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This post would be extremely embarrassing if it was about real journalism. But it’s about CNN.
You’ve probably been reading my colleagues’ coverage here, here, and here of the turmoil this year at that pioneer cable news channel.
Its new owners, who may or may not have done due diligence on CNN’s journalism, are trying to turn the network from a Democrat propaganda channel back into an actual news network. That’s because, without Donald Trump to bash, their ratings are abysmal. Or that’s the line anyway.
They put TV veteran Chris Licht in charge. But a recent CNN news article reveals how much work remains for him to do.
The headline was written to sound like an exclusive without saying so: “First on CNN: Top Biden adviser’s end-of-year memo celebrates president’s ‘strong jolt of momentum’ heading into 2023.”
Here’s a thought: It may have been exclusive because no other outfit would touch it.
The story purports to reveal an internal memo written by Mike Donilon, a longtime Joe Biden adviser, that claims to be a status report on where the 46th president’s administration stands as it begins the second half of its term. Predictably, it’s quite rosy.
Alleged leaks like this can be dangerous grounds for even pretend journalists in Washington. The leaker is usually using the journalist to spread news that helps him, a particular cause, damages an internal rival, or serves some hidden purpose.
You might recall Donald Trump made himself available to media daily, sometimes several times a day. Not so with Joe Biden, who can’t handle free-wheeling, unexpected questions. He simply walks away when he has no answer, claiming he’s late for a meeting, which he always is anyway.
So, Biden aides offer exclusives to handpicked outlets. In the inbred, self-promoting hothouse that is DC, reporters gobble up such self-serving “news.”
I know how this leaking works. As a government or campaign spokesman, I’ve given my fair share of information to a reporter or two. It was news but it also made my boss look good. A government official once handed me such a document with a wink and the admonition, “See that you suppress this widely.”
News consumers cannot know the motive or judge the credibility of such leaks because the source – “a senior White House official” or some such person — goes unidentified.
Leaks during Trump’s term usually turned out to be negative about him, designed to feed the establishment’s narrative about the man who’d promised to drain the Swamp. Which, did you know, the District of Columbia actually was when Maryland happily gave it up for the new country’s new capital in 1790?
This recent CNN story, however, was different, very different. What was presented as unearthing an “Exclusive” insider memo written by a senior Biden adviser obtained by savvy journalists was in reality simply a PR puff sheet hailing his boss’s great achievements this year and the immense promise of the new year.
The CNN story opened:
One of President Joe Biden’s top advisers is underscoring the president’s political durability and touting a “strong jolt of momentum” as Biden heads into the second half of his term.
That’s according to a memo from Mike Donilon, a senior adviser to Biden who wrote the note that was circulated to allies Monday morning and shared with CNN.
“We see,” Donilon wrote, “the President’s approval rating on the upswing, a resilient economic climate, and strong support for the President’s agenda.”
This isn’t journalism. It’s supporters’ stenography.
The same CNN reported recently that about 60 percent of Democrats do not want Biden on their 2024 ticket, roughly the same percentage of Republicans who prefer a non-Trump candidate. That’s not Donilon’s “strong support.” It’s wishful delusion.
As a veteran DC denizen, Donilon knew exactly that his hearty, gratuitous praise for a president who gets lost exiting a stage or reading a teleprompter would almost instantly find its way into media hands. He may well have even suggested it.
There’s a Washington adage that if you want something to get around quickly, give it to someone on Capitol Hill and call it “Confidential.”
Donilon also knew that if he put such political poof material in a standard news release, it would see only the Trash file of every media email and thus, fail to fool any news consumers about the amazingly successful job his 80-year-old boss thinks he’s doing.
But the CNN team of reporters (apparently it took two to compose this rewrite) opined:
The memo captures a view inside the White House that Biden ends the year in the best position he’s held since his first six months in office, carrying with him a list of concrete legislative accomplishments that officials are planning to highlight throughout the months ahead.
Because, thanks to a Republican-controlled House, Bidenites won’t have much else to talk about in coming months, except GOP “obstruction.”
As you read this, the commander in chief is on another of his frequent extended vacations.
The president decided against visiting blizzard-stricken Buffalo where at least 34 have perished so far in more than four feet of snow.
Instead, Biden flew everyone in his family on Air Force One to the Virgin Islands for a week because this two-day workweek was simply too exhausting.