It is difficult to convey in words just what the candidacy and then presidency of Donald Trump have done to CNN, but one can gain a sense of the descent by comparing the network with a news organization that has largely maintained its sanity: the New York Times. On April 30 of this year, the front page of the Times featured stories on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the consequences of ISIS’s rule of Raqqa; on the biggest measles outbreak of the 21st century; and on the Labor Department’s decision to treat workers in the “gig economy” as contractors rather than as employees. The first column of CNN’s homepage, by contrast, featured — in order: “77 lies and falsehoods Mueller called out”; “What’s in the Mueller report? CNN breaks it down”; “William Barr now has to try to defend the indefensible”; “Barr gave his version of the report. Then we read it”; “Democrats ramp up Trump financial probe, make new hire”; “Prosecutors seek to block Stone from seeing unredacted portions of Mueller’s report”; “Analysis: Is Rosenstein the hero of the Russia probe? Or the villain?”; “Biden: Congress would have ‘no alternative’ to impeachment if Trump blocked Mueller probe.” The second column of the homepage was headed up by a puff piece — “Joe Biden’s past 24 hours could not have gone more perfectly” — and some fascinating reporting on whether Pete Buttigieg minded Oprah’s joking about his name. To find some actual news — that there had been an uprising in Venezuela — one had to go all the way over to the third column. April 30 was twelve days after the release of the Mueller report.
This has been typical of the network’s monomania. On August 14, the New York Times ran with the news that protesters had taken over Hong Kong’s airport; that Nicolás Maduro was torturing his foes in the Venezuelan military — sometimes to death; and that the White House was delaying its proposed tariffs on China. More prominent than any of these stories on CNN.com were an “analysis” titled “Trump’s talking more than ever about men’s looks”; an “analysis” of “Donald Trump, plastic pusher”; an “analysis” under the headline “This one word is a telltale sign Trump is being dishonest”; and a piece providing “proof Obama was better for the stock market than Trump.” Pick any day, and you’ll find the same disconnect. Were CNN to change its website address to “TrumpImpeachmentWatch.com,” would anyone notice the difference?