Monday, December 03, 2007

LA Times: CNN='Corrupt News Network'

In the wake of the embarrassing and highly slanted CNN-hosted Republican debate on CNN last week, the fallout continues from CNN's attempts to inject its own biases into the Republican debate. Today comes one of the harshest blasts- and it comes not from the blogosphere, which has been relentless in following the story, but from CNN's fellow media dinosaur the Los Angeles Times, in the person of reporter Tim Rutten.

Rutten is not pleased by CNN's performance, and in his article, he pulls no punches in describing his view of CNN's activities. He wrote,
In fact, this most recent debacle masquerading as a presidential debate raises serious questions about whether CNN is ethically or professionally suitable to play the political role the Democratic and Republican parties recently have conceded it.

Selecting a president is, more than ever, a life and death business, and a news organization that consciously injects itself into the process, as CNN did by hosting Wednesday's debate, incurs a special responsibility to conduct itself in a dispassionate and, most of all, disinterested fashion. When one considers CNN's performance, however, the adjectives that leap to mind are corrupt and incompetent.

Rutten went on to define why he thinks that the network is corrupt. Unlike the bloggers, Rutten did not condemn CNN's planted questions, though one wonders how he would react if say, Fox had done the same thing to the Democratic candidates. Since they were too scared of Fox to even appear, we will never know the answer to that one, though I personally doubt that Fox would have stooped to the depths displayed by CNN.

No, Rutten's main complaint was actually with the way that CNN organized the debate, spending roughly the entire first half-hour or so on the illegal immigration issue, which, while it is important to some Republicans, does not appear in the list of top issues concerning Republicans, according to the Pew polls. So why did CNN spend so much time on an issue that may not even be that important to the average Republican? Rutten think he knows, writing,
In other words, CNN intentionally directed the Republicans' debate to advance its own interests. Make immigration a bigger issue and you've made a bigger audience for Dobbs.

That's corruption, and it's why the Republican candidates had to spend more than half an hour "debating" an issue on which their differences are essentially marginal -- and, more important, why GOP voters had to sit and wait, mostly in vain, for the issues that really concern them to be discussed. That's particularly true because that same Pew poll reported findings of particular relevance to Republican voters, the vast majority of whom continue to support the war in Iraq.

I don't know if I would agree with Rutten on the specifics of his charge, as I find a commercial network's desire to pander to a topic that it's most popular host pushes un-threatening. As long as the viewers are informed, they will be aware of what CNN is doing and will probably tune out until the topic changes. I know I would. However, CNN's overall performance, both in this debate and in the Democratic 'talking snowman' debate, has definitely done the network a disservice. And when one considers that this is the same network that has no problem being complicit with dictators in order to keep their Baghdad bureau open, one begins to seriously wonder why anyone takes the network's slanted 'news' seriously at all.

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