CNN announced major changes to coincide with President-elect Joe Biden’s upcoming term on Monday, including moving Jim Acosta out of the White House and expanding Jake Tapper’s role, as critics feel the hyper-partisan network is preparing to take it easy on the incoming administration.
"The most glaring change is CNN’s decision to take performance artist Jim Acosta off the White House beat. Talk about showing your hand," conservative strategist Chris Barron told Fox News.
"Acosta will probably get shipped off to cover Mar-a-Lago where he can yell at Trump from outside," Barron joked, but Acosta will actually anchor a to-be-determined weekend show and serve as chief domestic correspondent.
The Spectator's U.S. Washington editor Amber Athey used to work alongside Acosta when she was the White House correspondent for the Daily Caller. She finds it peculiar that CNN would replace Acosta, who emerged as a household name and hero of the so-called "resistance" to Trump with his aggressive style.
"It certainly seems odd that CNN is pulling Acosta from the White House rotation right as a Democratic president is set to take office. He insisted repeatedly that his style of shouting questions, delivering monologues, and heckling White House officials was merely about holding powerful people accountable for their actions," Athey told Fox News. "Is CNN effectively saying that they don’t want to hold the Biden administration accountable in the same way?"
During his time in the White House, Acosta became known for his combative style of questioning members of the administration. He’s sparred with everyone from press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller to Trump himself and famously refused to give up a microphone in 2018 after he engaged in a contentious back-and-forth with the president during a heated press conference.
During the shocking scene, Acosta refused to pass the microphone to a female White House aide and there was brief contact between the two. His White House pass was revoked later that day but it was eventually restored when CNN argued that it violated the network and Acosta’s First and Fifth Amendment rights. The encounter with the aide didn’t change his style, as Acosta has continued his aggressive behavior toward members of the Trump administration that is often seen as grandstanding.
He was recently mocked for claiming that covering Trump was "an experience that might merit hazard pay."
CNN also announced that "The Lead with Jake Tapper" will expand from 4-6 p.m., "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer" will move to 6 p.m., Dana Bash -- who has repeatedly been passed over for a solo show -- will now co-anchor "State of the Union," Abby Phillip will anchor "Inside Politics Sunday" and Pamela Brown will anchor "CNN Newsroom" on weekends.
Kaitlan Collins will replace Acosta on the White House beat, but Barron isn't expecting tough questions for Biden's incoming White House press secretary, Jen Psaki.
"The new CNN White House correspondent will just be a Muppet who nods their head in agreement with whatever the Biden administration spins."
"The new CNN White House correspondent will just be a Muppet who nods their head in agreement with whatever the Biden administration spins," Barron said. "CNN stopped pretending to be an objective news outlet and they aren’t even trying to hide it anymore."
DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall agrees that "CNN intends to give the Biden administration a very easy go of it," which he feels started during the campaign.
"The CNN narrative for four years was that Trump was a disaster and a threat to democracy. Giving the Biden administration soft coverage helps bolster the previous Trump narrative and serves also to justify the Trump resistance CNN helped manage. If CNN battled Biden like they battled Trump, the rhetorical signal would be that the administrations might not be all that different," McCall told Fox News, noting that CNN would be able to help the journalism industry if it actually challenged the Biden administration in sensible ways.
"It would do a lot to restore public trust in the news industry that all administrations deserve media scrutiny, not just favored ones. The media industry is supposed to be serving as watchdogs for the public of all government officials, not as lapdogs for particular politicians that journalists favor," McCall said.
While critics of CNN don’t expect the liberal network to hold Biden’s feet to the fire, NewsBusters executive editor Tim Graham said it’s "painfully obvious" that Acosta wasn’t long for the White House once Biden prevailed against Trump.
"His raging, lecturing routine has no place in the Biden press corps. The transition from rabid lion to Poppin Fresh would have been stunning. What we're to get now is repeaters, not reporters," Graham told Fox News. "The liberal networks say they won't be ‘stenographers to power,’ but that's exactly what they sound like most of the time when they are covering Democrats."
As for Tapper getting an extra hour of the air every day, Graham feels that it’s simply a sign that CNN has no issues with an "anchor" spouting off partisan opinions.
"No one can call Tapper's show a ‘straight news’ show, and his Twitter feed is also a gusher of liberal hot takes. CNN's coverage of the Biden campaign -- and especially their 'let's hide' press strategy -- displays how deeply enmeshed with the Democratic public-relations machine they are," Graham said.