CNN reporter Elise Labott was suspended for two weeks for a tweet that expressed sympathy toward Syrian refugees. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday that “would suspend the program allowing Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the U.S.”
Labott promoted the CNN story covering the vote with this tweet:
— Elise Labott (@eliselabottcnn) November 19, 2015
The tweet was first flagged by Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple who suggested it violated “the company’s editorial guidelines.”
It seems uncontroversial that suspending a refugee program — particularly from Syria where hundreds of thousands of people are dying — is not in keeping with the spirit of the Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
But as Wemple notes, CNN is trying to position itself as an “objective” news source to create brand differentiation with Fox and MSNBC.
Still, the application of the network’s “neutrality priniciple” — which Wemple himself describes as a “sham” — appears inconsistent at best.
CNN’s Don Lemon, who holds himself out as a journalist, said of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri following the death of teenager Michael Brown: “In my estimation there’s been too much political correctness, trying to appease protesters.” Lemon added there was “nothing peaceful” about the Ferguson protests.
Lemon regularly expresses his views about an enormous variety of controversial subjects:
Last week while moderating a discussion with four women on the firing of New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, Lemon said he didn’t believe in equal pay for equal work in all circumstances — the verbal equivalent of sticking his head in a lion’s mouth…
No incident attracted more attention than when Lemon said he agreed with some criticism of blacks by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. Young black men should think about pulling up their pants, staying in school, not using the n-word, not having children out of wedlock and taking interest in their communities, Lemon said.
Why is Don Lemon allowed denigrate Ferguson protesters, oppose equal pay, and endorse Bill O’Reilly’s criticisms of black youth but Elise Labott is not allowed to sympathize with Syrian refugees?
This is where CNN’s policy of “neutrality” starts to get very murky. CNN told the AP in 2014 that it was acceptable for Lemon to express opinions “so long as he’s not predictably partisan.”