CNN is widely regarded as anti-President Trump, but a series of recent events have critics on both sides of the political spectrum wondering if the network doesn’t like Democrats who are too liberal, either.
On Monday, CNN reporter MJ Lee cited four anonymous sources who claimed Bernie Sanders once told Elizabeth Warren that he didn’t think a woman could win the 2020 presidential election. The reporter revealed that none of the sources were in the room when the alleged conversation occurred, and Sanders vehemently denied the claim, but CNN reported it as a fact anyway.
The following day, Sanders again denied the claim onstage during CNN’s Democratic debate but moderator Abby Phillip completely ignored his side of the story and immediately asked Warren, “What did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win an election?"
Some TV insiders feel Phillip simply wasn’t listening to Sanders’ response, but others think the situation is a microcosm of widespread favoritism toward particular candidates.
CNN contributor Steve Cortes isn't afraid to shoot inside the tent, with only a few days remaining on his contract to serve as a pro-Trump pundit at the network. But he hopes the newfound emphasis on CNN’s Sanders coverage puts a spotlight on the network’s overall agenda.
“I hope that my network’s clear bias against Bernie Sanders... will convince citizens of all ideologies that corporate media figures overwhelmingly forsake journalism in favor of blatant activism."
“I hope that my network’s clear bias against Bernie Sanders – a candidate espousing policies I abhor – will convince citizens of all ideologies that corporate media figures overwhelmingly forsake journalism in favor of blatant activism,” Cortes told Fox News.
“Normally, the dishonest voices of corporate media masquerade as journalists to malign President Trump and smear our America First movement,” Cortes added. “But, the clear bias from my network against Senator Sanders revealed that even leftists are not immune to targeting from the biased legacy press.”
Sanders supporters immediately flooded social media with messages condemning CNN and a variety of disparaging hashtags – such as #CNNisTrash – became trending topics as a result.
“CNN has long been viewed as anti-Sanders, but this is incredible,” George Washington University Constitutional Law Professor Jonathan Turley wrote as he watched Tuesday's debate.
Following the debate, CNN spent much of the next 24 hours pondering what was said during what appeared to be a heated discussion between Warren and Sanders following the debate, when the candidates were still on stage and wearing CNN mics. The network then suddenly unearthed the footage – and was mocked for promoting it as an exclusive bombshell that it “obtained.” The recording revealed that Warren and Sanders were accusing each other of lying.
But CNN’s website published a headline that only told one side of the story, “Exclusive: Warren accused Sanders in tense post-debate exchange of calling her a 'liar' on national TV.’”
The backlash has been overwhelming, with even liberal publications HuffPost and Rolling Stone taking swings at CNN. The Hill media reporter Joe Concha pointed out that “CNN is usually a punching bag for conservatives in the Trump era,” but the treatment of Sanders has sparked new criticism from the left.
"Over a 24-hour period before, during, and after the debate, CNN bid farewell to what remained of its reputation as a nonpolitical actor via a remarkable stretch of factually dubious reporting, bent commentary, and heavy-handed messaging," Rolling Stone contributing editor Matt Taibbi wrote. "If the network doesn’t see trouble in this, it’s delusional.”
Conservative strategist Chris Barron feels that CNN’s “anti-Bernie bias” is actually a result of the network’s deep-seated hatred of Trump.
“CNN, like the rest of the moneyed Democratic establishment, knows that Trump would beat Bernie like a drum in the general election,” Barron told Fox News.
But Fox News host Tucker Carlson thinks there is more to it and detailed his feelings during a scathing monologue on Wednesday night’s edition of “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” He noted that Democratic fundraisers will “recoil in terror” if Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, so CNN president Jeff Zucker has decided to “destroy” his campaign.
“Zucker poses as a television executive but he operates like a political consultant. His latest client is the Democratic establishment, which has dispatched him to crush Bernie Sanders before he can take control of the party,” Carlson said before airing a montage of CNN personalities bashing Sanders while praising Warren.
“It almost seemed personal, and in some ways it was personal,” Carlson said. “Just four days ago, CNN settled a lawsuit with its unionized employees for a record $76 million dollars... when that deal was announced, Bernie Sanders issued a statement celebrating the win for CNN’s oppressed and miserable workforce.”
Carlson said that it’s clear “Zucker was not amused” by Sanders siding with the network’s unionized staffers and “readied his troops for battle” as a result.
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.