by Jeff Ballabon
CNN likes to masquerade as an objective news outlet, but its lawsuit against President Trump and the Secret Service makes its partisanship more nakedly obvious than ever.
From the very beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency, CNN has used its platform to demean, denigrate, and deride the president at every opportunity.
Their Chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, who grandstands on and off the air as Trump’s chief antagonist, is merely the most notorious manifestation of CNN’s rampant bias. Recently, his behavior so violated every norm of White House press corps etiquette that the White House withdrew his access to the White House grounds.
CNN sued President Trump and a judge temporarily reinstated Acosta’s access pending outcome of the case.
CNN’s legal case rests on the contention that the First Amendment’s freedom of the press guarantees Jim Acosta permanent access to the White House grounds. The judge declined to rule on those grounds, ruling instead that Acosta may have been denied his Fifth Amendment due process rights because he did not have an opportunity to formally appeal the revocation of his pass.
CNN likes to pretend it serves a vital public interest through “objective” reporting, and their lawsuit pretends that Acosta lost his “hard pass” — by the way, a privilege many real journalists would die for — because he is the only one brave enough to stand up to Donald Trump and ask him the “tough questions.”
Ridiculous. President Trump — who even his detractors are compelled to concede is vastly more open and available to the press than previous presidents — fielded 66 additional questions from 34 other reporters, the vast majority of whom were liberals, at the same press conference at which Acosta’s inappropriate behavior cost him his hard pass. Many were tough, biting, accusatory questions, including several from journalists whose reporting the President has publicly criticized.
Not one question resulted in someone having their hard pass pulled. Neither did the past two years of Acosta’s outrageous antics. Neither has anything said or done by the nearly 50 other CNN reporters with hard passes, despite CNN’s nakedly biased, around-the-clock anti-Trump content.
Plenty of news outlets are critical of the President. Plenty of reporters ask Donald Trump tough, sometimes disrespectful, downright rude questions. But no reporter has ever tried to hijack a press conference by arguing with the President while physically fending off a White House intern’s attempts to retrieve the microphone.
What cost Jim Acosta his pass was his gross breach of decorum, regardless of what CNN’s absurd lawsuit argues.
CNN’s reaction reveals something very important about the network’s attitude towards this administration and their own role in American democracy.
If this were about journalism — getting and reporting news — CNNexecutives would have told Acosta to calm down and behave months ago. If CNN were really just concerned with making sure that Donald Trump gets properly questioned, they’d have substituted one of their many other credentialed reporters to make sure they kept the President’s feet to the fire.
And if CNN actually gave a damn about the First Amendment, they would stop making the outrageous claim that Freedom of Speech belongs to them, but not to the President — a charge heard regularly from CNN when they claim the President’s criticisms of their disgraceful behavior amounts to a Constitutional crisis.
No: Acosta’s grandstanding, not journalism, has always been his bosses’ aim. And CNN sued for one reason — to cause a ruckus at the White House. Last month, veteran journalist Ted Koppel, himself a Trump critic, publicly scolded CNN for pretending that their outrageous behavior was anything other than manipulation: “CNN’s ratings would be in the toilet without Donald Trump,” he declared.
From the moment Donald Trump declared his run for president, CNN cast away any fidelity to journalism in order to jack up poor ratings. Its hosts sat in front of the cameras, feigning shock and indignation at everything the candidate said or did.
Through nearly two years of the Trump presidency, CNN has gone even further, engaging in stunt after stunt while insisting that their ratings-driven political theater is actually serious journalism.
The network’s childish response to the consequences of Acosta’s disgraceful behavior illustrates why the “Fake News” epithet has stuck. CNN should have apologized, not sued.
CNN claims it’s a violation of Freedom of the Press when President Trump exercises his constitutional right to call out CNN for blatant bias. CNN vs. Donald Trump isn’t just a fitting name for the lawsuit. It’s a perfect description of the network’s fundamental attitude towards the President of the United States.
Americans no longer trust the news media for good reason. The greatest service CNN could do to the cause of journalism and the Constitution would be to stop the charade.
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Jeff Ballabon is a political advisor, media consultant, and former CBS News executive.