CNS Attacks When Trump Critics Testify
CNSNews.com's biased coverage of the congressional testimony of Michael Cohen and John Dean fit its pro-Trump template: trash the speakers and cheer Republicans who bash them while ignoring questioning from Democratic members of Congress.
By Terry Krepel
CNS' biased approach in laboring to put a pro-Trump spin on the Mueller report was just the latest example of that bias. But CNS also worked for Trump in a couple related matters, when Trump critics testified before Congress.
CNS' coverage of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's testimony before Congress earlier this year fit that highly biased template. It kicked things off with an article by Susan Jones touting Trump tweets trashing Cohen. It wasn't until the ninth paragraph that Jones got around to noting that Cohen said in his written testimony that "Trump is a racist, a conman, and a cheat." That was joined by an anonymously written preview article taken from Cohen's advance written testimony that focused on he "says that he has lied but he is not a liar" -- and completely omitted Cohen's scathing criticism of Trump in that very same testimony. (A separate anonymous article addressed that; no reason was provided as to why these statements could not be combined into the same article.) And it wasn't until Cohen's testimony before Congress actually started -- a full four hours after her first article posted -- that Jones got around to more fully summarizing Cohen's criticism of Trump in his written testimony, and it's framed as it usually is by Jones declaring that Cohen offered no "direct evidence" of collusion. (Jones wrote another article the next day highlighting Trump's tweeting without evidence that Cohen lied about everything except the "no collusion" part.)
CNS curiously cited no questioning of Cohen by Democratic representatives -- that would have been too fair and balanced -- but it did a full three stories on Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, among the CNS and the Media Research Center's favorite congressmen, haranguing Cohen:
CNS did not explain why it devoted so much attention to Jordan's grandstanding attacks.
Jones also featured Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx badgering Cohen about whether he intends to "profit from his crimes through movie and book deals."
None of these articles addressed any of the claims Cohen made about Trump. Again, that would have been too fair and balanced.
The one bit of non-Cohen-related fireworks at the hearing -- Republican Rep. Mark Meadows trotting out a black Trump administration official to somehow counter Cohen's claim that Trump is racist, and Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib's calling out Meadows on the tokenism of that gesture -- got subdued coverage that CNS tried to make about Tlaib and not Meadows.
(Actually, the woman, Lynne Patton, did not testify; she merely silently stood next to Meadows.)
Bannister then gave Patton her own article, citing a Fox News appearance (of course) in which she went on a self-aggrandizing, Trump-fluffing rant that Tlaib was taking "the word of a self-confessed perjurer and criminally convicted white man over a black female who is highly educated, rose up through the ranks of one of the most competitive companies in real estate, spoke before 25 million people at the Republican National Convention, and now works in one of the most historic administrations in history."
Bannister didn't mention that Patton is so dedicated to emulating Trump that she was trying to get a spot on a reality TV show.
John Dean's testimony
CNS' coverage of the congressional testimony of John Dean, the former Nixon White House aide who got caught up in the Watergate scandal and has since repented, was another example.
Its framing was clear from the start, as Susan Jones' June 4 article on the announcement of Dean's testimony, portraying "the Democrat-led [sic] House Judiciary Committee" using Dean's testimony as an "attempt to move forward with impeachment." Jones also portrayed Dean as a serial complainer because "In March 2006, Dean also recommended the censure of President George W. Bush in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee."
As the testimony date neared, Jones served up more biased previews. She huffed in one article:
The hearing will feature long-ago White House Counsel John Dean, now a staunch anti-Trumper, who helped cover up crimes in the Richard Nixon administration, then became a key witness against Nixon.
In a second, Jones went into pro-Trump spin mode, insisting that what Trump did is nothing like Watergate and treating a dubious Trump tweet as the indisputable truth:
But one glaring area of difference between Nixon and Trump is that Nixon became aware, after the fact, of the Watergate burglary, the underlying crime that he tried to cover up.
In fact, even conservative Fox News anchor Bret Baier pointed out at the time that "This was not, as the President says time and time again, no collusion, no obstruction. It was much more nuanced than that."
In CNS' only article regarding Dean's actual testimony, managing editor Michael W. Chapman stepped in to personally bash Dean, recite attacks on him from Republicans and cite none of Dean's actual testimony:
During Tuesday's House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Mueller Report, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) criticized witness John Dean, a disbarred lawyer and convicted felon, because he had "no knowledge of a single fact on the Mueller Report" and was only there, as a 1970's Watergate culprit, to function as a "prop" for the Democrats.
Chapman concluded by spinning the Mueller report, misleadingly claiming that it "concluded that no Americans and no one in the Trump 2016 campaign colluded with Russians to affect the election. In addition, the report found no evidence that President Trump had obstructed justice."
Jones served up her own follow-up, which framed Dean as among "anti-Trump partisans" who testified at the hearing. While Jones, unlike her boss, did devote a couple paragraphs to what Dean actually said, she gave much more space to Trump and pro-Trump Republicans attacking Dean.