CNN's Cascading Credibility Crisis

CNN is currently suffering a credibility crisis unlike anything they've experienced before. Last year, Business Insider reported that only 53% of American adults believe CNN is "credible," and among Republicans in particular, CNN's credibility has fallen "by nearly 20 percentage points since 2016."

One of CNN’s most famous "Facts First" ad campaigns shows a shiny red apple against a white backdrop as a voiceover posits the following:

“This is an apple. Some people might try to tell you that it’s a banana. They might scream banana banana banana over and over and over again. They might put BANANA in all caps. They might even start to believe that this is a banana, but it’s not. This is an apple.”

Claiming to value the facts first used to work for the once-proud network, but no longer.

There are, of course, scores of contributing factors and explanations that various people may have for mistrusting CNN. But my primary reason for no longer trusting the network comes down to the way network executives react whenever their journalists are caught behaving badly.

CNN host Don Lemon and two panelists openly mocking purportedly stupid Trump supporters last week provides one such example. Putting aside the blatant lack of journalistic objectivity and unprofessionalism displayed throughout the segment, the question of credibility still arises in its aftermath.

Instead of apologizing or taking responsibility for his actions, Lemon tried to misrepresent what actually transpired. He said, "Just to make this perfectly clear, I was laughing at the joke, and not at any group of people." Unfortunately for him, the facts disagree. While the clip shows that Lemon certainly begins laughing in reaction to a joke told by one of his guests at President Trump's expense, his laughter only increases as his panelists continue to mock "an administration defined by the ignorance of the world," using farcical Southern accents and calling Trump supporters "credulous boomer rubes."

After the clip went viral, Lemon defended himself by saying "I don't believe in belittling people," but once again, the facts say otherwise. The truth is that Lemon frequently uses his nightly program to belittle President Trump and his supporters.

Like the time he said that Trump supporters should “go read a book,” and “start your learning process from there.”

Or the time he called President Trump a "5-year-old" and mimicked a child throwing a tantrum and then said: "take your marbles and your toys and you go home because the kids are laughing at you."

Or the time he said Trump supporters had “tired, lazy, uninformed, uneducated, and ignorant” reasons for defending President Trump.

Or the time he told CNN's Chris Cuomo: “I don’t think every Trump supporter is a racist...”

Or the time he told Trump supporters “bless your heart,” and, in case the implication went over anyone’s head, added that the comment is said “in the south and you know what it means.”

No wonder The New York Times reportedly insists their journalists not appear on "CNN Tonight with Don Lemon" for being too partisan.

But Don Lemon is hardly CNN's first reporter to refuse to admit wrongdoing whenever the rubber meets the road. 

Another is CNN's White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. At a press conference in November of 2018, Acosta was caught on camera refusing to give his microphone back to a White House staff member. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the time that he had “placed his hands on” the employee and Acosta responded on Twitter by calling the accusation "a lie." Later that day he told CNN's Anderson Cooper: “I didn’t put my hands on her or touch her.”

Except he did. And The Washington Post's video of the exchange, slowed down to 20% speed, clearly shows that not only did Acosta's hand strike down the woman's arm when she tried to grab the microphone, he did so with enough force that her shoulder is pulled inward, towards him in the process. It's a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gesture, but the way her body reacts to the downward movement of his hand is undeniable, and completely refutes his claim that he did not even "touch her."

Instead of apologizing or taking responsibility for the inappropriate actions of their employee, however, CNN issued a statement saying that “Press Secretary Sarah Sanders lied. She provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened." They then sued the White House for taking away Acosta's press pass.

CNN nightly host Chris Cuomo is another example. Last August, the "Cuomo Prime Time" host was caught on camera attacking someone at a bar who called him “Fredo,” (the loser Corleone brother from "The Godfather" movies.) In addition to a barrage of verbal threats Cuomo hurled at the man, (i.e. "I’ll (expletive) ruin your (expletive). I’ll (expletive) throw you down these stairs like a (expletive) punk!"), he also tells the man that the name "Fredo" is "like the N-word” for Italians. Afterwards, CNN showed Cuomo their support by saying their anchor "defended himself when he was verbally attacked with the use of an ethnic slur." 

Except threatening physical abuse is never okay, and, as a New York Times article said the following week, the name "Fredo" is "in no sense accepted as an ethnic slur." As it turns out, Cuomo doesn't believe it is either, as a tape emerged showing  Cuomo calling himself  "Fredo" at one point. Another exchange surfaced showing Cuomo being perfectly okay when a guest uses the name on his own program. After those inconvenient facts came to light, CNN said nothing.

CNN host Anderson Cooper offers a final example. Cooper experienced Twitter remorse for apparently tweeting one night in December of 2017 that President Trump was a “tool” and a “pathetic loser.” But instead of apologizing, Cooper and CNN tried to explain the matter away by blaming the tweet on Anderson’s “assistant” who apparently “left the phone unlocked" while attending the gym, when, "an unknown person took the phone and posted the tweet.” Riiiight. Even BuzzFeedreporter Chris Geidner wasn’t buying it. Geidner, who, like Cooper, is gay, tweeted in reply to CNN's statement: “I have never met a gay man who has left his phone unlocked and unattended at the gym, but OK.”

Cooper's inappropriate Tweet was just another inconvenient fact that the "facts first" network chose to quietly sweep under the rug. 

CNN’s Editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, frequently laments that the Trump Administration “just cannot admit being wrong," and he makes a fair point, but he's the wrong man to take Trump to task. The network he works for, after all, cedes that moral high ground every time they make excuses for their journalist's bad behavior instead of holding them responsible.

Whenever their employees make mistakes, CNN is given a chance to prove whether or not they really are the facts first network. When they elect to avoid, deflect, and sue instead of taking responsibility, viewers are left with no other option but to conclude that an apple is really only an apple when CNN says it is.

CNN is currently suffering a credibility crisis unlike anything they've experienced before. Last year, Business Insider reported that only 53% of American adults believe CNN is "credible," and among Republicans in particular, CNN's credibility has fallen "by nearly 20 percentage points since 2016."

One of CNN’s most famous "Facts First" ad campaigns shows a shiny red apple against a white backdrop as a voiceover posits the following:

“This is an apple. Some people might try to tell you that it’s a banana. They might scream banana banana banana over and over and over again. They might put BANANA in all caps. They might even start to believe that this is a banana, but it’s not. This is an apple.”

Claiming to value the facts first used to work for the once-proud network, but no longer.

There are, of course, scores of contributing factors and explanations that various people may have for mistrusting CNN. But my primary reason for no longer trusting the network comes down to the way network executives react whenever their journalists are caught behaving badly.

CNN host Don Lemon and two panelists openly mocking purportedly stupid Trump supporters last week provides one such example. Putting aside the blatant lack of journalistic objectivity and unprofessionalism displayed throughout the segment, the question of credibility still arises in its aftermath.

Instead of apologizing or taking responsibility for his actions, Lemon tried to misrepresent what actually transpired. He said, "Just to make this perfectly clear, I was laughing at the joke, and not at any group of people." Unfortunately for him, the facts disagree. While the clip shows that Lemon certainly begins laughing in reaction to a joke told by one of his guests at President Trump's expense, his laughter only increases as his panelists continue to mock "an administration defined by the ignorance of the world," using farcical Southern accents and calling Trump supporters "credulous boomer rubes."

After the clip went viral, Lemon defended himself by saying "I don't believe in belittling people," but once again, the facts say otherwise. The truth is that Lemon frequently uses his nightly program to belittle President Trump and his supporters.

Like the time he said that Trump supporters should “go read a book,” and “start your learning process from there.”

Or the time he called President Trump a "5-year-old" and mimicked a child throwing a tantrum and then said: "take your marbles and your toys and you go home because the kids are laughing at you."

Or the time he said Trump supporters had “tired, lazy, uninformed, uneducated, and ignorant” reasons for defending President Trump.

Or the time he told CNN's Chris Cuomo: “I don’t think every Trump supporter is a racist...”

Or the time he told Trump supporters “bless your heart,” and, in case the implication went over anyone’s head, added that the comment is said “in the south and you know what it means.”

No wonder The New York Times reportedly insists their journalists not appear on "CNN Tonight with Don Lemon" for being too partisan.

But Don Lemon is hardly CNN's first reporter to refuse to admit wrongdoing whenever the rubber meets the road. 

Another is CNN's White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. At a press conference in November of 2018, Acosta was caught on camera refusing to give his microphone back to a White House staff member. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the time that he had “placed his hands on” the employee and Acosta responded on Twitter by calling the accusation "a lie." Later that day he told CNN's Anderson Cooper: “I didn’t put my hands on her or touch her.”

Except he did. And The Washington Post's video of the exchange, slowed down to 20% speed, clearly shows that not only did Acosta's hand strike down the woman's arm when she tried to grab the microphone, he did so with enough force that her shoulder is pulled inward, towards him in the process. It's a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gesture, but the way her body reacts to the downward movement of his hand is undeniable, and completely refutes his claim that he did not even "touch her."

Instead of apologizing or taking responsibility for the inappropriate actions of their employee, however, CNN issued a statement saying that “Press Secretary Sarah Sanders lied. She provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened." They then sued the White House for taking away Acosta's press pass.

CNN nightly host Chris Cuomo is another example. Last August, the "Cuomo Prime Time" host was caught on camera attacking someone at a bar who called him “Fredo,” (the loser Corleone brother from "The Godfather" movies.) In addition to a barrage of verbal threats Cuomo hurled at the man, (i.e. "I’ll (expletive) ruin your (expletive). I’ll (expletive) throw you down these stairs like a (expletive) punk!"), he also tells the man that the name "Fredo" is "like the N-word” for Italians. Afterwards, CNN showed Cuomo their support by saying their anchor "defended himself when he was verbally attacked with the use of an ethnic slur." 

Except threatening physical abuse is never okay, and, as a New York Times article said the following week, the name "Fredo" is "in no sense accepted as an ethnic slur." As it turns out, Cuomo doesn't believe it is either, as a tape emerged showing  Cuomo calling himself  "Fredo" at one point. Another exchange surfaced showing Cuomo being perfectly okay when a guest uses the name on his own program. After those inconvenient facts came to light, CNN said nothing.

CNN host Anderson Cooper offers a final example. Cooper experienced Twitter remorse for apparently tweeting one night in December of 2017 that President Trump was a “tool” and a “pathetic loser.” But instead of apologizing, Cooper and CNN tried to explain the matter away by blaming the tweet on Anderson’s “assistant” who apparently “left the phone unlocked" while attending the gym, when, "an unknown person took the phone and posted the tweet.” Riiiight. Even BuzzFeedreporter Chris Geidner wasn’t buying it. Geidner, who, like Cooper, is gay, tweeted in reply to CNN's statement: “I have never met a gay man who has left his phone unlocked and unattended at the gym, but OK.”

Cooper's inappropriate Tweet was just another inconvenient fact that the "facts first" network chose to quietly sweep under the rug. 

CNN’s Editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, frequently laments that the Trump Administration “just cannot admit being wrong," and he makes a fair point, but he's the wrong man to take Trump to task. The network he works for, after all, cedes that moral high ground every time they make excuses for their journalist's bad behavior instead of holding them responsible.

Whenever their employees make mistakes, CNN is given a chance to prove whether or not they really are the facts first network. When they elect to avoid, deflect, and sue instead of taking responsibility, viewers are left with no other option but to conclude that an apple is really only an apple when CNN says it is.