Apparently, I’ve been very much mistaken when it comes to what the initials “CNN” mean.
Here I was, thinking all my life that they stood for “Cable News Network.” The network’s website certainly doesn’t disabuse one of this notion, telling readers that it’s “most honored brand in cable news, reaching more individuals on television and online than any other cable news organization in the United States.” [Emphasis mine.]
On Tuesday, however, when the big domestic news involved former President Donald Trump becoming the first declared contender in the GOP presidential sweepstakes for 2024, the Cable News Network decided the news that was happening wasn’t the news it wanted to cover.
Trump’s announced at his home in the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, that he is seeking to become only the second man in history to serve as president in non-consecutive terms, and the first in more than a century.
Fox News Channel made a somewhat similar decision, but covered 40 minutes of Trump’s address. (Insider timed the speech at 67 minutes.)
“On cable, Fox News Channel aired most of the speech live while CNN carried the first 25 minutes before switching back to a panel discussion after Trump formally announced his 2024 candidacy,” The Washington Post reported.
On MSNBC, meanwhile, the network didn’t even bother to preempt “Alex Wagner Tonight,” the network’s yawn-tastic replacement for Rachel Maddow on most days of the week.
And as for broadcast networks, forget it.
“ABC, NBC and CBS all decided to stick with previously scheduled entertainment programming — reality show ‘Bachelor in Paradise’ on ABC, science fiction drama ‘La Brea’ on NBC and a fictionalized show about the FBI on CBS,” the Post reported.
As you might expect, there were oodles of ulterior motives behind news networks declining to cover the, you know, news.
“During the 2016 presidential race, CNN was frequently criticized for giving ample airtime to Trump’s speeches. The network’s new chief, Chris Licht, told employees on Tuesday that coverage decisions about Trump as a candidate would be made on a case-by-case basis,” the Post reported.
You might think that his candidate announcement would be a case that would lend itself to sticking with the entire speech, but there you have it.
As for reasons for pulling away in fair-and-balanced-land, the Post noted “that several network commentators expressed a clear on-air preference last week for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to take over as the Republican 2024 standard-bearer after the party’s disappointing showing in the midterm elections.
“Two other properties in Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal, also signaled last week a preference for DeSantis, with the Post declaring him ‘DeFUTURE’ on the tabloid’s cover and the Journal’s editorial board declaring that ‘Trump Is the Republican Party’s Biggest Loser.’”
Furthermore, News Corp head Rupert Murdoch, whose empire spans Fox News, the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal, has reportedly told Trump that he wouldn’t back another bid for the White House.
“We have been clear with Donald,” a News Corp source said, according to the U.K. Guardian. “There have been conversations between them during which Rupert made it clear to Donald that we cannot back another run for the White House.”
The source added that News Corp heir apparent Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert’s oldest son, is behind DeSantis if he runs.
“Lachlan has been keen on Ron for some time,” the source said, according to the Guardian. “He’s viewed within the organization as a sanitized version of Donald.”
This isn’t to say there wasn’t complimentary coverage of Trump’s speech on Fox, with host Sean Hannity saying the former president was “laying down a marker” with his announcement.
“I’m watching this president at this hour and I’m seeing a guy that looks like he is dead-on focused,” Hannity told viewers.
Fox News hosts Pete Hegseth and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee were also commendatory in their analysis, with Huckabee saying the speech was “pitch-perfect” and Hegseth saying that Trump was “in as good a form as you have ever seen him.”
The network’s decisions to cut away from the speech seemed to have little to do with whether or not it was newsworthy.
Liz Harrington, a Trump spokeswoman, predicted it would happen earlier in the evening, telling conservative network Real America’s Voice that establishment networks “don’t want the American people to hear directly from the biggest leader of the greatest political movement in our history, so I do suspect they will try to censor and cut away.”
Regardless of whether you agree with the superlatives Harrington lavished on the former president, the fact remains that she’s not wrong about the motives of the networks.
CNN was plenty happy to “fact-check” the president’s speech to death after it was given — try seeing the network do that to a Joe Biden news conference — but didn’t actually let viewers see the speech itself. As an insufferable campus progressive might say, we see you, CNN.
Instead, if you wanted to see it on TV, you had to turn on Newsmax, a relative minnow in the cable news pond. Maybe that’s what the “max” means — they cover so much news, sometimes they actually get to the real news.
As for CNN and Fox News, the coverage of Trump’s speech is only going to backfire, particularly given the Streisand effect of conspicuously refusing to report on one (and only one) major campaign.
Part of Trump’s allure is that he calls out the establishment media for being rigged — and then the media responds by proving him right, presumably with the idea of trying to teach him a lesson.
The fact he’s the target of the establishment’s contempt is part of the reason conservatives united and rallied around Trump in the first place. There’s no reason to think the process won’t repeat itself in 2024 if this continues unabated.
Should CNN, Fox and MSNBC keep their 2024 affections and enmities so blatant throughout this two-year process, they might as well start every broadcast day with a clip from the former president: “I’m Donald Trump, and I approve this message — so long as I can keep using it as campaign fodder.”
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