CNN pundit wonders if news orgs would push impeachment to boost ratings; experts say some have already tried

News outlets often bill themselves as gatekeepers of the truth, with slogans such as CNN’s “Facts First” and the Washington Post’s “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” but CNN pundit Brian Stelter suggested on Sunday that money, clicks and ratings could influence their coverage, too.

Stelter raised the question during a conversation on his show “Reliable Sources” about whether or not the press wants to see President Trump impeached. Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan, a guest on the show, said impeachment “is in the air,” but denied that the media had much to do with it.

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“What about the business model, though,” Stelter said. “Don’t websites want those clicks? Don’t television networks want those ratings that would come from impeachment hearings?”

Sullivan responded that news executives “may” want impeachment to occur because it would be good for business.

“That may be going on in the background or in corporate offices but I don’t think that journalists even really think that way,” Sullivan said.

DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall told Fox News that the “media should be trying to follow the news developments on impeachment,” as opposed to putting itself in a position to lead the movement.

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“Certainly, there are corners of the media world that have gone beyond reporting about possible impeachment to actually fueling the speculation by sparking the news agenda with impeachment content,” McCall said.

“If impeachment becomes necessary, it should be the citizens and Congress to generate the momentum and the media should report about it,” McCall added. “The media has already lost credibility for letting business models dictate news content, as partly demonstrated by two years of breathless Mueller probe coverage.”

McCall said such a plan could even backfire. “The impeachment story has been in place for most of Trump's presidency and it could well be that citizens already have their minds made up about the matter and wouldn't necessarily rush to absorb the proceedings. In a sense, the nation has already seen a two-year media impeachment process.”

"The media has already lost credibility for letting business models dictate news content, as partly demonstrated by two years of breathless Mueller probe coverage.”

— Jeffrey McCall

A study by the Media Research Center revealed that the term “impeachment” was mentioned 363 times in the 24 hours following the release of the Mueller report, with 198 of the references coming from CNN. NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck told Fox News that it’s “nonsense to suggest the liberal media aren't rooting for” President Trump to be impeached.

“It makes sense, too, considering how many in the press have suggested President Trump is suffering from Alzheimer's, dementia or any number of diseases and illnesses. When ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and MSNBC say or suggest we're in a constitutional crisis 386 times in one day or talk about impeaching him 363 times in a day, it's almost impossible to argue that these networks aren't for impeachment and believe it would help their ratings,” Houck said. “Except for CNN, but they're a long lost cause in the ratings race.”

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Beleaguered CNN’s most-watched show during the month of May was “Cuomo Prime Time,” which finished No. 25 overall, behind 14 different Fox News shows and 10 programs on MSNBC. CNN’s other struggling primetime shows, “Anderson Cooper 360” and “CNN Tonight with Don Lemon,” finished 26th and 35th, respectively. Fox News averaged 1.3 million total day viewer during May compared to the eighth-place CNN, which averaged 552,000 viewers.

CNN recently mentioned impeachment 198 times in 24 hours, according to the Media Research Center. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

CNN recently mentioned impeachment 198 times in 24 hours, according to the Media Research Center. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Conservative commentator Tim Young, who is filling in for David Webb on SiriusXM’s Patriot Radio on Monday, plans to dedicate a segment of his show to Stelter’s comments. Young feels that CNN has played “the clickbait, progressive rage against Trump card for two years” and it’s painfully obvious that CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker feels impeachment will lift CNN out of the gutter.

“I don’t think this was a random or isolated question. CNN, which has been losing the ratings game to Fox, MSNBC, the Food Network, Hallmark Channel, practically everyone, seems to be showing their hand through their top media reporter Brian Stelter."

— Tim Young

“I don’t think this was a random or isolated question. CNN, which has been losing the ratings game to Fox, MSNBC, the Food Network, Hallmark Channel, practically everyone, seems to be showing their hand through their top media reporter Brian Stelter,” Young told Fox News. “At this point, not even impeachment will help them in the ratings.”

Earlier in Stelter's show, Washington Post columnist Max Boot claimed he was “ambivalent” about impeachment immediately before, literally, pounding the table and saying, “On legal and moral grounds, yes Trump needs to be impeached… he has betrayed the constitution.”

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The one-sided, anti-Trump panel featured the two Washington Post columnists along with Stelter and CNN’s Samantha Vinograd – who remained silent during the segment.

Boot drew a chuckle from Stelter when he ended the segment by claiming, “It’s not the media that’s pushing for impeachment, its reality that’s pushing for impeachment.”

“Of course the press wants Trump impeached. Sure, there's a financial benefit to them, but that's secondary."

— Dan Gainor

Meanwhile, CNN is coming off its lowest-rated week of the year in the key demographic of adults age 25-54, according to TVNewser. CNN lost a whopping 55 percent of its primetime viewers among the demo compared to the same week in 2018.