Ongoing concern that CNN might be moving right, breaking up with the White House

AP Photo/Ron Harris

Last week there was speculation, from Dan Rather and many others, that something bad might be happening at CNN. Specifically there was concern on the left that CNN might be shifting to the right in an effort to appear less biased. The Washington Post even quoted one unnamed CNN journalist who said, “People are freaked out. It almost feels like there’s a pattern. Is there a purge going on? They seem to be sending a message: ‘Watch what you say. Watch what you do.’”


I thought all of that would have died down by now but apparently it hasn’t. The Hill has a story about the controversy up today which includes a quote from Media Matters stoking the controversy.

“The message coming out … is that this is part of a deliberate effort to get rid of people at CNN who are seen as too critical of Donald Trump and Fox News,” said Matthew Gertz, a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a liberal media watchdog.

He also noted “some very high-profile cases of CNN staffers making a sort of public display of criticizing President Joe Biden.”

CNN in a statement to The Hill said criticism from those like Gertz are completely off base.

“CNN is not shifting from left to right or pursuing a centrist position,” a CNN spokesperson told The Hill. “We are entirely focused on our core strength and mission — objective journalism, presented in a fair and compelling way. We will continue to acknowledge different worldviews and experiences. We will always stand up for democracy and call out lies — regardless of their origin. That is not centrism, that is journalism.”

More interesting than the griping in the media is the griping behind the scenes. Wednesday night Politico Playbook reported there was a “Biden-CNN rift” forming.

The White House has been frustrated by some of the network’s programming and talent decisions under new network chief CHRIS LICHT, who continues to rein in the perceived anti-Trump zeal some people at the channel engaged in under his predecessor JEFF ZUCKER.

One person with knowledge of the situation said White House officials were irked by the negative coverage of President JOE BIDEN’s speech last week in Philadelphia decrying the threats to American democracy. The person specifically noted the network’s focus on the speech’s optics in which Biden stood in front of a dramatic red background with several U.S. Marines behind him.

Much of the cable news chatter on the speech’s visuals were driven by BRIANNA KEILAR, an outspoken CNN host known for her tough grilling of Trump officials. The “New Day” anchor blasted the Biden White House over the presence of the U.S. Marines during Biden’s address, saying it was “wrong when Democrats do it. It’s wrong when Republicans do it.”


The sure sign the White House is unhappy comes from things that White House chief of staff Ron Klain has been tweeting lately. For instance, he retweeted this Rick Wilson comment calling CNN “Diet Fox.”

But the love affair between CNN and the Biden White House can’t be completely over because the network still tried to help Biden out a bit last week.

…even some White House staff acknowledge that they erred in certain components of Biden’s speech. Two other people with knowledge of the mood inside the building said some staff were flabbergasted by the advanced team’s work, which made it so that a close up shot of the president only included the blood red background….

During Biden’s speech last week, CNN attempted to color correct parts of the speech in real time, noticeably lessening the intensity of the red backlighting behind Biden. A CNN source pinned the blame on CBS News, which provided the television pool feed during the speech, saying the pooler white balanced the camera earlier in the day, inadvertently making the background appear even redder on television.

I don’t know if someone at CBS failed to white balance the camera correctly but I do know that CNN tried to fix it. There’s a video clip showing the moment the background went from blood red to a hot pink color. I guess the White House didn’t feel that effort made up for Brianna Keilar’s criticism.


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