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Fairness Is In Cognitive Decline At CNS, Part 2

CNSNews.com tried to portray Joe Biden as senile before the election, and it has only continued now that he's president. But it will never question Donald Trump's mental health.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/28/2022


An April 19 CNSNews.com article by Susan Jones doubly petulant. She started by complaining: "At the end of a joint interview with Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) on Sunday, 'Fox News Sunday' host Chris Wallace cornered Cornyn for questioning whether President Joe Biden is 'really in charge.'" After lamenting that "Cornyn was defensive" in his response by denying he was questioning Biden's mental health, she huffed: "Message to viewers: It's not okay to question Biden's mental competency when it was not only okay -- it was imperative -- for Democrat [sic] partisans to question President Donald Trump's."

By that standard, Jones and her CNS co-workers are Republican partisans because they apparently believe it's imperative to question Biden's "cognitive decline," given all the articles they have published on it.

Jones, by the way, is bizarrely sensitive about people questioning Trump's mental health, even though there was ample evidence to do so. In August 2020 she groused, "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." And her April 19 article contains a link to a 2017 article she wrote complaining that MSNBC's Joe Scarborough went on an "anti-Trump diatribe" stating him "to be mentally unfit for office and in the early stages of dementia."

Jones appears to be conceding that, by her own definition, she's a Republican activist, not a reporter, and it's never OK for a CNS employee to question Trump's mental health.

CNS spent the 2020 election cycle pushing the malicious right-wing narrative that President Biden is purportedly suffering from "cognitive decline." Now that he's president, CNS has been shamelessly pushing that smear every chance it can, making him look as bad and senile as it can by pulling incidents out of context.

ConWebWatch has already documented how CNS has nitpicked Biden by accusing him of making making a run of gaffes -- something it never did to Donald Trump despite his lengthy record of falsehoods. Here are some of the malicious narrative-pushing articles CNS hurled at Biden in the first few months of 2021:

Craig Bannister devoted an entire March 25 article to what the headline screamed was a "Four-Second Mental Meltdown" during a press conference:

Thursday, at his first press conference as president, Joe Biden appeared to forget what he was saying, then become so confused that he struggled to move on to a new topic.

Biden seemed to have increasing difficulty expressing his thoughts, then completely lost his train of thought:

[...]

Biden, then, appeared to continue to be confused as he tried to refer to his notes to call on the next reporter:

“Okay, um – hang on...ah, sorry. Oh. Same name, Miss Kim.”

Answering the next question, Biden recovers, somewhat, though he pauses and has trouble continuing, at one point. By the following question, he appears to get back on track.

Note that Bannister couldn't be bothered to acknowledge Biden is the president in the lead paragraph, waiting until the second paragraph to note that, and even then only giving him an abbreviation.

An anonymously written article did the same thing regarding another part of his press conference:

President Joe Biden during his first presidential press conference today referred to written notes when calling on—and trying to name--reporters to ask him questions.

At one point, while looking down at his notes as he prepared to call on a reporter, he verbally stumbled around for about seven seconds, while saying: “Uh...Okay...Um...Where Am I Here...Let Me See.”

It's weird that CNS thinks Biden spoke in capitalized words.

CNS even got help from across the hall at Media Research Center headquarters in pushing this narrative. Tim Graham wrote a March 10 column (published at CNS, of course):

At a March 8 White House event to announce the nomination of two female generals to lead U.S. military combatant commands, President Joe Biden seemed to forget the name of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and where Austin works. Since the theme of the president's mental acuity is still associated with memes of former President Donald Trump, the media desperately wanted to forget this happened.

Just like CNS and the MRC desperately wants you to forget about all those Trump gaffes and his continued cloudcuckooland insistence that he won the election (a delusion the MRC has helped Trump maintain)?

CNS has continued to push this malicious narrative in articles like these:

CNS has also given uncritical free rein to Republican politicians to smear Biden and his purported "cognitive decline":

  • In February, Jones touted Rep. Matt Gaetz saying that "Biden is "not in a position to really make decisions day in and day out" and adding, "You look at a growing number of Democrats who are now concerned about giving Joe Biden the codes for the nuclear system. I'd be concerned about giving Joe Biden a code to my garage door opener."
  • A June 18 article by Jones uncritically quoted Rep. Tommy Tuberville saying of Trump that "he's got his handlers running this country. He can't do anything on his own. And people are losing confidence in him every day," adding that "Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), the former White House physician, sent a letter to President Biden, Biden's physician, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, urging a cognitive test for Biden, the results to be shared with the American people."
  • A July 14 article by Jones quoted Newt Gingrich saying, ""A lot of people worry about President Biden and his cognitive abilities."
  • On Aug. 9, Melanie Arter uncritically quoted former Trump director of national intelligence John Ratcliffe saying, "There's that other elephant in the room, in terms of cognitive difficulties from the leader of the free world. What does that tell our adversaries across the world?”
  • On Aug. 24, Arter wrote that Republican Rep. Mark Green "questioned Biden’s cognitive abilities and his ability to lead as commander-in-chief because of his handling of Afghanistan," uncritically quoting him as saying, "The way the president is thinking, it calls to mind where his cognitive abilities really are."
  • Another article the same day by Arter uncritically quoted Republican Rep. Michael Waltz ranting, "He cannot handle it. He is not prepared for this. He is not cognitively fit to be our commander-in-chief right now."

That would seem to demonstrate all one needs to know about CNS' partisan motivation.

CNS tried to push questions about Biden's supposedly failing physical health as well. Arter leaned hard into that in a Sept. 16 article:

President Joe Biden’s frequent coughing during public speeches recently, including Thursday during a speech about his economic proposals, prompted NBC News White House Correspondent Kelly O’Donnell to ask about the president’s health.

“Many of us were in the East Room watching the president. We’ve seen him on many occasions where he has a repeated cough. What is the situation with that cough, and is that a concern?” O’Donnell asked.

“It’s not a concern. He has a doctor that travels with him obviously who checks in if it is ever warranted, and certainly, that continues to be the case as it has been since the beginning of his presidency,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

“Is there an explanation for why he coughs so frequently in situations like that? I’m sure you saw it,” O’Donnell said.

By contrast, CNS touted Trump's purported manliness and perfect health, his cavalierness in associating with people know to be infected with COVID and uncritically repeating his lackeys' insistence that Trump was wonderfully healthy even as he because infected with COVID himself (which we now know was not the case, though CNS has yet to tell this to its readers).

As 2021 closed, CNS continued to cherry-pick Biden remarks out of context and put them in the headline to make him sound crazy or senile:

CNS also hyped explicit attacks on Biden's mental health, like this Nov. 23 article by Megan Williams:

Veteran journalist and commentator Brit Hume said it is a “far cry from certain” that President Joe Biden will run for reelection in 2024, and added that, health-wise, Biden is “clearly deteriorating, he’s clearly senile.”

On Monday’s Special Report w/Brett Baier, Hume was asked about Biden’s comment that he plans to run again in 2024.

“I don’t think it’s at all clear that he intends to run again, but I do think that as a political matter, you have to say that,” replied Hume.

[...]

“He’s clearly deteriorating, he’s clearly senile, and his health is -- despite his doctor’s comments to the contrary,” said Hume. “When you’re falling down stairs and so on, as he did climbing the stairs to Air Force One, that’s worrisome.”

Williams made no effort to balance her article with the point of view of a medical expert.

Columnist Pat Buchanan -- for whom CNS editor Terry Jeffrey during both of his 1990s presidential campaigns -- has gotten into the act as well. In his Dec. 17 column, he sneered at the idea of Biden running for re-election: "Does Biden look like a signal-calling quarterback with seven years of playing days ahead of him?" He then added:

When one views his diminished mental capacities and the issues menu before him, it seems a certainty that we are not looking at a two-term president.

[...]

So where will we and Biden be at New Year's Eve 2023?

We will have an octogenarian president, in even more visible cognitive decline, faced with intractable issues of crime, a bleeding border, a pandemic and an inflation with which he has been unable to cope.

Buchanan similarly wrote in his Dec. 31 column:

Hovering over all of the above is the gnawing and growing concern among the American people about the physical and mental capacities of their president.

A month ago, a Politico poll found that while 46% of Americans believe Biden is mentally fit for his office, 48% disagree. In the same poll, only about one-half of all Americans felt Biden was "in good health."

That's how CNS helps to keep malicious right-wing narratives going.

CNS kept up its Biden-smearing obsession into the new year. Jones sneered in a Jan. 31 article that "Even with a teleprompter to read from, President Biden sometimes can't get it right," whining that Biden thought that a 50-year-old collapsed bridge in Pittsburgh was actually 150 years old. Less than an hour later, Jones wrote an article headlined "Biden Raises ‘Border Security’: 'There's a Whole Lot of Illegal -- Um, Um, Movement, But--Ah...’" with a lot of added editorializing:

At a Monday meeting with the nation's governors, President Biden mentioned "border security," a topic he rarely addresses, despite record flows of illegal immigrants into this country, a situation that stems from his administration's lax policies.

Biden today said it's a question of figuring out "why they're leaving in the first place."

"Border security. We're working a lot with neighboring countries," Biden said at the conclusion of his opening remarks to the governors.
A lot to do, there's a lot, I think -- I think one of the fundamental things we gotta do, in addition to some of the changes we'll make, I won't get into today, but -- is that if we figure out why they're leaving in the first place.

It's not like people sit around and say, in Guadalajara -- 'I've got a great idea, let's sell everything we have, give it to a coyote, takes us across the border, leave us in the desert, in a country that doesn't want us, we don't speak the language. Won't that be fun.'

You know, there are gangs we're working on. There's a whole lot of illegal -- um, um, movement, but ah, there's also a way to begin to deal with the reason they're leaving in the first place. And I’d love to talk with you personally about that, in a little bit, if I may.

One doesn't quote someone's filler sounds unless one is trying to make the person being quoted sound like a senile idiot -- and that's clearly what Jones is doing here.

When Biden committed minor violations of syntax during his State of the Union address, CNS got not one but two articles out of it. Craig Bannister complained in one article:

President Joe Biden measured people in pounds – and energy in inches – during his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Biden referred to “A pound of Ukrainian people” who “pound for pound” are “ready to fight with every inch of energy that they have,” as he discussed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine:
“Putin has unleashed violence and chaos, but while he may make gains on the battlefield, he will pay a continuing high price over the long run.

“And a pound of Ukrainian people – proud, proud people – pound for pound, ready to fight with every inch of energy that they have.

“They have known thirty years of independence and have repeatedly shown that they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.”
While Biden may have misspoken, even the official translation on the White House website quotes Biden’s use of “pound” and “inch” analogies.

The other article was written by an anonymous CNS writer:

President Joe Biden used a malapropism in his State of the Union Address when speaking about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

“He met with a mall,” Biden said.

Biden meant to say: He met with a wall of strength.

Why was considered a "news" article? CNS doesn't explain. The fact that CNS has an editorial agenda to find ways to humiliate Biden in any way it can says volumes about how it has stopped being a "news" organization (if it ever really was) and has fully turned into a right-wing talking point generator.

Five stories about tripping on stairs

How desperate is CNS to turn any Biden gaffe or mistake into a mental health issue? When Biden tripped on the stairway to Air Force One in March 2021, CNS was ON IT, somehow cranking out five stories' worth of related content, four of which appeared on March 19, the day of the incident.

An anonymous CNS employee -- why is that employee withholding their byline for this supposedly important incident? -- breathlessly reported in the lead story:

President Joe Biden fell three times while trying to board Air Force One this morning to fly to Atlanta to speak about the horrible murders that took place there this week.

Video footage shows Biden leaving Marine One and walking a short distance across the tarmac to the stairs leading up to Air Force One.

As he tries to climb those stairs, he falls three times.

After the third fall, he manages to keep his feet and climb the remainder of the stairs into the airplane.

Biden will turn 79 on November 20.
Emphasizing Biden's age is another way CNS tries to feed into the right-wing Biden-is-senile narrative; it was conspicuously placed in the article's headline as well.

This was followed by another anonymously written story highlighting that "A video posted on YouTube by the Reagan Library, shows then-President Ronald Reagan walking down the stairs from Air Force One—while not holding the railing—and then walking back up the stairs, while occasionally not holding the railing, and responding to reporters yelling questions at him. The video was made on Aug. 10, 1982 when Reagan was 71 years old." This anonymous writer also complained that "When Reagan was running for President at 69 years of age, the New York Times repeatedly reported on assertions that he was 'too old' for the job."

A third anonymously written story went back to the senility angle:

When President Joe Biden gave his nationally televised address on Thursday announcing that on Friday his administration would achieve his goal of delivering 100 million COVID-19 vaccination shots in his first 100 days in office, he called Vice President Kamala Harris “President Harris.”

The next day, Biden would trip three times while climbing the stairs of Air Force One.

The anonymous writer did not explain how these two events are connected.

The fourth story that day did, surprisingly, carry a byline, that of Craig Bannister. He's apparently proud enough of his attempt to dunk on Biden to put his name on it, unlike his fellow CNS employee[s]:

On Friday, President Joe Biden made headlines and viral video by falling three times while trying to climb stairs boarding Air Force One. But, last September, Candidate Biden mocked the way President Donald Trump navigated stairs.

Visiting West Point for a commencement ceremony last September, Biden claimed to be more agile and vigorous than Trump. "Look at how he steps and look at how I step,” Biden urged.

[...]

On Friday, however, it was Biden who stumbled, multiple times, as he tried to run up the stairs. As CNSNews.com reported, video footage shows Biden leaving Marine One and walking a short distance across the tarmac to the stairs leading up to Air Force One. As he tries to climb those stairs, he falls three times.

Bannister concluded: "Biden will turn 79 years old on November 20."

Bannister returned on March 23 to uncritically help Donald Trump try to dunk on Biden:

Former President Donald Trump said he expected President Joe Biden to take the type of tumble he did last Friday on stairs boarding Air Force One.

“I expected it,” Trump said in an interview Monday with Newsmax TV, when he was asked if he was shocked when Biden fell three times on the stairs while boarding the plane:

[...]

Trump recalled how media attacked him last year, when he carefully and slowly descended an icy ramp at West Point. “The last thing I wanted was to take a tumble, like Biden did,” Trump said, noting that the “lamestream media” virtually ignored the news when Biden actually did fall:

Given that Trump traversed that ramp in June, the claim that it was icy doesn't hold water (or ice). The ramp, despite Trump's claims to the contrary, was not particularly steep.

By contrast, a search of the CNS archive reveals that it devoted exactly zero articles about Trump's awkward walk down the ramp at West Point or his even more awkward attempt to drink water there. It did get a passing mention in an article four days after the incident that quoted Nancy Pelosi referencing it.

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