CNS' Barely Managing Editor
Michael W. Chapman is in charge of CNS' news operation, and he makes sure the news is extremely biased.
By Terry Krepel
Michael W. Chapman
At CNSNews.com, the managing editor is Michael W. Chapman. If CNS is run like a traditional newsroom (and we'll assume it is), Chapman guides the tone and substance of his website's daily news coverage.
In practice, Chapman's stewardship has led to an unusual focus on hot-button right-wing issues -- and protection of beloved right-wingers who get into trouble -- over reporting the actual news.
That befits someone like Chapman, whose background is not in genuine journalism but in right-wing activism; his resume is stuffed with generators of conservative talking points such as Human Events, the Cato Institute and Investor's Business Daily, and the only experience with an actual news operation (though not with actual news) is "editorial page editor of The Lima News." In other words, his background is that of a propagandist, not a journalist.
Under Chapman and his boss, Terry Jeffrey, CNS has engaged in some notoriously biased reporting campaigns, such as obsessing over U.S. military casualties in Afghanistan under President Obama while being silent on the obvious comparison to U.S. casualties in Iraq under President George W. Bush; playing up bad news and burying or ignoring good news about the economy under Obama; and portraying any federal spending on LGBT issues as a waste of money (on top of the operation's general hatred of gays). But CNS' slanted reporting manifests itself in numerous smaller ways as well. Here are some recent examples.
ConWebWatch has already documented how Chapman and CNS did what it could to ignore the burgeoning Josh Duggar sexual molestation scandal. CNS kept the story off its front page, and its first original coverage was a mere blog post. CNS then grudgingly summarized (in a biased, Duggar-friendly way) an interview the Duggar family conducted with Fox News, then pulled the story off its front page almost immediately afterwards. A story on the ratings Fox News generated with the interview got better play at CNS than the interview itself.
Chapman and CNS displayed their editorial priorities again when covering the news of a white man shooting nine unarmed blacks in a Charleston, S.C., church. Their first reaction was to pander to the racial animosity of its right-wing readership by raising the specter of Al Sharpton.
CNS' first piece of original coverage of the Charleston shooting is an article by "CNSNews.com staff" posted at 7:54 a.m. on June 18 quoting Sharpton's statement about the alleged shooter: "Obviously he's deranged. Probably a hate crime."
The article undermined its own attempt to portray Sharpton as trying to race-bait over the shooting a few paragraphs in, noting that "Police described the mass murder as a hate crime." This was embarrassing even by CNS' usual standards -- usually, its attempts to pander to its right-wing audience aren't this blatant. CNS seemed to recognize this, as the article didn't last long on its front page.
Strangely, CNS tried to play this same card a couple hours later, with an article by Melanie Hunter noting that Attorney General Loretta Lynch is launching a hate crimes investigation into the shooting. While Hunter noted that the shootings occurred at "a historic black church," she curiously didn't mention that the suspect, Dylann Roof, is white.
Plus, it turns out that Sharpton and Lynch's suspicions were proven correct: Law enforcement officials have said the shooter rose during a prayer service, declaring that he was there to kill black people.
The only other bit of what passes for original reportage at CNS on the Charleston shooting that day was another piece by Hunter, this time quoting a sermon given by one of the victims, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, in April after "Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, had been gunned down by former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager." Hunter didn't mention that Slager was white, or that Scott was running away from Slager at the time he was shot.
Chapman's CNS also serves up misleading and distorted reporting on the Obama administration and the president's family.
GOP congressman's resignation
Rep. Aaron Schock was a rising star in Republican circles, and CNSNews.com had no problem promoting him. Last year, for instance, CNS devoted original articles to Schock pontificating about how Christians are "in the majority" in the U.S. and bashing Obamacare.
In March, Schock resigned his congressional seat over questions about his lavish spending, but CNS did not consider the event to be front-page news.
A screenshot of the top of CNS' front page taken at around 6:30 p.m. ET on March 17 -- a couple hours after Schock's resignation -- showed a breaking-news banner was devoted to the Israeli election but no mention of Schock's resignation. There is, however, an article about the new season of "Dancing with the Stars." So, apparently, CNS considers a TV show about dancing celebrities to be more important than a congressman's resignation.
CNS did publish an Associated Press article on Schock's resignation on March 17, but Chapman and Co. seem to have decided that the story did not warrant front-page coverage.
Attacking the Obamas
A May 26 article by Susan Jones claimed that, commencement speech at Oberlin College, Michelle Obama "equated conservative opposition with 'noise,' 'clamor' and 'polarization,' and she urged students to "rise above it.'" But in the actual excerpts of the speech Jones included, Obama did not specifically do what Jones claimed. Here's the excerpt with the apparently offending words in bold:
"You might find yourself a little dismayed by the clamor outside these walls -- the name-calling, the negative ads, the the folks yelling at each other on TV. After being surrounded by people who are so dedicated to serving others and making the world a better place, you might feel a little discouraged by the polarization and gridlock that too often characterize our politics and civic life.
So, no, Obama did not equate conservatives to "noise," "clamor" and "polarization" as Jones claimed -- indeed, Obama does not even use the word "conservative" anywhere near those terms.
But Jones wasn't done misleading. After quoting Obama urging the students to "persuade" and "compromise" in order to "move the country forward," she sneered: "Interestingly Mrs. Obama's husband is not a compromiser, starting his second term with a 'go-it-alone,' I-have-a pen-and-a-phone attitude."
By contrast, the PolitiFact website has a full seven pages of examples of Obama compromising to achieve his policy goals. And Jones omits the fact that Republicans have refused to compromise with Obama in a deliberate attempt to keep him from a successful presidency.
Under Chapman, CNS seems to want to blame Obama for the high price of beef.
In 2014, Ali Meyer wrote several CNS articles about rising beef prices, usually highlighting how they've reached an "all-time high," as taken from government statistics. Curiously, in none of these articles -- on Chapman's orders, possibly? -- did Meyer explain why beef prices were rising, with the apparent intent to imply that Obama was somehow responsible.
In fact, as more responsible and balanced news outlets have reported, the high prices are the result of a years-long drought in Texas and the Midwest that shrank the U.S. cattle herd in 2014 to its smallest size since 1952. Seemingly oblivious to fairness, Meyer soldiered on in 2015:
Needless to say, those articles also lack any sort of fair explanation of why beef prices have increased.
Also needless to say, when the price of a pound of ground beef fell a whopping 10 cents -- that's 10 entire cents, not a fraction of a cent -- between April and May of this year, Meyer (and Chapman) didn't find it newsworthy enough to report at CNS.
Crafting abortion coverage
CNS was eager to report that House Republicans scuttled a proposed bill to outlaw abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. It was much less eager to tell readers why.
Interestingly, neither of those articles saw fit to explain to readers why the vote on the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" was scuttled: Female Republican House members objected to a provision that allowed an rape exception only if that rape was reported to law enforcement.
Later CNS articles mentioned the reason the bill was scuttled, but really didn't want to talk about it much further. A Jan. 22 article by Susan Jones noted that "a few Republicans objected" to the rape provision, then huffed, "Expanding the bill's exemption to cover all claims of rape would allow more abortions." But none of the people Jones quoted in her article expanded on the issue of the rape provision.
A Jan. 23 article by Lauretta Brown reported on "A crowd of pro-life millennials" who gathered outside the office of one of the House Republicans who objected to the rape provision, Rep. Renee Ellmers, "to express their anger with her for delaying and attempting to dilute the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act." Brown noted that the "pro-life millennials" were "angered" by the scuttling of the vote, but strangely, she did not ask any of those protesting "pro-life millennials" thought of the rape provision that prompted the scuttling.
Why didn't CNS want to get into the meat of the rape provision, even though it's at the center of the controversy over the anti-abortion bill, so much so that even normally pro-life Republicans find it objectionable? Perhaps it's following Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham's advice to conservatives to keep from letting such controversies over definitions "become the issue." But by censoring the issue, CNS can only make sure it becomes an issue.
But doesn't CNS pledge to "fairly present all legitimate sides of a story"? Yes, though it's hard to do that by pretending that one side of a certain prominent issue doesn't actually exist.
CNS sent a full complement of reporters to cover the speeches at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference -- chief among them from their boss, Media Research Center chief Brent Bozell.
But curiously, CNS' reports on the speeches quoted only the red-meat attacks. Missing was any hint of gaffe or controversy.
Ali Meyer's story on the speech by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker plays up his tired anti-Washington attacks, such as calling the District of Columbia “68 square miles surrounded by reality.”Meyer failed to mention a serious gaffe by Walker in which he likened pro-union protesters to ISIS. Strangely, CNS did publish (but buried by refusing to promote on its front page) an Associated Press article about Walker's gaffe.
(Meanwhile, elsewhere in the MRC's outrage machine, Kyle Drennen huffed that NBC reported on Walker's "blunder," while happily noting that "CBS didn't deem the comments newsworthy.")
When two CPAC speakers -- Donald Trump and Rick Santorum -- pandered to right-wing extremists by making birther-friendly comments, CNS not only refused to report on them, it failed to offer any original coverage to their speeches at all.
Given how long Bozell has worked to bend CPAC to his right-wing will, he certainly doesn't want any controversy over extremist statements overshadowing the agenda-reinforcing festivities. Through selective and biased reporting, his "news" division, under Chapman, made sure that didn't happen.
But then, when your "news" organization is run by a propagandist and not a journalist, this is exactly what will happen.