On her MSNBC program last night, Rachel Maddow criticized CNN for their decision to carry live Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party rebuttal to the State of the Union. Maddow said, “CNN decided tonight not to just cover the news about tonight’s State of the Union. They decided to make their own.”
Maddow said, “Never say never, but I would venture a guess that the Republican Party would never choose Michele Bachmann to be its national spokesperson. Again never say never, anything could happen, but seriously, right now Michele Bachmann is still the member of Congress best known for saying things like the Census might be a pretense for putting people in internment camps, Michele Bachmann is not the national spokesperson for the Republican Party, and she’s unlikely anytime soon to be chosen to be the national spokesperson for her party, but tonight inexplicably a national news network decided that they would give Michele Bachmann a job that her own party never did.”
Maddow described what CNN did as a journalistic intervention, “On State of the Union night, the news network CNN decided to air the President’s address to Congress, the Republican response, followed by another Republican Party response from Michele Bachmann, a member of Congress who was not ordained to give that address by her party, but who simply made an arrangement with one Tea Party group to talk vaguely toward a camera for a post on their website, but CNN ran it live on their network. They aired it on national TV, a remarkable act of journalistic intervention to elevate, in effect, a group with which they are cosponsoring a debate, to elevate that group to the level of the major parties in this country.”
After detailing some of the other SOTU responses that CNN didn’t put on the air, Maddow hammered CNN, “Lots of people have lots of responses to things that happen on State of the Union night, but CNN decided tonight not to just cover the news about tonight’s State of the Union. They decided to make their own. By deciding that was going to be simply the Tea Party Express webcast of Michele Bachmann, CNN decided that deserved equal billing with the official Republican response.”
She concluded, “Now depending on which angle you are looking at this from, this decision by CNN could serve to highlight the disarray of the Republican Party mixing their messages in response to the President, or viewed from the other side, CNN’s editorial intervention here could have had the effect of positioning Paul Ryan as the reasonable center between the President and the crazy looking off into space Tea Party. Nobody quite knows what CNN was thinking in making this journalistic decision tonight to make themselves part of the story, but I am desperate to know what big Republican cheeses think about this.”
There is a third angle that this can be looked at from. CNN made a conscious decision to undercut the Republican Party by elevating Bachmann to the same level as the official GOP response. The reason why CNN did this is obvious. They are betting everything they have on the Tea Party being a big story and having a huge impact on the 2012 Republican nominating process.
They are trying to make a storyline that they can ride into 2012. CNN is in bed with the Tea Party Express. They are hoping beyond hope that their floundering network will be revived by the 2012 campaign. The problem with this strategy is that the Tea Partiers belong to Fox News. They aren’t going to watch CNN. They believe that CNN is full of liberal bias. The result is that CNN made another in a long line of terrible decisions when they decided to run Bachmann’s response last night. Out of self-interest, CNN elevated Bachmann and the Tea Party to a level where polling demonstrates that they don’t belong.
It is not surprising the openly partisan non-news based Fox News would air Bachmann live. Fox News is the official Tea Party media outlet, but CNN is trying to build its reputation as a straight news network. Airing Bachmann was not a straight news decision. Rachel Maddow was right. CNN injected their own interests into an editorial decision, and created a news story.
If the Tea Party ever becomes an officially recognized third party, then covering them like a political party has merit, but Tea Partiers are Republicans. By perpetuating the falsehood that the Tea Party is an independent movement, CNN is crossing the line from journalism to activism, from reporting the news to making it, and they deserve all the scorn they are earning from all sides of the political spectrum today. These types of poor decisions are continuing to tarnish what scant bit remains of the network’s once sterling reputation.