The Trump Stenographers At CNS
CNSNews.com has made it clear it would much rather transcribe Donald Trump's speeches than report on his scandals -- which, of course, makes it an arm of the Trump campaign instead of the "news" organization it claims to be.
By Terry Krepel
If the Media Research Center is serious about combatting bias in the media, it should start within the halls of its own headquarters.
The MRC's "news" division, CNSNews.com, has been a continual source of media bias, from misleading about unemployment figures to desperately trying to ignore a sex scandal in the beloved right-wing celebrity Duggar family to hurling gotcha questions at politicians so it has something to write about having a managing editor dedicated to making the news as biased as possible.
CNS claims it "endeavors to fairly present all legitimate sides of a story." But during the 2016 presidential election, if that story is bad news about the Republican presidential nominee, there was only one legitimate side worth reporting -- Donald Trump's side.
Indeed, if there was bad news about Trump, it wasn't important enough for CNS to devote original coverage to. For instance, ConWebWatch found that during one two-week period covering late June and early July, CNS published no original stories about Trump at all -- at a time when Trump was embroiled in a controversy about a tweet Trump's Twitter account sent out of a image of Clinton accompanied by a six-pointed star with the words "Most corrupt candidate ever!" despite the fact that the image originated on a website with numerous offensive images on it -- breaking its silence only when managing editor Michael W. Chapman was moved to rant that Trump adviser and former military officer Michael Flynn "supports abortion and thinks homosexual marriage is fine." (The next day, Chapman dutifully reported Flynn had "adjusted his position" and noted his new declaration of being “a pro-life Democrat.”)
By contrast, during that same time frame, CNS cranked out a whopping 16 articles over four days on Hillary Clinton's email server.
CNS' coverage of the general election would be just as biased.
ConWebWatch went into the CNS archives to examine the output of its three main news reporters, Susan Jones, Melanie Hunter and Patrick Goodenough. We looked at stories they wrote between Oct. 1 and Nov. 8, the day of the election, in which the main subject as indicated by headline was in three categories: contents of the WikiLeaks emails stolen from the Hillary Clinton campaign; stories about any controversy related to Donald Trump; and stories that uncritically quote Trump or his running mate, Mike Pence.
Here's what we found:
Between them, these three reporters wrote only two stories in the final month-plus before the election in which the main focus was on Trump-related controversies: an Oct. 13 article by Hunter on women accusing Trump of touching them inappropriately (and even then, all Hunter does is uncritically repeating Trump's blanket denial) and an Oct. 31 article by Goodenough highlighting Sen. Harry Reid accusing the FBI of withholding evidence of Trump's alleged ties between Trump and Russia (a balanced article that surprisingly examines the depths of Russian links to Trump).
That's two stories in a time when there was no shortage of Trump controversies to report on, what with further accusations of sexual harassment, the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape of Trump speaking crudely about women, questions about how Trump's foundation raises and spends its money and his extensive record of falsehoods.
By contrast, these same three reporters churned out 17 stories regarding a Hillary Clinton controversy and a whopping 24 articles that uncritically quote the words of Trump or Pence. And on top of that, another CNS reporter, Lauretta Brown, wrote four additional WikiLeaks-related stories, making for a grand total of 21.
While CNS is a subscriber to the Associated Press and publishes many AP stories on its website, including those about Trump controversies, very few of those stories make it to the CNS front page, which tends to prioritize the work of its own writers. Of course, the AP has published Wikileaks stories as well, but that doesn't keep CNS from redundantly writing their own versions.
Spinning Trump's vile misogyny
When it came to reporting on Trump's vile misogyny in that "Access Hollywood" video, CNS first covered it only with Associated Press articles. That's not unusual for CNS, which posts no original content on weekends (the story broke on a late Friday afternoon), though one would think that with a hotly contested presidential election CNS might try to act like the news organization it claims to be and have some weekend staffing.
But with the new week, CNS was in stenography mode -- the only original articles it posted on Trump's vile remarks was from those defending him or spinning what he said.
An Oct. 10 article by Hunter featured right-wing strategist Mary Matalin doing some heavy spin by insisting that Trump merely had a "private conversation about sex he’s not getting" while the Democratic Party stood behind President Bill Clinton during his sex scandal with a White House intern. Hunter quotes others in her article criticizing Trump, but the fact that she made Matalin's defense the lead meant that's what the CNS spin would be on Trump -- presumably as dictated by editor in chief Terry Jeffrey, managing editor Michael W. Chapman or even MRC chief Brent Bozell himself.
Later that day, Hunter followed up with another article reinforcing the official CNS spin, this one uncritically quoting Mike Pence, Trump's vice presidential candidate, spinning even harder by saying that "while he doesn’t condone what GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump said in controversial remarks that that surfaced over the weekend, he believes in forgiveness and grace."
In both articles, Hunter rather benignly whitewashed the extent of Trump's vile misogyny, not bothering to quote any of Trump's actual words but, rather, merely claiming he was caught on tape "bragging about kissing and groping women."
Hunter had her marching orders: hide the truth and spin for Trump. And that's exactly what she did. It makes her a good right-wing apparatchik, but not that good -- or honest -- of a reporter.
Melania Trump gets stenography too
Trump's wife, Melania, has also benefited from CNS' stenography policy on her husband.
After Melania plagiarized a couple of paragraphs from a 2008 Michelle Obama speech for her own speech at the Republican National Convention, the headline on Susan Jones' article about the speech read "Melania Trump: 'Our Country Is Underperforming'" and it began with sycophantic slobbering:
In her well-received speech to the Republican National Convention Monday night, Melania Trump promised that the presidential race "will be hard fought all the way to November. There will be good times and hard times and unexpected turns. It would not be a Trump contest without excitement and drama," she added with a smile.
It was not until the second paragraph that Jones got around to noting that "The drama exploded shortly after Mrs. Trump left the stage, as accusations of plagiarism swirled around two passages in her speech, copied almost word for word from a speech delivered to the Democratic National Convention in 2008 by Michelle Obama."
Later, an update was appended to the top of Jones' article in italics that uncritically transcribed Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's nonsensical denial plagiarism took place. But the plagiarism-avoiding headline remains.
Melania Trump got the CNS stenography treatment again in a Nov. 3 article on her speech stating that "if her husband is elected president, her focus as first lady will be on cyberbullying." Melanie Hunter faithfully transcribed how Melania said that "Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough, especially to children and teenagers" and "We have to find a better way to talk to each other, to disagree with each other, to respect each other."
Hunter apparently thought it would be too gauche (not to mention possibly jeopardizing her paycheck) to mention, as real news organizations have, that Melania's husband is the country's cyberbully in chief, known for his meanness and roughness on social media and for mocking, bullying and attacking his enemies, real and imagined.
The stenography continues
With Trump's election victory, CNS stenography has continued unabated.
A Nov. 9 article by Susan Jones repeats Trump's victory speech, uncritically claiming that "He offered reassurance to racial, ethnic and religious minorities, promising that his movement will be 'comprised of people from all races, religions, backgrounds and beliefs who want and expect our government to serve the people -- and serve the people it will. Working together we will begin the urgent task of rebuilding our nation and renewing the American dream[']." Jones, who loves to inject snide editorial comments about President Obama and other things she doesn't agree with into her "news" articles, didn't see fit to note that Trump's claim of "reassurance" directly contradicts the rhetoric of his campaign, in which he insulted racial, ethnic and religious minorities (Muslims and Mexicans among them).
Patrick Goodenough did slightly better in a Nov. 9 article noting Trump's post-election claim that "We will get along with all other nations, willing to get along with us." But instead of noting that it diverges from the much harsher tone of his campaign rhetoric, Goodenough states that Trump's "views on issues ranging from free trade to climate change to the Iran nuclear deal were sharply at odds with those of the Obama administration and many of its international partners."
But it was back to fawning stenography for a Nov. 11 article by CNS managing editor Michael W. Chapman that reads like a three-month-old Trump campaign press release:
As presented on the campaign trail and detailed on the Trump-Pence website, Presidentelect Donald Trump wants to implement school choice programs in all 50 states that will allow students and their parents to pick the school that works best for them, and the money to pay for it will follow the student, not the school bureaucracy.
Remember that as the Media Research Center criticizes journalism that criticizes Trump, it runs a "news" division that is effectively an arm of the Trump campaign.
CNS, of course, is not a real news organization -- it's merely the Media Research Center's right-wing agenda in inverted-pyramid form.