Back in February, I was riding on the New York to DC shuttle and CNN’s own Jeff Zucker was seated in the row behind me with a woman I took to be a colleague or personal assistant. She was yelling loudly into her phone, loudly enough that the other passengers took note of it, at one point escalating her voice to say: “If they want war with CNN, they got it.” When we landed, I noted the likely inspiration for the call: the administration had offered Mike Pence to every network except for CNN.
Since the new administration arrived in Washington, CNN has continued this war at a fever pitch. Daily they roll out eight-person panels where not one person defending the administration is represented. They have offered the most biased coverage of the Trump administration by far, to the point that Republicans on Capitol Hill openly mock their lack of balance. A network that once strove to be centrist in their approach is now openly antagonistic, and will run with the thinnest of scoops for hours at a time in order to make their case against President Trump.
This has led them to be sloppier journalists than we’ve ever seen before. Consider their worst performance this week: CNN didn’t get anywhere near enough flack for their ridiculous story that ran on Tuesday night, which they talked about for hours, saying that James Comey would refute Trump’s claim that he was cleared three times. The four-person byline included a major host and commentator: Gloria Borger, Eric Lichtblau, Jake Tapper, and Brian Rokus. They have since changed the headline on the piece from “Comey expected to refute Trump” to “Comey unlikely to judge on obstruction.”
For the entire evening, CNN ran with this story as their main discussion point. They told viewers over and over again that Comey was set to utterly undermine what Trump had claimed, and that he would do it in front of Congress and the people, based on two anonymous sources who turned out to be totally wrong.
On air, Borger doubled down on the story she helped report: “On CNN’s air, analyst Gloria Borger put matters more starkly, saying, ‘Comey is going to dispute the president on this point if he’s asked about it by senators, and we have to assume that he will be. He will say he never assured Donald Trump that he was not under investigation, that that would have been improper for him to do so.’”
Of course, none of that happened. In fact, Comey testified that he volunteered that information, and that contrary to Borger’s claims, he saw nothing inappropriate in doing so. The correction and update CNN ran doesn’t come anywhere near what they should’ve done, which was a total retraction: “CORRECTION AND UPDATE: This article was published before Comey released his prepared opening statement. The article and headline have been corrected to reflect that Comey does not directly dispute that Trump was told multiple times he was not under investigation in his prepared testimony released after this story was published.”
“Does not directly dispute” should be read as “utterly and totally confirms.” At some point, CNN is going to have to decide what they are willing to do in this war on the president and his administration, and whether they are willing to sacrifice even a semblance of balance and centrism in their quest against him, transforming themselves from a news network to an agenda-driven propaganda unit, complete with their useful idiots, their organs of the past administration, and their collection of invented sources who pass along useful lies.