Speaking of the hysterical outrage machine being turned up to a 10 after Donald Trump’s birtherism statement Friday morning, the pathetic behavior by the media continued into the afternoon as CNN host Ashleigh Banfield and media reporter Dylan Byers worried that Donald Trump and his supporters could undermine the media to the point that the country would look like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Before going any further, it’s important to call out the hypocrisy from Banfield and Byers for their despicable and desperate fear-mongering concerning a dictator seeing as how their own network helped harbor one for years.
Some NewsBusters readers may be aware of this already but those who may not be, CNN housed a bureau in Baghdad, Iraq during the high water mark of Hussein’s totalitarian reign and kowtowed to his regime’s demands when it came to censoring important stories like major human rights violations or threats to CNN employees on the ground.
Then-CNN executive Eason Jordan eventually owned up to the network’s behavior in April 2003 with both a New York Times op-ed and appearances on the network. Here’s part of what the Media Research Center wrote at the time:
"I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me. Now that Saddam Hussein's regime is gone, I suspect we will hear many, many more gut-wrenching tales from Iraqis about the decades of torment," Jordan concluded. "At last, these stories can be told freely."
Jordan now admits that CNN kept many of Saddam's secrets; have other networks also censored their own tales of Saddam's evil? If accurate reporting from Iraq was impossible, why was access to this dictatorship so important in the first place? And what truths about the thugs who run other totalitarian states - like North Korea, Cuba and Syria - are fearful and/or access-hungry reporters hiding from the American public?
With this information at the forefront of your mind, let’s return back to Banfield and Byers (which 2016 Noel Sheppard Media Blogger of the Year recipient David Rutz first flagged for the Washington Free Beacon). Prior to Banfield invoking Saddam, Byers bemoaned the general “disregard for the media” in this election by Trump and that “he's raising serious questions about his own legitimacy to be commander in chief in a country that respects the freedom of the press.”
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Banfield then jumped in to make the comparison between Trump and how she’s “covered a couple of dictators in my life in other countries” where their elections were “bummer[s] because they don't let you ask questions either, so that's why the American press, love them or hate them, are critical to this democracy.”
After a clip of Trump supporters applauding the news that his press corps was left behind at the airport, Banfield continued with nods to Saddam and Libya under Muammar Gaddafi:
So what I'm wondering is, why so much cheering? Other than a lot of people who go to Trump events like to besmirch the media, too, but do people not realize or forgetting that other critical element of it? Either you have a media or you have what I witnessed in Saddam's era, in Libya's era where you never got to actually call yourself press or you'd go to jail for it.
Byers responded with more wallowing in bringing up the new Gallup poll showing a record low percentage of Americans trust the media (which my colleague Scott Whitlock wrote about here).
He added that it’s “largely fueled by Republicans and largely fueled by Donald Trump's anti-media rhetoric” and has become “a serious problem, because like you said it is the role of the media to hold these candidates accountable, to hold both the Democratic and Republican and presidential candidates accountable.”
“When you lose that, when you start celebrating restriction of the media, when you start mocking the media, that becomes a serious problem for the very foundation of the democratic project and the American political system,” he concluded with nary of a mention to Clinton’s thumbing at the media and serial problem with telling the truth.
Based on the long-held belief that journalism should be a part of (a small-d) democracy in holding figures of all ideologies together, it’s certainly concerning whenever someone or side isn’t telling the truth. As the Media Research Center has documented for 29 years, the media has revealed themselves to be far less concerned when one side (the left) isn’t holding up their end of the bargain.
The relevant portion of the transcript from CNN’s Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield on September 16 can be found below.
CNN’s Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield
September 16, 2016
12:37 p.m. Eastern
DYLAN BYERS: Look, Donald Trump — every presidential candidate in this day and age has a rough relationship with the media. Everyone doesn't want to bring the media too close. They like to keep some things private. No one has had such an aggressive level of disrespect for the media, just last night, Donald Trump had a campaign event. He left reporters stranded at the airport then went to his campaign event and mocked the fact that they had left them at the airport, celebrated the fact he was keeping the media out of his event. If you look at what happened today with this press conference that he gave, where he effectively played the press, Rick-rolled the press, as our colleague Jake Tapper said, that is a disregard for the media and his might celebrate it, they might love the fact that he does that, but there’s something really important here. When you have a candidate like Donald Trump who makes so many statements factually untrue, it's really important to have the media pressing him on the issues. By keeping them away and by mocking them, he's raising serious questions about his own legitimacy to be commander in chief in a country that respects the freedom of the press.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD: Yeah. I can tell you having covered a couple of dictators in my life in other countries, covering those campaigns is a bummer because they don't let you ask questions either, so that's why the American press, love them or hate them, are critical to this democracy. You have to be able to ask people questions if they're going to lead you, and if they're going to get your guns, your military, your nuclear codes. You have to be able to get to ask them questions. So real quickly, you mentioned it. The fact that Donald Trump, his press pool was left behind last night, and were forced to sort of watch the event on the bus, and then I think they got in just as it was wrapping up. That is — it's not like that hasn't happened with Hillary Clinton. She's left the press pool behind, too, but then this was what was different. How Donald Trump characterized leaving the press pool behind. Have a look.
DONALD TRUMP: I have really good news for you. I just heard that the press is stuck on their airplane. They can't get here. [CHEERS] I love it. So they're trying to get here now. They're going to be about 30 minutes late. They called us and said, could you wait? I said, absolutely not. Let's get going. Right?
BANFIELD: So what I'm wondering is, why so much cheering? Other than a lot of people who go to Trump events like to besmirch the media, too, but do people not realize or forgetting that other critical element of it? Either you have a media or you have what I witnessed in Saddam's era, in Libya's era where you never got to actually call yourself press or you'd go to jail for it.
BYERS: Well, look, you know, it's rather timely. Just this week, Gallup came out with a new poll showing faith in the media had reached an all-time low. Less than one-third of Americans now have expressed trust or faith in the media to report things accurate. That drop down from 40 percent last year, is largely fueled by Republicans and largely fueled by Donald Trump's anti-media rhetoric and he's taken credit for bringing that number down. That is a serious problem, because like you said it is the role of the media to hold these candidates accountable, to hold both the Democratic and Republican and presidential candidates accountable. When you lose that, when you start celebrating restriction of the media, when you start mocking the media, that becomes a serious problem for the very foundation of the democratic project and the American political system.
BANFIELD: Dylan, can I just tell you an anecdote? When I was in Baghdad driving by Saddam Hussein's presidential palace, I was gobsmacked by size of it and my driver yelled at me, put your eyes forward on the road. Stop looking. We're going to get in trouble. We were on a freeway. We were on a freeway and my driver was terrified I was staring at Saddam's palace. So there's the other side of this.