Eric Boehlert for Media Matters takes names in ripping apart CNN's adventures in false equivalency during the shutdown and debt ceiling crisis.
How out of whack, at times, was CNN's coverage of the GOP's radical move to shut down the government and to flirt with defaulting on American's debt? So puzzling that when news broke on October 16 that a deal would be struck to avoid a catastrophic default, CNN's Ashleigh Banfield turned to her guest, Democratic Congressman James Clyburn, and blamed him for the two-week shutdown [emphasis added]:Yeah. That's a Democratic Congressman she was talking to. You remember how the House Democrats held America hostage and furloughed hundreds of thousands of U.S. workers for no reason whatsoever? Wait, you don't remember that?
BANFIELD: Forgive me for not popping the champagne corks, because while we're celebrating this breaking news that there's a deal, it's just a temporary deal. We're still nowhere near a solution to the crisis that the United States of America finds itself in because of people like you and your other colleagues on the Hill.
Well, it gets worse.
The all-news channel began beating the blame-both-sides drum early on. From a September 23 report: "If the Democrats and Republicans don't stop bickering and agree to how the U.S. should pay its bills, the federal government will shut down, come October 1." [Emphasis added]Boehlert takes pains [the article described in this Diary contains links to all of the examples he cites] to point out several things that should have been obvious to CNN but which their "coverage" inexplicably declined to inform their viewers. That the shutdown was an entirely Republican-engineered enterprise in which House Democrats were relegated to the role of stunned observers; that the prolonged crisis and the sabotage inflicted on the country was pre-planned and largely the product of a civil war between factions of the Republican Party in which Congressional Democrats played no part; and most importantly, that for the President to "compromise" in order to prevent both a shutdown of the government and ultimately a default on the nation's credit would have been unprecedented in Congressional (and the nation's) history:
That drumbeat continued to the very end. The night the shutdown ended, Gloria Borger described "Congress" (not the Republican Party) as a "crisis-activated institution." Of course, Borger couldn't point to any evidence that suggested Democrats concoct one government crisis after another the way Republicans now do.
CNN often rallied around the GOP talking point that Obama ought to "negotiate" with Republicans because give-and-take is what politics (and compromise) is all about. "Why won't the president come to the negotiating table?" Candy Crowley wondered, while CNN's Carol Costello asked "Why doesn't the president pick up the phone and call John Boehner?.
The why-won't-Obama-compromise storyline simply ignored the fact that Obama had already compromised regarding the budget and that at the last minute Republicans demanded that in order for them to okay the budget deal they had already agreed to, Obama needed to defund his signature legislative accomplishment of his first term, a bill that was passed into law three years ago.But that's not how CNN presented it--instead we got more of this:
Viewed in full context, the Republican demand was utterly extremist and without precedent in modern Congressional history.
So there was an agitated Banfield demanding to know, "which one of you two parties is going to let go so that you stop tearing us apart?" (Democrats were tearing the country apart by trying to keep the government open?)Meanwhile, Piers Morgan was a one-man fountain of Republican talking points:
Meanwhile, CNN analyst Ana Navarro announced, "Both sides need to come to the table and they need to be rational about a real solution and do it quickly." On Crossfire, the looming question was, "Are both sides demanding too much?" And Blitzer posed the same question: "Are both sides digging in right now?"
CNN's Don Lemon, addressing a Democratic guest, said "Your party said that they won't negotiate, that they won't compromise, but that's what politics is all about, right? Why can't we find a middle ground with Republicans here?"
"It's easy to say we'll blame Ted Cruz, blame the Republicans and so on," Morgan noted during the shutdown. "But it comes a point when the commander-in- chief has to take charge and try and prevent the country being damaged as best he can."Boehlert acknowledges that not all of CNN's coverage was this grotesque, but given the fact that real consequences to real people were at issue his examples illustrate yet again the reflexive tendency of the corporate media to give the Republican Party the benefit of the doubt, even as its actions directly harm American citizens. Perhaps that's because the multimillionaire faces of "The Most Trusted Name in News" are so divorced from Americans' daily reality that they can't see a reason to point out who is at fault. One can only wonder how far the GOP needs to go--how much pain and harm they need to inflict--before this network finally places the blame where it belongs.
Apparently they haven't gone far enough yet.