Politics & Policy

CNN: the ‘Yes We Can’ Network

Can we stop laughing about Sean Hannity and Fox News now?

At the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday night, one of the biggest laugh lines was Scottish comedian Craig Ferguson hitting Fox News:

I spoke to a lot of journalists about how I should speak up here. And all the journalists said “Craig, Your duty is to speak truth to power. That’s what you do, you hold the truth up for everyone to see, that’s your job.”

I’m sorry. I don’t see it that way. That’s your job. You’re journalists. I’m a late night television show guy. I make up crap that isn’t true then I say it on TV. I’m like Fox News. I’m not a journalist.

I’ll be the first person to complain about the provocatively dressed supermodel anchors and reporters on Fox. (At least one was seen baring much at dinner on Saturday night.) But give credit where credit is due. And credit is due to Sean Hannity in this campaign season. His contribution to the Jeremiah Wright story stood out even clearer on Sunday night, in stark contrast to CNN’s.

Rev. Jeremiah Wright spoke to the NAACP in Detroit on Sunday. CNN aired it live. I’m not a knee-jerk anti-CNN whiner. I was a from-the-couch participant in Crossfire. I never went a day without watching Inside Politics if I could help it. I was a devotee of Jeff Greenfield’s short-lived late-night show. They have Bill Bennett on election nights! In short, there are things to like about CNN. But their coverage of Wright Sunday night left something to be desired. And left a whole host of sophisticated wisecrackers owing Sean Hannity an apology.

The fact is, if you wanted to know what the big Obama story was going to be if he were to become the frontrunner, Hannity had it right — over a year ago. On March 1, 2007, Hannity interviewed Rev. Wright on Hannity & Colmes. He gave time to a combative Wright to explain himself and put some context to his thinking and preaching — he presented both sides, though he didn’t have to, considering the nature of his program. If you were Barack Obama, and had slept through every Wright sermon you ever attended, you should have known on March 1, 2007 that your pastor of 20 years would not fade into the background.

In startling contrast to Hannity’s opinion journalism, CNN’s “news” coverage on Sunday night went out of its way to be as unfair and unbalanced as possible. They aired Wright live. During the fiery speech, Wright plugged CNN “anchor and special correspondent” Soledad O’Brien and “long-term friend” CNN analyst Roland Martin. Both O’Brien and Martin appeared on-air after the event, discussing how funny and effective Wright was. As they explained to viewers how to understand Wright’s infamous “God damn America” comment, evening anchor Rick Sanchez insisted viewers keep watching replay after replay and apology after apology for Wright. “I would imagine the people watching [on TV] would say, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize the guy had two masters degree and a Ph.D. I didn’t realize he spoke five languages.’ ” And that changes “God damn America” for you, doesn’t it? That appears to be CNN’s hope. O’Brien continued raving about the speech, “It was very funny. It was hilarious at times.” And in the morning, O’Brien was back, calling Sunday night a “homerun” for Wright. All credit to CNN for that.

For all the short skirts and lip gloss on FOX, there’s real journalism happening there, too. Sean Hannity deserves credit for doing actual reporting — something he regularly does, for which conservatives (and in this case, Hillary Clinton) should be grateful. This wasn’t an isolated incident. He deserves credit for being ahead of the curve on Wright and Bill Ayers. In fact, Hannity deserves the credit (or blame, depending on your point of view) for getting George Stephanopoulos in trouble with his mainstream-media friends for bringing Ayers up in the ABC Philadelphia debate earlier this month: When the ABC anchor and former Clinton-administration official was on Hannity’s radio show earlier in the day, Hannity urged Stephanopoulos to question Obama about Ayers.

So enough with the Fox jokes. CNN showed its share of political leg Sunday night.


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