CNN’s Credibility Crisis

By | 2019-06-25T16:25:51-07:00 June 25th, 2019|
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President Trump in April mocked CNN (yet again), tweeting out a report that the cable news network had registered its lowest viewership ratings of 2019.

“Congratulations!” Trump wrote to his nearly 60 million followers. Prior to the president’s tweet, CNN had recently aired three town hall events featuring 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including one with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) on April 9. Gillibrand attracted just 491,000 viewers.

Now, two months later, the news just keeps getting worse for the far-left network. According to recent reports from several credible sites, including The Hill and Forbes, CNN has suffered a 16 percent primetime ratings collapse. This is what happens when you put all your eggs in one Mueller shaped basket.

In the recent game of Russian Collusion Roulette, Fox News and CNN went to war. They engaged in a roll of the dice, winner takes all contest. Spoiler alert: Fox won.

Right-leaning media outlets can take solace in CNN’s anemic viewership numbers. Meanwhile, the Left should recognize CNN’s decline for what it is—an ominous sign. It seems that anti-Trump sentiment doesn’t go as far as some Democrats would have us believe. The far-left news network has long regarded itself as Donald Trump’s kryptonite. However, CNN appears to have succumbed to hubris, a tale even older than the storytellers.

Hubris, which is a combination of overconfidence, overambition, arrogance, and pride, is a dangerous mistress. Often accompanied by contempt for the advice of others, those suffering from the hubris effect don’t take kindly to criticism. One assumes that the folks at CNN won’t take the criticisms being leveled against the network here any more kindly than they have taken those of the president.

Whether it occurs at an individual or the organizational level, hubris results in overreach, risky, and reckless decisions (like put all of those eggs in a collusion basket). Such recklessness can have harmful, even catastrophic, consequences for the actors involved.

This is not to say that CNN has a monopoly on hubris. Employees at Fox and MSNBC have also engaged in some unsavory displays of absurdity. Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity both spring to mind (Yes, Sean, we get it . . .  hookers . . . pee . . . Moscow, no need to keep repeating yourself).

But CNN especially excels at displaying two qualities so many of us detest: thinly veiled contempt for non-progressives and self-flattery that borders on the masturbatory.

In the words of Rick Lockridge, a former CNN correspondent: “The main reason CNN doesn’t work is [that] it can’t remember what it used to be and what it needs to be.” Objectivity was discarded a long time ago.

This is painfully obvious when we observe the likes of Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo. They are exhibitionists and performers, not reporters. Cast your mind back to a few months ago, when Lemon, night after night, passionately defended Jussie Smollett. He continued to do so even when more and more contrary evidence emerged, clearly demonstrating that Smollett was a manipulative liar.

As CNN did with the collusion case, Lemon put it all on the line to defend Smollett, and because of this, his credibility as a reporter was and will forever be tarnished.

A lack of humility and awareness can be detrimental. If in doubt, just ask Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, or Matt Lauer. Once almighty, all three are now social pariahs of no regard.

Of course, hubris is not a new phenomenon. Alexander the Great and Napoleon Bonaparte—unmatched as leaders in their time—both found themselves consumed by hubris. The Ancient Greeks, renowned for their wisdom and foresight, recognized the hazards of hubris. The great Socrates counseled against it. One of the best known of myths of all time was given to us by the Greeks. Perhaps the folks at CNN, and especially Lemon, should revisit the tale of Daedalus and Icarus.

Why?

Viewers want two things from a news network: reporters to whom they can relate and reporters they can trust. After the Smollett hoax, Lemon’s viewership figures took a nosedive. In many ways, Lemon is CNN’s Icarus.

Then, of course, there’s Jim Acosta. The Tyler Perry of reporting, if one person embodies CNN’s penchant for nonsense, it’s Acosta. As Todd S. Purdum noted in a great essay for The Atlantic, “the verb accost comes from an Old French term that meant ‘to sail up close to a ship or a shoreline.’”

In August 2018, Acosta sailed a little too close to the shoreline when he confronted then White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders with a litany of allegations and aggressive questions. Acosta, living up to his name, accosted Sanders, demanding to know if she shared Trump’s belief that the press is the enemy of the American people.

This was performative reporting at its most flagrant. Acosta brazenly attempted to make himself the hero of the story; think Roddy Piper with a microphone. “I have come here to chew bubblegum and ask questions. And I’m all out of bubblegum.”

As Purdum notes, “Whenever a reporter who has not been kidnapped by terrorists, shot by an assailant, or won a big prize becomes an actor in her own story, she has lost the fight.”

In this case, as Purdum adds, Acosta simply “reinforced the corrosive, cynical, and deeply dangerous feedback loop that has convinced Trump’s most fervent supporters that his relentless brief against the press has merit.”

Instead of delivering an actual, objective story, Acosta inserts himself into the narrative. He wanted to create a story where he, not the president, was the headline act. In many ways, it worked. Soon after, Acosta appeared on Stephen Colbert’s late night program, where he was greeted like someone who had just discovered a cure for cancer. He also secured a book deal. Acosta is peddling a book called The Enemy of the People. The “enemy” in question? President Trump, of course. The irony is Acosta wants you to think that he’s “the people.” Well, he isn’t.

As Frank Miele noted in a scathing piece for RealClearPolitics: “The premise is simple—that reporters like Acosta have an entitlement mentality. In other words, they have made the mistake of reading their own positive press and thinking they are indispensable. Actually they are just insufferable.”

Miele makes a great point. CNN’s hubris was on full display last week when the news network published an excerpt from Acosta’s book. All the ingredients of a poor reporting were on display: superciliousness, quotes from anonymous sources, and an obligatory dose of hysteria. Here is a short passage:

Intense frustration with Trump’s management style has also led some senior White House and administration officials to arrive at damning assessments of the President.

“The President’s insane,” one senior official said, in a moment of exasperation with Trump’s behavior behind the scenes.

Asked what the aide meant, the official complained Trump failed to understand the constraints on the executive branch built into the U.S. Constitution by the nation’s Founding Fathers, the guardrails installed to protect American democracy from the possibility of a rogue president.

And you thought Michael Wolff was the king of dubious reporting.

In many ways, the passage above sums up CNN in 2019, far removed from its more credible, less hysterical days. CNN appears to be the Titanic of news stations, sinking at an alarming rate. The executives are Captain Edward Smith, who, due to extreme hubris, failed to heed ice warnings.

Photo Credit: Candela/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

About the Author:

John Glynn
Dr. John Glynn is a psychologist and academic from Ireland. His writing has appeared in The Spectator USA, American Thinker, The American Mind, and Quillette. Follow him on Twitter: @John_A_Glynn