CNN Jettisons Journalistic Ethics


CNN, the original Cable News Network, has jettisoned journalistic ethics. This became evident after undercover reporters from Project Veritas released several video recordings of high-level personnel at CNN last week. The most revealing of the videos was released on Monday, June 26, 2017. It featured a producer at CNN, John Bonifield, making some startling admissions about the network.

A Dangerous View of Ethics

Bonifield made several damaging statements during the video recording. He stated that the Russia-Trump collusion stories are a false narrative, or in his words, “mostly bulls**t.” He also pointed out “we don’t have any big giant proof,” of a connection between Trump and Russia.

Bonifield was also asked why their network was obsessed with Trump and Russia. His reply was, “It’s ratings…our ratings are incredible right now.”
The producer gave an example of just how much CNN was focusing on the Russia narrative:

The CEO of CNN said in our internal meeting, he said, good job everybody covering the climate accords, but we’re done with that, let’s get back to Russia.

However, this was not the most troubling thing to come out of Bonifield’s mouth. Here is what he said about the value of journalistic ethics:

All the nice cutesy little ethics that used to get talked about in journalism school, you’re just like, that’s adorable. That’s adorable. This is a business.

It appears for CNN ethics can be tossed aside if it gets in the way of business. Making a buck is more valued than reporting the truth. It is propaganda for profit, and that is a very dangerous view of ethics.

A Distorted View of Journalistic Purpose

Moreover, CNN has a very distorted view of the purpose of journalism. This has explicitly been stated as regards President Donald Trump, even before he officially became president:

Cuomo vowed to oppose Trump’s policies, and stated he feels it is the job of the media as a whole to treat the next president of the United States with hostility. Per Cuomo, “The media cannot yield. This administration is going to demand constant fact-checking and opposition.”

Of course, journalists must fact-check this administration, as they should do for every administration. However, the idea that active “opposition” to any administration is part of the purpose of journalism is false.

The purpose of journalism should be to report the truth as it has happened. However, Cuomo has decided, and CNN’s reporting has reflected, that their job as journalists is to be the “opposition” to Trump. Trump, and his supporters, are the enemy and they must be defeated. That is the new purpose for which CNN exists. It is a far cry from principled journalism.

CNN is actively pursuing their new purpose. A recent study from Harvard University reveals just how committed the network is to opposing Trump. The study concerned media coverage about Trump during the first 100 days of his presidency.

Overwhelming Bias Against Trump

The media coverage overall was 80 percent negative concerning Trump. CNN and NBC topped the list with 93 percent negative coverage of Trump. Obviously, this is not close to balanced coverage, and reflects a crusade against the president. A crusade that began even before he became president.

The question that should be asked is, “Have other presidents received this level of negative coverage?” The answer is no. Here are some other figures to prove the point:

While Trump’s 80-20 negative coverage ratio is amazing, Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also received much negative coverage in their first 100 days, at about 60-40 ratios. So how was President Obama covered in his first 100 days? With a 60-40 positive to negative ratio, according to the Harvard study.

This study did not focus simply on CNN. It ran the gambit of all the big names in media, including ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, and FOX News. Interestingly, while FOX News was the least offensive in this area, even that network had 52 percent negative coverage of Trump. That is far closer to the “fair and balanced” coverage which is the FOX News mantra.

Other Examples of CNN’s Ethical Failure

There have been numerous examples of CNN’s journalistic malpractice even before the Project Veritas videos. One prominent example was the case of a reporter for CNN predicting that James Comey would testify that he did not tell the president that he was not under investigation. That proved to be false.

However, it was not an example of being mistaken as much as an example of poor journalism. The story involved four reporters using one anonymous source. That was it, just one source that CNN chose to trust without any corroboration.

Instead of learning from that experience, CNN later put out another story concerning one of Trump’s campaign people, Anthony Scarabucci. The story claimed he had a shady connection with a Russian investment bank. Three reporters were involved in this story, which also proved to be false. One of the three was a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Once again, the network used just one unnamed source for their story. The three journalists were forced to resign as a result. CNN stated the story did not meet their standards of journalistic integrity. It is difficult to believe these were simple mistakes. It is more likely they were a result of ethical failure on CNN’s part.

CNN Is Part of a Larger Ethical Problem

CNN seems to think ethics are disposable. This attitude is also a problem within most of mainstream journalism. Another study of media content has recently been published by the Media Research Center:

The study focused on coverage by networks ABC, NBC, and CBS over a five-week period from the time special prosecutor Robert Mueller was appointed. …The study found that networks spent a total 353 minutes covering the Russia investigation or anything related to the investigation. In comparison, five minutes were spent on the economy and jobs, three minutes on infrastructure, and less than one minute on tax reform.

CNN is a cable network and its reach is limited. However, the three big broadcast networks are also infected with an obsession concerning Trump and Russia. Their reach is far greater, thus, their bias is far more worrisome. There are many more important stories they should be reporting. Instead, they are laser-focused on a story without a smidgen of evidence.

CNN’s Arrogance Is Astounding

The final “nail in the coffin” indicting CNN is how the network dealt with a meme posted on social media showing Trump tackling and pummeling a figure with a CNN logo digitally placed over the head of Vince McMahann from a WWE event in 2007. The meme itself was originally created and posted on Reddit. No one is sure how the meme came to be noticed by Trump, but he obviously loved it and re-posted it. CNN reacted as if he had firebombed their headquarters.

Their commentators stated that this was some kind of incitement to violence against reporters. Carl Bernstein, famous for breaking the Watergate story along with Bob Woodward, said that this was not simply anti-CNN, but “anti-free speech” as well! Others worried that Trump “was going to get someone killed.” They did not seem particularly concerned that some of their own rhetoric may have inspired a left-wing loony to actually commit violence by shooting Republican Steve Scalise at a congressional baseball practice.

It never seemed to occur to these so-called journalists that Trump might simply be using humor to make a point. One more example of how foolish CNN has looked since Trump was elected. They may not enjoy it, but they have only themselves to blame for acting like fools.

Rather than swallow their pride and muster the grace to see the humor, they decided to hunt down the original creator of the meme and threaten him with online exposure of his name, address, and any other personal information they could find. This person was terrified, and rightly so. He apologized and promised never to do it again if they would not reveal his identity online. CNN “accepted” his apology and issued a statement saying they decided not to reveal his identity out of concern for his safety. However, they ended the statement stating they “reserved the right” to carry out their threat if he went back on his promise to never do it again.


This is a demonstration of arrogance on an astounding scale. One is tempted to ask CNN, “Just who do you think you are by trying to blackmail a private citizen because you don’t like the way he portrayed you!?” Talk about being anti-free speech! As commentator Mark Styne put it, CNN “put a horse’s head in this guy’s bed” as a warning, similar to what was portrayed in “The Godfather.”

The Arrogance of CNN Is Backfiring

The network is feeling the sting of a very bad month-long thrashing in the news. Viewership is down 20 percent, while FOX News viewership is up by 20 percent. It is fairly certain that is not pleasing to CNN. They are taking a beating on social media as well. One of the hottest hashtags on Twitter was #CNNBlackmail within 24 hours of the statements concerning the Reddit video maker.

However, the worst of the damage is not confined to CNN. It is the damage done to journalism as a whole, which thrives best within a framework of truth and balance. It is never a perfect framework, but the abuse of ethics assures it will fall.

The truth will be there always. However, the balance is lost when just one side is reporting the truth. Ironically, CNN’s words and actions may net a result that assures their own extinction. Perhaps a legal charge against the network will be forthcoming. That would signal the beginning of the end of the original Cable News Network. A once great and powerful reality pioneer perished by its own hand. Truly sad.

By D.T. Osborn

Chicago Tribune: Harvard study: Media has been largely negative on Trump
The Daily Caller: CNN’s Month-long Nightmare
Guardian Liberty Voice: Journalism Is the Big Loser After James Comey’s Testimony
OAN: New Study Details Media’s Russia Obsession
Western Journalism: CNN’s Cuomo: It Will Be Media’s Job To Act As Trump ‘Opposition’

Featured and Top Image by lldar Sagdejev Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License

Inset Image Courtesy of Kieran Donaghy’s Pinterest Page – Creative Commons License

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