CNN’s Soledad O’Brien returned to the anchor desk Monday morning as the network reworked its morning anchor line-up for the second year in a row. In 2007, O'Brien was removed as the co-host of CNN’s ratings-challenged American Morning in an effort to jump-start the flagging program. Now she returns to host Starting Point, the second half of CNN’s morning coverage that airs from 7-9 a.m EST.
During her stint as American Morning co-host and as a CNN correspondent, O'Brien repeatedly exhibited a liberal bias -- particularly through her coverage of gay rights issues, her flattering treatment of President Obama, and her promotion of Democratic talking points in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Some of her most outrageous moments on-air are documented below.
Shilling for the Obama Administration
Both CNN's Wolf Blitzer and O'Brien compared President Obama with the hero pilot Chesley Sullenberger III, who with a passenger-laden airplane successfully executed an emergency landing in the Hudson River in January of 2009.
WOLF BLITZER: I think that airplane that went down, the US Air flight and the pilot – and Soledad and I were talking about this earlier and she was saying metaphorically in some ways, the pilot of that airplane is very much like Barack Obama – that he got the plane down safely, but everybody else had to join together to get out of the plane and pull together to get through that adversity. I thought that was an interesting metaphor.
– CNN January 17, 2009
In a 2006 interview with then-Senator Barack Obama, O'Brien served him softball questions like "What's your biggest fear?"
O'BRIEN: (to Obama) I gather you read what David Brooks wrote about you in the New York Times. He said, under the title, "Run, Barack, Run". And he's talking about the presidency. "Barack Obama should run for president," he writes. "He should run first for the good of his party." And then he goes on later to say, "The next Democratic nominee should either be Barack Obama or should have the stature that would come from defeating Barack Obama." In other words, in the very least, let the guy beat you so he can have some stature. Why do you demur when you're asked about your presidential ambitions?
– CNN American Morning October 20, 2006
When Attorney General Eric Holder excoriated America as a "nation of cowards" on racial matters, O'Brien didn't disagree and instead affirmed Holder’s words.
O'BRIEN: I think what he was saying was – take this Black History Month, which, frankly, I think a lot of people roll their eyes and say, oh, the shortest month of the year actually gets to be the month devoted to black people – and let's actually have an honest conversation, where you can say what you're really thinking and I get to say what I'm really thinking, and we can talk about some of the issues that are out there. I think what he was saying was, this is an opportunity. It's going to be painful and it's going to be awkward, to quote him from his speech, but you really can't make progress. And you're looking at demographics, where -- let's throw Latinos into the mix, too – the country is not going to be majority white in the year 2050. So, we're going to hit that moment and not too far in our future, and if we don't start having some real conversations -- you know, people will often say, I don't see color, and they think that that's a compliment in some way, and I think, why not? Why don't you see color? What you need to do is see color and respect people for who they are, regardless of color. I don't see color means you have very bad eyesight and you have a problem visually, truly.
– CNN Campbell Brown February 18, 2009
Hitting President Bush From the Left Post-Katrina
During coverage of President Bush’s 2006 State of the Union address, O’Brien highlighted the brevity in the amount of time Bush spent covering the plight of New Orleans and in the amount of aid he had pledged to the rebuilding effort – despite the federal government having already committed $85 billion to rebuilding the Gulf Coast ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.
O’BRIEN: The President spoke for less than a minute about New Orleans. Didn’t offer any new money or any new aid. American Morning’s Dan Lothian is live for us this morning....What’s the reaction in New Orleans after this speech?
DAN LOTHIAN: Good morning, Soledad. In one word, disappointment. People feel that they were simply a footnote in that speech, that it was essentially a slap in the face.
— CNN’s American Morning, February 1, 2006.
In her August 28, 2007 report as a CNN special correspondent, O’Brien gave credence to the conspiracy theory that the federal government was purposefully slow in its rebuilding effort in New Orleans so as to discourage city natives from moving back.
O'BRIEN: You know, one of the things we heard, Wolf, a lot, was the sense that there's this policy of benign neglect. In other words, maybe there's a sense that the help is slow in coming because America doesn't want people to really come back and repopulate the Gulf Coast, New Orleans specifically, in the way that it once was. You hear that, whether you're talking about the Lower Ninth Ward or you're talking about the middle class communities in the Lake View District. All across, I've heard that so many times, not only over the last couple of weeks, but the last several months, as well. And I think people feel that maybe the government is not funding the money fast enough because they don't want people to really come back -- Wolf.
-- CNN The Situation Room August 28, 2007
In the same 2007 report, O’Brien served up some campaign soundbites from the Democratic presidential candidates and contrasted them with the Bush administration’s “damaged” reputation post-Katrina.
O'BRIEN: The White House says it's living up to its responsibility. But the government's response to Katrina damaged Mr. Bush politically, giving Democrats running for president plenty of ammunition.
-- CNN The Situation Room August 28, 2007
Producing a Sympathetic, One-Sided Documentary on LGBT Activists
In 2010, CNN aired a one-hour special “Gary and Tony Have a Baby” about two gay activists who traveled to Canada to get “married” and then embarked on a quest to become biological fathers via an egg donor and a surrogate mother. O’Brien’s sympathetic documentary told their story as they struggled with court battles and gaining acceptance in society – but did not interview anyone from the other side of the issue.
MICHAEL JENSEN, AfterElton.com: Is this just their story or is "the other side" represented here?
O'BRIEN: We tell their story very organically. They are activists and there are times when their activism brings them into contact with those that oppose them and we show that. But we don't go out and solicit opinions from those against gay parents.
-- O’Brien in an interview with pro-gay blog AfterElton.com, published on May 5, 2010
Forget the Free Market; Let’s Have a National Price Cap on Gas…
Amidst the sharply rising gas prices in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, O’Brien asked the Energy Secretary if he would put a cap on the price of gas nationwide.
O’BRIEN: What can you, and what can the President do, to help people, because the prices are clearly spiraling out of control?...What about a national price cap? There are some people who say, gas is going to cost us $3 a gallon, the average will be $3 a gallon by the end of the week — by next week. What about a national price cap?
— CNN’s Soledad O’Brien to Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman on American Morning, August 31, 2005
…But If Gas Prices Fall, It Could Be a Republican Conspiracy
Late in 2006, O’Brien borrowed from internet conspiracy theories and bizarrely suggested that falling gas prices could be the result of a conspiracy by President Bush and a Republican Congress.
O’BRIEN: Ahead this morning, is there a conspiracy behind the drop in gas prices? Bloggers say there is something fishy going on....
ALI VELSHI, CNN correspondent: With a little more than six weeks to the mid-term elections, the blogs are buzzing with other theories. Are lower gas prices a Republican plot? This blogger wonders if Republicans are trying to soften voters, who have spent the last year angry about high prices.... Could President Bush have had anything to do with plummeting gas prices?
— CNN’s American Morning, September 25, 2006.