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CNS' 2020 Election Bias, Part 2

More bias in action: Not only did CNSNews.com uncritically promote Trump's election fraud conspiracy theories, its editor whined that Joe Biden's victory speech interrupted his football game.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 12/10/2020
Updated 12/23/2020


Melanie Arter

CNSNews.com went into Election Day with its usual pro-Trump bias on top of the pro-Trump polls it was promoting: for example, one article by Melanie Arter hyped how "Stony Brook University political science professor Helmut Norpoth, whose election model correctly predicted the winner over the past 100 elections and correctly predicted President Donald Trump’s win in 2016, has predicted that Trump has a 91 percent chance of winning." Another Arter piece featured right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh arguing that "he thinks the majority of early voters and absentee voters are Trump supporters who are fed up with the way that President Donald Trump has been treated."

But -- in an apparently instance of hedging its bets -- CNS also set up a narrative in case Trump didn't win by publishing a Nov. 2 op-ed by the Heritage Foundation's Hans von Spakovsky insisting that not only is election fraud a threat, denial of election fraud is too.

CNS' first post-election coverage came from Patrick Goodenough, who gushed that "President Trump’s chances were looking stronger than opinion polls had suggested." Since it was so close, it was time to aggressively push the narrative that the election was being stolen from Trump:

But as more votes were counted, Joe Biden moved closer to a clear victory, forcing CNS to add a new framing narrative: it's just a media thing. That was illustrated by a Goodenough article headlined "Media Organizations Have Biden Edging Towards 270 Electoral Votes."

From there, CNS tried to justify the stolen-election narrative and Trump's efforts to fight reality in court:

This was joined by a Nov. 5 article by managing editor Michael W. Chapman in which John McLaughlin, CEO and Partner of the consulting firm McLaughlin & Associates, said that many of the presidential polling firms deliberately boosted their poll numbers to suggest that Democrat Joe Biden was ahead of Republican Donald Trump in many states, all in order to suppress the vote of Trump supporters." McLaughlin presented no evidence -- and Chapman apparently didn't ask for any -- that would prove his assertion, which dovetails nicely with a similar conspiracy theory forwarded by Chapman's boss, Media Research Center chief Brent Bozell.

Curiously, Chapman waited until the very end of his 22-paragraph article to make a highly relevant disclosure: "McLaughlin & Associates is one of several firms doing polling for President Trump and the Trump-Pence campaign." Shouldn't that have been disclosed much earlier so that McLaughlin's bias could be taken into account? Chapman clearly didn't believe so.

Still, the news turned worse for Trump -- that is, it became more clear that Biden was winning. It grudgingly published a couple articles noting how Nancy Pelosi was proclaiming Biden the winner; in the second, Susan Jones parenthetically huffed, "As she spoke, even media outlets had not yet called the election for Biden."

When it became inescapably clear that Biden would win, CNS framed it again as a media narrative in an anonymously written Nov. 7 article: "The major television networks and the New York Times and The Washington Post are now projecting that Joe Biden will be the president of the United States." That was joined by a couple more anonymous attack pieces on Biden, under the headlines "Biden Says Anatomical Males Should Be Able to Say They Are Female on U.S. Passports" and "Biden Says Taxpayers Must Pay for Abortions."

The most petulant reaction to Biden win, however, came straight from the top. CNS editor in chief Terry Jeffrey is a bit of a football fanatic -- so much so that, for some unexplained reason, CNS put on its front page on an early-November weekend a link to a 2012 column by him gushing that the Princeton-Harvard game that year was "football as it was meant to be."

But that love -- on top of his apparent seething hatred for all things liberal -- led him to post what may already be the worst take on Joe Biden's defeat of President Trump. He actually felt the need to write an entire Nov. 7 article to petulantly whining that Biden's victory speech interrupted a football game:

Former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris decided to give victory speeches in Wilmington, Del., on Saturday night, causing NBC to break away from its broadcast of the football game between No. 1 Clemson and No. 4 Notre Dame to cover the speeches.

The game was in the second quarter--and Biden could not even wait until halftime.

Did Biden believe it would increase his audience to interrupt the broadcast of a contest between the No. 1 and No. 4 college football teams in America?

Did Biden--a self-described devout Catholic--know that Notre Dame was playing Clemson?

Notre Dame and Clemson fans--and fans of college football wanting to watch the contest between two of the leading teams in the country--were forced to switch to a cable channel to continue watching the game as Harris and Biden interrupted it.

That's the caliber of "news" coverage we've sadly come to expect from CNS. Expect much more petulance as the Biden administration proceeds.

So, yeah, they're not taking this well.

Reporter Susan Jones was very busy on Nov. 9. First, she complained that Joe Biden has "been declared the winner by major news outlets," then gave Republican Sen. Roy Blunt space to refuse to acknowledge Biden won and huff that "the media doesn't get to decide who the winner is. There is a canvassing process."

Of course, Jones couldn't admit Biden won either. She demonstrated that denial in another article that day transcribing President Trump taking credit for the first announcement of a coronavirus vaccine, which she wrote "comes six days after the election that Democrats insist Joe Biden won, despite the continuing vote count and legal challenges in a few swing states."

Meanwhile, Jones continued to promote pro-Trump narratives over the next few days, with minimal pushback, if any, regarding the president's increasingly desperate challenges to vote counts across the country:

It wasn't until Nov. 19 that she wrote her first article on the reality of Trump's failing election challenges, under the headline "Georgia Secretary of State: 'We Have Not Seen Any Widespread Voter Fraud'." But even then she wasn't willing to completely give up the conspiracy theories, complaining that "partisan host Jake Tapper" pointed out that speculation about election software allows certain people to change vote tallies is "frankly crazy stuff, tin foil hat stuff."

She wasn't alone in pushing the narrative, of course. Chapman used a Nov. 18 article to tout a poll claiming that "66% of Republicans believe that the Trump-Biden presidential race was 'not' a 'free and fair election.' In addition, 72% of all registered voters who thought the race was unfair think 'mail-in voting led to widespread vote fraud.'" Chapman did not mention the utter lack of evidence to support claims of "widespread vote fraud."

The next day, Melanie Arter claimed that "Trump attorney Sidney Powell, who is part of the legal team investigating allegations of voter fraud," had "laid out what she called 'the most unpatriotic acts I can even imagine' involving the Dominion voting system." In grand Arter tradition, it's all stenography, no fact-checking. On Nov. 20, Craig Bannister similarly regurgitated an anti-media rant from Trump attorney Jenna Ellis "regarding the campaign’s election integrity lawsuits."

An anonymously written Nov. 18 article, meanwhile, was pure stenography: "Tom Fitton, president of the government watchdog group Judicial Watch, said in a statement that 'Joe Biden is not "president-elect"' despite what the liberal media claim, and they do not have the constitutional authority to declare the winner of a presidential election. ... On Election Day, President Trump had the votes to win the presidency. These vote totals were changed because of unprecedented and extraordinary counting after Election Day."

On Nov. 23, Chapman reported that "President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said that lawyer Sidney Powell is "not part of the Trump Legal Team," and is "not a lawyer for the president" -- never mind that his reporter definitively described Powell as a part of the Trump legal team just four days earlier. He didn't mention that, nor did he explain exactly why the Trump campaign distanced itself from Powell: increasingly unhinged claims of election fraud. Instead, Chapman repeated "conservative talk-radio host and constitutional scholar Mark Levin" dubiously vouching for Powell.

Jones returned on Nov. 30 to eagerly report how Trump "expressed frustration on Sunday with the FBI and the Justice Department for apparently failing to investigate voter fraud and for failing to bring charges against former officials of those agencies." Like her colleagues, she censored the fact that no claims by the Trump campaign have held up in court thus far.

On Dec. 1, Arter reported how Attorney General William Barr said he had seen no evidence of widespread voting fraud; the next day, Bannister gave a platform to Trump-adjacent attorney L. Lin Wood to respond to Barr. Bannister was silent on the controversy involving Wood in Georgia in which he told voters not to take part in the Senate runoff that will determine control of the Senate. Arter also gave space to a rant on Fox News from White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany that "Democrats have been trying to undermine the U.S. election system for years by allowing illegals on the voting rolls and fighting against signature matching."

However, Jones once again briefly conceded that there was two sides to the story. A Dec. 1 article noted Republican state officials in Georgia defending the integrity of the election there and criticizing "the amount of misinformation that continues to flow"over the election. Of course, Jones won't admit that she and CNS are responsible for amplifying such misinformation. On Dec. 3, Jones quoted Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham urging Georgia voters to vote in the Senate runoff despite what Powell and Wood had said. And on Dec. 7, Jones quoted another Georgia state official, a Republican, pointing out that any vote fraud uncovered in the state so far is minor and won't affect the election result.

In between, however, Jones did a total stenography job on the "46-minute videotaped message he posted directly to Facebook, bypassing the hostile White House press corps," in which he made numerous unsupported claims of election fraud. She framed those who, unlike her, pointed out Trump's falsehoods not as speaking truth but, rather, coming from "the partisan Democrat media":

Notably, the speech was not well-received by the partisan Democrat media. Trump predicted this, saying, " Even what I'm saying now will be demeaned and disparaged, but that's OK. I just keep on going forward because I'm representing 74 million people and in fact, I'm also representing all of the people that didn't vote for me."

Indeed, CNN refused to play any of Trump's speech, calling it "lies" and "propaganda." And here are the Thursday morning headlines from two major newspapers:

"Trump, in White House Video, Delivers Falsehood-Filled Diatribe" (New York Times online edition); "Trump escalates baseless attacks on election with a 46-minute video rant" (Washington Post online edition).

Jones did not explain why the media's judgment could not be trusted, nor did she link to any fact-check of Trump (nor did she admit she's a member of the partisan Republican media). Instead, she transcribed the entirety of Trump's rant -- which, of course, is more CNS' speed as loyal pro-Trump sycophants.

Touting Trump's vote total (though he lost)

In CNS' pro-Trump-heavy election coverage, there may be no bigger pro-Trump suck-up than Craig Bannister. Case in point: He wrote not one but two articles touting Trump's vote count despite the increasingly apparent fact that he lost re-election. He gushed in a Nov. 5 article:

President Donald Trump, often portrayed by liberal media as a racist, has reportedly attracted the highest share of minority voters of any Republican presidential candidate since 1960, when John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon.

Citing data obtained from Edison Research, The Daily Mail reports that Trump’s minority support at the ballot box increased among Blacks, Latinos, and nonwhites as a whole:\

[...]

Even former Obama Administration official and current CNN Commentator Van Jones admitted Wednesday Trump that Trump’s outreach to minorities was surprisingly effective in this election cycle.

According to a chart posted on Twitter by Republican Strategist Adrian Gray, Nixon received 32% of the nonwhite vote in his 1960 loss to Kennedy.

The next day, Bannister gushed even harder under the headline "Trump’s Popular Vote Tops Obama’s Record-Setting Performance in 2008":

President Donald Trump has now garnered a higher popular vote total than President Barack Obama did when he set the record in 2008.

In 2008, Obama won 69,498,516 votes, according the Federal Election Commission.

As of Thursday morning, Trump had already exceeded that number, racking up 69,538,777 votes, Newsweek reported Friday, noting that Democrat Joe Biden appears to have won even more votes than Trump:

One has to go to the second paragraph of the Newsweek excerpt that followed -- the fifth paragraph of the article -- for mention of the highly relevant fact that Joe Biden had received nearly 4 million more votes than Trump.

From there, Bannister regurgitated claims of voter fraud:

In the battleground state of Florida, Maricopa County voters have filed a lawsuit alleging their ballots were rejected because of an issue with the Sharpie pens they were provided.

Constitutional scholar and nationally-syndicated radio host Mark Levin is arguing that in Pennsylvania, another battleground state, Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, violated Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution by illegally changing the state’s election laws.

Meanwhile, Trump and his legal team are claiming that the president is a victim of voter fraud – and that they are prepared to take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Regarding the first claim, Maricopa County is in Arizona, not Florida, and the Sharpie claim is false. The Levin claim is taken from a CNS article about a Levin radio rant in which he was apparently arguing for Republican legislators in Pennsylvania to ignore the election results and vote to assign the state's Electoral College votes to Trump.

Jones similarly indulged in pushing the narrative in a Nov. 9 article: "Democrat Joe Biden won more than 75 million votes, the most of any presidential candidate; but President Donald Trump won 70 million votes, the second highest total in history."

Bogus voter fraud narratives

Bannister wasn't the only CNS writer to push a discredited case in which it was alleged that ballots in Arizona were rejected because votes were marked with a Sharpie pen. Pro-Trump stenographer Melanie Arter devoted a Nov. 6 article to rehashing right-wing claims in the case:

A lawsuit in Arizona claims 80 percent of voters at a polling location in Maricopa County, Ariz., had their ballots rejected because of a Sharpie issue.

[...]

Election law attorney Christian Adams, who serves as president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation and once served as general counsel and former DOJ voting section attorney under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, is representing the plaintiffs in the case.

“This is a case to get somebody's right to vote vindicated. Mrs. Aguilera attempted to vote, and she watched this happen. She watched her ballot rejected because of the Sharpie. I know a lot of people want to try to debunk the Sharpie issue. These are sworn affidavits. People say there's no evidence of this, Maria. These are affidavits of an election official,” Adams told Fox Business’s “Mornings with Maria Bartiromo” on Friday.

Arter was so busy transcribing the Fox Business segment that she censored the fact there's another side to this story. As an actual news outlet reported:

Rumors began to spread on social media Wednesday that voters in the battleground state of Arizona who used Sharpie pens on their ballots wouldn't have their votes counted. That confusion prompted state officials, election monitors and a top Trump administration official to push back on "#SharpieGate" rumors.

"Don't promote disinfo! Stop spreading #SharpieGate claims," tweeted Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs on Thursday morning, reminding people that election jurisdictions allow voters to mark ballots with a variety of writing instruments, including Sharpies.

Maricopa County officials said poll workers were trained to require voters to use Sharpies at voting sites because the ink doesn't smudge as ballots are counted. An informational video was posted in a Maricopa County Elections Department tweet that said, "New offset columns on the ballots means bleed through won't impact your vote!"

So, yes, Sharpies are actually encouraged for voting in Arizona. But Arter isn't going to tell you this -- despite the fact that this debunking was published the day before her own article was published -- because she has a pro-Trump narrative to push. And neither Arter nor anyone else at CNS has bothered to update the story.

That's not the only election-related issue Arter misled about to Trump's benefit. A Nov. 5 article claimed that "Election officials are forcing poll watchers to stand 30 feet away to observe ballot counting in Philadelphia, citing concerns about the coronavirus, Corey Lewandowski, senior advisor to the Trump campaign, told Fox Business on Wednesday." Arter was too busy quoting Lewandowski to make it clear that Democratic poll watchers were no closer.

Arter was also busy uncritically transcribing a Fox Business appearance by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham for a Nov. 10 article:

When asked to react to the media declaring former Vice President Joe Biden the next president, Graham said, “Well number one, this is a contested election. The media doesn't decide who becomes president. If they did you'd never have a Republican president forever, so we're discounting them.

“So, what happened? The Trump team has canvassed all early voters and absentee mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania, and they've found over 100 people they think were dead, but 15 people that we verified that have been dead who voted, but here’s the one that gets me. Six people registered after they died and voted. In Pennsylvania, I guess you're never out of it," he said.

But as others have pointed out, those purported 15 "dead" voters, even if proven to be fraud, fell far less than the thousands of votes that Trump was behind in the state. And it turns out that at least one case was not fraud: one woman listed as having voted but died before the election had filled out a mail-in ballot two days before her death, according to her daughter. And who did she vote for? Trump.

Arter went on to transcribe:

Host Maria Bartiromo asked Graham about a postal worker who has a sworn affidavit saying that supervisors were back-dating ballots.

[...]

Graham sent a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray saying that he received the affidavit from Richard Hopkins, the postal worker in Erie, Pa.

It turns out that after the Graham interview, Hopkins disavowed the affidavit, which he says was written by Project Veritas, the discredited right-wing activist group. Project Veritas then claimed that Hopkins recanted his recantation claiming he was coerced by Postal Service investigators, but the released audio doesn't demonstrate that.

Needless to say, neither Arter nor anyone else at CNS has reported on these later developments, leaving Graham's discredited claim to stand uncorrected and not updated. It's just another piece of CNS' highly biased pro-Trump coverage after the election.

Fake image in article

Lucy Collins kept up the CNSNews.com intern tradition of pestering politicians with gotcha questions in a Nov. 12 article -- in this case, Nancy Pelosi:

At the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, CNSNews.com asked the speaker, “In 2000, Democrat Al Gore was allowed to press his legal challenge against George W. Bush for 37 days, do you think the same type of patience should be afforded to President Trump in his legal challenges?”

Pelosi said, “In 2000, the delayed ascertainment caused many difficulties, the Bush Administration was outspoken about what was happening in the country. And, as [Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)] said, this is a completely different situation, we are talking about one state.”

Gore had challenged to [sic] vote count in Florida and the case was eventually decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

That's an overly simplistic distillation of what happened in 2000, but that's not the issue here. The issue is what appears after that statement: an image of a Washington Times front page proclaiming, "PRESIDENT GORE," described as a screenshot from YouTube.

Just one problem: That image is a fake, and it's unclear where the image originated. As the newspaper itself tweeted, "Those photos have been doctored. The Washington Times never ran a 'President Gore' headline."

CNS has let that image stand uncorrected and without context. That's not how "news" organizations -- which CNS claims to be -- establish credibility.

UPDATE 12/23/20: The attempt by the state of Texas to interfere in the elections of other states through a lawsuit it brought straight to the Supreme Court was another case of CNS pushing Trump's narrative.

A Dec. 9 article by Susan Jones uncritically repeated Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton touting the lawsuit on Fox News. Two days later, another article by Jones admitted that Paxton faced "blistering criticism" for filing the lawsuit and actually detailed the responses from the states being sued -- but led off with Paxton delcaring (on Fox News, of course) that "we ought to have the chance to be heard at least once."

After the Supreme Court swiftly rejected the lawsuit, CNS didn't do a story on it. instead, two days later, Jones rehashed a Fox Business appearance by Paxton lamenting that "I don't know what else we could have done, other than ask the court to at least hear our arguments." Details on what the Supreme Court said in rejecting the lawsuit were buried in an unbylined article that cited Nancy Pelosi describing the lawsuit as an example of how "Republicans are engaged in an election subversion that imperils our democracy." That was followed by an stenography piece by Melanie Arter in which she detailed Trump's ranting that "it's not over" despite the court's swift rejection of the Texas lawsuit.

CNS also published a Dec. 14 op-ed by Zack Smith of the right-wing Heritage Foundation claiming the Texas lawsuit raised "serious issues regarding election integrity and constitutional law that ought to be addressed going forward."

CNS was pushing Trump's narrative elsewhere as well. In a Dec. 14 article, Jones touted how Republican Rep. Jim Jordan demanded that Congress debate the presidential vote on Jan. 6, the day when it is supposed to sign off on the election. But even Jones conceded the Republicans' effort at obstruction would be doomed: "A simple majority vote in both the Senate and the House is required for any objection to a state’s electoral results to stand. Because the House is controlled by Democrats, that certainly would not happen."

Even the Electoral College officially declaring Biden the winner couldn't be reported straight. Jones dismissed Biden's speech after the Electoral College vote as "an attempt to bolster his legitimacy as the next president," then complained: "Biden repeated that he will be president 'for all Americans,' many of whom remain bitter about the expansion of ripe-for-fraud mail-in voting; affidavits alleging vote fraud; changes in voting laws made not by state legislatures but by election officials; and vote tallying that was shielded from view -- or conducted in the absence -- of election observers." (The article was originally headlined "Biden, Voice Hoarse, Praises 'Honest,’ ‘Free’ & ‘Fair' Election, 'Integrity' of Election Workers.")

An anonymously written article was devoted to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lamely conceding that "the Electoral College has spoken." Craig Bannister huffed: "Hillary Clinton, who lost the 2016 presidential election despite winning the popular vote, cast an electoral vote for Joe Biden on Tuesday – then, called for abolition of the Electoral College, which cost her the presidency."

Melanie Arter uncritically wrote about how Ken Blackwell, initially identifed only as "former Ohio Secretary of State," insisted that "the clock didn't stop" with the Electoral College vote; it wasn't until the fourth paragraph that she noted that Blackwell is "a Trump elector." She didn't mention at all that Blackwell was a Trump campaign surrogate who also served in Trump White House posts, which meshes with CNS' overall lack of disclosure when it publishes Blackwell's pro-Trump columns.

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