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CNN Uses Interview With Valerie Jarrett To Boast Of Its Objectivity

Posted By Joseph Klein On October 30, 2009 @ 11:14 am In NewsReal Blog,Uncategorized | No Comments

Bill O’Reilly has been giving his on-air competitor Campbell Brown of CNN some free promotion the last couple of nights. The reason was Campbell’s interview with senior Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett, in which Jarrett refused to admit that the Obama administration’s attacks on Fox News for media bias left out obvious examples of media bias such as MSNBC. While claiming that the administration was not only targetting Fox, that’s essentially what she did during the brief interview:

BROWN: SO DO YOU THINK FOX NEWS IS BIASED?

JARRETT: WELL, OF COURSE THEY’RE BIASED. OF COURSE THEY ARE.

BROWN: DO YOU ALSO THINK THAT MSNBC IS BIASED?

JARRETT: WELL, YOU KNOW WHAT, THIS IS THE THING. I DON’T WANT TO — ACTUALLY, I DON’T WANT TO JUST GENERALIZE ALL FOX IS BIASED OR ANOTHER STATION IS BIASED. I THINK WHAT WE WANT TO DO IS LOOK AT IT ON A CASE-BY-CASE BASIS. AND WHEN WE SEE A PATTERN OF DISTORTION, WE’RE GOING TO BE HONEST ABOUT THAT PATTERN OF DISTORTION.

BROWN: BUT YOU ONLY SEE THAT AT FOX NEWS. THAT’S ALL — THAT YOU’VE SPOKEN OUT ABOUT, FOX.

JARRETT: WHAT THE ADMINISTRATION HAS SAID VERY CLEARLY IS THAT WE’RE GOING TO SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER.

Why did Campbell Brown use CNN’s airtime to defend Fox News? I think the answer lies in CNN’s dismal ratings.   It currently lags behind both Fox and MSNBC. She is trying to help her network project the image of being the only objective cable TV news station on the air, as opposed to those rabid extremists you find on the other two networks. 

Here is what Campbell Brown said on her program the night after her Jarrett interview aired:

Just as Fox News leans to the right with their opinionated hosts in primetime, MSNBC leans left. I don’t think anyone at Fox or MSNBC would disagree with that. In fact, both Fox News and MSNBC are… doing quite well in the primetime ratings by doing partisan opinion.

Look, if the White House wants to lead us in a conversation about bias in the media, and how we define journalism today, I would love that. Times have changed. It would be great to talk honestly about how we draw important distinctions between the various media outlets.

Some of us like my colleagues here at CNN are still trying to do journalism. I believe that journalists do have a crucial role to play in challenging our leaders no matter what their political persuasion, and in holding them accountable.

Opinionated cable news hosts have a valid but very different role. They either cheerlead or criticize and in doing so they connect with those who agree with them. They validate the opinions of those on the left and on the right. They provoke one another, fight with one another, and yes, they entertain us.

And in a polarized country, that gets big ratings. I’m not critical of what my friends at Fox News and MSNBC do. But it is apples and oranges when compared to what we at CNN do. And we should all just acknowledge that.

The problem with Campbell’s self-righteous pronouncement about CNN’s high-minded journalism is that it is not true. One obvious example is “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” which hardly anyone would call unbiased.  While Dobbs is right-leaning, expecially on the immigration issue, the vast majority of Campbell’s colleagues on CNN have a distinctly pro-Obama and left-leaning bias which they try to conceal under the veneer of journalism. Try as they might, though, the bias shows through.  Indeed, Brown herself lobbed such soft-ball questions at Obama during one of the debates between Obama and Hillary Clinton that “Saturday Night Live” parodied her to great effect.

Exhibit A of CNN bias under the veil of ‘objectivity’ is Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international correspondent and anchor of “Amanpour,” a 30-minute, daily interview program that premiered on CNN International in September 2009.  Her special “God’s Warriors,” which aired on CNN a couple of years ago, was intended to prove moral equivalency among Islam, Christianity and Judaism by portraying these religions as equally violent at the extremes. Amanpour has also displayed her anti-Israel bias on various occasions.

Bill O’Reilly can afford to be generous in showing clips of his on-air competitor and praising her for fair-minded journalism, given the huge ratings disparity between “The O’Reilly Factor” and the “Campbell Brown” show. But in doing so, he is playing into CNN’s hands, which is desperately trying to re-capture some ratings by trying to define itself as the truly fair and balanced news network. CNN is just as biased as any other network. Its problem is that it is just plain boring.


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