Trump has made CNN into an unlikely hero.
You are fake news.
Repeatedly criticizing the network for its
coverage of his administration.
Your ratings aren’t as good as some of the
That’s let CNN play the part of the embattled
Are we fake news, Kellyanne?
Is CNN fake news?
But the truth is a lot of this is theater.
CNN plays a really important role in mainstreaming
And that’s because CNN’s approach to covering
politics often prioritizes drama and spectacle
over serious truth telling.
If you want to understand how CNN covers Trump,
you have to understand Jeff Zucker, the network’s
president since 2013.
Zucker came to the network from NBC, where
he oversaw shows like Fear Factor and, yes,
His background is entertainment television,
and to Zucker, politics is essentially a big
He told New York Times magazine:
Can’t believe that’s a real quote.
You can see that approach in a lot of how
CNN covers politics: flashy countdown clocks,
dramatic graphics, pre- and post-debate panels.
It’s essentially become the ESPN of politics.
You a big ESPN fan?
You know what…
But the clearest parallel between CNN and
typical sports coverage is the screaming matches.
Turn on CNN, and you’ll almost certainly
see an argument between hosts, pundits, and
Turn on CNN’s primetime shows and you’ll
see that same argument between a much bigger
panel of people.
I don’t know what we’re yelling about.
These shows are clear relatives of ESPN shows
like First Take, which pit commentators against
each other to argue about whatever news story
was happening that day.
This is the pro- hold on.
This is the problem.
You can actually see some pretty clear parallels
in the formats and studio sets of these shows.
This type of news coverage, centered around
pundits arguing with each other, makes for
cheap, easy TV.
It’s loud, it’s dramatic, and it requires
no original reporting.
Yeah, unlike you.
But in the age of Trump, it’s turned CNN
into a circus of misinformation.
It’s created a huge demand for people who
are willing to go on TV and defend Trump,
and that leaves CNN booking less and less
People in the studio are even laughing.
So you end up with arguments between seasoned
political analysts and the “death panel”
Stop, stop, stop, or I’m going to have to
cut this interview short.
Betsy, where are you getting that from?
About 5 million people will lose coverage,
not 24 million.
Look, there are so many things wrong with
what you said, I’m not going to have a chance…
And it’s resulted in CNN hiring a small
army of paid Trump supporters,
people like Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany,
for the specific purpose of participating
in arguments about Trump.
While hiring paid political commentators isn’t
new for a news network, CNN’s Trump pundits
are unique in the ridiculous lengths they’ll
go to to defend Trump.
Has Trump ever said anything about race that’s
He hasn’t said that much about race.
Oh he can’t stop.
They make inflammatory arguments that shut
down entire segments.
They misrepresent Trump’s positions.
That’s not what he said, that’s what it’s
being spun into.
That’s not what the president said.
Again, that’s not what the president tweeted
That’s not what he said, and that’s not
what those stories say.
That’s what you’re saying!
I’m lost now.
And they say false and misleading things on
national TV while being paid by CNN.
This article does not say what you and other
Trump surrogates are saying that it says.
Susan Rice was unmasking American names, disseminating
that information to numerous different agencies—
No, no, no, no, that is not true.
In a lot of cases, CNN’s Trump pundits are
repeating the misinformation that CNN’s
serious journalists spend all day trying to
We’ve had the reporter on twice saying,
“You are wrong, my article did not say what
Sean Spicer and the White House and you are
claiming it says.”
CNN does this because they know that fighting
makes for entertaining TV.
In a quote that should make your skin crawl,
Zucker told New York Times magazine…
Zucker sees his pro-Trump pundits as “characters
in a drama.”
And they are.
CNN’s fighting-based approach to politics
is nothing if not dramatic.
But much like on Fear Factor or The Apprentice,
it’s manufactured drama.
Side by side, it should be noted.
This is about arguments, not insults.
CNN books wackadoodle Trump supporters to
make sure that every segment is poised to
become a disorienting screaming match.
Just look at how CNN reacted when Jeffrey
Lord went on live TV and said this:
Think of President Trump as the Martin Luther
King of health care.
CNN knew it would get people angry and watching,
so within hours Lord was back on air to spend
two full primetime segments arguing about
Our very own Jeffrey Lord making a statement
that raised a lot of eyebrows.
Let’s discuss it now.
CNN hired a bullshit artist, invited him to
say ridiculous things on TV, and then turned
that bullshit into its own mini TV drama.
We don’t judge people by color in this country.
That is racist, it’s wrong.
And it’s drama that Trump directly benefits
BuzzFeed recently reported that Trump quietly
pushes his surrogates to appear on CNN, even
while he publicly criticizes the network’s
Jeffrey Lord, oh he fights so hard.
This would all be fine and normal if this
was reality television or ESPN.
But it’s not.
At its most basic level, political journalism
is about keeping viewers informed about how
the government is impacting their day-to-day
That can’t happen when CNN treats every
story as a chance to reopen the Thunderdome.
When you treat politics like a sport, you’re
going to end up with news coverage that cares
more about watching people score political
points than about telling the truth.