ConWebWatch home
ConWebBlog: the weblog of ConWebWatch
Search and browse through the ConWebWatch archive
About ConWebWatch
Who's behind the news sites that ConWebWatch watches?
Letters to and from ConWebWatch
ConWebWatch Links
Buy books and more through ConWebWatch

Snide Bias at CNS

CNS morning managing editor Susan Jones inserts snarky editorial comments in her "news" articles bashing President Obama and Hillary Clinton -- but merely performs servile stenography on behalf of Donald Trump.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 12/6/2016

Susan Jones

The bio for morning managing editor Susan Jones claims she has "a strong background in broadcast writing and editing" and that she has "a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University."

We're reasonably certain none of that experience taught her to insert snide, biased comments or even all-out partisan rants in her articles for CNS on President Obama and Hillary Clinton. Or to become what is effectively a right-wing hack by serving as a stenographer for Donald Trump's political ambitions. She can thank her employer of 17 years, the Media Research Center, for that degradation of her skills.

Jones dedicated a May 2015 article to selectively quoting from Michelle Obama's commencement speech at Oberlin College for the sole apparent purpose of ratcheting up the outrage factor among CNS' right-wing readers. (And judging from the hate and racism in the article's comment thread, she has succeeded with that mission quite well.)

Jones claimed that 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 say what Jones claimed she did. Here's the excerpt with the apparently offending words highlighted:

"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.

"And in the face of all of that clamor, you might have an overwhelming instinct to just run the other way as fast as you can. You might be tempted to just recreate what you had here at Oberlin -– to find a community of like-minded folks and work with them on causes you care about, and just tune out all of the noise. And that’s completely understandable. In fact, I sometimes have that instinct myself -- run! (Laughter.)

"But today, graduates, I want to urge you to do just the opposite. Today, I want to suggest that if you truly wish to carry on the Oberlin legacy of service and social justice, then you need to run to, and not away from, the noise. Today, I want to urge you to actively seek out the most contentious, polarized, gridlocked places you can find. Because so often, throughout our history, those have been the places where progress really happens –- the places where minds are changed, lives transformed, where our great American story unfolds."

So, no, Obama did not equate conservatives to "noise," "clamor" and "polarization" as Jones claimed -- indeed, Obama did 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."

In fact, the PolitiFact website has a full seven pages of examples of Obama compromising to achieve his policy goals. And Jones omits the fact that compromise is a two-way street, and that congressional Republicans have refused to compromise with Obama.

Nevertheless, in an August 2015 article Jones repeated the falsehood again, asserting that "President Obama has been described as thin-skinned by people, including former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who have opposed his my-way-or-the-highway approach to governing."

As for the "thin-skinned" aside, consider the source: Brewer is a Republican who made the claim on Fox News. Jones did serve up other purported examples, but they were responses to criticism, not necessarily actual "thin-skinned" behavior. Jones' article, interestingly, was about someone calling Donald Trump thin-skinned, which has proven to be unambiguously true.

(By contrast, Jones seems a little thin-skinned herself in an CNS blog post appearing the same day as her Trump article in which she seemed to be weirdly offended by a pharmacy chain in Sweden -- whose policies have no effect on her whatsoever as an American -- planning to offer adhesive bandages for darker skin. Jones does note that "Adhesive bandages come in many colors and patterns in the United States; those designed for darker skin tones are also available online," though she didn't explicitly say whether that offended her as well. Apparently, being thin-skinned is bad only if you're a Democrat. She also headlined her post "Beige Bandages Are Racist?" even though she quoted nobody in her post of making such a claim.)

Jones was in full bias mode in this Feb. 17 "news" article on a Hillary Clinton speech:

Repeating the same promises and platitudes that African-Americans have heard for years from the Democrats who claim to represent them, Hillary Clinton on Tuesday went a step further: She mentioned her (white) "privilege"; and she said Democrats need to hold candidates accountable, "not just every two or four years...but every single day."


She made all the old, familiar promises: expanding pre-school; dismantling the "school-to-prison pipeline"; ending "excessive incarceration"; addressing re-segregation in the nation's schools; making college affordable; ending "gun violence"; ending the "epidemic of African Americans being killed by police or dying in custody"; banning the box on federal job applications; ending income disparities; and creating jobs in America's inner cities.

Again: This is a "news" article from a "news" organization that purports to loathe "bias by commission," according to its mission statement.

If a reporter for the so-called "liberal media" used a "news" article to dismiss a Republican presidential candidate's speech as nothing but "promises and platitudes," CNS' parent, the Media Research Center, would be screaming bloody murder. But the MRC apparently has no problem with such a heavy political slant as long at its own right-wing agenda is being furthered in the process -- and Jones is all too happy to serve up that bias.

Jones started off a March 16 article by ostensibly reporting on President Obama's criticism of "vulgar and divisive rhetoric" on the campaign trail, but the last portion of her article degenerated into a full-on anti-Obama rant:

The core values of the country we love have changed dramatically under President Obama's watch.

While campaigning for president in April 2008, President Obama alienated many small-town Americans, when he explained their frustrations over job losses and broken political promises this way: "And it's not surprising then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Later that year, in October, Obama told a plumber at a campaign event that he planned to raise taxes on successful Americans "to spread the wealth around."

Throughout his presidency, he has pitted "millionaires and billionaires" against the middle and lower classes, insisting in 2011, "This is not class warfare. It’s math...The money is going to have to come from someplace."

With support only from Democrats, President Obama signed a government health care mandate in 2010, breaking his repeated promises to let people keep the plans they liked. He also offended the deeply held religious beliefs of Americans who opposed Obamacare's birth control/abortifacient mandate.

At the National Prayer Breakfast in 2015, Obama reminded the faithful that just as some people "profess to stand up for Islam but in fact are betraying it," so people have "committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ." He suggested that the Christians in the audience should exercise "some basic humility...Not being so full of yourself and confident that you are right, and that God speaks only to us and doesn't speak to others."

With a weak and ineffectual Republican Congress standing by, Obama applied his uncompromising attitude to major issues of the day, including homosexual marriage and illegal immigration, leaving Americans angry, divided and feeling powerless to reverse the tide rolling over the border and steamrolling traditional values.

Under the Obama administration, racial tensions were exacerbated to the point where one Democrat running for president was forced to apologize for saying that "all lives matter."

In 2015, the Gallup polling organization declared Obama one of the most polarizing presidents ever.

Again: This rant is presented as "news."

A Sept. 19 article by Jones served up a particularly odious bit of Obama derangement by portraying Obama as, at best, callous and insensitive to the detonation of a bomb in New York and other violent incidents over the weekend and, at worst, celebrating them.

Jones' article has the out-of-context headline "Obama Tells Black Lawmakers, 'There's an Extra Spring in My Step Tonight'," which -- precisely because it's placed there devoid of context -- suggests that Obama is saying the spring in his step is because of the weekend's incidents.

Jones then maliciously framed Obama's speech to the Congressional Black Caucus as insensitive to the weekend's events:

As of early Monday morning, President Obama had made no public comment on a series of weekend bombings, attempted bombings and stabbings in three states, but he did make time to address a Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner Saturday night and a Democrat fundraiser Sunday night.

At Saturday's event, Obama thanked the assembled guests, then joked: "There’s an extra spring in my step tonight. I don't know about you guys, but I am so relieved that the whole birther thing is over.

"I mean, ISIL, North Korea, poverty, climate change -- none of those things weighed on my mind -- (laughter) -- like the validity of my birth certificate. (Laughter.)

Jones then complained that "all three attacks had happened by the time Obama attended a Democrat fundraiser in New York on Sunday night, and a transcript shows he made no comment on the attacks at that event. A fourth attempted attack, on a train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey, was discovered after Obama had left the fundraiser."

Indeed, portraying Obama as deliberately ignoring the weekend's events was Jones' directive and obsession. She quickly followed up two hours later with an article whining that White House spokesman Josh Earnest didn't commit to a time that Obama would speak on the events of the weekend, emphasizing that "As of Monday morning, Obama has made no public comment on the series of bombings and stabbings in three states -- Minnesota, New York and New Jersey -- that took place on Saturday and Sunday."

In neither article does explain when Obama should have spoken on the weekend's events, given that few details were available immediately after they happened.

Obama spoke about the weekend incidents later that morning, but Jones did not consider this newsworthy enough to write about story about despite writing two articles complaining that he hadn't spoken about it. And even though CNS considered Jones' Obama-bashing articles worthy of the front page, it did not consider Obama's actual statement to be worthy of its front page.

This is just sleazy Obama derangement at its worst, from a right-wing "news" outlet trying to score cheap political points after a potentially tragic event.

Jones' campaign coverage bias

Jones is so biased, apparently, that she could not admit the near-universal bipartisan consensus that Michelle Obama gave a very good speech on the first night of the Democratic National Convention.

Jones had to find a way -- presumably under orders from her editor bosses Terry Jeffrey and Michael W. Chapman -- to denigrate the speech in her July 26 article on it, which seems to explain her very odd opening paragraph:

Children who need protection. Bullies and "hateful language from public figures." A White House built by slaves. Black SUVS and big men with guns. Little faces pressed up against the window. And at the end of First lady Michelle Obama's speech, an admission that "right now, this is the greatest country on earth."

Huh? What does that even mean? Is Jones so desperate to avoid saying anything nice about Obama's speech that she emulated a word cloud to open her article on it?

Much of Jones' article did find her in stenography mode summarizing the speech, but she couldn't resist getting one more dig in, adding at the end: "On the campaign trail in 2008, Michelle Obama made waves when she said, 'For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.'"

That negative spin contrasted with Jones' effort to put a happy face on Ted Cruz's speech at the Republican National Convention in which he refused to offer an explicit endorsement of Trump, insisting that Cruz's "powerful speech" was "well-received until the very end, when it became clear he would not endorse Donald Trump." from there, she simply summarized the speech and didn't mention the boos again -- the most newsworthy part of the speech -- until the 21st paragraph of her article.

And it's definitely a contrast with Jones' report on Melania Trump's RNC speech, infamous for her plagiarism of Michelle Obama's 2008 DNC speech. Jones began her article by touting that Trump's speech was "well-received" and that "she added with a smile" that "It would not be a Trump contest without excitement and drama." Jones waited until the second paragraph to report 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."

But after noting that "Those similarities, played side-by-side on televisions across America on Tuesday morning, are noted below," Jones returned to stenography mode, explaining how "the heart of Melania's speech centered on her husband's love of family and country -- and how he will deliver the change that he says the country needs."

That was apparently more important to Jones than the details of Melania's apparent plagiarism, complete with a quote from the Trump campaign that avoided addressing the issue at hand.

Later, an update was added 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.

An Aug. 8 article by Jones uncritically repeated Republican Sen. Tom Cotton's suggestion that scientist Shahram Amiri was executed by the Iranian government because "in the e-mails that were on Hillary Clinton's private server, there were conversations among her senior advisers about this gentleman. That goes to show just how reckless and careless her decision was to put that kind of highly classified information a private server. I think her judgment is not suited to keep this country safe." Jones quotes from the emails, but none of them mention Amiri by name, nor do Cotton or Jones back up the suggestion that Iranians had access to Clinton's private server.

Indeed, media reports point out that there its "no reasonable connection between the discussion of Amiri’s case on email by Clinton’s staff to Amiri’s eventual execution."

Apparently, Jones wasn't feeling in the mood to parenthetically snark the truth at Cotton.

On Aug. 14, Jones did more direct work for the Trump campaign by trying to manufacture an anti-Hillary meme; her article -- under the headline "Hillary Clinton Rolls Out Her Version of 'You Didn't Build That'" -- asserted that Clinton's statement that should pay their fair share of taxes since they "have been successful in this country because of everything this country represents" was an echo of Obama's statement that "If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen." But conservatives have long taken Obama's remark out of context; like other conservatives, Jones ignored the fact that Obama also said "when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”

Jones began a Sept. 27 article on the first presidential debate by asserting that "Democrat Hillary Clinton embraced climate change as the crux of her job-creation plan." In fact, according to the clip accompanying Jones' article, at no point did Clinton claim that climate change was "the crux of her job-creation plan" -- it was an example she cited from her overall economic plan as a response to one question. Later on, Jones conceded that Clinton also said her economic plan includes "jobs in infrastructure, in advanced manufacturing, innovation and technology, clean, renewable energy, and small business, because most of the new jobs will come from small business."

Jones also wrote a debate article on Trump. But in contrast to her Clinton-focused article -- in which she devoted eight of her article's 18 paragraphs to Trump countering Clinton's claims -- only three of that article's 16 paragraphs quote Clinton countering Trump's claims.

Jones offered biased coverage of another Michelle Obama speech in an Oct. 14 article. Obama was speaking about Trump's vile misogyny caught on tape and released the week before, but Jones portrayed it as an overgeneralization, as indicated by the headline: "Michelle Obama: Men Are Predators and Women Are Victims." Jones did her best to whitewash Trump's nasty behavior:

Donald Trump eleven years ago was caught unawares on an "Access Hollywood" videotape saying vulgar things about women to whom he was attracted. He apologized to Americans at last Sunday's debate, where he denied ever acting on his stated impulses.

But since then, in the final days of the campaign, a handful of women conveniently have come forward to accuse Trump of groping and abusing them. Trump says it's a manufactured controversy by the "Clinton machine": "There is nothing the political establishment will not do -- no lie that they won't tell -- to hold their prestige and power at your expense. And that's what's been happening," Trump said in Florida on Thursday.

Jones went on to insert another snide editorial comment, writing: "Mrs. Obama said it's not normal, it's not politics as usual (neglecting what Bill Clinton did to a young intern when he was president)."

The remainder of the election was more biased coverage from Jones. As ConWebWatch documented, in the final month-plus before election day, Jones wrote 10 articles uncritically quoting Trump or running mate Mike Pence but 12 articles detailing the contents of emails from the Clinton campaign stolen by WikiLeaks.

In this election, Jones make it all too clear who she wanted to win.

Even more bias

In a March 25 article, Susan Jones sounded the alarm about a "landmark" settlement in suburban Baltimore that means "low-income housing" (read: black people) will be coming to "affluent" suburbs (read: white people). She grumbles: "The goal is to move low- and very-low-income people out of the city and into the suburbs." As she's wont to do, Jones adds a little editorial snarking to her "news" article:

The county must, within 180 days, introduce (and keep trying to pass) legislation that prohibits housing discrimination based on a person's lawful source of income. This means a landlord can't refuse someone housing if he or she plans to pay the rent with Social Security or other public assistance instead of a paycheck (job!).

As WorldNetDaily did when it tackled the issue of housing inequality in the Baltimore suburbs a few months earlier, Jones ignored the history of racial discrimination in Baltimore and its suburbs that keep blacks in the inner city and actively discourages them from moving into the suburbs by, for example, refusing to accept Section 8 housing vouchers.

While Jones mocked the idea that the Baltimore suburbs must pass a law prohibiting discrimination against such vouchers, she didn't explain why such discrimination is a good thing. And her sneering that people who have housing vouchers don't have "jobs!" -- and, therefore, are lazy bums who aren't even white -- ignores the fact that people who are on disability and cannot work are also eligible to receive housing vouchers.

By contrast, Susan Jones' May 10 article on anti-gay laws in North Carolina is filled with bias and opinion -- you'd never know it's supposed to be a "news" article from reading it -- that sneered at Attorney General Loretta Lynch's defense of the Obama administration's transgender initiatives. Jones' opening paragraph is pure opinion:

The U.S. Justice Department is putting the feelings of transgenders -- men who think they are women and women who think they are men -- above the privacy rights of the vast majority of people who don't contest the biological facts of who they actually are.

Jones went on to lecture Lynch on how she's wrong about transgenders:

But Lynch was referring to people who, in fact, are pretending to be something that -- biologically -- they are not. A man "identifying" as a woman is not a biological woman. And likewise, a woman "identifying" as a man is not a biological man. Until now, that is, when the federal government has determined that biological facts matter less than wishes and feelings.

Later in her article, Jones lectured some more:

Lynch accused North Carolina and its leaders of creating "state-sponsored discrimination against transgender individuals, who simply seek to engage in the most private of functions in a place of safety and security, a right taken for granted by most of us."

(Much of the outcry over this issue comes from people who are not confused about their gender "as noted at birth," and who also "simply seek to engage in the most private of functions in a place of safety and security." Many women, in particular, object to sharing restrooms with men who supposedly "identify" as women.)

Either Northwestern didn't teach Jones how to keep bias and personal opinions out of reporting, or hanging out for 17 years with right-wingers who are more interesting in pushing propaganda than reporting facts has wiped that crucial journalistic lesson from her memory.

Send this page to:

Bookmark and Share
The latest from

In Association with
Support This Site

home | letters | archive | about | primer | links | shop
This site © Copyright 2000-2016 Terry Krepel