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CNN faced a predicament recently when its new poll showed President Joe Biden with a healthy 50% approval rating. The high-profile survey was certainly good news for the White House, which has been battered with negative news coverage since August, with the Beltway press circling, eagerly predicting the Democrat’s demise just nine months into office.
The CNN poll represented an internal problem because it punctured the preferred media narrative about Biden being caught in a slow-motion spiral. Plus, the 50% poll followed on the heels of a Fox News poll, which also showed Biden at the respectable 50% mark — a public approval plateau that Trump never once reached while in office.
So what did CNN do? Did it buck the Beltway groupthink and report that Biden’s popularity was on the upswing? It did not. Instead, the network did its best to bury, or downplay, its own polling so it wouldn’t have to upset the beloved storyline of Biden being locked in a constant state of crisis. (A White House “under siege.”) Still itching for the daily drama of the Trump years, CNN continues to uncork breathless, perilous coverage that often does not match reality — even the reality of its own polling.
Writing up the survey’s results, CNN’s dispatch didn’t mention Biden’s strong 50% approval rating until the sixth paragraph, stressing that Americans were “divided.” That’s an extraordinary take, since CNN in August led the media charge in claiming the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan represented a cataclysmic event within the Biden presidency, and dedicated hundreds of hours to the story. It was CNN’s Clarissa Ward who was famously wrong when she declared that the United States’ effort to evacuate thousands of Afghans was doomed to failure.
Yet eight weeks later, and despite the avalanche of negative coverage, Biden’s approval rating hadn’t budged. Instead of acknowledging that political reality and marveling at Biden’s staying power, CNN played dumb.
Days after CNN’s poll was published, White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins told anchor Wolf Blitzer, “If you look at the combination of all the major polls, the president's approval rating right now is at 45 percent. That is, of course, lower than when he entered office and had that initial burst of positivity. Some polls, and, Wolf, it's at 38 percent.”
“Some polls” had Biden as low as 38%, Collins emphasized. The fact that her own network had Biden at 50% was of little interest, as she stuck to the accepted script.
“This is Bad News for Joe Biden,” read the headline for a Chris Cillizza column, which focused on a recent Gallup survey. Cillizza made no reference to CNN’s good-news-for-Biden poll. We’ve seen this kind of cherry picking before. When an NPR/PBS survey in early September showed Biden’s standing at 43 percent, Cillizza pounced: “This Poll Number Will Send Democrats Into a Panic.” A week later though, Cillizza was silent when CNN’s own poll found Biden’s approval climbing to 52 percent.
Last week, the network’s Stephen Collinson, in a comically over-the-top doomsday piece of analysis, insisted the president’s approval rating was “slipping fast.” Collinson never mentioned that, according to CNN, Biden’s approval is holding steady at 50%.
It’s almost like the network was embarrassed by its own polling data.
CNN’s John Harwood claimed a pile-up of problems “has eroded the President's public standing.” Yet two paragraphs later he conceded, “Biden's public approval ratings [is] back to the 50% mark he had consistently exceeded during his early months in office.”
In his piece, “Biden's 'Tough Month' Looms Over Democratic Campaigns in 2021,” CNN’s Dan Merica suggested the president might doom two key gubernatorial races in November, one in Virginia and one in New Jersey. Except the Democrat in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy, is currently ahead up by 13 points. As for CNN’s 50% poll? Merica flushed that down the memory poll, instead pointing to a mix of recent polls that had Biden at 45%.
Elsewhere last week, CNN dinged Biden for being “stale” and claiming his “laid-back style” doesn’t work. The attack was really just theater criticism masquerading as political analysis. (He’s not emotional enough!) It was especially jarring that after watching a marauding narcissist, liar, madman in the White House for four years, CNN’s take on Biden is that he’s too congenial for the times. As for CNN’s 50% Biden poll? That information was included in the 26th, and final, paragraph of the article.
CNN’s doomsday drumbeat has become relentless: “The coronavirus pandemic Biden thought he had tamed this spring continues to deny Americans a return to normal life,” one piece recently claimed. Americans haven’t returned to a more normal life under Biden? 50 million school children aren’t back in classrooms? Football stadiums on campuses coast-to-coast aren’t packed with fans? Tens of millions of employees haven’t returned to their workplace? 190 million Americans haven’t been fully vaccinated?
Last month, I recounted how CNN seemed to traffic a made-up GOP story about how a bipartisan group of lawmakers “stormed out” of a classified briefing session regarding Afghanistan. It was all part of the network’s urgent attempt to paint the Biden White House as besieged and floundering. According to CNN’s own polling, voters aren’t buying it.
(Photo: The Washington Post/Getty Images)
When I first saw this piece fly past me on Twitter, I thought, ‘Oh my God, someone at the New York Times told the truth about political journalism?’ But then I quickly realized it was a writer for the Los Angeles Times, which made more sense because this kind of truth-telling simply isn’t allowed at NYT.
From Jackie Calmes’ excellent piece, “Why Journalists Are Failing the Public in Political Coverage”:
For years it was easy to cover “both sides” — Republicans and Democrats — as equally worthy, and blameworthy, partners in democracy. While we reporters had come of age as witnesses to the unprecedented resignation of a Republican president who’d tried to corrupt the institutions of government to affect an election — imagine! — what remained was a Republican Party still capable of a creditable role in a healthy two-party system. After all, Richard M. Nixon was forced to resign when congressional leaders of his party began abandoning him. Again, imagine that, Kevin McCarthy.
Now, when reporters or pundits use the words “both sides” in regard to some political problem, I stop reading or listening.
FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Foo Fighters, “Making a Fire” (Mark Ronson Remx)
This one was from the summertime but I keep listening over and over. Teaming with famed pop producer Ronson (Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga), the Foo’s produce a bouncier, cleaner version of “Making a Fire.”
The redo also features members of Antibalas, the Budos Band, the Dap-Kings, El Michels Affair, La Buya, Menahan Street Band, the Tedeschi Trucks Band and Tuatara, as well as Grohl’s daughter, Violet, on vocals.
But if this is our last time
Make up your mind
I've waited a lifetime to live
It's time to ignite
I'm making a fire
🎙 Click here to listen to the music that’s been featured on PRESS RUN, via a Spotify playlist.
Click here to listen via Apple Music.