President Trump has directed much of his anti-media shtick at CNN over the past few months, publicly attacking the network for its coverage of his administration. But the truth is, a lot of the feud between Trump and CNN is theater.
CNN has played an important role in mainstreaming and normalizing Trump’s misinformation, thanks in large part to the small army of Trump surrogates the network has hired to defend the president during panel debates.
In an interview with the New York Times Magazine, CNN president Jeff Zucker described the network’s approach to covering politics, saying, “The idea that politics is sport is undeniable, and we understood that and approached it that way.” That politics-as-sport approach has placed a heavy emphasis on drama, with much of CNN’s programming revolving around sensationalist arguments between hosts, guests, and paid pundits.
That fighting-based approach to covering politics has created a huge demand for Trump supporters willing to appear on the network, which is why CNN hired Trump supporters like Jeffrey Lord and Kayleigh McEnany to defend Trump full time.
But CNN’s fixation on drama and debate has turned the network’s coverage into a circus of misinformation. CNN’s Trump supporters derail segments critical of the president, misrepresent Trump’s positions to avoid tough questions, and peddle false and misleading information on national TV while being paid by the network. In many cases, CNN’s Trump supporters repeat the same lies and talking points that CNN’s serious journalists spend all day trying to debunk. That might explain why Trump has quietly pushed his surrogates to appear on CNN, even while publicly feuding with the network.
All of this would be fine and normal for a network like ESPN — but when you treat politics like a sport, you end up with news coverage that cares more about fighting and drama than it does about serious truth telling.
Watch the video above to see how CNN’s conflict-driven approach to politics helps spread misinformation.