While many in the media credited the network with bringing “originality and spontaneity” to the debate process by partnering with YouTube, its debates have more often been characterized by sloppy preparation, a lack of transparency, and theatrics that undermine the intelligence of the American public. Some lowlights:
— CNN planted a softball question with an audience member. During the recent Democratic debate, CNN stopped UNLV student Maria Luisa from asking a question about Yucca Mountain, instead telling her to ask Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY): “Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?”
— CNN failed to disclose a questioner’s support for Clinton. Last night, CNN failed to disclose during the debate that ret. Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr, who asked about gays and lesbians serving in the military, is actually a co-chair of “Veterans and Military Retirees for Hillary Committee” and a steering member of “LGBT Americans for Hillary.”
— CNN failed to disclose Carville’s ties to the Clinton campaign. In its post-debate roundtable after the Democratic debate earlier this month, CNN featured commentator James Carville. Yet CNN failed to disclose up front that Carville has raised money for Clinton.
— CNN gave airtime to a question from a right-wing activist. CNN and YouTube billed last night’s GOP debate as one in which “YOU ask the questions of the candidates through videos you submit on YouTube.” The network rejected a question by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), arguing that he “has regular access to politicians.” Instead, one of the 34 videos it chose (out of 5,000 submissions) was from right-wing Washington insider Grover Norquist.
— CNN claimed American public can’t be trusted to choose questions. CNN senior vice president David Bohrman claimed that if allowed, the public would likely choose questions about “whether Arnold Schwarzenegger was a cyborg” or UFOs. He failed to remember that at the Oct. 31 Democratic debate, moderator Tim Russert also asked Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) about whether he had ever seen a UFO.
— CNN took sponsorship funding from the “clean coal” industry. The coal industry sponsored both last night’s Republican debate in Florida and the Democratic one in Nevada earlier this month. The sponsorships appeared to be aimed at pressuring anti-coal lawmakers in the states. In both debates, no questions were asked about climate change or the negative impact of the coal industry.
— CNN’s post-debate analysis focused on the trivial, inconsequential. After July’s Democratic YouTube debate, CNN ran a segment critiquing the candidates on their body language and dress. Wolf Blitzer: “Candidates also sighed, they rolled their eyes, they looked at their watches during the debate.” CNN’s Carol Costello commented, “Look at how the candidates were dressed. The men wore dark suits, but Hillary Clinton wore a brightly-colored jacket.”
Following CNN’s Democratic debate two weeks ago, the New York Observer’s Steve Kornacki even went so far as to suggest that CNN, once the “gold standard for all-news television,” should “never again be entrusted with a presidential debate.”