Blitzer Teams with Ex-Obama Official for Love Letter to ‘Free and Independent’ CNN International

As expected, CNN responded to President Trump’s weekend tweet criticizing CNN International by basking in self-righteous indignation, including a Monday afternoon response by Wolf Blitzer that featured hilarious claims such as CNNi being “free and independent” while proving Trump’s point by inviting on a former Obama official to sing their praises.

Blitzer spent the remaining seven minutes and 23 seconds of his eponymous show that’s simulcast on CNN and CNN International pushing a proverbial love letter that began with a brief commentary, stating how, “[f]or nearly four decades, CNN has been a constant here in the United States and around the world.”

 

 

“Our journalists in front of and behind the camera risk their lives in the most dangerous of places every day so you know the truth. Where disaster hits, where war erupts, we're there. Where dictators fall, where citizens rise, we're there. Where fists are raised, blood is shed., and where heroes are made, we’re there because the relentless pursuit of the truth and the outright rejection of any attack against it is something we still hold sacred. Always will,” Blitzer continued. 

The CNN leader reiterated in a direct shot at the President that it doesn’t “matter how many insults or...blatant assaults on the press and its freedom, this pursuit is something for which we will never bend nor break, and even the loudest critics can't silence the facts.”

What followed was a likely corporate-driven, five-minute-plus video montage of CNN journalists reporting from various humanitarian and natural disasters and war zones before Blitzer reappeared to argue that the two networks are “free and independent”

CNN and CNN International are not sponsored by any state nor any autocrat nor any political organization and despite the constant criticism from the President, we are unwavering in our mission. Free and independent as the press should be. 

To briefly pause, that’s not completely accurate. The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross has done yeoman’s work on how CNN Turk in Turkey has a reputation for being a pro-Erdogan mouthpiece. 

Here’s a portion of Ross’s piece:

The TV station, which is jointly owned by CNN’s parent company, Turner Broadcasting, and Dogan Media Group, has come under increased criticism in recent months and years for pushing pro-Erdogan and pro-AKP viewpoints, sapping Turkish society of a once-critical media outlet.

CNN Turk’s position is a far cry from its American counterpart, which proclaims itself to be “The Most Trusted Name in News,” a defender of democracy, and an arbiter of journalistic ethics.

But as one journalist targeted by the Erdogan regime put it to The Daily Caller, “with an overtly pro-Erdogan editorial line, CNN Turk is damaging the name and reputation of CNN brand.”

Ross went on to document a litany of examples, including their move to air a documentary on penguins during a May 2013 protest in Istanbul against the government that drew “tens of thousands of demonstrators.”

In addition, one of the foreign correspondents promoted was the admirable work of Clarissa Ward, but it’s worth noting that she donated to the Obama campaign. Just as journalists have rekindled an interest in transparency, they should be transparent with viewers about the partisan affiliation of its reporters.

Back in June, my colleague Geoffrey Dickens compiled a few examples of the network towing the line of foreign dictatorships, most notably the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq which allowed them to maintain a Baghdad bureau. In 1991, then-correspondent Peter Arnett passed along government propaganda that the U.S. and their allies had bombed a “baby milk plant.” 

Arnett also made a false, pro-Vietnamese claim in 1998 that U.S. troops deployed nerve gas and committed related war crimes.

Back to the present, Blitzer only bolstered the President’s claims about CNNi’s bias by inviting on Rear Admiral John Kirby (Ret.) as their “CNN military and diplomatic analyst” without noting his ties to the Obama administration. 

Kirby replied that Trump’s tweet “angers me” and touted their “incredibly courageous and accurate” reporting from “very dangerous places” as having driven “policy decisions” and citing numerous moves the U.S. government (read: the Obama administration) made as a result of things they learned from CNN.

The pair concluded by taking it up a notch. To do so, Blitzer teed up Kirby to argue that Trump’s tweets about the liberal media could lead to journalists being harmed (e.g. killed):

BLITZER: When the President of the United States brands the American news media, CNN and other TV networks as fake news, what's the impact of that around the world, especially in countries where there is no press?

KIRBY: Oh, absolutely. Look at the tweet out of Egypt — the foreign ministry today where they actually sort of parroted the President’s language about CNN reporting and fake news. When autocrats like Erdogan and al-Sisi in Egypt and Putin hear the President criticize CNNi so specifically, it just makes it that much easier for them to crack down on international free press reporting in their own country. He's encouraging this and he's actually putting, in my view, he’s putting some of these reporters lives literally in danger by doing it. 

BLITZER: Yeah. It's a serious, serious problem.

KIRBY: It is.

For specific CNN International bias, the NewsBusters archives yielded a handful of results (some of which I compiled into this Twitter thread), such as Christiane Amanpour running defense for Hillary Clinton on her eponymous show in September 2016 following Clinton’s infamous collapse and pneumonia bout. 

There’s also an August 16 moment in which a CNN International guest declared that the Republican Party are nothing but neo-Nazis guided by “old slave owners” Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. Here are a few other headlines from CNNi personalities and shows (in particular order): 

    - CNN Anchor SCREAMS at Ex-Navy SEAL for Criticizing CNN and ‘Anonymous Sources’
    - Amanpour Treats Hillary to Gooey Sit-Down ‘Eloquently’ Blaming Trump, Putin, Misogyny
    - Amanpour Tags Israeli Govt 'Very Far Right,' No Terrorist Label for Hamas
    - CNN’s Gorani: ‘A Middle East Peace Summit That Doesn’t Include Hamas!?’
    - CNN Mocks GOP Race, Asks What Sitcom It Is Most Like
    - CNN's Christiane Amanpour Asks Raul Castro's Daughter 'Do You Want Obama to Win?'
    - CNN's Liberal Meltdown: Brexit Means ‘Xenophobia,’ ‘White Identity’ Win

At the end of the day, CNN is either clueless or intentionally misleading their viewers when it comes to much of the criticism leveled their way because much of it has to do with their accuracy and biased political coverage. 

If we ever reach a point in society where journalistic accountability only exists in symbolic back rubs on Reliable Sources, the press will no longer exist as a craft that all Americans can have faith in. Instead, reporters will be marooned in a world where they’re seemingly incapable of sin. 

Here’s the relevant transcript from CNN’s Wolf on November 27:

CNN’s Wolf
November 27, 2017
1:52 p.m. Eastern

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: CNN Facts First]

WOLF BLITZER: For nearly four decades CNN has been a constant here in the United States and around the world. Our journalists in front of and behind the camera risk their lives in the most dangerous of places every day so you know the truth. Where disaster hits, where war erupts, we're there. Where dictators fall, where citizens rise, we're there. Where fists are raised, blood is shed., and where heroes are made, we’re there because the relentless pursuit of the truth and the outright rejection of any attack against it is something we still hold sacred. Always will. So no matter how many insults or bretent — blatant assaults on the press and its freedom, this pursuit is something for which we will never bend nor break, and even the loudest critics can't silence the facts. 

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: The Pursuit of Truth Despite Attacks on Journalism]

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Assault on Press; Ex-Intel Chief: “I’ve Wasted 40 Years If This Is What We Are”; Michael Hayden slams Trump’s twitter attack on CNN & CNN International]

BLITZER: CNN and CNN International are not sponsored by any state nor any autocrat nor any political organization and despite the constant criticism from the President, we are unwavering in our mission. Free and independent as the press should be. Let's bring in our CNN military and diplomatic analyst John Kirby. He’s a retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral. What’s your reaction when you hear the criticism leveled by the President of the United States on the news media?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (Ret.): I got to tell you. It angers me. I stood at podium in the Pentagon, I stood at the podium at the State Department, and I was in the Navy for 30 years. I can tell you is not only is CNN's reporting and CNNi's reporting is incredibly courageous and accurate and brings to life really important issues in very dangerous places as we saw in that compilation. It also helps — that coverage helps to drive, as it should, policy decisions. So, for instance, when CNN was reporting on the Kobani fighting back in September 2014, you might remember that, Wolf, your cameras were right up close. You can see the shots being fired back and forth. That helped the military make different decisions about how we were going to defend the rebels groups there. CNN’s reporting in Syria — Clarissa Ward’s specific in and around Aleppo, helped drive some policy decisions and helped provide a little bit more impetus to the negotiations we were engaged in with Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov. So, it has an impact on policy as it should. 

BLITZER: When the President of the United States brands the American news media, CNN and other TV networks as fake news, what's the impact of that around the world, especially in countries where there is no press?

KIRBY: Oh, absolutely. Look at the tweet out of Egypt — the foreign ministry today where they actually sort of parroted the President’s language about CNN reporting and fake news. When autocrats like Erdogan and al-Sisi in Egypt and Putin hear the President criticize CNNi so specifically, it just makes it that much easier for them to crack down on international free press reporting in their own country. He's encouraging this and he's actually putting, in my view, he’s putting some of these reporters lives literally in danger by doing it. 

BLITZER: Yeah. It's a serious, serious problem.

KIRBY: It is.


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