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CNS Brings Its Bias To The Debates covered the presidential debates the way you'd expect it to: a pro-Trump, anti-Biden slant with extra damage control after Trump failed to explicitly disavow white supremacists.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 11/11/2020's coverage of the first debate between President Trump and Joe Biden tracks with its usual pro-Trump slant: Statements by Trump were presented without comment, while statements by Biden tended to be rebutted or snarked at with added editorial comment.

First, let's look at the Biden coverage (judged by Biden's prominence in the headline):

  • Patrick Goodenough -- who loves to fact-check Biden while giving Trump a pass -- complained that "Joe Biden in Tuesday’s presidential debate accused President Trump, again, of not asking China to allow U.S. health experts to visit Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak – a claim that has been debunked."
  • Goodenough also wrote that Biden "seemed eager to get across during Tuesday night’s combative presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio was that he is his own man, not beholden to the left wing of the Democratic Party," adding that his campaign worked with "democratic socialist senator" Bernie Sanders on a 110-page "manifesto" that "if implemented, will make Biden the most progressive president since FDR."
  • Melanie Arter wrote that Biden "said Tuesday that he does not support the Green New Deal, which President Donald Trump pointed out would cost Americans $100 trillion, and Trump said by not doing so, Biden 'just lost the radical left.'"
  • Susan Jones huffed that Biden declined to "answer the simple question" of whether he "would support Democrat [sic] calls to end the Senate filibuster and add more justices to the U.S. Supreme Court."
  • Another Jones article featuring Biden's "reopening plan" for the coronavirus pandemic had several paragraphs of transcript before Jones snarked that Biden "finally addressed the topic."

CNS published only two Biden-centric debate-related articles that were a relatively straight retelling of what happened:

By contrast, CNS published only three articles that keyed in on comments by Trump as indicated by the headline, and all three simply uncritically repeated what he said:

That's not surprising, given that both were written by chief Trump stenographer Melanie Arter.

Because Trump was not seen to have won the debate, CNS quickly issued a couple attacks on moderator and Fox News host Chris Wallace -- from its favorite right-wing radio host, Mark Levin, and in a blog post by editor Terry Jeffrey complaining that Wallace "personally engaged President Trump in a debate on 'climate change' that lasted for about 3 minutes and 45 seconds."

It was not until more than 18 hours after the end of the debate that CNS bothered to mention the big news from it: Trump's refusal to explicitly disavow white supremacists and his telling the Proud Boys hate group to "stand back and stand by." This being written by Arter, it's written blandly and plays whataboutism by also putting in the headline that Biden said Antifa is "an idea, not an organization."

Cleanup mode again

Once it reported that, though, CNS was forced into damage control, a position it's familiar with.

Craig Bannister complained that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cited an "incomplete quote" of Trump to declare Trump a white supremacist, claiming that "Trump twice answered 'Sure' to [moderator Chris] Wallace’s question about whether he was 'willing to condemn white supremacists and militia groups'" constituted an actual condemnation. Jeffrey did the same thing in responding to Nancy Pelosi's claim that Trump "would not disassociate himself" from white supremacists, declaring that "In fact, during the debate when moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump whether he was 'will tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups,' Trump said: 'Sure.'"

Arter did this as well, first noting Joe Biden's post-debate "cease and desist" response to Trump telling the far-right thugs of the Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by," and then declaring that "As previously reported, Trump was asked to condemn white supremacists and militia groups at the presidential debate, to which Trump said, 'Sure, I’m willing to do that. I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not the right wing. I'm willing to do anything. I want to see peace.'"

CNS then brought out the big guns: former pro football player Hershel Walker asserting that "Trump is not a racist." This was followed by a reworking by Craig Bannister of a piece from CNS' parent, the Media Research Center (who similarly played damage control over this) counting the "19 times" Trump has denounced racism, huffing that "two days after the first Trump-Biden presidential debate, the media continued to badger Pres. Trump, alleging that he hadn’t yet condemned white supremacists and, in particular, a group called the Proud Boys. And, once again, the president issued a clear, unequivocal condemnation of all racists and racist organizations."

Finally, CNS resorted to Charlie Daniels Jr., who's now writing a column at CNS in place of the one his late father wrote. He sarcastically whined that "the only sensible plan I can think of to allow President Trump to put this to rest once and for all" is that Trump "shall henceforth be required to condemn white supremacists, neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, and all forms of racism every hour on the hour for the remainder of his life, and if he fails to do so, everyone will know with absolute certainty that he’s a racist."

Daniels even defended the honor of the thuggish, rage-filled Proud Boys: "the only problem is that they are NOT a white supremacist group. They aren’t even exclusively white. Their leader is -- in fact -- Cuban."

Not a good look, CNS (and Mr. Daniels).

CNS also went surprisingly crankypants on an ideological ally, Fox News correspondent John Roberts, complaining that he "badgered Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany over whether President Trump denounces white supremacy today – even though McEnany told him the president did so the day before" and that "Roberts’ wife, Kyra Phillips, was actually one of those Trump personally denounced white supremacy to on Wednesday."

Final debate: same thing

CNS covered the final presidential debate the way it covered the first one: fact-checking, rebuttals and snark for Biden, while Trump got stenography and no fact-checking, even though it put a false Trump claim in a headline.

CNS did a highly biased pro-Trump run-up to the debate. It devoted an entire Oct. 20 article by Jones to regurgitating the Trump campaign's whining about the changes the debate commission made for the final debate -- which included the ability to mute a candidate -- even reproducing the entirety of the "lengthy letter" campaign chairman Bill Stepien sent the commission. Stepien claimed that "the final debate was supposed to focus on foreign policy," but the debate commission never said it would be the sole focus -- an important fact Jones failed to tell her readers.

The same day, Arter uncritically repeated how Trump "criticized the moderator of the upcoming last presidential debate NBC White House Correspondent Kristen Welker, telling Fox News on Tuesday that she’s worse than C-SPAN’s Joe [sic: Steve] Scully, because she has ties to the Democrat [sic] Party." And Goodenough chimed in by claiming that Trump "had a small foretaste" of getting muted at the debate when his microphone went out during a rally, going on to rehash previous Trump campaign criticism of the decision.

After the debate, Goodenough enthusiastically attacked Biden in his usual way that he won't do to Trump, obsessing over how Biden said the U.S. should move to net-aero emissions by 2025, point out how that’s a quarter of a century earlier than the target date set in the Paris climate accords," then adding how "around four minutes later, Biden offered different dates – 2035 for “net-zero” emissions in the energy sector, and 2050 as the goal to achieve net-zero emissions overall." Arter followed by making a big deal out of Biden denying that he opposes fracking and to "show the tape" of him saying otherwise, then touting how "Trump obliged" later by "tweet[ing] a video montage of Biden saying he would eliminate fracking."

Jones, meanwhile, highlighted how "Democrat [sic] presidential nominee" Biden wouldn't rule out future shutdowns to slow the spread of coronavirus, then let Trump rebut him by touting how he said that "'99 percent of people recover' from COVID, including him." Jones also rebutted Biden's claim that he has never taken money from foreign sources by rehashing the Hunter Biden "scandal" that CNS and right-wing have been pushing for weeks, though she offered no evidence that proves Joe Biden profited in any way.

Trump, of course, got no such scrutiny from CNS. Jones gave space to Trump to reframe Biden's statement that he would transition away from oil as a claim he would "destroy the oil industry," then topped it off with a post-debate comment from a Republican congressman that "Russia and China and India are happy because Joe Biden is going to destroy our economy in the name of saving the environment."

Jones uncritically repeated Trump's claim to Biden that he ran for president in 2016 "because of you. I ran because of Barack Obama, because you did a poor job"-- failing to note that Trump is on the record as saying he did it for himself and his business. Arter, meanwhile, did a piece with the headline claim "Trump: Only ‘Those with the Lowest I.Q.’ Might Come Back to Immigration Court":

President Donald Trump defended his decision to end the practice of catch and release in the last presidential debate in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday against claims by Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden that illegal immigrants who are released and given a court date show up for immigration court.

“The catch and release. Do you know what he's talking about there? If in fact you had a family that came across. They were arrested. They in fact were given a date to show up for their hearing. They were released, and guess what, they showed up for a hearing,” Biden said.


The president said he terminated catch and release, because it was “a disaster.”

“It just shows that he has no understanding of immigration of the laws. Catch and release is a disaster. A murderer would come in. A rapist would come in. A very bad person would come in. We would take their name. We have to release them into our country, and then you say they come back. Less than 1% of the people come back,” Trump said.

“Not true,” Biden interjected.

“We have to send ICE out and Border Patrol out to find them. We would say come back in two years, three years. We're going to give you a court case. You need Perry Mason. We're going to give you a court case. When you say they come back, they don't come back, Joe. They never come back. Only the really, I hate to say this, but those with the lowest I.Q., they might come back,” Trump said.

Arter didn't tell her readers that Biden was right -- Trump's claim isn't true at all. According to the Department of Justice, more than half of immigrants return for court hearings, far more than the 1% Trump claimed, and there's no evidence intelligence is a factor.

That's how CNS' bias works.

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