Just two days after the midterm elections concluded, CNN is helping to make "Whitewater" lies part of the 2016 election.
Doug Henwood, author of a Harper's magazine article headlined "Stop Hillary!," appeared on CNN along with Elise Viebeck, a reporter for The Hill, to discuss Hillary Clinton (whom Viebeck called "pathologically ambitious" and "extremely opportunistic"). After Viebeck claimed that "the past scandals that the Clintons have been involved with" could be used by Republicans in any future election, Henwood mentioned Whitewater, a real estate venture that failed in the 1970s and 1980s and was exhaustively investigated in the 1990s, as key to any campaign to discredit Clinton.
"Every time you do Whitewater, the media will kind of roll its eyes, like 'We've been there; this is old,'" host Chris Cuomo replied. "Not the media, but the media that wants to defend Hillary Clinton, or her defenders in general. You say, oh no, no, no. The facts there mattered. She kind of got a pass."
One key fact that mattered went unsaid by Cuomo or either of his guests: exhaustive investigations by Republican prosecutors and legislators concluded that there was no evidence that Bill or Hillary Clinton broke the law in connection to the Whitewater land deal.
Henwood's explanation for why Whitewater still mattered centered on his claim that Clinton "lied" about billing records and how much time she spent as a lawyer working for a bank connected to the deal. Again, the public record fully corroborates what Clinton has said about this.
Nevertheless, Cuomo encouraged his viewers to read Henwood's story in Harper's, calling it an interesting take on Clinton.
Veteran reporters from the 90s see it differently.
"The most basic facts elude him," Gene Lyons observed in the Arkansas Times. Lyons, who wrote a book that originated as a Harper's article on the media's Whitewater failures, offers a devastating point-by-point rebuttal to Henwood before concluding, "a journalist who chooses to question a presidential candidate's character by dragging up 20-year-old controversies owes it to readers to know two or three things about them."
And CNN owes it to its viewers to challenge its guests over basic, verifiable facts.
In early October, Yahoo! News columnist Michael Isikoff revisited the Whitewater saga that made him famous, touting a book written by the first special prosecutor to look into the land deal before he was replaced by Ken Starr. Dredging up old news and breaking no new ground, Isikoff warned that Clinton foes would try to use Whitewater against her.
Joe Conason, who co-authored The Hunting of the President with Lyons, took Isikoff to task for ignoring the facts and offered compelling guidance to journalists who insist on discussing Whitewater. "If we must dredge up Whitewater," Conason wrote, "then let's be specific instead of vague." Conason urged journalists to "report all of the evidence."
Watch the CNN segment from the November 6 edition of New Day:
CNN host Chris Cuomo argued that professor of religion and author Reza Aslan's heated arguments against anti-Muslim bigotry on CNN recently demonstrated "what people are fearful of when they think of" Islam.
On September 29, Aslan was a guest on CNN Tonight, where hosts Alisyn Camerota and Don Lemon discussed what they called the "primitive treatment in Muslim countries of women and other minorities" while on-air graphics asked, "Does Islam promote violence?" Aslan responded saying he felt CNN was over-generalizing, arguing "you're talking about a religion about 1.5 billion people and certainly it becomes easy to just simply paint them all with a single brush":
ASLAN: You know, this is the problem, is that these conversations that we're having aren't really being had in any kind of legitimate way. We're not talking about women in the Muslim world, we're using two or three examples to justify a generalization. That's actually the definition of bigotry.
On a follow-up segment on the October 2 edition of CNN Tonight, which noted that the network had taken criticism& for the original interview, Camerota and Lemon acknowledged Aslan's argument but defended the premise of their original segment, saying it was important to "ask the question." CNN host Chris Cuomo agreed. He argued that while the hosts shouldn't generalize, and should distinguish the practice of the religion from the practice of individual nations, Aslan's "tone was angry," so he "wound up kind of demonstrating what people are fearful about when they think of the faith, which is the hostility of it":
CUOMO: Also, his tone was angry. He wound up kind of demonstrating what people are fearful about when they think of the faith in the first place, which is the hostility of it. Look, here's what you guys were exposing yourself to. This is the state of play in journalism today. The Muslim world is responsible for a really big part of religious extremism right now. And they are unusually violent. They're unusually barbaric in the places where it is happening. And it's happening there more there than it is in other places. Do you therefore want to generalize? Of course not. But you do want to call a situation what it is. It's not a coincidence that ISIS begins with an I. I mean, that's what's going on in that part of the world. Doesn't mean other faiths can't be violent and other cultures can't be violent, but you shouldn't be afraid of the question.
Watch the original CNN Tonight interview with Aslan here:
From the June 17 edition of CNN's New Day:
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CNN's Chris Cuomo asserted that "it's just hard" for male politicians to navigate "the female agenda" that female candidates may put forward in campaigns.
On the June 10 edition of New Day, co-hosts Brooke Baldwin and Chris Cuomo spoke with Politico's Maggie Haberman about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's book tour to promote her new book Hard Choices. Jumping off a discussion of Clinton's efforts to deal with gender in the 2008 campaign and the possibility that she might become the first female president, Cuomo asserted that male politicians may have a hard time dealing with "the female agenda," because "what is the guy supposed say?": (emphasis added)
HABERMAN: It was not that she didn't address it enough, as she put it last night in that interview, she really didn't address it at all in the 2008 race. She did not run a gender-based candidacy. Her campaign was very concerned about a projection of weakness. The demographics have shifted enough, and also I think that the voter attitudes have shifted enough about a female president, that she knows this is essentially - she would be carrying the mantel as first female president. That's going to be very meaningful for a lot of woman. That's going to be significant. She's not going to shy away from it.
CUOMO: I'll tell you, it's just hard to deal with as a male candidate. You know? Whatever Hillary or any female candidate wants to put forward as a female agenda, right? Not even feminist agenda, just female agenda. What is the guy supposed to say? 'Oh, I'm taking issue with that?' 'Oh, I want to be that also?' You know, I just think -- it's just smart politics, and you can very much argue it's come to be that time, you know?
Of course, numerous male politicians have successfully advocated for women's issues. For example, NARAL's list of endorsed candidates for the 2014 elections includes more than 30 male candidates whom the organization has deemed to be "pro-choice champions."
CNN's Chris Cuomo missed a prime opportunity to challenge Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on his inconsistency regarding support for a prisoner swap with the Taliban in exchange for the release of a captive American solider.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American captive held by the Taliban since 2009, was released on May 31, pursuant to an agreement between the White House, the government of Qatar (acting as an intermediary), and the Taliban that secured the release of five Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
On the June 3 edition of CNN's New Day, Sen. McCain railed against the exchange as "incomprehensible," arguing that it allows the Taliban "to pick the dream team" who will end up "back in the battlefield putting the lives of Americans in danger." Host Chris Cuomo noted that the exchange had "been in the works for years," prompting McCain to double-down on his argument that the exchange was inappropriate:
MCCAIN: The problem that I have, and many others have, is what we paid for that release, and that is, releasing five of the most hardened, anti-American killers, brutal killers, who are, by the way, are also wanted by the international criminal court for their incredible brutality, and the fact that within a very short time, if the past proves true, they'll be back in the battlefield putting the lives of Americans in danger in the future. And that's what most of us find incomprehensible, that the Taliban should be allowed to pick the 'dream team,' as my friend Lindsey Graham called it, and send them to Qatar, and obviously, they will be back in the fight. Thirty percent of those who have already been released from Guantanamo have reentered the fight, and this is the top. These are the people that have blood of thousands on their hands, at least in one case. And so you have to understand what was done in exchange for the release of Sergeant Bergdahl.
CUOMO: The issue of surprise and shock comes up here, Senator. This deal has been in the works for years. The president says he consulted with Congress about this potential trade. Were you consulted with?
MCCAIN: No, and I've talked to members of the intelligence committee, Congressman Rogers, Senator Chambliss. We were at the meeting where they were talking about releasing some Taliban as confidence measures to move negotiations forward, as long as two years ago. There was never discussion that any of us know about this straight-up and all of the aspects of this trade for Sergeant Bergdahl. And that's just a fact.
CUOMO: On whose side, Senator? Is the president hiding the ball of what types of Taliban guys were involved? Or is your side hiding the ball that you knew but you didn't know everything, so you're going to say that you knew nothing?
MCCAIN: Well, we were never told there would be an exchange here of Sergeant Bergdahl for five Taliban. We told they were considering, and we steadfastly, both Republican and Democrats, rejected the notion that they were going to release some of these Taliban in exchange for, "confidence building measures" so that negotiations could continue. What we were briefed on was an entirely different scenario from the one that took place. Look, I'm not one who believes that Congress should bind the hands of the president particularly as commander-in-chief. That's not my problem. My problem is, what we did in exchange, which could put the lives of American servicemen and women in grave danger in the future, unless you believe that this conflict is over and that the Taliban and Al Qaeda have stop wanting to destroy America and repeat of 9/11, then, fine. But they've not, and they're not, and they are growing, despite what the administration says.
From the May 19 edition of CNN's New Day:
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Catholic League President Bill Donohue's anti-equality arguments collapsed under questioning from CNN host Chris Cuomo, who tried to get Donohue to explain how marriage equality undermines religious freedom. Donohue couldn't point to any specific damage done by marriage equality, but resorted to comparisons of same-sex marriage with polygamy and condemnation of the modern notion that marriage should be based on love.
During the February 27 edition of CNN's New Day, Donohue sat down with Cuomo to discuss Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's veto of a measure that would have allowed individuals and businesses to refuse service to gay couples on religious grounds. Donohue defended the bill as an effort to protect religious liberty, leading Cuomo to ask how marriage equality engenders religious freedom.
Donohue couldn't point to any negative consequences - religious or otherwise - of allowing same-sex couples to marry, but he made clear he wasn't happy about "alternative lifestyles" or the shift away from the notion that marriage is about "duty," not shared love and commitment:
CUOMO: How does gay marriage compromise your rights?
DONOHUE: Gay marriage - the problem with gay marriage is this - it makes a smorgasbord. It basically says that there's no profound difference, socially speaking, between marriage between a man and woman - the only union which can create a family - and other examples.
CUOMO: Who says that's the purpose of marriage? What if you want lifelong companionship and commitment?
DONOHOUE: If a man and woman don't have sex, we can't reproduce, can we? We can't propagate.
CUOMO: But you don't have to be married to propagate.
DONOHUE: No, that's right.
CUOMO: You don't have to want to have kids to be married.
DONOHUE: Look, I don't want alternative lifestyles to be exactly that. I want marriage to be given a privileged position.
CUOMO: Who says it's an alternative lifestyle? Why isn't it just a lifestyle?
DONOHUE: Well, you want to make it that way and a lot of people - polygamy ...
CNN anchor Chris Cuomo highlighted the extreme anti-LGBT history of the legal organization that helped write an Arizona bill that would allow individuals and businesses to refuse to serve gay people on religious grounds, noting the group's record of opposing LGBT equality under the guise of protecting religious liberty.
As the Religion News Service noted on February 21, the principal drafters of the Arizona anti-gay segregation measure were the right-wing Center for Arizona Policy and the Scottsdale-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). Spokespersons from both organizations have commented publicly on the bill, but media coverage has featured scant attention to the strident anti-LGBT positions taken by ADF in particular.
But in an interview with ADF attorney Kellie Fiedorek on the February 24 edition of New Day, Cuomo refused to let ADF escape scrutiny. Like other supporters of the measure, Fiedorek dodged uncomfortable questions about whether the bill would allow businesses to discriminate against gay customers.
But when Fiedorek compared requiring businesses to serve gay customers to asking a Muslim to participate in a burning of the Koran or an African-American to photograph a KKK rally, Cuomo pushed back, noting the ADF's record of defending anti-gay discrimination:
Tonight CNN will air an hour-long interview its employee S.E. Cupp did with Glenn Beck, who is also her boss at Beck's own news network. CNN failed to disclose this conflict of interest while promoting the special in an interview with Cupp.
CNN will air the interview on the December 20 edition of Piers Morgan Live. Cupp, a co-host on CNN's Crossfire, is also a contributor on TheBlaze TV, the conservative news network Beck founded and heads.
CNN's New Day gave Cupp a platform to promote the special without mentioning the conflict of interest during a December 20 interview on New Day. At no point during that segment did Cupp or hosts Chris Cuomo and Kate Bolduan note that Cupp also works for Blaze TV, that Beck is her boss, or the inherent ethical conflict in having her interview Beck over the CNN airwaves.
On New Day, Cupp said that her boss is "funny, he says it how he means it," which is "why people love Glenn." She also acknowledged that Beck has said some "controversial things," and concluded that the fact that he supposedly "abstains from the political process ... makes him a very honest critic but for those of us who work within the political process and would like to make it better that's a little frustrating."
Media Matters has previously suggested some questions that a credible interview between Cupp and Beck would include.
Appearing on MSNBC's Morning Joe just days before the looming deadline for a federal government shutdown, Politico's Mike Allen was assessing the politics of the controversy and predicting which Beltway players would get tagged with the blame for the intentional legislative debacle. Despite the fact that Republicans were refusing to fund the government if the White House balked at the demand to essentially repeal its 2010 health care law, Allen suggested President Obama would be the real political loser.
Why Obama? Because he's more famous than the GOP congressional leaders whose actions are causing the impasse.
"A lot of people in the country don't know John Boehner. There's no one in the world who doesn't know Barack Obama," Allen explained. "So when Washington is not working, it's going off the rails in a very visible way, a way that is vivid and touches people, that's not good ultimately for the president."
That's an awfully tenuous path to blame Obama for the Republicans' proudly obstructionist strategy to stop funding the government.
Yet so it goes within portions of the Beltway press corps who are straining to include Democrats in the shutdown blame game; to make sure "both sides" are targeted for tsk-tsk scoldings about "Washington dysfunction," and that the Republicans' truly radical nature remains casually ignored. This media act is getting old. And this media act may be emboldening the Republicans' extreme behavior.
Note that unlike the government shutdowns during the Clinton administration, this one was not prompted by a budgetary disagreement between the two parties. It was provoked by the GOP's unheard of demand that in order to vote for government spending they agree is necessary, the White House had to strip away funding for its health care law. Also note that the looming showdown over the debt ceiling represents another orchestrated crisis in which the GOP is making unprecedented demands on the president in exchange for their votes for a policy they say they support. Both cases illustrate the folly of trying to blame the White House for failing to engage with Republicans, who have embraced a path of purposefully unsolvable confrontations.
What's been clear for years is that the press clings to its preferred storyline: When Republicans obstruct Obama's agenda, the president's to blame for not changing the GOP's unprecedented behavior. In other words, "both sides" are to blame for the GOP's radical actions and the epic gridlock it produces.
The media lesson for Republicans? There's very little political downside to pushing extremism if the press is going to give the party a pass.
Media figures have attempted to place blame equally on Republicans and Democrats for a possible government shutdown. Congressional experts, however, overwhelmingly blame the GOP's extreme stance, and polling shows a lack of support for House Republicans' agenda.
From the September 20 edition of CNN's New Day:
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Media figures are falsely claiming that Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law played no role in the trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin.
In the wake of Zimmerman's March 2012 killing of Martin, media attention turned to the role of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" (also known as "Shoot First" or "Kill at Will" statute). That law allows a person who believes his life or safety is in danger to use deadly force in self-defense without being required to retreat as long as they are not engaged in illegality and are attacked in a place they have a right to be.The law also allows for a defendant to seek an expedited pretrial hearing on those grounds, and grants people who kill in self-defense immunity from civil lawsuits.
The statute was drafted with the help of the National Rifle Association. After Florida passed the law in 2005, it was adopted as model legislation by the American Legislative Exchange Council and nearly two dozen states passed similar legislation. Such laws have been found to increase the rate of homicide and have a racially disproportionate impact on black victims.
After Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder in the death of Martin, gun violence prevention advocates again highlighted the role of Florida's self-defense law. But some in the media, due to a misunderstanding of the statute's breadth, have falsely claimed that the law played no role in the trial.
On the July 15 edition of CNN's New Day, co-hosts Chris Cuomo and Kate Bolduan agreed that the law played no role in the case.
In fact, Florida's self-defense laws set the framework by which Zimmerman was tried, setting the standard by which the jury would have to determine if Martin's death resulted from the justifiable use of force. Indeed, the jury instructions in the case specifically mention that "If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in anyplace where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground" and use deadly force.
From the August 18 edition of ABC's Good Morning America:
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On ABC's Good Morning America, Chris Cuomo falsely suggested "a new report" found that $72 billion has been misspent this year under the Obama administration. In fact, according to the Heritage Foundation study that Cuomo cited, "The federal government made at least $72 billion in improper payments in 2008," and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) similarly found that "[a]gencies reported improper payment estimates of $72 billion for fiscal year 2008" -- when President Bush was still in office.