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CNN's most prominent anchors and reporters have ratcheted up their attacks against President Trump during the coronavirus outbreak as the liberal network continues to blur the lines between straight news and opinion journalism.
On Tuesday night, the network's primetime hosts Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon blasted the president for expressing to reporters at his White House briefing that he wanted to be a "cheerleader" for the country during the national crisis.
"Anybody could tell people what they want to hear and make it easy. And you know what you get? Exactly where we are right now," Cuomo said. "That was the most asinine statement of leadership I have ever heard.
Cuomo then angrily mocked the president, "'I'm a cheerleader so I'm going to lie to you about the realities that your parents, your loved ones, and your kids face. I'm not going to prepare the way I should because it reinforces the bulls--- I'm telling you and I'm going to hope that you're okay with it.'"
In the following hour, Lemon also condemned the president's "cheerleader" rhetoric.
"Tonight, we are closing in on 400,000 U.S. cases and in the face of that, the president says that he wants to be a 'cheerleader' for the country... He's got one part of that right -- it's leader. Leader. Not cheerleader," Lemon reacted during his opening monologue. "Telling people what could happen and preparing for that to happen is what you are supposed to do."
He continued, "Yes, Americans do need their president to give them hope, but we also need the facts about what we are facing. Facts could be, well no, they are the difference between life and death. Which means the weeks and months this administration spent not taking this seriously is a bitter pill to swallow on a day that over 1,700 Americans died. No amount of cheerleading can ever bring those people back."
Last week, the "CNN Tonight" anchor urged the network to not air Trump's press briefings live.
"I have said I don't think that you should really listen to what he says, you should listen to what the experts say," Lemon told Cuomo during their nightly handoff. "I'm not actually sure, if you want to be honest, that we should carry that live. I think we should run snippets. I think we should do it afterwards and get the pertinent points to the American people because he's never, ever going to tell you the truth."
He later exclaimed, "It is all a plot! It is all orchestrated. And if you can't see it, I don't know what you're looking at. It's obvious, it's transparent to me. This has become, those press briefings have become his new 'Apprentice.' They've become his new rallies. And he treats the press and the media as if he's talking to the people at his rallies. It's the same thing. It's no different except the audience isn't there."
Media company Grabien founder and editor Tom Elliott said it's "notable" that CNN, who for months chastised the White House for halting the daily press briefing, is "now patting itself on the back" for not airing significant portions of the coronavirus task force briefings, including the president's prepared remarks.
"There's no doubt the coronavirus is the biggest news story of the decade, and the White House is on the leading edge of America's response. That CNN believes it needs to decide on their viewers' behalf whether these briefings are newsworthy suggests they don't have much confidence in their viewers' intelligence," Elliott told Fox News.
On Monday, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper accused Trump of "hijacking" his own White House press briefing and trashed his response to the pandemic.
"If you tuned into it hoping you were going to hear from the country's top scientists, you were likely disappointed," Cooper said. "What you mostly heard was the president. And what you saw was a hijacking. A hijacking of the task force press conference by a president determined to rewrite the history of his early and reprehensibly irresponsible response to this virus. What the president showed us today is what the nation's top scientists have to deal with every day- a president who now uses these briefings as a reelection platform, an opportunity to lie, to deflect, to attack, to bully, and cover-up his own deadly dismissals of the virus for crucial weeks."
NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck told Fox News that "there's no wall of separation" in how CNN's political commentators, versus its anchors and reporters, conduct themselves.
"The commentaries, digs, eye rolls, huffing, and snarky chyrons are not bugs, but features of how they go about their job as 'journalists,'" Houck explained. "It's been clear as day how CNN's straight-news journalists have conducted themselves in this Trump era, but the coronavirus has exacerbated it with almost nothing else to cover and/or talk about."
CNN's star anti-Trump reporter Jim Acosta has been making plenty of headlines in recent weeks over his nonstop hostility towards the president. After sparring with Trump in the Rose Garden late last month, Acosta was accused of "mansplaining" when he interrupted Dr. Deborah Birx while she was pointing out the apparent errors that were made by the World Health Organization (WHO) in order to attack the president.
"Jim Acosta's interruption of Dr. Birx is an example of how CNN's echo-journalism model is destroying the media's credibility," George Washington University Law professor Jonathan Turley reacted on Twitter. "Every question from Acosta is an effort to score points rather than elicit information. It is a press pandemic that continues to rage without relief."
Acosta was also criticized on Tuesday for downplaying WHO's blunders after President Trump threatened to hold funding for the global organization.
Acosta tweeted: "Trump slams WHO for 'calling it wrong.' But it was Trump who was calling it wrong for weeks on the Coronavirus. The WHO called the outbreak a pandemic on March 11. Trump cited the WHO in an address to nation on same day."
"Oh ffs. You can criticize Trump without whitewashing the extent to which the WHO has pooped the bed for months on end," Daily Caller investigative editor Peter J. Hasson reacted to Acosta on Twitter.
Mediaite editor Caleb Howe also knocked the White House correspondent, telling Fox News, "It is impossible for Jim Acosta to be even MORE Jim Acosta. Physics won't allow it" and that Lemon "has become a parody of itself."
"Maybe it's being cooped up at home, or maybe the edges are just fraying everywhere, but in these more grim days, both the news and those who report it match the mood of the times," Howe said.
Acosta wasn't the only CNN journalist to stir up controversy on Twitter this week. On Monday night, the network's lead political anchor Jake Tapper was under fire for retweeting vocal Trump critic George Conway, who essentially wrote that nobody in the Trump administration had the guts to tell Trump that he is "100% insane."
Turley slammed the "State of the Union" anchor, saying that Tapper's retweet "further undermines the media by reaffirming for many that the media is campaigning against Trump rather than covering him."
"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result," Turley told the anchor.
Tapper, who had since undone the retweet and replaced it with a quote tweet noting the apparent significance of Conway's insult, defended the retweet, saying "I RTed Conway, a conservative attorney and Trump critic, because he wrote that no one in the administration has the courage to stand up to the president which seems newsworthy given how many people in the administration he knows. RTs do not nec. = agreement."
Houck suggested that the combative media should keep its focus on the safety of the public and on praising those on the front lines instead of making its feud with the president so dominant in its coverage.
"What should [be] a time in which the news media rally to focus chiefly on keeping the public safe from this pandemic and highlighting the heroes that have emerged has instead been another chance for CNN to bash the president and flaunt their utter disdain for him," Houck said.