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At CNS, Fairness Is In Cognitive Decline has spent months pushing the Trump-approved narrative that Joe Biden has issues with senility and dementia, which it also imposed on Nancy Pelosi and others. But CNS will never portray Trump's mental slips as anything serious.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 10/15/2020
Updated 11/3/2020

Craig Bannister

ConWebWatch has documented how served up wildly biased and unfair coverage of Democratic presidential frontrunners during the primary process earlier this year, concluding with numerous articles suggesting that Joe Biden has some form of dementia by playing up alleged gaffes and other statements it didn't like. As Biden cemented his frontrunner status and ultimately became the Democratic nominee, CNS kept hammering away at the "cognitive decline" narrative.

Of course, CNS is simply doing the bidding of President Trump, who has made questions about Biden's mental health a key piece of his re-election campaign. CNS has proven to be a good Trump lackey -- something it's very much known for -- by amplifying those questions.

A June 29 article by Craig Bannister touted a Rasmussen poll finding that "Due to his ever-growing legacy of public gaffes and displays of confusion, 38% of likely U.S. voters now believe that former Vice President Joe Biden has 'some form of dementia'." Bannister added:

Biden’s mental lapses have gained added public attention since he became the frontrunner to become the Democrat Party’s 2020 presidential candidate. Last week, for example, Biden claimed while campaigning in Pennsylvania that 120 million Americans have died from the coronavirus – 1,000 times the actual count.

Bannister was parroting an attack by Media Research Center co-worker Nicholas Fondacaro. Like Fondacaro, Bannister conveniently failed to mention that Biden corrected himself immediately after making the claim.

Bannister also did another article unironically quoting President Trump tweeting of Biden that "If I ever said something so mortifyingly stupid, the Fake News Media would come down on me with a vengeance." Bannister did concede this time that Biden "did appear to realize his mistake."

The next day, Bannister cherry-picked a quote from a statement from Biden on the issue and framed it as an unflattering headline -- Biden: ‘All You’ve Got to Do Is Watch Me’ to See if I’m Suffering Cognitive Decline -- in response to a question from a biased Fox News reporter.

Melanie Arter did a separate article based on the very same Biden response, then played gotcha:

Biden then confused the Thomas Jefferson Memorial for with the Lincoln Memorial.

“It's better that they do not, but it’s fundamentally different than pulling down the statue or going to the Lincoln Memorial and trying to pull-- not Lincoln Memorial - that's a bad example -the Jefferson memorial and grabbing Jefferson off his chair,” he said.

The Lincoln Memorial features the former President Abraham Lincoln sitting in a chair. The Jefferson Memorial features former President Thomas Jefferson standing up.
On July 14, Bannister found another poll on Biden's mental health to amplify:
While more than two-thirds of all likely U.S. voters say presumptive Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden should debate President Donald Trump, Democrat and Republican voters strongly disagree on whether or not the former vice president is up to the task, a new Rasmussen survey finds.

Bannister didn't seem concerned with Trump's mental health, nor did he question why Rasmussen apparently didn't poll people about it (because it has a pro-Republican and anti-Democratic bias).

CNS has amplified Biden's purported mental issues in other articles as well. In a June 23 article, Susan Jones uncritically quoted right-wing writer Victor Davis Hanson referencing "Joe Biden's cognitive impairment"; on June 26, Bannister promoted right-wing radio host Mark Levin in the midst of an attack on Nancy Pelosi's mental health, declaring that it was "Time for Pelosi to join Biden in a padded room" as he was "comparing Pelosi's lapse to those of former Vice President Joe Biden."

Going into August, CNS continued to highlight misstatements by Biden to bolster the narrative, with articles like:

We're not sure what Susan Jones was trying to push in an Aug. 21 article on Biden's acceptance speech that the Democratic National Convention (which Jones deliberately misnamed the "Democrat National Convention"), headlined "Watch: Biden Raised His Voice, Didn't Smile As Speech Ended," in which she actually complained that "at the end of his speech, delivered live at the Chase Center in Delaware, an unsmiling Biden raised his voice, apparently for emphasis, but he looked almost angry."

In a Sept. 11 article, Jones made a point of noting that "Joe Biden would be the oldest person to take the presidential oath -- 78 years old -- if he's elected in November" in writing about how he "tried to laugh off 'this idea of, you know, slow Joe.'" Jones then went in to pro-Trump attack mode:

Concerns about Biden's health focus mainly on his mental acuity, as he has trouble completing thoughts and speaking without notes or prompts.

As for "who's able to move around," until recently, Biden has spent most of his time sheltering inside his Delaware home and giving controlled interviews via video from his basement studio, while President Trump has traveled around the country, taking criticism from Biden and other Democrat/media activists for holding campaign rally after campaign rally amid the pandemic.

As he did in June, Bannister played gotcha when Biden mistakenly said "millions" instead of "thousands" when describing the number of Americans killed by coronavirus. Instead of giving Biden the benefit of the doubt -- he said nothing when Trump embarrassingly mispronounced "Yosemite" and "Thailand" -- he lectured in a Sept. 21 article:

For the second time this year, Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden grossly exaggerated the number of coronavirus deaths while visiting Pennsylvania, claiming hundreds of millions, instead of thousands have died.


The U.S. population is estimated to be about 328 million people, meaning nearly two-thirds of the nation have died from COVID-19 if Biden's claim were true, when, in actuality, nearly two hundred thousand people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19.

In an anonymously written Sept. 28 article, CNS took seriously Trump's taunt that Biden needed to take a "drug test" before the first presidential debate, intoning that Biden had "no comment" when asked about it. The same day, another anonymous article seriously portrayed Biden's obvious joke that he had first served in the Senate "180 years ago" as another example of sanity slippage, noting only that he "briefly chuckled" over the remark and lecturing, "Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972, which was 48 years ago, and took his seat in January 1973, whcih [sic] was 47 years ago."

Susan Jones tried to drag Biden's wife into its narrative in yet another Sept. 28 article:

Delicately treading on Joe Biden's mental state, CNN's Jake Tapper gave Jill Biden a pass when she firmly rejected Tapper's suggestion that "your husband has been known to make the occasional gaffe."

"Oh, you can't even go there. After Donald Trump, you cannot even say the word gaffe," Mrs. Biden told Tapper in an interview that aired on Sunday.

How have Jones reacted to media coverage of Trump's gaffes? More on that later.

Biden's vice presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, wasn't immune either. In a Sept. 15 article, Bannister asserted that Harris "made the kind of verbal slip made famous by the party’s presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden" by referring to "the Harris administration" in an interview. Bannister then hyped the "social media frenzy accusing Harris of a 'Freudian slip' based on the belief that she’ll actually be the one running the show if Biden wins the White House."

Later that day, Melanie Arter wrote that "One day after Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), the Democratic vice presidential running mate to former Vice President Joe Biden, referred to what 'a Harris administration' will do, Biden himself has the same gaffe." She waited until the end of the third paragraph of his article to admit that Biden"correct[ed] himself."

Pelosi, Schumer trashed by the same narrative

Meanwhile, CNS has been similarly attacking the supposed mental health issues of other Democrats -- particularly that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But it hasn't always been successful. The uber-Catholics at CNS tried to own the Catholic Pelosi on her religion in an anonymously written April 22 article:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) said on PBS “NewsHour” on Tuesday that she had an “Epiphany” on Easter that told her she “must call out the truth” on the COVID-19 pandemic and as a result of that Epiphany she has been criticizing President Donald Trump.

“Easter,” Pelosi said, “I had sort of an epiphany, an epiphany on Easter, that said: ‘We must call out the truth on this.’ Because we cannot--It's one thing to overlook what happened in the past and be sad about that. It's another thing to let the misrepresentations continue.“

And so that's why I am saying that he's a poor leader,” Pelosi continued—referring to Trump.


In Pelosi’s Catholic faith, the feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on January 6. It commemorates the day the Magi visited the baby Jesus and became the first gentiles to meet Christ.

CNS is rather clumsily arguing that Pelosi can't keep her religious holidays straight and rather stupidly claiming that one cannot possibly have an epiphany on Easter and that epiphany has only a religious meaning. The holy day of Epiphany describes the revelation of baby Jesus as divine to the Magi, something that might actually be more accurately described as a theophany.

While the dictionary offers a religious definition of epiphany, it also offers a non-religious one as well "a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience."

In other words, it's possible and permissible to have an epiphany on Easter. And, thus, CNS' attempt to own Pelosi utterly failed.

From there it was on to disparaging her as going senile or becoming physically frail. An anonymously written May 15 article stated:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) at her press briefing on Thursday forgot the name of Rep. Rodney Davis (R.-Ill.), who is the ranking member of the House Administration Committee.


“This, I think, we're moving, uh, we had bipartisan talks for a while,” Pelosi said. “There’d been some, again, everybody expressing opinions for a long while. Mr. Hoyer, Mr. McGovern, Ms. Lofgren, Chair of House Admin, Chair of Rules, Democratic Leader of the House with the Republican Leader of the House and the corresponding chairs, Mr. Cole and Mr. Um ... Randy.”

When she said “Mr. Um ... Randy,” she looked down and shuffled some papers on the podium in front of her.

Then she turned to someone to her right---who is not seen in the C-SPAN tape of the event.

“Randy something,” it sounds like she mumbles in that direction.

Then an unseen person (on the C-SPAN tape) sitting in front of the podium—where the reporters sit--said: “Davis.”

Pelosi turned in that direction and said: “Hmm?”

Then another person sitting in front of the podium said: “Davis.”

And the first voice that had said it repeated: “Davis.”

Then Pelosi said: “Davis, yeah.”

In fact, Rep. Rodney Davis (R.-lll.)—not Randy Davis--is the ranking member of the House Administration Committee. He has served in Congress since 2013.

Someone put in a lot of time transcribing this video and didn't get credit for it.

One CNS writer not afraid to put his name on his bias is Craig Bannister, who declared in a June 4 article:

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appeared to experience a ten-second mental lapse Thursday during an on-camera press conference.

Pelosi was reading from a letter she had sent to President Donald Trump earlier in the day expressing concerns about “the increased militarization” of law enforcement efforts in the Nation’s Capital amid the violent protests and riots ravaging the city.

Pelosi reads from the letter, looks away from it for a moment – then loses her train of thought and stutters, unable to collect her thoughts, until she refocuses on the letter:


Pelosi, who was born on March 26, 1940, is 80 years old.

That was followed on June 9 by another anonymously written article:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) on Monday took a knee in the U.S. Capitol for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to honor George Floyd and others who “were abused by police brutality.”

But at the end of the kneeling session, as captured by CSPAN’s camera, she had trouble standing up.

She reached out to someone to help her and a woman standing nearby immediately came to her assistance—as did House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D.-Md.).

“It’s better not to have on high heels,” Pelosi said as she was helped to stand.

And on June 26, Bannister threw to its favorite right-wing radio host, Mark Levin, for another article accusing Pelosi of senility:

On Friday, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (C-Calif.) appeared to forget what President Donald Trump and Republicans did that prompted her to accuse them of being complicit in the “murder” of Minnesotan George Floyd.

While explaining why she wouldn’t retract her claim, Pelosi first forgot what was in the Senate Republicans’ police reform bill that offended her – then, she couldn’t even recall what Trump did to draw her ire, saying, “Then, the president comes out with his – whatever it is, saying, uh, uh”...


“Time for Pelosi to join Biden in a padded room,” conservative commentator Mark Levin tweeted Friday, comparing Pelosi's lapse to those of former Vice President Joe Biden.

Bannister made sure to build his biased narrative by adding that "On June 4, Pelosi suffered an even longer on-camera mental lapse, reported at the time."

CNS even dragged another Democrat into its mental-lapse obsession in an anonymously written Aug. 10 article: "Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D.-N.Y.) suffered a mental lapse when appearing on MSNBC on Monday morning saying, as he did so, 'uh, um, uh—I got to remember the words.'"

Trump is immune

By contrast, very few CNS articles admitted there have been questions about President Trump's mental health. A March 11 article by Bannister quoting "a Yale psychiatrist with a history of claiming President Donald Trump is mentally unfit" stating that "she doesn’t even want to discuss the mental health of Democrat presidential frontrunner Joe Biden – because Biden’s mental lapses are merely 'gaffes' – while Trump’s endanger all of humanity." It was a lazy rewrite of a NewsBusters post by Tim Graham, who went on to complain that mental health professionals -- as opposed to the random people Rasmussen polled and Bannister touted -- keep raising questions about Trump's mental fitness, declaring that doing so was "partisan."

But when it comes to President Trump's mental lapses, well, claiming there's anything more to them is just a "liberal media" narrative. Jones said as much in an Aug. 5 article on how "Jill Biden spoke for her husband, Democrat [sic] presidential candidate Joe Biden" in a Fox News interview in which she denied that her husband isn't "competent to be president" and noted that Joe Biden is only a couple years older than Trump. Jones parenthetically huffed in response:
Liberal activists in the media are now focusing in particular on Trump's mispronunciations ("Yosemite") and twisting his words ("It is what it is") to make it look like he doesn't grasp the severity of the pandemic, for example. The intent is to portray Trump as cognitive impaired.

You mean like what you and your colleagues are doing to Biden, Susan? Heaven forfend!

And in an Aug. 25 article, Jones repeated how Trump boasted how "we're going to end up with 302 great Supreme Court Justices," then had to parenthetically add, "(He meant lower-court judges.)" After all, she's not getting paid to question Trump's "mental decline" the way she and her CNS co-worker obsess over Biden's.

* * *

Months of CNS pushing this narrative (with the Trump's campaign's presumed blessing) set the bar so low for Biden at the first debate that he was easily able to surpass expectations. Thus, CNS hasn't suggested anything about Biden's purported cognitive decline again since the debate. But look for it to pounce on any future Biden gaffes in a way it will never do when Trump makes them.

UPDATE 11/3/20: CNS hasn't stopped pushing this malicious narrative. Craig Bannister served as a Trump stenographer in an Oct. 9 article: "Former Vice President Joe Biden is in “no condition” to be Democrats’ candidate for president, President Donald Trump said Friday in an appearance on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show."

Bannister hyped on Oct. 12 how "Democrat [sic] presidential candidate Joe Biden declared that he is running 'for the Senate'- repeating a mistake he made earlier this year."

Patrick Goodenough uncritically repeated another Trump attack in an Oct. 13 article, gushing that "President Trump came out guns blazing against Joe Biden during his first post-coronavirus diagnosis campaign trip to Florida on Monday, comparing his Democratic challenger’s mental acuity unfavorably with those of autocratic leaders presidents have to contend with," saying that "the leaders of China, Russia and North Korea have '100 percent sharp minds' while Biden’s was not even 60 percent."

An unbylined Oct. 26 article highlighted Biden saying in a "60 Minutes" interview that "people should compare his 'physical and mental acuity' to those of President Donald Trump." The same day, though, Susan Jones took Biden out of context to falsely make him look addled:

Here's one of the Monday morning tweets from President Donald Trump: "Joe Biden called me George yesterday. Couldn’t remember my name. Got some help from the anchor to get him through the interview. The Fake News Cartel is working overtime to cover it up!"

Biden, along with his wife Jill, was addressing an "I Will Vote" concert via video on Sunday when he made the point that this is a most consequential election:

"Four more years of George, uh -- George uh -- he, uh --we're going to find ourselves in a position where, if Trump gets elected, we're going to be in a different world."

In fact, Biden was speaking to his interviewer, George Lopez. Jones has yet to update or correct her article.

CNS also wants you to think that Biden is a creep. An Oct. 7 article by Bannister proclaimed that "Video of Democrat [sic] presidential candidate Joe Biden calling girl dancers at cultural center “beautiful” and telling them he wants to see them dancing “when they’re four years older” has gone viral. Needless to say, Bannister didn't mention Trump's history of creepiness with women.

As usual, CNS didn't take it well when questions were raised about Trump's mental acuity. In an Oct. 9 article, Jones huffily wrote about Nancy Pelosi saying that "The President is, shall we say, in an altered state right now" due to the medication he was taking to recover from coronavirus, further complaining: "Press reports say Pelosi intends to establish a commission on presidential capacity -- a committee of medical experts who would assess the president more objectively, supposedly, than members of his own Cabinet would."

Jones got even huffier in an Oct. 19 article:

To call Jake Tapper's Sunday interview with Lara Trump contentious may be understating it.

The CNN anchor was impatient, rude and angry as he brought the interview to an abrupt end.

Tapper accused Lara Trump, the president's daughter-in-law, of mocking Joe Biden's stutter, even though she said she had no idea that Biden overcame stuttering; and Tapper also accused Lara of diagnosing Biden's cognitive decline without a medical license.

Jones declared this to be "an interview that leaves no doubt about partisan media activists working hard to defeat Trump and elect Biden." She won't admit publicly she has left no doubt that she's a partisan media activist working hard to defeat Biden and elect Trump, in part by elevating sleazy smears about Biden's purported mental state.

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