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CNN’s coverage of Monday’s White House coronavirus press briefing put a harsh spotlight on the network's line-blurring between journalism and agenda-driven opinion, media experts tell Fox News, and even has some wondering if the liberal network has abandoned objective coverage of the president altogether.
CNN cut away from Trump’s task force briefing on Monday when the White House aired a brief video designed to combat recent reports that the response to coronavirus didn’t happen quickly enough. CNN host John King quickly called it “propaganda,” which became the phrase du jour for the network during a series of events that one former network employee said proved it has officially become “Leftist State Media.”
Once CNN decided to return to the briefing, the network’s on-screen chyrons began editorializing with snarky comments that were praised by the far left but frowned upon by journalism professors, conservative media watchdogs and ex-CNN employees.
Various CNN pundits went on to refer to the video as “propaganda” for the remainder of the evening and into Tuesday morning, while the network enlisted what it considers straight-news reporters to chime in. Brian Stelter called it “nothing short of disgraceful,” Jim Acosta accused Trump of having a “total meltdown” and Don Lemon said Trump’s briefing was “the height of narcissism.”
CNN’s graphics department aired chyrons that stated, “Angry Trump turns briefing into propaganda session,” "Trump uses task force briefing to try and rewrite history on coronavirus response,” "Trump melts down in angry response to reports he ignored virus warnings” and “Angry Trump uses propaganda video, produced by government employees at taxpayers’ expense.”
“The CNN chyrons during yesterday's presser were clearly designed to take a sledgehammer editorial approach to Trump's comments,” DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall told Fox News.
“Viewers watching these live COVID-19 briefings have enough sense to figure out for themselves what is going on, without producers trying to push opinion while the events are in progress,” McCall added. “Such brief and politically charged chyrons leave little room for context and perspective, which a story like the pandemic crisis should demand.”
Jeffrey Lord was CNN’s most prominent pro-Trump voice until the network severed ties with him in 2017, and he feels the network has taken a turn for the worse since his exit.
“CNN is now the Leftist State Media."
“CNN is now the Leftist State Media,” Jeffrey Lord told Fox News when asked about the chyrons.
“It gets angry when its propaganda gets answered by this president. CNN said the China travel ban would ‘backfire’ -- and instead it saved lives,” Lord continued. “Substitute ‘CNN’ for ‘Trump’ in those snarky chryrons and their problem is self-evident. It’s too bad because they do have a lot of good people there.”
Former CNN conservative pundit Steve Cortes, another Trump defender who wasn’t long for the liberal network, took to Twitter to criticize how Monday’s coronavirus briefing was covered.
“I’m almost impressed with how hard the CNN chyron writers of my former network effort to get their revulsion for Pres Trump just right! I don’t miss it,” Cortes tweeted.
Former CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien called the chyrons a "mess" and "inappropriate," noting that they're the "opposite of good journalism."
Cornell Law School professor and media critic William A. Jacobson told Fox News that CNN’s on-screen graphics basically confirm that the network has a liberal agenda.
"CNN's argumentative chyrons demonstrate that news and opinion have completely merged at CNN, feeding into Trump's claims that CNN is 'fake news.' What's worse, CNN is quite proud its chyrons, reflecting that CNN is oblivious to how deeply its reputation has been damaged by the games it plays with its news operation,” Jacobson said.
"CNN's argumentative chyrons demonstrate that news and opinion have completely merged at CNN."
Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity even poked fun at CNN’s hysterics during their handoff on Monday night.
“Imagine the rage of the 24-year-old in the chyron booth,” Carlson said, mocking a CNN employee by pretending to aggressively type while uttering, “He’s so bad, orange man,” before Hannity chimed in.
“Blind, psychotic rage,” Hannity said.
While many objected to the chyrons, some members of the left praised the anti-Trump graphics.
Former Obama staffer Tommy Vietor declared that CNN should just listen to its own chyrons and stop airing the briefings altogether.
“CNN is losing those who want it to be objective AND those who say they aren’t #Resistance enough,” another former CNN staffer, Steve Krakauer tweeted in response to calls for the network to stop airing briefings.
NewsBusters’ Nicholas Fondacaro examined Monday’s edition of “OutFront,” the CNN program that came on once the network decided to ditch the remainder of the briefing. He noted that CNN “dove right into some unhinged hot takes” and the “panel was clearly irate as they threw out a flurry of insults and unsupported accusations all in an effort to blame the over 23,000 coronavirus deaths in the U.S. on the president.”
At one point, Acosta accused Trump of “downplaying the severity of this virus” and the CNN pundits repeatedly echoed their network’s chyron claiming Trump was attempting rewrite history.
“This is CNN: unhinged,” Fondacaro wrote.
While CNN continues to declare that the Trump administration didn’t take coronavirus seriously, the same has been said about the network’s own executives. CNN packed over 250 people into a tiny theater for a presentation to its advertisers on March 5, as other networks had already canceled similar events because of coronavirus concerns.
CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta even told attendees that it was completely safe to be in the crowded room and it wasn’t necessary to stock up on masks or pull kids from schools, according to Adweek.
Meanwhile, while labeling White House briefings propaganda, CNN has completely ignored Joe Biden’s sexual misconduct accuser and the network’s fact-checker is almost solely focused on Trump despite previously claiming he would hold both sides accountable for inaccurate statements.
“There's no doubt about it, CNN is trying to fix the presidential election. They don't even pretend to a journalistic enterprise anymore,” Media Research Center vice president Dan Gainor told Fox News.
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.