Holy F**k! CNN Explores Joint Venture With Paranoid, Racist, Lunatic Glenn Beck

As if to prove that television news executives are lowest form of life on the planet, CNN recently held talks with Glenn Beck about forming a joint venture between the struggling network and Beck’s lame video blog, The Blaze. According to a report in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal it would be…

“…a new venture between CNN-parent Time Warner and The Blaze that would replace HLN’s current programming with Blaze programming.”

Glenn Beck CNN

What on Earth could they be thinking? The prospect of bringing Beck back to CNN (or television) makes no sense whatsoever. When Beck left his show on CNN’s Headline News it was in the ratings dumpster. He routinely lost to his competition and was the lowest rated program on CNN’s primetime lineup. He gathered more viewers at Fox News, but only because his toxic philosophy was a better fit for the fear-mongering, right-wing propaganda channel. However, when he left Fox News just two years later he was a pariah who couldn’t keep advertisers due to his rancid rhetoric and hate-filled, paranoid tirades. Even Fox acknowledged that he was a liability. After Beck, pretending that the exit was his idea, said he told himself that “If you do not leave now, you won’t leave with your soul intact,” Fox retorted

“Glenn Beck wasn’t trying to save his soul, he was trying to save his ass. Advertisers fled his show and even Glenn knows what that means in our industry.”

So what exactly did CNN find attractive about the notion of reignited their romance with this loser? He has an even smaller audience now than he did at CNN five years ago. That’s why he is currently on a PR campaign to rehabilitate his noxious image. But despite admitting that he “has said stupid things,” and his other disingenuous attempts to cast himself as repentant for his past vulgarities, he is still the same vituperative huckster of gloom that he has always been. For example, he recently complained about not being able to use the words “fag” and “nigger,” in reference to artwork by a guest on his show. He is also being sued for defamation by a student from Saudi Arabia whom Beck falsely accused of being a key figure in the Boston marathon bombing.

Where does CNN think his advertisers would come from? A visit to TheBlaze website reveals that he has no advertising other than Google Ads. He is still anathema to the Fords, Campbell Soups, Procter & Gambels, Fidelitys, etc. So if Beck can’t produce ratings, and he can’t attract advertisers, but he is widely reviled and divisive, what could explain CNN’s interest in him?

There only two possible answers to that question. One is that CNN is desperate beyond all comprehension. They are like a drowning man grasping for the only thing in the water, even if it’s an anchor. And secondly, CNN is run by tabloid TV king Ken Jautz who was promoted from his position as head of HLN. It was while he was at HLN that Jautz gave Beck his first job in television. So perhaps it is that unique brand of insanity that causes one to do the same stupid things over and over expecting a different result.

The fact that CNN was participating in these talks says something about their health as a news organization. They would not be considering this if they had bright prospects for the future. It also says something about Beck’s media operation. His Blaze video unit is currently financed by viewer subscriptions. If that were as successful as he pretends it to be, he would not be contemplating giving the same programming away for free on cable TV. That would dry up his web subscription base. He would also have to be pretty desperate to consider returning to the network about which he said…

“I used to call it the Pit of Despair because there are all these people plunking out stories like, ‘I just want to hang myself, I just want to hang myself.” [...and...]

“If you ever think that CNN is a rational, normal, non-leftist organization, look who they hired [referring to Crossfire co-host Van Jones as a 'communist revolutionary'].”

More recently, Beck asked himself “Why is CNN in a ratings free fall?” And he gave himself the answer that it was “the unbelievable level of manufactured outrage on the network.” Actually, that may have inspired him to seek out these talks. He may have seen that as a sign that the network was the perfect platform for an outrage manufacturer like himself. But it doesn’t clear up why CNN would seek to recruit someone with such a horrible opinion of the network.

Shameless self-promotion…
Get Fox Nation vs. Reality. Available now at Amazon.

Reports on the talks indicate that they broke down over financial terms, not ideology. That makes the whole incident even worse. Apparently CNN is cool with Beck’s evangelical, ultra-conservative messaging. And it isn’t just that he’s conservative, but that he is so violently hostile toward progressives that he once said that to stop them “you’re going to have to shoot them in the head.” And despite that sort of vile discourse, CNN only walked away from the negotiations over money. Journalism, honesty, integrity, civility, etc., never entered into it.

[Update:] Brian Stelter, reporting for CNN, says that it was Beck who sought to hook up with CNN, but that from the CNN side “The talks were never serious.” This may just be CNN covering its ass so as not to be embarrassed by the disclosure of the talks, but it also confirms that Beck is scrambling to keep his head above water.

Zombie News Network: How New Boss Jeff Zucker Can Bring CNN Back From The Dead

Once upon a time there was a groundbreaking 24-hour cable news network that came to dominate broadcast journalism. After nearly two decades as the undisputed leader in its market, CNN began to stumble and was eventually overtaken by both Fox News and MSNBC.

There are many factors that contributed to CNN’s decline, including a certain arrogance derived from having the field to itself for so long. When Fox came along and challenged CNN, they were unprepared for a competitor that didn’t really care about news, instead favoring a more entertainment oriented approach that focused on a sexier brand of melodrama and sensationalism. Also, the hardcore, right-wing partisanship of Fox News herded all of the conservative news sheeple into one corral, artificially inflating the ratings picture. From the start, Fox reflected the views of its financier, Rupert Murdoch, and its CEO, former GOP media guru Roger Ailes, who described his own philosophy of journalism this way:

“If you have two guys on a stage and one guy says, ‘I have a solution to the Middle East problem,’ and the other guy falls in the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news?”

And ever since Fox has been throwing Democrats into orchestra pits that were built by Fox engineers and reporting that in place of actual news.

CNN GOP Tea PartyIn responding to the competition, CNN did not help itself by embarking on the path to Foxification. Their management made the foolish mistake of concluding that Fox’s success was related to their blatant conservative bias and abandonment of journalistic principles, and rushed to reproduce that model themselves. They installed Ken Jautz, a rabidly right-wing promoter, as it’s chief. Jautz was the man who gave Glenn Beck his first job in television. Then CNN went on a hiring binge that consisted of the most unsavory figures from Wingnutlandia including: Amy Holmes and Will Cain (of Glenn Beck’s The Blaze), Erick Erickson (of the uber-conservative blog RedState), Dana Loesch (of Breitbart News and the Tea Party), and E.D. Hill, a former Fox anchor and Bill O’Reilly guest host, who is most famous for saying that a friendly fist bump between the President and the First Lady was really a “terrorist fist jab.”

CNN was the only cable news network to broadcast live Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party response to Obama’s State of the Union address. Then they co-sponsored a GOP primary debate with the corrupt Tea Party Express. They also co-sponsored a debate with the ultra-right-wing Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. However, they conspicuously failed to program similar events with lefties like MoveOn.org or the Center for American Progress.

Dressing up like Fox was damaging to both CNN’s credibility and their ratings. Even Fox’s business network recognized that copying Fox News was a losing strategy. FBN VP Kevin Magee sent a memo to his staff saying that…

“…the more we make FBN look like FNC the more of a disservice we do to ourselves. I understand the temptation to imitate our sibling network in hopes of imitating its success, but we cannot. If we give the audience a choice between FNC and the almost-FNC, they will choose FNC every time.”

Unfortunately, no one at CNN could grasp that simple truth. Now CNN has a fresh opportunity to restore its former glory. Following the resignation of Jim Walton, CNN has tapped former NBC/Universal chief Jeff Zucker to replace him as the president of CNN Worldwide. Zucker has a mixed record at NBC. During his tenure the entertainment division went from first to fourth. He presided over the catastrophic move of Jay Leno to primetime, then back again to late night, which resulted in the loss of Conan O’Brien. However, NBC News boasts the top rated morning and evening news broadcasts. And MSNBC has rocketed into an unexpectedly competitive position with Fox. In fact, since election day, MSNBC has actually outperformed Fox.

Zucker has an abundance of existing assets with which to remake CNN into the global media powerhouse it used to be. They have more reporters in more parts of the world than their competitors. In fact, CNN has more domestic and foreign bureaus than Fox and MSNBC combined. Fox invests very little in news bureaus or other news gathering operations. The bulk of their expenditures is on their “celebrity” presenters and pseudo-pundits. Fox is an enterprise that is engaged more in news analysis and manipulation than anything resembling journalism. While MSNBC benefits from the substantial resources of NBC News, the cable network has concentrated more on opinion and advocacy in recent years.

All of this creates an opening for CNN to become what its marketing department already pitches the network as: a news channel. CNN’s audience still expects the network to perform at its best when some catastrophic event occurs. They continue to get high tune-in for natural disasters and acts of war. However, there isn’t always a convenient calamity to fill their airtime. So they cram their schedule with pablum and phony attempts at balance, but succeed mostly at boring their viewers with a desperate effort to avoid offending anybody.

The question now is, where will they go from here? The best way to put CNN back in the game is to adopt a hard news profile that dispenses with petty partisan bickering. In one of his first quotes after the announcement of his hiring, Zucker said that “news is more than just politics and war.” That’s true. Viewers have many immediate concerns that would compel them to watch a network that provided them with information about issues that impact their lives. That includes economics, civil liberties, health, crime, education, jobs, the environment, etc. And the job of a news network is more than just reporting what occurred. It is also putting it context, explaining matters that are often complex, and making the whole package entertaining enough to keep the viewer’s attention.

By concentrating on real news, CNN can stake out territory that its competitors are neglecting. They can focus on the fundamentals of journalism that consist of shoe-leather investigations, relevant interviews, and compelling production values. They need to jettison the political hacks who populate their studios and replace them with policy experts and academics. This will turn the predictable, partisan slapfights into informed discussions. And the audience can get something out of the program that is more substantive than a red face and ammunition for their next bout with a contrary uncle at a family dinner.

When the subject turns to politics, who would you rather see debating, for instance, raising the age for Social Security eligibility? A Democrat and a Republican who will spew the same old party line talking points? Or an expert on retirement economics and an apolitical career administrator from Health and Human Services? Obviously the later would be more informative, but it could also be more dry and difficult to sit through. That’s why the art of storytelling needs to be brought back to news reporting.

With actual intellectual content to convey, it would be up to anchors and producers to package it attractively. For that you need professionals who know how to tell a story and engage an audience. The newspaper business used to be full of people with those skills until all the papers started folding up. CNN could snap up some of that talent and put them to work juicing up stories that people are really interested in. In fact, there would nothing wrong with employing dramatists and humorists to write news copy that makes people feel something, so long as they stick to the news. And the presenters should be people with demonstrated abilities to connect with audiences on a personal level. Add some dynamic graphics and music and those experts on retirement economics can become downright scintillating.

Finally, there is a concept that has crept into the production of contemporary news that is not, and should not be, a part of quality journalism. CNN should ban the notion of balance from all of their reporting. Balance is a false objective. The goal of honest journalism should be truth. For example, it does no one any good to interview a doctor about the documented health risks of smoking, and then bringing in a tobacco advocate for “balance.” An opposite opinion is worse than a waste of time, it is counterproductive, if it is not based on reality. A news network should not tolerate science deniers, birthers, and zealots who peddle fables as if they were facts.

If CNN wants to be a player in cable news, they need to avoid accepting the terms of their competition. They need to set the terms themselves. And if they commit to identifying the issues that matter to people, and presenting them honestly and with a bit of showbiz flash, they can draw the kind of engaged and loyal audience that appeals to advertisers which, of course, is critical to success in this business. Plus, they can actually serve a positive purpose by educating viewers and advancing dialogs of substance. Even better, if this approach is successful it will spur other news enterprises to follow a similar path. Then, maybe, one day, we can be proud of the American media and not regard it with the disdain that it currently inspires.

Fox Nation: Historic Debacle At CNN

It has been well documented that Fox News is a disreputable enterprise that shuns any semblance of journalistic ethics. The most recent example, producing and airing an anti-Obama campaign-style video, perfectly demonstrates how far afield they are from a being legitimate news organization. Amongst the traits of Fox News that separate them from the pack is their tendency to attack their peers in the news business. That is almost unheard of from other cable networks, newspapers, or other outlets.

Fox Nation

Today Fox News continued in that vein by leaping on the Nielsen ratings reports for May 2012. To be sure, CNN’s ratings were dismal. But so were the ratings for Fox which declined double digits and notched a primetime low that they haven’t seen since 2008. Nevertheless, Fox reported only on CNN’s numbers and ignored their own sickly showing. And nowhere in their story did they note that the decline was primarily due to the inflated ratings in May 2011, when the killing of Osama Bin Laden, hurricanes in the Midwest, and Casey Anthony were dominating the airwaves.

That said, Fox is inadvertently correct about a debacle at CNN, but not the way they mean. CNN is suffering a decline in viewership that is historic mainly because they pioneered the concept of the 24 hour cable news network but are now languishing in last place. But if they are perplexed by the sorry turn of fate they have experienced in recent years it is only because of their own willful blindness to the circumstances that led to it.

When Fox News began to approach and overtake CNN in the ratings, CNN management made the foolish mistake of concluding that Fox’s success was related to their blatant conservative bias and abandonment of journalistic principles. While that was (and is) the model for Fox’s programming, that played only a small part in their success story. The real reason that Fox excelled was that they had switched the deck. They were not in any practical sense a news network. Their programming was (and is) closer to an entertainment channel than anything else. They feature shallow, sensationalistic stories that rely heavily on melodrama, controversy, emotion and sex – the main characteristics of soap operas and reality shows. And they decorate their broadcasts with flashy graphics and sound effects that would be more appropriate for game shows. That’s what draws their viewers in, and that is always more compelling than actual news content.

However, CNN panicked and decided that the way to compete with Fox was to emulate their right-wing partisanship and theatrics. Ironically, even Fox’s business network recognized that emulating Fox News was a losing strategy. Fox Business Network VP Kevin Magee sent a memo to his staff saying that…

“…the more we make FBN look like FNC the more of a disservice we do to ourselves. I understand the temptation to imitate our sibling network in hopes of imitating its success, but we cannot. If we give the audience a choice between FNC and the almost-FNC, they will choose FNC every time.”

CNN Tea PartyUnfortunately, no one at CNN could grasp that simple truth. Instead they installed Ken Jautz, a rabidly right-wing promoter, as it’s chief. Jautz was the man who gave Glenn Beck his first job in television. Then CNN went on a hiring binge that consisted of the most unsavory figures from Wingnutlandia including: Amy Holmes (of Glenn Beck’s GBTV), Will Cain (of Beck’s The Blaze), Erick Erickson (of the uber-conservative blog RedState), Dana Loesch (of Breitbart News and the Tea Party), and E.D. Hill, a former Fox anchor and Bill O’Reilly guest host, who is most famous for saying that a friendly fist bump between the President and the First Lady was really a “terrorist fist jab.”

CNN demonstrated its new found rightist perspective by producing programming that was straight out of the conservative PR playbook. They were the only cable news network to broadcast live Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party response to Obama’s State of the Union address. They co-sponsored a GOP primary debate with the corrupt Tea Party Express. They also co-sponsored a debate with the ultra-right-wing Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.

For a network that claims to be the only truly neutral source for news, CNN has conspicuously failed to permit a representative from MoveOn.org to respond to a presidential address, nor to co-host a debate with the Center for American Progress. They have navigated toward a full-on Foxification of the network without any pretense to objectivity or balance.

And what have they got for it? A steep collapse to last place in the ratings, an embarrassing forfeiture of credibility, a severe loss of viewer loyalty and respect, and the pleasure of becoming a target of Fox’s ridicule.

As a division of TimeWarner, CNN has the resources to brand itself as a powerhouse news provider. They have more domestic and international news bureaus than any television news enterprise. They have access to the talent and technology that could set them apart from their competitors. Yet they fail to take advantage of these assets. And worse, they squander them in the vain hope of being FoxLite.

That’s what I call an historic debacle. And it’s why CNN just posted their worst ratings in twenty years. It’s also why they are now seen as an object of sympathy as Fox News batters them in the ratings and in the press. The first step in rehabilitating themselves would be to recognize their problem and clean house. Then they would need to fight back. If they would aggressively hammer at Fox as a lightweight purveyor of lies in a flashy, soap opera package, they might just begin to recover some measure of pride and start their long trek back to legitimacy.

Dana Loesch: CNN’s Pro-Corpse Defiling Contributor

This week a disturbing story emerged from Afghanistan in the form of a video of U.S. Marines urinating on the corpses of Afghans presumed to be members of the Taliban. Such behavior is repulsive and contrary to the standards of the Marine Corps. The acts portrayed in the video have been condemned by the highest representatives of the military.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: I have seen the footage, and I find the behavior depicted in it utterly deplorable. I condemn it in the strongest possible terms.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey: Actions like those are not only illegal but are contrary to the values of a professional military and serve to erode the reputation of our joint force.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos: [The behavior is] wholly inconsistent with the high standards of conduct and warrior ethos that we have demonstrated throughout our history.

Nevertheless, CNN contributor Dana Loesch (who is also a Tea Party leader and the editor-in-chief of Andrew Breitbart’s BigJournalism) took to the air to exacerbate the offense and defend the soldiers saying…

“Now we have a bunch of progressives that are talking smack about our military because there were marines caught urinating on corpses, Taliban corpses. Can someone explain to me if there’s supposed to be a scandal that someone pees on the corpse of a Taliban fighter? Someone who, as part of an organization, murdered over 3,000 Americans? I’d drop trou and do it too. That’s me though. I want a million cool points for these guys.”

The subsequent controversy erupting from Loesch’s offensive remarks has generated a secondary controversy centered on the appropriate role of news analysts and the lines drawn for decency and civil discourse. Loesch, in a tacit acknowledgement that her comments crossed the line, sought to defend herself by claiming that she was not condoning the Marines, but ridiculing the media response. But the dishonesty of that excuse is apparent just by re-reading her statement. She explicitly says that she would do the same thing the Marines did and praises them for being “cool.” If that isn’t condoning the behavior, what is?

Loesch’s web site, BigJournalism has gone to work to absolve her sins, not by demonstrating that her comments were appropriate, but by attacking anyone who criticized her. They started with Politico, a news operation started by unabashed conservative journalists, and tagged them as leftists because of their article that merely reported that the controversy exists. John Nolte, editor-in-chief of Breitbart’s BigHollywood, desperately stretched to imply a bias by Politico because the article included this:

“I’ve reached out to CNN to ask for their response to Loesch’s comments, and whether or not it will have any impact on her role at CNN.Nolte’s emphasis.

Most people would regard that as a standard inquiry in a situation where a news analyst’s big mouth got them in hot water. From there Nolte descended into an hysterical rant that accused Politico of “pushing to have Dana taken off the air or punished.” And he escalated that nonsense to claim that Politico had an even bigger agenda to “marginalize” and “silence” Loesch. The conspiracy in Nolte’s mind extended all the way to George Soros, as all conservative conspiracies do. And the entirety of this clandestine plot was drawn from Politico’s perfectly reasonable and responsible desire to get a response from CNN.

Another Breitbart hack, Dan Riehl, weighed in on the subject to accuse Media Matters of being…

“…fixated on a mission to try and silence the free speech of Big Journalism editor Dana Loesch, while also engaging upon a campaign to somehow damage her with CNN.”

Riehl’s evidence is an article by Media Matters that correctly observes that Loesch’s comments were Too Extreme For Rush Limbaugh. Riehl disputes that assessment mainly by changing the subject. He utterly ignores the fact that Limbaugh, with reference to the Marines, said explicitly that “There’s no defense of this.” But Riehl peels away from that fact to post a rambling quote from Tea Party Republican Allen West that also advocates punishing the Marines and says outright that “The Marines were wrong.” It appears that the fixation is on Riehl’s part to avoid the reality that the behavior of these particular soldiers was indefensible to almost everyone but Loesch.

As for Loesch, her own defense that she published on BigJournalism was an incoherent jumble of phony patriotism and self-aggrandizement. Her primary argument was that…

“There is a difference in advocating for the Marines to break the law, which I didn’t do, and defending them from overly-dramatic hysteria.”

Of course, defending them is precisely what she did. Even to the point of declaring that she would have “dropped trou” and joined them (which I’m sure they would have loved). Nevertheless, she contradicts herself a few paragraphs down by stating that “I won’t condemn American soldiers on the battlefield.” Not even, apparently, when they engage in condemnable acts that their commanders have no problem condemning.

The triumvirate of Loesch, Riehl, and Nolte, all touched on what they regard as an underlying evil aimed at Loesch and conservatives in general. They are convinced that any criticism they incur is an attempt to silence them. Ironically, they call for such criticism to be silenced. Conservatives believe that free speech is sacrosanct exempt when exercised by liberals. Consequently, any critique of Loesch is viewed by rightists as akin to censorship.

It is, however, perfectly appropriate to question news analysts who engage in a dialogue that advocates unlawful acts in the conduct of a war. CNN should take the responsible steps to review incidents wherein contributors bring disrepute to their network. But I don’t anticipate that they will. The current head of CNN, Ken Jautz, is the hack who gave Glenn Beck his first job on television. He also recently hired Beck associate Will Cain. These two uber-rightists share the air with CNN contributor Erick Erickson, who called former Supreme Court Justice David Souter a “goat-fucking child molester.” And it was under Jautz that CNN partnered with the corrupt AstroTurf PR firm, Tea Party Express, to host a GOP debate.

The hard-right turn that CNN has taken has landed them squarely in third place. And that decline is due in large part to people like Loesch. The American people are not looking for this kind of substanceless, bombastic, hate-speech from their news sources. They can get that from Fox News. And if anyone’s job should be in jeoprady, it is the person at the helm, Ken Jautz.

The Foxification Of CNN: New Management Pushes The Network Into Crazy Territory

This article also appears on Alternet.org.

In the fiercely competitive world of cable news, the players have been jockeying for position as they battle for viewers and advertisers. Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN, each with their own models of programming, seek to gain scale and influence.

Harmful If SwallowedFox News, we know, has established its place as the leader in right-wing advocacy and Republican PR. MSNBC, while not a full-fledged counter to Fox, has allotted a fair portion of its programming to more liberally leaning fare. But CNN, the innovator and one-time leader in cable news, has wavered between those poles emerging as somewhat of a journalistic mutant – neither left nor right nor neutral.

The past year, however, CNN has been attempting to fashion a more recognizable persona. The shift coincides with the promotion of Ken Jautz, formerly the president of CNN’s sister network, HLN. At HLN Jautz succeeded in raising both ratings and revenue by turning the channel into a trashy TV tabloid reliant on celebrity gossip and characters like Nancy Grace and Glenn Beck (yes, Jautz gave Beck his first job on television).

Now presiding over CNN, Jautz has brought his brash and distinctively commercial style to the network that once aspired to be a model of journalistic integrity. He is employing the same sensationalist philosophy at CNN that brought him success at HLN, along with a decidedly conservative bent. In an interview he gave after his promotion was announced Jautz delivered a tribute to Fox News and a preview of what to expect from his tenure saying that he does not believe that “facts-only” programming will work. True to his word he has endeavored to give CNN a shiny Fox-like hue and assembled a team that shares his aversion to facts.

Here are some examples of the lowlights of the Jautz era at CNN:

1) First and foremost, Jautz brought Glenn Beck into the CNN family saying that “Glenn’s style is self-deprecating, cordial…not confrontational.” That sort of delusional analysis ought to have been a red flag that disqualified Jautz from running a news network.

2) Erick Erickson, the RedState blogger who once called Supreme Court Justice David Souter a Goat-f**king child molester, became a CNN political commentator. Since his hiring he has cheered the S&P’s downgrading of the U.S. credit rating and agreed with Rick Perry that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.

3) CNN signed Dana Loesch, the editor of Andrew Breitbart’s BigJournalism, to be a contributor. Loesch has alleged that President Obama “sided with terrorists,” and she embraced the overt bigotry of notorious Islamaphobe Pamela Geller. Breitbart, of course is famous for promoting deceptively edited videos that smeared ACORN, NPR, Shirley Sherrod and even CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau. Loesch was hired by CNN after these events were widely known.

4) Jautz brought Erin Burnett over from CNBC. In her debut she broadcast a story that portrayed the protesters on Wall Street as unfocused neo-hippies that didn’t understand the issues they were protesting. Burnett would have fit in well on the curvy couch of Fox & Friends where they routinely disparage the movement without ever addressing the substance of it.

5) CNN had the distinction of being the only network to air Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party response to the State of the Union Address. Even Fox didn’t think it was worthy of live coverage. The result is that CNN had two opposing viewpoints to the President’s address, one from the GOP and one from the Tea Party which, of course, is just an affiliate of the GOP. We’re still waiting for CNN to air a response from the Progressive Caucus or MoveOn.org.

6) Another new CNN political analyst is Will Cain, who CNN acquired from the ultra-conservative National Review. And if that credential isn’t far enough out in right field, Cain just announced that he is joining Glenn Beck’s web site, The Blaze.

7) CNN locked arms with the Tea Party to co-host a Republican presidential primary debate. By choosing Tea Party Express as their partner they embraced a dubious organization that was booted out of the Tea Party Federation due to the racist commentaries of a spokesman. It was also revealed that most of the funds raised from donations wound up in the coffers of Russo, Marsh, the Republican PR firm that founded Tea Party Express.

8) Former Fox News anchor and Bill O’Reilly fill-in, E.D. Hill, is now a CNN contributor. Hill was dumped by Fox after a segment that showed President Obama giving the First Lady a friendly fist bump and Hill called it a “terrorist fist jab.”

So CNN is now employing Fox News rejects, Andrew Breitbart lieutenants, and Glenn Beck associates. They’ve entered into covenants with unscrupulous Tea Partyers. On the flip side, former CNN reporters Ed Henry and John Roberts are now comfortably ensconced at Fox News. The lines between CNN and Fox News are blurring to the point where the networks are becoming indistinguishable. And most of this occurred since Ken Jautz assumed the helm of CNN.

If there is one thing that American media doesn’t need, it’s another Fox News. The first one is already doing a stellar job of misinforming the public and advancing the agenda of the Republican Party. What’s more, emulating Fox has done nothing for CNN’s ratings. Why should it? Viewers who are in the market for dumbed-down histrionics, Democrat bashing, and a steady diet of right-wing falsehoods, already have a proven provider. Fox’s audience has shown that they are not the least bit interested in looking for the remote that slipped under the sofa years ago. They don’t even change the channel when their heroes are just a click down the dial.

Consequently, if CNN is gaining nothing from reshaping their editorial slant to mirror Fox, the only conclusion is that they are deliberately making a hard right turn because that is the direction they want to go. But this path has only resulted in their dropping to third place behind Fox and MSNBC. If CNN ever hopes to regain some of the luster of their glory days, they will need to differentiate themselves from Fox. They might want to take a stab at journalism. That would be novel in these days of advocacy tabloidism.

Remember This While Watching The CNN/Tea Party GOP Debate

CNN Tea PartyWhen the Republican debate tonight airs it is important to put into context the venue in which the candidates will appear. This debate is being broadcast on CNN along with their co-hosts, the Tea Party Express (TPE).

From the start, the notion of elevating any Tea Party group to the position of national debate sponsor was ludicrous. The Tea Party is nothing but a fringe element of the Republican Party. It has very little support, even amongst Republicans, and its approval ratings have been on a path of rapid descent. It’s most recent nationwide bus tour, which is scheduled to conclude today at the Tampa site of the debate, has been an utter failure with record low attendance.

Contrary to the general practice of engaging impartial partners for debate presentations, TPE is hardly impartial. It is a political action committee that has actively engaged in campaigning on behalf of specific candidates. They supported senate candidates Sharron Angle in Nevada, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, and Joe Miller in Alaska (all lost). They have also been vocal proponents of Sarah Palin who has appeared as a sort of mascot for the group. Palin is supposedly still considering joining the race president herself (although I submit that she is perpetrating something of a hoax in conjunction with Fox News), so TPE cannot now be reasonably be portrayed as fair presenters. They have far too many obvious conflicts of interest.

What makes matters worse is that TPE is a corrupt organization that has even been rebuked by the rest of the so-called Tea Party movement. They were created by Sal Russo and his Republican PR firm, Russo Marsh, and their brief history is fraught with scandal. Rival Tea Party groups were harshly critical of them for directing nearly half of the money they raised from citizen supporters to Russo’s firm. Their former spokesman, Mark Williams, was forced to resign after publishing a racially offensive article on his web site. TPE was booted from the National Tea Party Federation for these and other ethical lapses.

What might have have prompted CNN to make this unholy alliance with a discredited and over-hyped entity? Undoubtedly CNN’s new president Ken Jautz had something to do with it. Jautz, who took the reins at CNN last September, was previously in charge of their sister network HLN. It was there that he made history by giving Glenn Beck his first job in television. At CNN he has already distinguished himself by hiring Andrew Breitbart’s Editor-in-Chief, Dana Loesch, as a political analyst and being alone in airing Michele Bachmann’s embarrassing Tea Party response to President Obama’s State of the Union message.

The CNN/Tea Party Express alliance is an unprecedented partnership between a news organization and an active political action committee that has already taken sides in the debate. Would CNN ever consider partnering with MoveOn.org for a Democratic debate? Ironically, the American Dream Movement (of which MoveOn is a part) is now asking for equal time in the form of a post-debate response. Since CNN gave Tea Partier Michele Bachmann just such an opportunity, it would be only fair to grant the same courtesy to a legitimate enterprise with far more popular support. And what’s more, CNN should partner with the American Dreamers to co-host a debate in the upcoming election.

CNN is embarrassing themselves with this association with Tea Party Express. This debate is a farce that lacks the sort of credibility that an honest news enterprise would set as a goal. They ought to take measures to try to redeem what’s left of their tattered reputation – if it isn’t too late already.

[Addendum] CNN has posted an article today about how an “Angry electorate helps sustain tea party.” In it they assert that the Tea Party has “moved toward the mainstream.” CNN’s evidence for this is that CNN chose the Tea Party to co-host a debate that is airing on CNN. And this absurdly circular logic was the work of – you guessed it – a CNN political producer. So CNN is validating their own choice for debate partner by having a CNN analyst write an article for CNN praising the partnership with CNN. How convenient.

Equal Time For The American Dream

CNN Tea PartyLast December CNN announced that they would be co-hosting a Republican debate with the Tea Party Express. That ridiculous idea was something put together under the new leadership of Ken Jautz who was promoted to head CNN after distinguishing himself at sister station Headline News. At HLN Jautz was responsible for such journalistic masterstrokes as The Nancy Grace Program. And of course he will always be remembered as the man who brought Glenn Beck to television.

When the Tea Party Express partnership was unveiled I responded by noting that the group was a corrupt branch of a fake movement that was nothing more than a bunch of ultra-conservative GOP malcontents:

“They were created by Sal Russo and his Republican PR firm, Russo Marsh, and their brief history is fraught with scandal. Rival Tea Party groups were harshly critical of them for directing nearly half of the money they raised from citizen supporters to Russo’s firm. Their former spokesman, Mark Williams, was forced to resign after publishing a racially offensive article on his web site.”

Nevertheless, CNN proceeded with this embarrassing endeavor which will air Monday, September 12. America will have to sit though a farce that elevates the Tea Party to a status they have not earned on their own, seeing as how they have an approval rating in the twenties. Even amongst Republicans they are not particularly well liked. But that didn’t stop CNN from broadcasting Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party response to President Obama’s State of the Union message.

The blatant unfairness of this led me to ask “Would CNN ever consider partnering with MoveOn.org for a Democratic debate?” That seemed unthinkable at the time, which is precisely the point I was making. But now The American Dream Movement has stepped up to assert the same principle of fairness. They are petitioning CNN to give them equal time to respond after the President’s speech on Thursday before congress. And they make a compelling case:

“Now it’s only fair for CNN to air the American Dream Movement’s progressive response to the president’s major jobs speech on Thursday.

The American Dream Movement includes scores of groups representing millions of members who’ve been out in force for months campaigning for jobs, not cuts. In July, we had twice as many gatherings as the tea party had when they launched.”

If CNN would recognize a phony organization that was invented by Fox News and the Koch brothers, and is a adjunct division of the Republican Party, they ought to give some consideration to a legitimate grassroots group of citizens who represent real people and working families.

Please support this effort by signing the petition:

Tell CNN to Give the American Dream Movement Equal Time.

If they would do it for Michele Bachmann and the Tea Party, they should do it for the American Dream Movement. And what’s more, they should partner with the American Dreamers to co-host a debate in the upcoming election. It’s only fair.

New Tea Party Express Bus Trip Already Out Of Gas

The big kick off celebration for the Tea Party Express’s latest bus trip began with something of a whimper. The event was held in Napa, California amidst the wineries and grape fields.

Last year the Tea Party Express bus tour was launched by Sarah Palin. This year the best they could come up with was losing Nevada senatorial candidate, Sharron Angle. Palin has a good excuse though. She is busy not riding on her own “One America” bus tour, which she quit six days in.

Tea Party Express had heavily promoted this trip, even promising Baggers that “This is your opportunity to hear special guests speakers, including presidential candidates.” Unfortunately, not a single candidate bothered to show up.

The bus trip will continue across the country with plans to end September 12, in Tampa Bay, Florida, in conjunction with a GOP presidential debate sponsored by CNN and Tea Party Express.

When CNN originally announced that they were partnering with Tea party Express, it was an embarrassing association that never should have been entered into. Tea Party Express is a corrupt enterprise that was created by Republican publicist and fundraiser, Sal Russo. Most of the money raised by the group was funneled right back into Russo’s company for publicity and management fees.

What’s more, since the association was announced, the Tea Party has bled support. It now sports favorable ratings of only 20%. It is viewed less favorably than atheists and Muslims.

CNN sullied its already teetering reputation by embracing Tea Party Express. That decision was the work of Ken Jautz, who was promoted to run CNN after his tenure at Headline News. Jautz will forever be remembered as the man who brought Glenn Beck to Television.

And now that the boneheaded decision to clasp hands with TPE has proven to be a fiasco, it is not too late to break ranks. There is simply no excuse for a news enterprise to partner with a phony scam outfit that purports to represent a movement that is widely reviled.

Two Things That Will Not Change When Glenn Beck Leaves Fox News

Today is a day that will not live in infamy. If remembered at all, it will not be for what happened, but for the disgusting and divisive error that was excised from our airwaves. Today is the day that Glenn Beck’s Acute Paranoia Revue and Disinfotainment Revival Hour will broadcast its last episode on Fox News. After that Beck will pack up his congregation and sail away to darker, stormier waters.


That event has many sane and compassionate people celebrating. But they should not be to hasty in their glee. While removing Beck from the air can only be a step in a positive direction, as the headline of this article states, there are:

Two Things That Will Not Change When Glenn Beck Leaves Fox News:

  1. Glenn Beck
  2. Fox News

Beck may be leaving television, but he will still be broadcasting to a fairly large audience of miscreants on the radio. His Internet venture is less likely to cause much of a stir because, if people weren’t going to watch him on TV for free (his audience was in a downward spiral for the last year), they certainly aren’t going to pay to watch him on the web. Except, of course, for his most devoted disciples of misinformation and hate. Nevertheless, Beck will have a platform to spew division and lies and he will do everything in his power to exploit it. For instance, he will be venturing off to torment the already suffering people of Israel in August to instruct them on how to “Restore Courage.”

As for Fox News, last April I documented the “10 Reasons Why Fox News After Glenn Beck Will Still Suck.” They include Bill O’Reilly. Sean Hannity, Megyn Kelly, and seven more. I pointed out that…

“…any suggestion that Beck’s departure polishes Fox’s reputation is pure folly. The worst of Beck’s haunted imagination is securely woven into the Fox News dis-comforter. The trademark Fox invective, sophistry, and bias predate Beck and will outlive him.”

For anyone who is worried that they will suffer withdrawal symptoms, they will be relieved to know that Fox News will continue to feed their revolting habit. There will still be unfounded conspiracy theories. President Obama will still be a Kenyan Muslim who is deliberately trying to destroy America. Saul Alinsky and Bill Ayers and ACORN will remain lurking in the shadows. And George Soros will still be manipulating every evil on the planet. Not to worry.

And if Fox News isn’t enough, you also have CNN whose new president, Ken Jautz, is the man who gave Beck his first job in television. In his brief tenure at CNN, Jautz has already partnered with the corrupt Tea Party Express to host a GOP debate. He hired Andrew Breitbart’s editor-in-chief, Dana Loesch. He set CNN apart as the only network to broadcast Michelle Bachmann’s embarrassing Tea Party response to the State of the Union address. Here is what Jautz said when announcing his new host, Glenn Beck, at Headline News:

“Glenn Beck is the next piece of the puzzle. Glenn’s style is self-deprecating, cordial; he says he’d like to be able to disagree with guests and part as friends. It’s conversational, not confrontational. [...] We didn’t look for a conservative, a liberal or anyone of a particular ideology.”

If Jautz really believes that Beck was cordial, non-confrontational, and did not have a conservative ideology, he is in need of serious pharmaceutical therapy. Jautz’s delusional mindset hasn’t improved since then. In an interview after being promoted to head CNN, Jautz summed up his idea of what the news network should aspire to by saying, “I do not believe that ‘facts-only’ programming…it will not work.” That’s comforting, isn’t it? So Beck’s audience will have plenty of options for their fact-free, pseudo-news consumption and indoctrination.

Finally, for those who want a keepsake of the Freak Show Beck starred in for the past two years, Media Matters has been kind enough to provide one:

If you feel the need to take a shower, go ahead. The Internet will be here when you get back.And if anyone wants to buy a used URL, I may be interested in unloading my GlennBeckUnhinged.com

Tea Baggers Plotting To Sabotage Union Rallies

Tea CrusadersAmerica is about to learn how the right-wing engages in community organizing. Rather than working to get the support of like-minded citizens to participate in public events on behalf of their agenda, Tea Partiers are planning a campaign of dirty tricks that fails to advance the debate, but succeeds in revealing their own contempt for the democratic process. For a crowd who professes to revere the Constitution, they are openly demonstrating their disrespect for the First Amendment’s guarantees of free assembly and the redressing of grievances.

Here is the plot as laid out by Tea Bagging luminary Mark Williams: [Note: Williams' website keeps appearing and disappearing so here is Google's cache of the page]

Here is what I am doing in Sacramento, where they are holding a 5:30 PM event this coming Tuesday: (1) I signed up as an organizer (2) with any luck they will contact me and I will have an “in” (3) in or not I will be there and am asking as many other people as can get there to come with, all of us in SEIU shirts (those who don’t have them we can possibly buy some from vendors likely to be there) (4) we are going to target the many TV cameras and reporters looking for comments from the members there (5) we will approach the cameras to make good pictures… signs under our shirts that say things like “screw the taxpayer!” and “you OWE me!” to be pulled out for the camera (timing is important because the signs will be taken away from us) (6) we will echo those slogans in angry sounding tones to the cameras and the reporters. (7) if I do get the “in” I am going to do my darnedest to get podium access and take the mic to do that rant from there…with any luck and if I can manage the moments to build up to it, I can probably get a cheer out of the crowd for something extreme.

And Williams describes precisely what his goals are for this charade:

Our goal is to make the gathering look as greedy and goonish as we know that it is, ding their credibility with the media and exploit the lazy reporters who just want dramatic shots and outrageous quotes for headlines. Even if it becomes known that we are plants the quotes and pictures will linger as defacto truth.

It should come as no surprise that the Tea Party aspires to manufacture falsehoods that they hope will linger as “defacto truth.” They rarely show much regard for actual truth. And with this project they affirm that their movement is utterly devoid of principle.

Mark Williams is a veteran Tea Bagger with a dubious history. He was expelled as the head of Tea Party Express for composing some overtly racist screeds for his blog. Subsequently, the Tea Party Express was banished from the Tea Party Federation. But the affiliation between these people and groups continues without interruption. Williams’ scheme has been endorsed by the Patriot Action Network, another Tea Party adjunct, whose partners include Islamophobe Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugs and, of course, Tea Party Express.

In addition to this, Tea Party Express, which is known for funneling donations into the GOP lobbyist firm that created it, has been embraced by CNN. The network is co-hosting a Republican presidential primary debate with the disreputable organization. And CNN’s affiliation with the phony Tea Party movement also extends to their airing of Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party response to the State of the Union address, and to the hiring of Tea Party flack (and Breitbart’s editor-in-chief) Dana Loesch. CNN’s love affair with the Tea Party has been orchestrated by their new head, Ken Jautz, who will forever be marked as the man who gave Glenn Beck his first job in television.

The Tea Party’s response to the massive week-long demonstrations by labor and others in Wisconsin has been pitiful. Despite Tea Party star-power like Andrew Breitbart, Herman Cain, and Joe the Plumber, their big counter-demonstration last Saturday fizzled as a mere 2,500 Baggers showed up to confront an estimated 70,000 pro-worker demonstrators. And their little affair lasted less than an hour and a half, wrapping up at about 1:20pm although it had been scheduled to go until 3:00. This show of weakness may be why the Tea Baggers are resorting to dirty tricks.

The pro-American worker demonstrators should be on alert for Tea Party saboteurs. They should be prepared to expose them and inform the media of the desperate and unethical tactics. The media, for its part, should also be aware of the misrepresentation that they are being targeted with, and they should not hesitate to reveal it to their audience.

Whether or not this childish prank succeeds is still up in the air. One thing that Williams gets right is that the press can be astonishingly lazy. That means it’s up to citizens to make sure that the press do their jobs. So if you are attending any rallies, be aware, be vigilant, and be careful. These instigators have been primed by the rhetoric of Glenn Beck and other purveyors of hate. They have been deluded into thinking that the giant. multinational corporations who despise workers’ rights are actually representing their interests. And they are capable of anything in pursuit of their anti-union, anti-democracy mission.

CNN Turning To Andrew Breitbart And Into Fox News

CNN Tea PartyIt’s bad enough that America has one Fox News. One network that has mainstreamed lying and abandoned all journalistic ethics in favor of spreading propaganda and nurturing ignorance. Now it appears that CNN has aspirations to out-Fox Fox. They put out a press release announcing some new hires:

“CNN is gearing up for the election season with the addition of political contributors from across the ideological spectrum. Democratic strategist Cornell Belcher, conservative commentator Will Cain, and local Tea Party leader and radio talk show host Dana Loesch will appear across the network’s prime time programs, as well as other dayparts and platforms.”

The first thing that is glaringly askew in this announcement is that CNN is recruiting a single Democratic analyst and two right-wing opponents. Under what tangled, Gordian logic is that a balanced representation of views? Do the Democrats have to invent a phony AstroTurf party in order to get an equal number of seats at the table? Would CNN hire a Progressive Party spokesman to join their panel? Of course not. But because some Republicans are parading around with a different name, CNN gives them parity as if they were a wholly new party deserving their own voice.

Let’s be perfectly clear: There is no Tea Party! They have no platform and no candidates. People who profess to be aligned with this imaginary party are in fact Republicans. They run as Republicans, they vote for Republicans, and their agenda is decidedly Republican. And the stub of the GOP that calls itself the Tea Party is wildly out of touch with mainstream Americans. So CNN is a network that hires two Republicans for every Democrat.

Compounding that problem is the specific selection of Dana Loesch to represent the phony Tea Party faction. Loesch is presently the editor-in-chief of Andrew Breitbart’s BigJournalism.com. That’s the same Breitbart that promoted James O’Keefe’s “pimp and hooker” ACORN smear; the same Breitbart that peddled the dishonest videos that defamed Shirley Sherrod. These and other scams have all been thoroughly debunked. But Loesch, the editor-in-chief of the lying tabloid that produces more junk journalism than any other site on the Internet, was chosen by CNN to be the voice of the Tea Party.

Loesch is just the latest despicable decision by CNN’s new president, Ken Jautz. Jautz was recently promoted from HLN where he will forever be remembered as the man who brought Glenn Beck to television. He is a hack who is more interested in ratings than journalism, and with each new day is proving that he is unfit to run a news network.

Since moving up to CNN, Jautz has formed a partnership with Tea Party Express (TPE), a corrupt political action committee that is reviled by other Tea Party groups. This arrangement called for a them to co-host a Republican presidential primary debate. It also produced Michelle Bachmann’s (R-MN) embarrassing response to the State of the Union address. Those are two more examples proving that the Tea Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the GOP. But TPE has some dirty laundry that needs to be aired.

TPE’s chief was shamed into resigning for repeatedly making racist comments. That was followed by TPE being banished from the Tea Party Federation. TPE’s finances are racked with fraud. The Republican PR firm that created TPE, Russo Marsh, directs nearly half of the money they raise from citizen supporters to the firm. TPE recently reported receiving thousands of dollars from a donor who has been dead for four years. This is the racist, dishonest, reprehensible gang of con artists with which Jautz has associated CNN.

CNN already employs RedState’s Erick Erickson, who called Supreme Court Justice David Souter a “goat fucking child molester.” Now Jautz brings aboard Dana Loesch who said that a demonstrator who got her head stomped on by a Rand Paul supporter should apologize for the incident. These developments put CNN’s credibility at stake. Are they really so desperate for attention that they would sully themselves with known liars and agitators for the most extremist faction of the right? Are they really so stupid that they think that trying to emulate Fox will reverse their ratings debacle?

Sadly, the answer to those question is “Yes.” CNN is both desperate and stupid. They never learn. Fox viewers are not going to flip over to a Fox look-alike when they have the real thing just down the dial. Glenn Beck’s audience would not watch him on HLN, where his program was the lowest rated on the channel. But the minute he moved to Fox he was an instant hit. This proves that Fox viewers are hypnotically dialed in to their media master, and they will not wander off. Not for Beck, and certainly not for Loesch. So the only thing that CNN achieves by stumbling down this path is that they become an accessory to the disinformation that these rightist goons disseminate, while simultaneously destroying what’s left of their reputation.

Good work, CNN. You must be so proud. Ken Jautz is turning the network into an embarrassment that is destined to continue its ratings collapse. Everyone who who cares about ethical media should let CNN know that this direction is inappropriate and unprofessional. You can use this form on CNN’s web site to tell them that they are hurting themselves and the practice of journalism by associating with Dana Loesch and the Tea Party Express. Tell them that Ken Jautz isn’t fit to run the Home Shopping Network. And tell them that the last thing this country needs is another right-wing pseudo-news outlet that manufactures partisan controversies and contributes to mass ignorance.

CNN Sinks Lower Into The Tea Party Swamp

CNN Tea PartyAfter the State of the Union speech by President Obama, every network will broadcast the official Republican response that will be delivered by Wisconsin representative Paul Ryan.

CNN, however, will also broadcast a response by the chair of the House Tea Party Caucus, Michelle Bachmann. So Democrats will have one speech on the air and Republicans will have two rebuttals. This is CNN’s idea of fair and balanced. Ironically, Fox will not be airing Bachmann’s response.

So why would CNN go out on limb to give the farthest right element of the GOP an additional platform to bash the president and his policies? One word: RATINGS!

CNN is wearing their desperation of their sleeve as they seek to manufacture controversy that they hope will result in drawing in curious viewers. This is the modus operandi of the current network leadership. This one fact goes a long way toward explaining this bonehead move on the part of CNN:

CNN’s new president, Ken Jautz, is the man who gave Glenn Beck his first job in television!

That needs to be repeated relentlessly and shared with the world. Jautz is an unrepentant sensationalist who cares more about ratings than ethical journalism. He knows that the Tea Party is not a serious political player, but he believes the drama they generate will produce viewers.

Jautz is also responsible for CNN’s recent partnership with Tea Party Express, a racist and disreputable enterprise that was expelled from the Tea Party Federation. That’s the organization that Jautz thought would be a good partner to host an upcoming Republican presidential primary debate.

After taking criticism from all sides on this decision to fluff Bachmann and her Tea Bagger Brigades, CNN issued this defense of their move:

“The Tea Party has become a major force in American politics and within the Republican Party. Hearing the Tea Party’s perspective on the State of the Union is something we believe CNN’s viewers will be interested in hearing and we are happy to include this perspective as one of many in tonight’s coverage.”

That mirrors their lame defense of the Tea Party Express deal. And it still doesn’t make any sense. Poll after poll shows that the Tea Party is an insignificant segment of the population and that their views are wildly out of touch with the American mainstream and even the Republican Party. There is no justification for giving them this free promotional airtime. And it is notable also that CNN has not offered to give the Democrat’s Progressive Caucus equal time.

Everyone who who cares about ethical media and fair elections should let CNN know that this is inappropriate and unprofessional. You can use this form on CNN’s web site to tell them that they should not be partnering with Tea Party Express or any right-wing wing PAC (or left-wing for that matter). You can also Tweet them at http://twitter.com/cnn. Use the hashtag #NoCNNTP.

[Update] Bachmann’s address was surreal. She never looked into the camera. It was like she was talking to an invisible person to her right (as if that’s possible) the whole time. She also brought up the debunked (and hilarious) assertion that the IRS is hiring thousands of agents to “enforce” ObamaCare. What’s more, the Minneapolis Tea Party (from her home state) is protesting that Bachmann does not speak for them. Even her GOP colleagues are criticizing her speech. All in all, a massive fail.

WTF? CNN And Tea Party Express Partner For GOP Debate [Updated]

CNN Tea PartyDec 17,2010 – CNN, the once dominant and comparatively respectable cable news network, seems determined to destroy whatever shreds are left of its credibility. They announced this morning that they will be partnering with the Tea Party Express for a Republican primary debate in September of 2011.

Generally when a media organization chooses to co-host a primary campaign event they go with the party apparatus or a non-partisan group like the League of Women Voters. Tea Party Express (TPE) is hardly non-partisan. TPE is a political action committee that has actively engaged in campaigning on behalf of specific candidates. They supported Sharron Angle in Nevada, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, and Joe Miller in Alaska (all lost). They have also been vocal proponents of Sarah Palin, who is a speculative candidate for president herself and thus a possible participant in the debate. They have taken positions for or against GOP candidates based on their adherence to Tea Party dogma and helped to defeat GOP incumbents. How can they be impartial in a Republican primary debate?

CNN’s statement announcing this partnership quoted Sam Feist, CNN Political Director and Vice President of Washington-based programming, saying that…

“The Tea Party movement is a fascinating, diverse, grassroots force that already has drastically changed the country’s political landscape.”

“Undecided voters turn to CNN to educate themselves during election cycles, so it is a natural fit for CNN to provide a platform for the diverse perspectives within the Republican Party, including those of the Tea Party”

That statement ought to outrage members of the Tea Party who insist that they are not affiliated with any other party. It is a statement that reduces their views to being merely “perspectives within the Republican Party.” While TPE may not object to that characterization, I suspect that many other Tea Partiers would.

What’s more, the predominantly white organization cannot seriously be portrayed as diverse or as a “grassroots force.” They were created by Sal Russo and his Republican PR firm, Russo Marsh, and their brief history is fraught with scandal. Rival Tea Party groups were harshly critical of them for directing nearly half of the money they raised from citizen supporters to Russo’s firm. Their former spokesman, Mark Williams, was forced to resign after publishing a racially offensive article on his web site. That was a particularly embarrassing episode as the Tea Party was battling persistent allegations of racism at the time.

[Update] On the day following CNN’s announcement Williams issued a press release praising CNN for its decision to embrace Tea Party Express. In the release he declared himself to have been vindicated and noted that the CNN relationship was evidence that charges of racism against the Tea Party were unfounded.

Williams: “That a respected international, serious news organization like CNN and even the potential presidential candidates recognize that the Tea Party is anything but racist simply thrills me.” [...] I feel completely vindicated, this is an absolute vindication of both the Tea Party and Mark Williams.”

This is precisely what makes CNN’s move so reprehensible. TPE can and is using this connection to whitewash their dubious reputation. CNN has to know that they are permitting themselves to be used for the political benefit of an organization that doesn’t even have the respect of their Tea Party comrades. When Williams resigned last summer, TPE was booted from the National Tea Party Federation and have never been reinstated. So how are they representative of the so-called movement?

The Tea Party’s influence has long been overstated in the media. Poll after poll shows that they are an insignificant segment of the population and that their views are wildly out of touch with the American mainstream and even the Republican Party. But if CNN were still determined to partner with a Tea Party group they should at least endeavor to find one without the repugnant baggage of TPE (an admittedly difficult task).[End Update]

It is also notable that Tea Party Express had become a fixture on Fox News. Fox provided wall to wall coverage of the TPE bus tour with reporter Griff Jenkins riding along. Perhaps Fox would have been an even more natural fit for partnering with TPE than CNN. After all, TPE was created by a Republican PR firm and Fox is the communications arm of the Republican Party. If nothing else this underscores the transparent dishonesty of portraying the Tea Party as anything other than an affiliate of the Republican Party. How else can they justify playing an official role in the GOP primary debate?

But far worse is the damage this does to CNN, an already wounded critter. This is an unprecedented partnership between a news organization and an active political action committee that has already taken sides in the debate. Would CNN ever consider partnering with MoveOn.org for a Democratic debate? I think not. And prior to this news, I would have hoped not. Now I would suggest that MoveOn give CNN a call just to see how fair and balanced they are.

[Update] What might have have prompted CNN to make this unholy alliance with a discredited and over-hyped entity? Undoubtedly CNN’s new president Ken Jautz had something to do with it. Jautz, who took the reins at CNN in September, was previously in charge of their sister network HLN. It was there that he made history by giving Glenn Beck his first job in television. In hiring Beck he praised the radio shock-jock as being “cordial,” and “non-confrontational.” That should have been a warning sign that Jautz might not be a suitable choice to run a news network. Jautz has always been more interested in ratings than journalism, and the Tea Party deal imparts a disturbing vision of the direction he intends to take CNN.[End Update]

Earlier this year ABC News tried to hire smear artist Andrew Breitbart as an election analyst. The public outcry against it (and Breitbart’s own prickly personality) resulted in Breitbart getting thrown to the curb. That should serve as an example that we can have a positive influence on these sort of decisions. Everyone who who cares about ethical media and fair elections should let CNN know that this is inappropriate and unprofessional. You can use this form on CNN’s web site to tell them that they should not be partnering with Tea Party Express or any right-wing wing PAC (or left-wing for that matter). You can also Tweet them at http://twitter.com/cnn. Use the hashtag #NoCNNTP.

Did CNN Fire Rick Sanchez? Or Was It You Know Who?

Memo to CNN news hacks: Don’t fuck with Jon Stewart.

I’m not saying there is any connection, but the last time a CNN anchor went toe-to-toe with Stewart he also found himself out of job. Today Tucker Carlson is an Internet peddler of borrowed stories and Rupert Murdoch’s fluffer on Fox News.

When Rick Sanchez agreed to be interviewed today to plug his new book he probably had not planned to end his career, it was just one of those things that happens. We’ve all been through it. He just got caught up in the excitement of spewing anti-Semitic stereotypes and thought he could one-up Mel Gibson. Here is what he said:

“Everybody that runs CNN is a lot like [Jon] Stewart. And a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart. And to imply that somehow they – the people in this country who are Jewish – are an oppressed minority? Yeah.”

So Sanchez thinks that Jews are not victims of discrimination, and they are in control of the media. And he feels perfectly at ease expressing that opinion aloud. That is certainly justification for terminating a network anchor, but I am somewhat skeptical that that’s how it happened.

Generally it takes some period of time for a gaffe like this to build up a head of steam and accumulate some outrage from offended parties. But Sanchez got the boot before most of America even knew he had screwed up. What’s more, CNN has a new chief, Ken Jautz, who is not known for being controversy-averse. Jautz was the man who hired Glenn Beck at Headline News. With all the crap that Beck has said, we are now supposed to believe that Jautz was suddenly shocked by Sanchez’s remarks? Beck said that he hated the 9/11 victims’ families while he was working for Jautz. Then there was the time that Beck asked Keith Ellison, a Muslim member of Congress, to “prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.” Yet Jautz didn’t rush to call security and have Beck removed from the studio.

Beck has continued his reign of error at Fox News, famously saying that President Obama was “a racist with a deep-seated hatred for white people.” Yet Fox keeps him on the payroll, as they do Liz Trotta who joked that Obama should be “knocked off” along with Osama. Fox contributor Michael Scheuer opined that the only hope for America was for Bin Laden to hit us again with a WMD. And Ralph Peters, another Fox contributor, advocated military strikes on the media.

There doesn’t seem to be an outer limit of acceptable behavior for Fox. Which makes it a great place to work for bigots and psychopaths who won’t have to worry about saying something totally insane. On the other hand, MSNBC has David Shuster on an indefinite suspension for having done a screen test for CNN. And they canceled Don Imus for making racially insensitive comments about a women’s basketball team (he now works for, that’s right … Fox). CBS fired Jimmy the Greek. ESPN canned Rush Limbaugh. And now CNN shows Sanchez the door. Fox may not have a crossable line, but every other network seems to.

Still, I have to wonder what precipitated Sanchez’s departure. Could it really have been a revulsion of his clearly offensive remarks? Or did he walk out indignantly after being reprimanded? Perhaps Jautz wanted the schedule cleared for some new programming he is developing. Who knows? It just seems like there is more to this than has been made public. We may not know the answers for a while, or until Sanchez tweets. But just for old times sake, here are a couple of occasions where Sanchez did some work for which he could actually be proud:

~~~

This will actually be a good opportunity to find out what kind of programmer Jautz intends to be. Will he fill Sanchez’s slot with his next Beck-like discovery? Will he shoot for more tabloid sensationalism? Or will he develop a show that has journalistic ethics and standards and returns CNN to its original mission of producing honest news?

For the record, I had a suggestion for a new CNN program when Campbell Brown left the network: Replace Campbell Brown With The Daily Show. The idea still works. A man can dream, can’t he?

Uh Oh. CNN Takes A Sharp Turn Toward Hell

Remember the old days when CNN was the dominant cable news network? Or the even older days when it was the only cable news network? I didn’t think so. It was a long time ago. Viewers today don’t appreciate how remarkable an achievement it was to launch a 24 hour news channel when nothing like it existed at the time.

Whether or not you like Ted Turner, you have to give him credit for being a pioneer, although given the state of cable news today, I’m not sure he’d want the credit/blame. However, he recognized the unique environment in which his experiment was born, and he further recognized the changes that took place in subsequent years that preclude anyone from ever doing the same (see My Beef With Big Media).

Now CNN is mired in third place, overtaken by a bombastic, right-wing, agenda-driven, Fox News, and a lukewarm, marginally liberal, MSNBC. So it should come as no surprise that the brass at CNN would be looking to shake things up in hopes of recovering their glory days. To that end, yesterday CNN announced that its president, Jon Klein, would be leaving the network. That, in and of itself, would appear to be a routine response to poor performance in the marketplace. The problem here is not that Klein is leaving. It’s who they are elevating to his post that is worrisome.

Ken Jautz, presently the head of CNN’s HLN (formerly known as Headline News Network) has been tapped to replace Klein. He is a brash, iconoclastic, executive who is more interested in ratings than journalism. But perhaps the most disturbing item on Jautz’s resume is that he is the man who brought Glenn Beck to HLN, and to television. Looking back at that millstone in broadcast media is one of the best ways of getting a handle on what may be in store for a Juatz-run CNN. Here is what he had to say upon hiring Beck back in January of 2006:

“Glenn Beck is the next piece of the puzzle,” said HLN prexy Ken Jautz. “Glenn’s style is self-deprecating, cordial; he says he’d like to be able to disagree with guests and part as friends. It’s conversational, not confrontational.”

If Beck is Jautz’s idea of cordial, I hope never to meet anyone he considers to be rude. What’s more, Beck is not known for having guests with whom he disagrees, friendly or otherwise. And the notion that he is not confrontational is absurd on its face. Calling the President a racist; charging that progressives are a cancer; tagging anyone with whom he disagrees a Marxist; declaring his hatred for Woodrow Wilson as well as 9/11 families; these are not behaviors generally associated with being non-confrontational. Jautz went on to say…

“As part of the continued evolution of the network, we wanted another primetime show,” Jautz said. “We didn’t look for a conservative, a liberal or anyone of a particular ideology. It was about getting the best talent that would resonate with the most viewers.”

Well then, it’s a good thing he wasn’t actually looking for a conservative. He would have ended up with a modern version of Attila the Hun (or did he anyway?). It should also be noted that his desire to find the “best talent” who would “resonate” with viewers, was unfulfilled. Beck’s show was a dismal ratings failure on HLN. He would not be a success until he moved to Fox News with its built-in audience of pre-cooked FoxBots.

Given the remarks Jautz made when taking over HLN and bringing Beck into the fold, it is fair to say that he was somewhat disingenuous with regard to his public appraisals. And he was similarly disingenuous in private. In the book “Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck And The Triumph Of Ignorance,” author Alexander Zaitchik noted that Jautz mislead his employers at the time as to his intentions in reforming the channel:

“Facing a staff weary of rumored changes, Jautz gently presented Blue Sky [his programming initiative] as a trial balloon. He promised that CNN standards would not be diluted in the makeover and that soon-to-be-hired Headline News personalities would not appear on traditional CNN news programming. He broke both promises.”

Indeed he did. Glenn Beck not only appeared on CNN, he was permitted to fill in as a guest host on Larry King Live. Taking into consideration the duplicity of Jautz’s comments when he assumed command of HLN, it might be prudent to take note of what he is saying now with regard to his promotion at CNN. Jautz was interviewed by The Wrap and said…

Q: Can we expect a tone change, or any sort of ideological shift?
A: I think that CNN needs to be as lively and engaging and as informative as it is known for its reporting.

Whatever that means.

Q: For a long time, Jon Klein resisted any sort of partisan programming — especially as expressed by the hosts. Can we expect to see more opinions — or at least opinionated hosts — under your watch?
A: CNN has always been about adhering to non-partisan programming in general. And it will continue to be.

However, I do not believe that “facts-only” programming … it will not work. Viewers, if they’re looking for just the news, they can get that anywhere now. The news that happened that day, they probably know already. They want context, perspective and opinion. And we’re going to give that to them. As long as it’s non-partisan, in the aggregate, from all ends of the spectrum.

In other words, we will continue to be non-partisan except when we’re being opinionated. And none of those pesky “facts” that clutter up the news.

Jautz did improve the standing of HLN. But he did it by ramping up the volume with shouters like Beck and Nancy Grace, and by diving head-first into the tabloid world of pop culture and celebrity gossip. Could that approach help to restore CNN’s prior leadership? Who cares? It isn’t what anyone who truly cares about responsible journalism would want.

And that’s the problem with contemporary corporate media: It is more interested in serving the shareholders than in serving the public. Unless Jautz has recently had a revelatory transformation, CNN has taken a giant step backwards by giving him the reins to the network. The prospect of the man who launched Glenn Beck’s television career running a cable news network is troubling, to say the least.

In related news, NBC/Universal has announced that it’s chief executive, Jeff Zucker, will also be leaving his post. This is an entirely different situation than the one at CNN. NBC is presently the number one network in evening news, morning news, and Sunday news. CNBC is still the top business channel. Plus, under Zucker’s reign, MSNBC moved up from third place to second. The staffing change at NBC is due to its imminent acquisition by Comcast. It remains to be seen who will be replacing Zucker.

Sometimes these sort of changes are merely shifts designed to put a new management’s imprint on the merged entity. But Comcast has baggage that makes it important to keep an eye on them. And they will have an unprecedented range of influence as a result of the merger. Stay tuned.