit; Obama did the same thing.
Yeah, the network talks about apples being apples and not bananas, but they’re certainly slipping on a lot of peels. It’s getting embarrassing. As for the fake news label, well, you can see how it could stick. In a recent podcast with National Review’s Jamie Weinstein, CNN’s Don Lemon said that the network does (sort of) peddle fake news, albeit not from him and not intentionally. He says that the pro-Trump commentators that go on air tell him off air that they don’t believe a single word they’re saying.
“Do they ever admit to you afterwards that they didn’t believe it” asked Weinstein.
“I won’t give names, but absolutely,” replied Lemon. “Yeah, of course, they do.” Lemon added that the way these commentators justify saying what they’re saying is that they fill the role of the Rust Belt Trump voter who does not have a voice and try to articulate what these voters might think of the certain situation.
Weinstein adds that this makes them dishonest commentators.
This is 100% true. I’ve witnessed this first hand. Many are more concerned about “good TV” or favor with Trump than what’s right. It’s infuriating. https://t.co/Jn1d8WyyKz— Tara Setmayer (@TaraSetmayer) April 17, 2018
“Yeah, that’s something that they have to deal with,” replied Lemon. Well, as these pro-Trump commentators who apparently don’t actually believe what they say deal with this conundrum, the network as a whole has to deal with it as well, along with their static third place finish in the ratings. Still, it would see the network--with its vast resources--should double down to find Trump commentators who--you know--actually support the president instead of putting on this type of sideshow. They're the most trusted name in news, remember? Granted, the website gets a ton of traffic, the revenue is strong, but the model is getting stale (via Hollywood Reporter):
Despite its down-the-middle news brand, the network trails rivals Fox News and MSNBC in viewers and weathers daily attacks from the White House as critics bemoan a "clash model" of staging partisan debates that's now "outmoded."
The panel went from tense to overheated. During a debate held by anchor Don Lemon on Feb. 6, CNN contributor and former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli told his colleague, Republican strategist Ana Navarro, that he was "sick and tired of listening to your shrill voice in my ears." Lemon, looking defeated, pleaded four times to his arguing panelists, "One at a time, please." The exchange wasn't the only time that Cuccinelli, representing a pro-Trump perspective, got into hot water for on-air remarks. On Aug. 14, during a panel about clashes in Charlottesville, Va., he told liberal contributor Symone Sanders to "just shut up for a minute."
These blow-ups, while uncomfortable to watch for some viewers, are increasingly part of the CNN brand. The network has seen its star rise during the first 15 months of Donald Trump's presidency, but it has largely adhered to the same formula that brought it big ratings, big profits (to the tune of an estimated $1.1 billion in profit last year) and a healthy dose of criticism during the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. That means regularly staging "food fights" (in the words of one veteran television executive) that go viral but don't necessarily make viewers more informed, people inside and outside the company say.