CNN controversies

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The Cable News Network (CNN), an American basic cable and satellite television channel, has been the subject of several controversies at various points throughout its history. This article recounts controversies and allegations relating to both the domestic version of CNN, and its sister channels CNN International and CNN-IBN.

CNN has been subject to allegations of attempting to influence viewers, as opposed to an unbiased approach to political journalism.[1]

CNN has been accused of fake news by Trump[2] and has been the subject of allegations of extreme liberal bias.

Allegations of bias[edit | edit source]

CNN has often been the subject of allegations of extreme liberal bias. In research conducted by the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University and the Project for Excellence in Journalism, the authors found disparate treatment by the three major cable networks of Republican and Democratic candidates during the earliest five months of presidential primaries in 2007: "The CNN programming studied tended to cast a negative light on Republican candidates – by a margin of three-to-one. Four-in-ten stories (41%) were clearly negative while just 14% were positive and 46% were neutral. The network provided negative coverage of all three main candidates with McCain faring the worst (63% negative) and Romney faring a little better than the others only because a majority of his coverage was neutral. With the exception of Obama, Democrats tended not to fare well either. Nearly half of the Illinois Senator’s stories were positive (46%), vs. just 8% that were negative, but both Clinton and Edwards ended up with more negative than positive coverage overall. While Democrats on average tended to have more positive coverage, the trend was skewed by particularly positive coverage of Obama."[3]

Writer Eric Alterman has noted that many left-leaning critics[who?] view CNN as more biased than most other corporate-run journalism, supporting business interests of its parent company and sponsors, and refusing to question official sources or present perspectives of leftist critics.[4][need quotation to verify]

Accuracy in Media and Media Research Center (MRC) have claimed that CNN's reporting contains liberal editorializing within news stories as well as omission of important facts.[citation needed] Former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and MRC founder Brent Bozell, among others, have referred to CNN as the "Clinton News Network".[5] DeLay has also called it the "Communist News Network".[6] In its early days, CNN was sometimes referred to as "Chicken Noodle News".[7] In September 2009, a Pew Research Poll showed that Democrats were much more likely than Republicans to rate the network favorably, and Republicans were much more likely than Democrats to see CNN unfavorably.[8]

Octavia Nasr firing[edit | edit source]

Chief Middle East correspondent Octavia Nasr was fired after a tweet saying she was "Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah... One of Hezbollah's giants I respect[ed] a lot." Parisa Khosravi, senior vice president of CNN International, said she spoke with Nasr and "we have decided that she will be leaving the company." His reason for her removal was given as "As you know, her tweet over the weekend created a wide reaction. As she has stated in her blog on, she fully accepts that she should not have made such a simplistic comment without any context whatsoever. However, at this point, we believe that her credibility in her position as senior editor for Middle Eastern affairs has been compromised going forward."[9]

The pro-Israel media watchdog group Honest Reporting, one of the first organizations to respond to her tweet, noted Fadlallah’s controversial praise for the Mercaz HaRav massacre, the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, the Iran hostage crisis and Iran’s efforts to build long-range ballistic missiles. Fadlallah also made statements supporting Holocaust denial and suicide bombing attacks against Israel. Fadlallah was directly responsible for the murder of 260 Americans. In 1995, President Bill Clinton labeled him a terrorist and froze his assets. Fadlallah encouraged suicide bombers and his final words called for the destruction of the state of Israel.

Robert Fisk criticised CNN for the firing saying, "Poor old CNN goes on getting more cowardly by the hour. That's why no one cares about it any more."[10] According to a July 2010 (Iranian-run) Press TV poll, nearly two-thirds (65.99%) of the respondents described CNN's recent move to sack Nasr as "an instance of intellectual terrorism reflecting the influence of Zionists on mainstream Western media outlets".[11]

Rick Sanchez firing[edit | edit source]

After Rick Sanchez talked of Jewish ownership of American media outlets, and harshly criticized Jon Stewart during an appearance on a radio show in 2010, CNN announced in a statement that the network had dismissed him: "Rick Sanchez is no longer with the company. We thank Rick for his years of service and wish him well."[12]

Leniency towards the Bush administration[edit | edit source]

After 9/11[edit | edit source]

Amongst the criticisms levied against CNN, as well as the other major U.S. news channels, is the charge that CNN took a lenient approach to the George W. Bush Presidential administration, particularly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. At the 2002 Newsworld Asia conference held in Singapore, the executive vice-president and general manager of CNN International, was quoted as saying: "Anyone who claims the US media didn't censor itself is kidding you. It wasn't a matter of government pressure but a reluctance to criticize anything in a war that was obviously supported by the vast majority of the people. And this isn't just a CNN issue – every journalist who was in any way involved in 9/11 is partly responsible."[13]

Invasion of Iraq[edit | edit source]

Critics took particularly strong exception to the handling of the Bush administration's rhetoric leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. CNN's then-chief correspondent Christiane Amanpour characterized the behavior of the news media, which she supported and had a major part in it, as "self-muzzling" and as "cheerleaders for the Bush war drive against Iraq".[14] An editorial in the German publication Süddeutsche Zeitung compared CNN's war coverage to "live coverage of the Super Bowl", and the Qatar-based news network Al-Jazeera criticized CNN for portraying U.S. soldiers as heroes.[15]

Israel–Gaza conflict[edit | edit source]

During the 2014 Gaza conflict, hundreds of protesters came to the Time Warner Center, where CNN's New York City production facilities and bureau are housed. The protesters accused CNN of anti-Israel media bias, ignoring the Israeli side of the conflict and reporting deceitful stories that favor the Palestinian side.[16] Various people accused CNN of biased coverage during live interviews on the network.[17][18][19]

Assault weapons[edit | edit source]

CNN apologized for a May 15, 2003, story in which CNN's John Zarella and Broward County, Florida Sheriff Ken Jenne demonstrated the rapid firing of fully-automatic firearms while covering the federal Assault Weapons Ban, due to expire the following year. The Assault Weapons Ban was concerned solely with semi-automatic firearms, not fully automatic ones, which had already been restricted by the National Firearms Act of 1934, and the subsequent 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act.[20]

Coverage of 2016 US Presidential Election[edit | edit source]

Criticism surfaced online when CNN was found to have deleted the online poll from their official website after the Democratic Presidential debate on October 15, 2015 which showed Bernie Sanders winning the debate by 75% of viewer votes. This poll was later replaced by an opinion piece based upon a Clinton victory[21]

Occupy CNN[edit | edit source]

On 3 April 2016, hundreds of supporters of Bernie Sanders protested outside of CNN Los Angeles. Sanders supporters were protesting CNN's coverage of the 2016 United States presidential elections, specifically in regards to the lack of airtime Sanders has received. Known as Occupy CNN, protesters claimed that major media networks have intentionally blacked out Sanders' presidential campaign in favor of giving much more airtime to candidates such as Hillary Clinton.[22]

Donna Brazile and Roland Martin[edit | edit source]

In October 2016, WikiLeaks published emails from John Podesta which showed CNN contributor Donna Brazile passing the questions for a CNN-sponsored debate to the Clinton campaign.[23] In the email, Brazile discussed her concern of Clinton's ability to field a question regarding the death penalty. The following day Clinton would receive the question about the death penalty, verbatim from an audience member at the CNN-hosted Town Hall event.[24] According to a CNNMoney investigation, the debate moderator Roland Martin of TV One "did not deny sharing information with Brazile."[25] CNN severed ties with Brazile on October 14, 2016.[26][27]

Coverage on international incidents[edit | edit source]

Persian Gulf War[edit | edit source]

During the Persian Gulf War, CNN was criticized for excessively pushing human interest stories and avoiding depictions of violent images; the result of all this being an alleged 'propagandistic' presentation of news.[28] A report by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) quotes an unnamed CNN reporter as describing "the 'sweet beautiful sight' of bombers taking off from Saudi Arabia."[29]

Operation Tailwind[edit | edit source]

In 1998, CNN, in partnership with corporate sister Time magazine, ran a report that Operation Tailwind in 1970 in Vietnam included use of Sarin gas to kill a group of defectors from the United States military. The Pentagon denied the story. Skeptics deemed it improbable that such an extraordinary and risky atrocity could have gone unnoticed at the height of the Vietnam War's unpopularity. CNN, after a two-week inquiry, issued a retraction.[30] The story's producers were summarily fired, and one of them has been highly critical of CNN's handling of the story, saying that the network bowed to pressure from high-ranking officials to kill the story.[31]

2008 South Ossetian conflict[edit | edit source]

During the 2008 South Ossetia War in Georgia, the state-sponsored Russia Today accused CNN of "distorting" its coverage of the conflict by showing photos of destruction in Tskhinvali during a segment about Russian attacks on Gori.[32] CNN defended its general coverage of the war against allegations of bias, but did not address the specific claim.[33]

Coverage of Serbia in 2008[edit | edit source]

Controversy was raised on two occasions in 2008 over CNN's inaccurate coverage of the events and individuals in Serbia.

Following the July 2008 arrest of Radovan Karadžić, a former Bosnian Serb leader and war crime suspect who had been on the run for more than a decade, CNN reported on pro-Karadžić protests in Belgrade as well as the protester clashes with the Serb police. However, the actual footage of the Belgrade clash in the report was inter-cut with sequences from the much more violent 2006 Budapest riot in which cars were set on fire and police used water cannons. The network falsely presented the mixed footage as video from the Belgrade protests.[34][35] Media observer reaction to the incorrect footage ranged from opinions that CNN did it on purpose in order to inflate the nationalist threat in Serbia to those who thought that it was an honest mistake.[36]

Later that year in December, CNN again caused controversy in Serbia when in the report about general Ratko Mladić (another Bosnian Serb leader and war crime suspect on the run), the American network wrongly visually identified the general as Serbian opposition leader Tomislav Nikolić from the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS).[37] Though Nikolić initially announced his intention to sue CNN for libel, he eventually decided against it when informed that the process would have to take place in London and would be financially costly.[38]

Chinese unrests in Tibet and Xinjiang[edit | edit source]

2008 unrest in Tibet[edit | edit source]

During the 2008 unrest in Tibet, Xinhua News Agency[39] and the China Daily newspaper[40] reported that there has been bias in the Western media's coverage of the rioting in Tibet, especially in the captioning and cropping of images, and mis-referencing photos from unrelated instances or other countries. The articles stated that Chinese netizens were angered by what they saw biased and sometimes dishonest reporting by Western media. Chinese bloggers accused CNN's photograph, which showed a crashed car on the left, of not showing Tibetan protesters throwing stones at Chinese trucks. CNN correspondent John Vause, who reported this story, responded that "...technically it was impossible to include the crashed car on the left and the protesters on the right...".[41] CNN later produced a statement regarding their coverage on the rioting, refuting all allegations.[42]

2009 Ürümqi riots[edit | edit source]

Similar accusations of media bias occurred with the reporting of the July 2009 Ürümqi riots. Xinhua News accused CNN of taking a biased Uyghur stance and showing sympathy to the rioters to attract the Western reader's attention.[43][44] Commentators have expressed that the inaccuracy in reporting has badly tarnished the reputation of CNN and other Western media in Asian societies.[45]

2010 Thai political protests[edit | edit source]

During the 2010 Thai political protests which began with mobile protests and the seizure of the Ratchaprasong commercial area by "Red Shirt" supporters of the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), reporters such as Dan Rivers were frequently criticized by members of CNN's own iReport for offering simplistic pro-protester, anti-government coverage.[46] CNN was also criticized for being pro-Thaksin Shinawatra[47] and providing less balanced coverage than other news networks such as Al-Jazeera[48] and the BBC.[49]

Coverage of Iranian protests[edit | edit source]

In June 2009, during CNN's coverage of the Iranian election protests, the network used several messages posted on Twitter and attributed them to unnamed "sources." A CNN spokesman said it was a mistake.[50]

Suppression of Bahraini protests, and biased reporting of Iran and Syria[edit | edit source]

In October 2011, correspondent Amber Lyon told a European news service that she had been directed by CNN to report selectively, repetitively and falsely in order to sway public opinion in favor of direct American aggression against Iran and Syria,[51] and that this was common practice under CNN. She subsequently reconfirmed this in detail, addressing the degraded state of journalistic ethics in an interview with American radio host Alex Jones,[52] during which she also discussed the Bahraini episode, suggesting paid-for content was also taken from Georgia, Kazakhstan and other states, that the War on Terrorism had also been employed as a pretext to pre-empt substantive investigative journalism within the U.S., and that following the Bahrain reporting, her investigative department had been terminated and "reorganized", and her severance and employee benefits used as a threat to intimidate and attempt to purchase her subsequent silence.

Lyon had met with Tony Maddox, president of CNN International, twice about this issue in 2011 and had claimed that during the second meeting she was threatened and intimated to stop speaking on the matter.[53] Lyon spoke heavily on RT about this – claiming that CNN reporters, headed by Maddox, have been instructed to over-cover Iran as a form of propaganda, and that CNN International had been paid by the Bahraini government to produce and air news segments intentionally painting them in a positive light.[54]

Coverage of Margaret Thatcher's death[edit | edit source]

CNN was criticized for using a photograph of former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher with disgraced BBC presenter Jimmy Savile four times during coverage of her death on April 8, 2013.[55][56] Allegations of sexual abuse against Saville were made public in 2012, a year after his death, leading UK police to believe that Savile may have been one of Britain's most prolific sex offenders.[57] An image of Thatcher with Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was also run during the broadcast, leading some commentators to accuse CNN of bias.[58][59]

Executives[edit | edit source]

Eason Jordan[edit | edit source]

Admits lobbying and minimizing atrocities[edit | edit source]

In April 2003, Eason Jordan, CNN's chief news executive, wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times stating that he had lobbied the Iraqi government for 12 years in order to maintain a CNN presence in Iraq. He also admitted to withholding what would be considered newsworthy information of the government's atrocities, citing fears that releasing news would potentially endanger the lives of Iraqis working for CNN in Baghdad, some of whom had already been subject to beatings and torture.[60][full citation needed]

Resignation after accusations by blogger[edit | edit source]

In February 2005, Jordan resigned from CNN. The resignation came in response to controversy sparked after bloggers wrote that, at the recent World Economic Forum, Jordan had seemed to accuse the U.S. military of having purposely killed journalists. While Jordan acknowledged his remarks were not sufficiently clear, he denied that this was what he had meant to imply, saying that he had "great admiration and respect for the men and women of the U.S. armed forces."[61]

Rick Kaplan[edit | edit source]

Rick Kaplan served as president of CNN from 1997 to 2000. Since 1977, Kaplan has been a personal friend of Bill Clinton, who was President of the United States during Kaplan's tenure at the network. According to the Media Research Center, Kaplan's friendship, and political affinity, with Clinton affected the way the network covered the Monica Lewinsky scandal: "As the Lewinsky scandal broke, Kaplan leapt into action at CNN with two-hour specials attacking any and all Clinton critics. The programs included 'Media Madness,' which asked 'what the hell are you people doing' probing Bill Clinton’s sex life?; and 'Investigating the Investigator,' which described Ken Starr as 'suspect' over his 'religious and Republican roots.'"[62] Conservative commentator John Fund wrote that "During Mr. Kaplan's CNN tenure, there were no obvious examples of his coming to Mr. Clinton's aid," but that CNN's "executives create a perception problem when they hobnob with politicians."[63]

Jeff Zucker[edit | edit source]

CNN was criticized for its coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings, after erroneously reporting that a "dark-skinned male" had been arrested in connection with the attack.[64][65][66] In the aftermath of the broadcast, Jeff Zucker – who was appointed as president of CNN in 2012 – lauded the coverage, claiming that "CNN shined this week",[67] and boasted ratings success that CNN achieved during the coverage, adding that "viewers respected the network's accountability when it admitted its mistakes".[68] Jon Stewart criticized Zucker's comments after calling CNN's coverage of the Washington Navy Yard shooting "breathless wrongness", claiming that "The lesson they take from this is – it doesn't matter how much they betray our trust."[68]

Individual commentators[edit | edit source]

Tucker Carlson[edit | edit source]

Tucker Carlson co-hosted the short-lived debate show The Spin Room from late 2000 until early 2001. The show was critically panned, with Entertainment Weekly calling it the worst of the CNN lineup and calling Carlson a "bow-tied twit".[69][70] Carlson took to reading his hate mail on the air.[71]

Carlson would later co-host Crossfire with Paul Begala. Jon Stewart appeared on Crossfire on October 15, 2004 and engaged in a heated exchange with Carlson. Stewart criticized the format of Crossfire and the style of arguments presented on the show. He called both hosts "partisan hacks," and asked them to "stop hurting America." Begala argued that the purpose of the show was that it was intended as for debate, to which Stewart responded "To do a debate would be great. But that's like saying Pro Wrestling is a show about athletic competition" and called Carlson's signature bow-tie an example of "theater". At one point Carlson told Stewart "I think you're more fun on your show," Stewart replied by saying: "You know what's interesting though? You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show." Carlson later told Stewart that "You need to get a job at a journalism school, I think" to which Stewart quipped "You need to go to one."[72][73][74]

Carlson departed CNN in January 2005; the network cancelled Crossfire at that same time.[75] CNN president Jonathan Klein told Carlson on January 4, 2005, that the network had decided not to renew his contract. Klein also stated that "I agree wholeheartedly with Jon Stewart's overall premise."[74][76] Carlson claimed that he had resigned from CNN before Stewart's appearance claiming: "I resigned from Crossfire in April, many months before Jon Stewart came on our show, because I didn't like the partisanship, and I thought in some ways it was kind of a pointless conversation... each side coming out, you know, [raises fists] 'Here's my argument,' and no one listening to anyone else. [CNN] was a frustrating place to work."[69][77] Begala remained with CNN after Crossfire's cancellation.

Glenn Beck[edit | edit source]

In January 2006, CNN Headline News president Ken Jautz hired conservative talk radio host Glenn Beck to host a primetime commentary and interview show on the network, which premiered on May 8, 2006. Jautz stated that Beck was "cordial," and that his radio show was "conversational, not confrontational."[78] However, Media Matters for America and FAIR have reported that Beck had a history of making controversial statements on his radio program, including calling former President Jimmy Carter a "waste of skin",[79] hoping for the deaths of Dennis Kucinich and Michael Moore,[80] and telling a caller who claimed to have tortured foreign prisoners for the U.S. military, "I appreciate your service"[81] (Beck left CNN on October 16, 2008 to join Fox News Channel, where he hosted a similar commentary/interview program that ran until 2011).

Wolf Blitzer[edit | edit source]

In September 2005, during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, CNN anchor/correspondent Wolf Blitzer said on-air about those remaining in New Orleans after the storm: "so many of these people, almost all of them that we see, are so poor and they are so black".[82]

Jack Cafferty[edit | edit source]

On the April 9, 2008 edition of The Situation Room, Jack Cafferty made this remark during his "Cafferty File" segment:

China's Foreign Ministry demanded an apology, and lawsuits were filed against Cafferty in Beijing.[83][84] Hundreds of Chinese-Americans held a protest on April 26, 2008 in front of CNN's Atlanta, Georgia headquarters for the anti-China comments.[85]

Lou Dobbs[edit | edit source]

In 2000, longtime business correspondent and Moneyline host Lou Dobbs left CNN, reportedly due to heated clashes with the network's president at the time, Rick Kaplan, over programming priorities and questions about Kaplan's political objectivity.[86] Dobbs returned the following year at the behest of CNN founder Ted Turner. From the time he rejoined the network, Dobbs had continuously railed against illegal immigration, offshoring, globalization and free trade in his "War on the Middle Class" and "Broken Borders" segments. Journalist Kurt Andersen in an article in New York criticized CNN for allowing Dobbs' program, "Lou Dobbs Tonight", to become "an amazingly tendentious nightly CNN 'news' program that goes well beyond the line-blurring that Fox [News] pioneered."[87] Dobbs announced his resignation from CNN on November 11, 2009 on what would be his last show for that network. He did not immediately explain the reason for his departure in his sign-off speech, but it was reported that CNN wanted him out and offered him $8 million to leave.[88] Later upon questioning Dobbs discussed his exit, "I tried to accommodate them as best I could, but I've said for many years now that neutrality is not part of my being."[88]

Carol Costello[edit | edit source]

On October 22, 2014, CNN Newsroom host Carol Costello reported on the audio release of Bristol Palin being assaulted by a man at a get-together in Alaska. Costello laughed and called it "quite possibly the best minute and a half of audio we’ve ever come across."[89] She was instantly criticized for making fun of a woman who was being physically abused by a man she didn't know, as well as for being a hypocrite after recently calling for ESPN to suspend Stephen A. Smith after comments he made about women during the Ray Rice controversy. Costello eventually apologized in a statement to Politico, stating: "Over the past few days, I have been roundly criticized for joking about a brawl involving the Palin family. In retrospect, I deserve such criticism and would like to apologize."[90] Still, many felt she should apologize on air directly to Palin, which CNN said was not in their plans.[91]

Don Lemon[edit | edit source]

After a series of notable incidents over the course of a year, such as questioning whether Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was swallowed by a black hole, asking an alleged rape victim of Bill Cosby why she did not bite him on the penis to prevent forcible oral sex and stating “Obviously, there’s a smell of marijuana in the air” during coverage of the 2014 Ferguson unrest, Columbia Journalism Review named Lemon the "Worst of the Worst" in 2014.[92]

On June 22, 2015, Lemon attempted to spark debate by holding up the Confederate flag and a sign with the N-word in large capital letters while asking, "does this offend you?" He received immediate criticism for the stunt.[93] It also started a series of memes on the internet, which featured the original screen shot of Lemon holding the sign, the headline "Does this Offend You?" and different images or sayings photo-shopped over the sign.[94]

Brooke Baldwin[edit | edit source]

During the 2015 Baltimore riots, Brooke Baldwin suggested that veterans were responsible for the unrest, saying soldiers who become police officers "are coming back from war, they don’t know the communities, and they’re ready to do battle." Baldwin initially pushed back critics, claiming she was just repeating something a city official had told her. She later apologized via Twitter and on-air.[95]

Fredricka Whitfield[edit | edit source]

On June 13, 2015, while discussing the 2015 attack on the Dallas police headquarters, host Fredricka Whitfield referred to the gunman, James Boulware, as "courageous and brave, if not crazy". The comment received immediate backlash and calls for her to apologize. The next day, Whitfield stated on air that she misspoke and in no way believed the gunman was courageous or brave, but she stopped short of an actual apology.[96] After the backlash continued, she finally issued a formal on-air apology on June 15, saying she terribly misused those words, now understood how offensive it was and was sincerely sorry. She still stopped short of apologizing directly to the police.[97]

Technical issues[edit | edit source]

Obama/Osama name slip[edit | edit source]

During the January 1, 2007 edition of The Situation Room, CNN used the name of then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama as a caption on a story about Saudi al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden. A promo for an upcoming news feature on the whereabouts of Bin Laden carried the caption "Where's Obama?" over images of the al-Qaeda leader. CNN later apologized for what it described as "a very bad typographical error." Host Wolf Blitzer himself apologized on-air for the slip and planned a call to Obama to offer his personal apology.[98]

Large "X" over Cheney's face[edit | edit source]

On November 21, 2005, CNN flashed a large "X" over then-Vice President Dick Cheney's face during a speech that aired live on CNN. The network apologized and said that the "X" appeared due to a technical glitch and no human error was involved. Conservative writer Michelle Malkin, in response to mail from readers with broadcasting experience, wrote that she was convinced it was just a mistake.[99] According to The New York Post, CNN later fired one of its switchboard operators over a telephone call during which the operator "lost his temper and expressed his personal views" of the incident to a caller.[100]

Temporary ban from Iran for mistranslation[edit | edit source]

In January 2006, CNN was banned in Iran as an expression of condemnation when the network mistranslated a live broadcast of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In the translation, CNN quoted Ahmedinejad as saying "the use of nuclear weapons is Iran's right." According to a release from the Iranian government, the president said "Iran has the right to nuclear energy," and went on to say "a civilized nation does not need nuclear weapons, and our nation does not need them." The ban was lifted a day later after CNN issued an official apology for the mistranslation.[101]

Other[edit | edit source]

Paula Zahn "sexy" promo[edit | edit source]

On the weekend before the premiere of American Morning with Paula Zahn in January 2002, CNN aired an advertisement for the morning news program which called Zahn "sexy" and paired the adjective with a "needle pulled off record" sound effect, which some interpreted to be a zipper opening. The advertisement was quickly pulled after the network received significant criticism for what was considered an undignified and sexist portrayal of a serious journalist. CNN attributed the advertisement's content to a lack of oversight and apologized to Zahn.[102][not in citation given]

WWE[edit | edit source]

In November 2007, CNN aired Death Grip: Inside Pro Wrestling, a one-hour investigative documentary on professional wrestling. The report included footage from an interview with pro wrestler John Cena regarding steroids. According to World Wrestling Entertainment and Cena, CNN edited Cena's responses to make it seem as if he did not deny using steroids, while leaving room open for doubt that he did. His answer to the CNN interviewer's initial query of "Have you ever taken steroids?" was, "Absolutely not." Instead, CNN edited in a more detailed answer that Cena had provided several minutes later during the same interview. Cena and the WWE demanded an apology from CNN. In response to their complaint, the network issued this statement: "CNN felt that Mr. Cena's statement in the interview: "My answer to that question 'have you ever used steroids' is – the only thing I can say – I can't tell you that I haven't, but you'll never be able to prove that I have" was a more expansive and complete answer – and that's why we used it in the first run of the program. And we stand by that decision. But, we added the other quote on the Sunday replay where Mr. Cena first denied using steroids. We did this because of his complaint and the attention it received so that viewers could see how he said it both times."[103][104]

Keith Kerr[edit | edit source]

On November 28, 2007, Keith Kerr, a retired US Army Colonel and retired Brigadier General of the California State Military Reserve, was selected by CNN to ask a question at the Republican Presidential "YouTube Debate". Five months earlier, Kerr was listed on a Hillary Clinton press release as a member of the Steering Committee of the "LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] Americans For Hillary".[105] Kerr's question generated criticism of CNN for not disclosing Kerr's Clinton ties. CNN said it was unaware of the connection at the time and had paid Kerr's traveling expenses to the debate.[106] Kerr said that his appearance was a personal initiative and not coordinated with the Clinton campaign.[107]

Misrepresentation of Hatebreed[edit | edit source]

The metal core band Hatebreed was listed as being a white power band in an article published by on August 8, 2012.[108] The band expressed deep displeasure on Twitter. CNN later apologized and removed Hatebreed's name from the piece.[109]

Steubenville High School rape case coverage[edit | edit source]

Candy Crowley, Poppy Harlow and Paul Callan were criticized for portraying the two convicted rapists in the Steubenville High School rape case sympathetically and for placing very little focus on the victim on March 17, 2013.[110] During the course of the delinquent verdict, Harlow stated that it was "Incredibly difficult, even for an outsider like me, to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart...when that sentence came down, [Ma'lik] collapsed in the arms of his attorney...He said to him, 'My life is over. No one is going to want me now.'"[111] An online petition garnered over 200,000 signatures protesting the coverage and demanding an apology.[112]

CNN also revealed the name of the 16-year-old victim on March 17 by broadcasting unedited footage of one of the convicted rapists' post-conviction statements. This practice is against the Associated Press guidelines for coverage.[113]

Coverage of the Cleveland kidnapping victims[edit | edit source]

On the morning of May 7, 2013, CNN interrupted coverage of the Jodi Arias murder trial with an update of the release of three young women from Cleveland, Ohio who were kidnapped by Ariel Castro between 2002 and 2004. CNN correspondent Ashleigh Banfield appeared to interview HLN host Nancy Grace from a remote location, and it appeared that both were filming from parking lots. The channel graphics later alerted viewers that both reporters were in Phoenix, Arizona. The same cars were noticeable driving behind the two anchors, first behind Banfield and then by Grace. It became obvious that Grace and Banfield were, in fact, sitting in the same parking lot, pretending to be in remote locations when both were actually approximately 30 feet from each other.[114]

Milwaukee riots coverage[edit | edit source]

During the 2016 Milwaukee riots, CNN showed a clip of Sylville Smith's sister, Sherelle Smith, urging rioters: "Don't bring that violence here," and referred to her as calling for peace.[115] The rest of her speech, which was not included in the broadcast, included the following: "Burning down shit ain't going to help nobody! Y'all burning down shit we need in our community. Take that shit to the suburbs! Burn that shit down! We need our weave. I don't wear it, but we need it." After being called out for selective editing,[116] a CNN reporter involved in the story tweeted that they had "shorthanded" the quote and posted a link to a corrected video on CNN's website, which began with the screen shot that read: "An earlier version of this story mischaracterized what the victim's sister was trying to convey. She was calling for peace in her community, urging the protesters to go elsewhere."[117]

Coverage of 2016 United States election interference by Russia[edit | edit source]

On January 2, 2017, during their coverage of Russian hacking in the 2016 election, an image from the Fallout 4 hacking minigame was used to depict the events reported. This was lampooned by those familiar with the game.[118][119]

Appearances in fiction[edit | edit source]

Some controversy was created by the use of CNN on-air staff for fictionalized reports and broadcasts in the science-fiction movie Contact (1997).[120]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  2. "trump-cnn-press-conference". USA today. 
  3. "The Invisible Primary — Invisible No Longer - Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy". Retrieved November 14, 2012. 
  4. Eric Alterman, What Liberal Media? (New York: Basic Books, 2003)
  5. "Bozell Rips ABC News for Tapping Clinton Crony to Direct its Already Hostile War Coverage". Media Research Center. February 21, 2003. 
  6. CNN Chief Courts GOP Archived June 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. Hickey, Neil (March–April 2001). "Chicken noodle news?". Columbia Journalism Review. [dead link]
  8. Pérez-Peña, Richard (September 14, 2009). "Trust in News Media Falls to New Low in Pew Survey". The New York Times. Retrieved March 31, 2010. 
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