I don’t tune in to CNN for balance or read its website for objectivity. Nobody, save a few unfortunate people in airport terminals who haven’t watched CNN in ages and still associate it with the days of Bernard Shaw and Larry King, is that much of a naïf. Even then, I think the people stuck at LaGuardia will get the drift right about when American delays their flight for the fifth time.
It isn’t that which bugs me. It’s that CNN pretends to objectivity so earnestly.
Whenever someone implies Jim Acosta’s White House reportage might be somewhat agenda-driven, you can see his hairs fight against the product that’s been lacquered on his head in order to try and stand on end. Insist that CNN reporters are biased and Jake Tapper will furrow his face into an explosion of canyons as he methodically lectures you on how they’re doing the secular lord’s work. And then they’ll stare you right in the face and say or do something that gives away the entire charade.
Say what you will about MSNBC, but at least Joe Scarborough isn’t pretending when he delivers you the slant, the whole slant and nothing but the slant.
If you want an example of this, take the first day of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. Please, as Henny Youngman might have put it.
This was more than 12 hours of our lives over a debate on rules that we’re all never getting back. And there were plenty of facts to check as Tuesday afternoon turned into night turned into morning.
Media fact-checking being the jaundiced racket that it is these days, I didn’t exactly expect to get much out of fact-checking articles during the day. However, I managed to get a lot more (and less) than I expected out of CNN’s article holding the powerful accountable — provided, of course, they were on Trump’s side.
An article by Washington reporter Daniel Dale said Trump’s lawyers “made at least three false claims during Senate impeachment proceedings on Tuesday, plus two more claims we’ll call misleading.”
“We’re still going through the transcript of the proceedings and will add to this list as necessary,” Dale wrote.
Anything from the Democrats? Not to be found. And don’t look for it, either. As The Daily Caller pointed out, none of the Democrat impeachment managers were fact-checked.
If you think this was just because CNN put those fact-checks in a separate article, nope — at least according to a search of the website done Thursday morning.
There also wasn’t any fact-check for the second day of the trial on CNN’s website, which I can avouch had absolutely, totally, entirely nothing to do with the fact no Republicans were speaking as Democrat impeachment managers made their case.
Maybe I’m just accusing author Daniel Dale of arrant partisanship where none exists.
Let’s take a look at his CNN contributor page as of Thursday morning:
Oh, he fact-checked Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and said she lied once recently, too. Guess this guy is on the up-and-up.
Dale has an explanation for the one-sided reporting. In a September 2019 piece in Politico titled “Democrats decry double standard in fact checking” — chortle — Dale was quoted thusly: “We need to be clear and direct about the fact that there is no equivalence between the frequency of the dishonesty from the president and from anyone in the Democratic field.”
This is what you get when you base an entire network on the journalistic standards of Ted Turner and let it ferment for the better part of four decades.
I’m sure Dale caught some pretty damning calumny on day one, though, right?
On some of them, he was correct. When Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said that the president’s constitutional rights were violated by not having his attorney present and able to engage in the cross-examination of witnesses, Dale was accurate: “The constitutional rights of criminal defendants, such as the right to have the assistance of counsel and to call and confront witnesses, do not apply to the subjects of House proceedings.” It doesn’t mean the House proceedings were fair to Trump — they weren’t by a long shot — but he’s accurate.
Some are, well, a bit more like this grievous error:
“[Trump counsel Pat] Cipollone claimed that Democrats withheld the articles of impeachment for more than a month. ‘They held these articles for 33 days,’ he said. Trump lawyers Patrick Philbin and Jay Sekulow used the same ’33 days’ figure — Sekulow repeatedly.
“‘Thirty-three days — 33 days, they held onto those impeachment articles — 33 days. It was such a rush of national security that — impeach this president before Christmas that they then held them for 33 days,’ Sekulow said.
“Facts First: While House Democrats did wait before they transmitted the articles of impeachment, they took 28 days, not 33. The House voted to impeach Trump on December 18, Democrats sent over the articles on January 15.”
During a marathon hearing, this is what Dale picked up on — a lawyer doing bad math on the number of days between the impeachment vote and the day the articles were transmitted. I know we were all mainlining Nespresso cups by about 8 p.m. Eastern, but if this is what Dale came up with on a deadline, I would have implored his editors to graciously extend that deadline.
Nothing, mind you, was written on the Democrats’ performance. After all, “there is no equivalence” between inaccuracies from Trump’s side and inaccuracies from the Democrat impeachment managers. Even if House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff mixed up the math on the number of days, I’m sure he did it less perniciously than Jay Sekulow did.
The reason CNN remains a personal irritant isn’t because of what it chooses to be but for what it pretends to be. Here’s a call-back from the memory bank:
And that’s what CNN tries to sell you on: The network is an apple.
Some people might try to tell you it is a banana. Some of those people might even be CNN’s own hosts, who spend an hour each weekday telling you how the truth is really just all about bananas.
Some of them are CNN contributors who write “fact-checking” articles that read like, “banana, banana, banananana bo-banna, banananana fo-fanna, fee-fi-fofanna, banana!”
CNN will actually give you 24 hours a day of banana-centric coverage, so much of it you’ll die of potassium poisoning after about two weeks.
But it’s not a banana, no matter what any reasonable individual trapped in an airport terminal would conclude halfway through Chris Cuomo’s nightly Bananas Foster-a-thon. It is an apple — and if you say otherwise, you’re eroding trust in our free and fair press.