Those familiar with cable news television understand that several programs -- even entire networks -- broadcast from a particular bias. Keith Olbermann's Countdown on MSNBC is left leaning, as is Dan Abrams' Verdict. Olbermann has become famous for his highly crafted "Special Comments" which take aim at conservatives from George W. Bush to Rudolf Giuliani. CNN has Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs -- both of whom use vitriol to attack various factions of the political world. Beck goes after so-called liberals. Dobbs is an equal opportunity attacker who assaults the Bush administration, members of Congress and ethnic groups from his prejudiced perspective. FOX has an entire network, with anchors like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, who routinely lambaste the left. Each of these pundits, or performers, are known for their ideological leanings. Those who watch their programs do so presupposing the bias they will see.
Until recently, it had seemed that most of the clearly biased shows on cable news television had been publicly outed as leaning left or leaning right. But on Friday, viewers learned there was yet another conservative Republican show, as vitriolic as FOX, airing nightly on CNN. That show is Election Center, hosted by former NBC performer, Campbell Brown. Election Center, which began airing last January with original anchor John Roberts, is billed as "the network's daily examination of news from the campaign trail that combines CNN's unrivaled field reporting and analysis with state-of-the-art broadcasting technology."
It might be that providing "unrivaled reporting and analysis" was the original intent of CNN when Election Center first aired with John Roberts. Roberts doesn't conflate reporting with agenda. However, CNN chose a less balanced and more ideological path for the show when it brought on conservative Bush supporter, Campbell Brown, as Election Center's new anchor. If Brown's conservative leanings weren't all that obvious in the beginning, that all changed on Friday when Brown and CNN Headline News anchor, Erica Hill, virulently mocked the House Judiciary Committee for holding a hearing on impeachment. After Brown and Hill's searing attack on the Democrats, any sense of legitimacy Brown had tried to muster instantly fell away. Because of Brown and Hill's over-the-top trashing of the Congressional impeachment hearing, CNN's Election Center has devolved into the lowest form of "spin." It's lost all credibility.
Witness for yourselves -- in video (above) and in text (below) the slanted performance by CNN anchors, Brown and Hill, on a show that advertises its "unrivaled field reporting and analysis":
C. Brown: You might have thought there was big news on Capitol Hill today. Democrats were talking about impeaching the president. But actually it was all just stagecraft. And Erica Hill is here. Tell us about this piece of Kabuki theatre, Erica.
E. Hill: Oh and Campbell, theatre it was. Today's House Judiciary Committee Hearing was officially billed as "an examination of executive power and its constitutional limitations." And from the beginning it was pretty clear this was all just stagecraft in what one Republican lawmaker deemed impeachment light. The Democratic leadership made it clear impeachment is not on the table at this hearing today for two reasons: not only is there not enough time left in President Bush's term but also they know any impeachment hearings at this point could cause a major backlash against the Party come November. So if you can't impeach, why not vent? And that is exactly what they did. Take a listen.
(Democratic Congress members denounce George W. Bush. Erica Hill mocks rules established for the Hearing...)
C. Brown: (giggling) Oooh that's a good one. Who knew? Alright so this is really just stagecraft -- not to mention a real waste of taxpayer money and Congress' time.
E. Hill: (mocking) A waste of our money?
C. Brown: Did any Republicans even bother to show up for it?
E. Hill: Actually a few did. Most Republican lawmakers boycotted the hearing but a few were there and those who did attend as you can imagine were downright disgusted.
(...Republican Congressmen Lamar Smith and Trent Franks denounce Democrats and the Hearing...)
E. Hill: Well it turns out Representative Lamar Smith was right. There was no impeachment hearing that came out of it. As for the President today -- clearly not too worried about this Hearing. He was in Peoria, Illinois, as you can see here -- kissin' babies, smilin' -- taking pictures -- not a care in the world. Check out that guy [a baby pictured with President Bush] with his little shades on. Cute.
C. Brown: Cute baby.
E. Hill: I can't get my kid to wear them.
C. Brown: (approving hand gesture and smile) And there's the President. Good stuff tonight! Erica Hill -- as always, thanks.
In some instances in broadcast journalism -- or in what passes for broadcast journalism -- there is room for interpretation. But in this high-pitched giddy exchange between Brown and Hill, the bias is unmistakeable. They never offer the possibility that the Congressional Hearing is legitimate -- even though the Committee heard testimony from Constitutional scholars, renowned legal experts, and current and former members of Congress. They never offer that the People's business is being addressed or that there exists a Constitutional mandate for the Legislative Branch to assess and monitor the deeds and acts of the Executive. In their ideological disposal of the rule of law, Brown and Hill use the CNN pulpit to dissuade viewers from any real understanding of what the Hearing was addressing and why Democrats, and some Republicans, believed the Hearing should be held.
Where was the journalism? Where was the reporting and analysis? Do pejoratives like "stagecraft," "Kabuki theatre," and "a waste of taxpayer money" rise to constructive criticism for CNN?
To those who monitor cable news television and the personalities it employs, the fact that Campbell Brown is a Republican is no revelation. She's married to FOX News contributor, Dan Senor, who also served as spokesman for George W. Bush's failed Coalition Provisional Authority, which early on controlled and mismanaged Iraq. Senor was also George W. Bush's Deputy Press Secretary under Scott McClellan. He is currently a founding partner of the global investment group, Rosemont Capital, and a former investment professional at the Carlyle Group -- along with George Herbert Walker Bush, James Baker, and other prominent Republicans. Dan Senor is a high power player in conservative Republican politics and in the world of global finance. While Senor's wife, Campbell Brown, doesn't lay public claim to being a conservative Republican, her ideological bent is clear to those who watch her perform. But after Friday's performance with Erica Hill, Mrs. Brown-Senor's Republican agenda will be crystal clear to all.
The harm Brown and Hill caused on Friday by not honestly informing their viewers of what was truly going on in the Judiciary Committee hearing is shameful proof of cable news' dereliction and wanton abuse of the public's airwaves. For me, these abuses of broadcast privileges by depriving the public of its 'right to know' are tantamount to crime. As for CNN, its self-exaltation as the "most trusted name in news" is as much an assault on reality as FOX's claim of "fair and balanced." Broadcast journalism has hit an all time low.
For those who believe as I do that Campbell Brown knowingly and wantonly went beyond the bounds of legitimate journalism and should be removed as host of Election Center, please email CNN as quickly as possible at the following addresses:
CNN Election Center:
CNN Anderson Cooper 360: