CNN touts its primetime lineup as being straight, just-the-facts news, but anyone tuning in to the network’s evening programming can expect a heavy dose of liberal opinion, as “Anderson Cooper 360,” “CNN Tonight” and “Cuomo Prime Time” don't always align with founder Ted Turner's bare bones, objective approach to journalism.
"Anderson Cooper is a mix of news and opinion, but Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo are obviously heavy on opinion and use the news as a launching pad for those opinions," Cornell University Law Professor William Jacobson told Fox News. "There's nothing inherently wrong with that, so long as they are not mischaracterized as part of the news operation."
DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall told Fox News that CNN’s primetime shows “are not straightforward news shows in the traditional sense of objective journalism,” pointing out that the opinions of the hosts are often very bluntly presented.
“News consumers are increasingly suspicious of programs that blend news and opinion, and a news organization's failure to properly label contributes to the national decline in credibility from the public."
“News consumers are increasingly suspicious of programs that blend news and opinion, and a news organization's failure to properly label contributes to the national decline in credibility from the public,” McCall said.
While MSNBC and Fox News are transparent about specific on-air personalities hosting opinion shows, CNN claims its evening lineup is filled with straight news anchors. And while CNN personalities often conflate the opinion and news divisions of other media outlets in order to point out a perceived bias, CNN characterizes all three of its primetime programs as “news” shows, according to the section of its website that labels other shows in an “interview and debate” category.
A news anchor and an opinion host might not seem very different to the average TV watcher, but the media industry considers the titles distinct. News anchors are expected to report the news and leave the punditry up to the opinion hosts. Back in 2010, Lemon famously proclaimed CNN doesn’t “do opinion,” creating a quote that is often revisited by the network’s critics.
“We put the story out there and we try to stay in the middle of the road,” Lemon said at the time.
But much has changed since Lemon’s claim, and President Trump’s shock victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016 has dramatically altered the way CNN covers the news. The network which has long tried to posture as the down-the-middle cable channel that focuses on journalism, and is above the partisanship, now allows its talent to offer their personal thoughts on various subjects.
Fox News contributor Deroy Murdock feels that Cooper, Lemon and Cuomo spend “three hours each night spewing anti-Trump rage” and the network should change their titles.
“They should be honest and simply admit what the whole country already knows: They are liberal commenters, not objective reporters,” Murdock said. “That's perfectly fine, so long as their audience, such as it is, enjoys some truth in advertising."
“They should be honest and simply admit what the whole country already knows: They are liberal commenters, not objective reporters."
A glance at Twitter reveals that Cooper, Lemon and Cuomo are quick to offer their view on the topic of the day.
Over the past few days alone, Cooper mocked Trump’s actions as “not normal,” Lemon got emotional that “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett has lost in the “court of public opinion” and Cuomo -- the younger brother of New York’s Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo -- offers a nightly segment called “closing argument,” which is clearly and firmly rooted in his own opinions.
“It's hard to believe Cuomo and Lemon are straight news anchors when one claims Trump hates America and the other consistently calls it a 'fact' that the president is racist."
“It's hard to believe Cuomo and Lemon are straight news anchors when one claims Trump hates America and the other consistently calls it a 'fact' that the president is racist. Prior to midterm elections, CNN attracted more Democratic viewers than MSNBC, which is openly left-wing,” Daily Caller media editor Amber Athey told Fox News.
As for Cooper, on Monday he blasted President Trump for his recent attacks on Democrats after Congress failed to condemn Rep. Ilhan Omar for her anti-Semitic remarks. The “AC360” host began by ripping the president as “remarkably selective” and didn’t stop there, as he was clearly fired up that Trump told reporters last week that Democrats were the “anti-Israel” and “anti-Jewish” party.
“It’s so outrageous that one has to address it, but by addressing it as we are tonight and we have on Friday, by addressing it, one is exactly playing into the president’s hands in terms of saying something so incendiary that it has to be challenged on a factual basis at the very least if not a moral one,” Cooper said. “The problem is the president- you’re dealing with somebody who has absolutely no shame and is willing to say anything and that’s a real problem for Democrats and for anybody.”
McCall said that “nobody will confuse these commentary shows with the more traditional television news shows delivered by Walter Cronkite or Frank Reynolds or Chet Huntley” in the earlier days of television news.
The opinionated rhetoric is in addition to on-screen primetime graphics that mock and question the president’s every step and regular panel discussions that typically feature several anti-Trump commentators with either a symbolic, lone quasi-conservative or none at all. As a result, former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told Fox News last year that it’s time for CNN to come clean regarding where the network stands politically.
“It is not the place to go to for hard news or for neutral news. It’s a mini MSNBC and they ought to admit it,” Fleischer said.
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.