CNN handed over its network to the Democratic Party last week, airing the Democratic National Convention nearly in its entirety – but critics and media watchdogs don’t expect the GOP to receive equal treatment from the liberal network.
CNN aired 520 minutes of the 583-minute party-produced event, only skipping portions such as closing musical acts and prayers, according to the Media Research Center.
“Between roughly 9 p.m. and the end of the main speech each night, CNN never interrupted the DNC proceedings for any kind of commentary or analysis, breaking only for a few commercials,” MRC research director Rich Noyes found.
“Otherwise, every speech, every video, every lame joke was shown exactly as planned by the party.”
The four-night Republican National Convention kicks off Monday and many media watchdogs don’t anticipate CNN to provide the same favorable treatment to the GOP.
“Expect the difference to be drastic – not just in the pundit response, but in the actual coverage choices themselves. Prepare for unequal time,” CNN digital producer-turned Fourth Watch editor Steve Krakauer wrote.
“Networks like CNN believe they are in an existential fight with the guy in the White House,” Krakauer added. “You think they’re going to just air a campaign ad for him — even if that’s the ‘norm’ or the tradition… or even what they just did for the Democrats?”
Krakauer then noted that CNN has already “laid the groundwork for CNN to give unequal time to the RNC” when the liberal network’s in-house media critic Brian Stelter pondered aloud if networks should cut away from what they deem to be “disinformation.”
Stelter predicted a “truth imbalance” on Sunday and claimed it’s likely that viewers will hear “lies coming fast and furious from the president” and his allies during RNC speeches.
“There’s a real difference, there’s a real contrast in how much lying and deception takes place between Trumpworld and other parts of the political universe. I don’t think we can paint with too broad of a brush here, Democrats versus Republicans. But it’s definitely Trumpworld versus other political leaders. I think it’s something called asymmetric lying,” Stelter said before noting that CNN’s fact-checker found DNC speeches were “largely accurate.”
Media Research Center’s Tim Graham reacted, “The first sign you know someone sounds like a DNC publicist is when they find everything the Democrats say ‘largely accurate.’ It’s ‘accurate’ to blame 175,000 deaths on Trump. It’s ‘accurate’ to claim the protesters in the street are almost entirely ‘peaceful.'”
DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall thinks it will be interesting to see if CNN treats both parties equally — but he doesn’t expect conservatives to be thrilled with the outcome.
“Coverage of the DNC last week was quite celebratory and cheery, with little checking of various claims from the speakers. Given CNN’s practices in recent years, viewers shouldn’t expect that approach during the RNC,” McCall told Fox News.
CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Despite Stelter emphasizing that the DNC was mostly accurate, CNN actually did find some issues with things that were uttered during the last week’s convention – but the network didn’t cut away to fact-check in real time, instead doing it after the fact or online.
CNN’s Holmes Lybrand said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was “misleading” when he painted his state’s coronavirus response as a success, Joe Biden may have been inaccurate about the number of businesses closing amid the coronavirus pandemic, John Kerry could have been misleading when he spoke about the Iran nuclear deal and Michelle Obama failed to mention that “cages” used to house children at the border were built during her husband’s administration.
CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale also wrote a web article pointing out various misinformation uttered at the DNC, expanding on many of Lybrand’s findings. Dale, Lybrand and other CNN personalities were quick to add disclaimers such as “there hasn’t been a whole lot to fact-check” from the Democrats before pointing out all the things that were in need of a fact-check or clarification.
CNN didn’t interrupt Democratic speeches in real time despite all the findings by Lybrand and Dale, which Stelter feels the network will do for Republicans.
Vanity Fair contributing writer Peter Hamby told Stelter on Sunday that it “presents an immediate imbalance” and would be unfair if CNN doesn’t treat the two parties equally.
University of North Carolina journalism ethics professor Lois Boynton told Fox News it would be “wise” for CNN to listen to Hamby.
“In addition to the significant fairness factor, networks across the board must consider the annoyance cut-ins can create for those who wish to watch a speech or set of remarks in their entirety,” Boynton said.
McCall agrees and said “it should be expected journalistically that a news organization would fact-check a political convention” but it shouldn’t play favorites.
“CNN will open itself up to criticism of bias if they engage in rigorous fact-checking for the RNC while having taken a soft approach to the DNC last week.”
“CNN will open itself up to criticism of bias if they engage in rigorous fact-checking for the RNC while having taken a soft approach to the DNC last week,” McCall said. “The same holds if CNN programmers limit the time for RNC speakers after running with few interruptions during the DNC last week.”
CNN aired 89% of the DNC uninterrupted, according to the MRC.
“CNN should put a stopwatch to its uninterrupted RNC programming and try to make it comparable to the amount of uninterrupted DNC programming. There will still be plenty of time for analysis and commentary by CNN pundits before and after the RNC sessions,” McCall said.
Another interesting element is the scheduled speech by Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann, who earlier this year settled a multimillion-dollar defamation lawsuit with CNN over its botched coverage of a viral confrontation with a Native American elder that had falsely portrayed the Kentucky teen as the aggressor.
CNN political commentator Errol Louis appeared on the network Sunday to downplay the significance of Sandmann speaking at the RNC, saying he was simply part of a “one- or two-day story” news cycle and implying he’s simply red meat for Trump’s base to “stoke the fires of grievance” and bash the media in the process.
It’s unclear if CNN plans to air Sandmann’s speech.
Meanwhile, MSNBC also handed over its prime-time schedule to the Democrats last week – even airing a few additional minutes of the convention than CNN did. Cornell Law School professor and media critic William A. Jacobson noted that MSNBC embraces its liberal agenda, while CNN claims to be nonpartisan.
“In a better world, CNN news coverage would afford the Republican National Convention substantially equal coverage as the Democratic National Convention received. But it’s not a better world, it’s a world in which CNN hard news coverage pretends to be neutral but in reality is every bit as Never Trump as MSNBC, which admirably doesn’t pretend,” Jacobson told Fox News