Accuracy in Media

CNN hosted its first Democratic debates of the season and demonstrated candidate favoritism via “on AIR time.”

Rather than provide equal candidate speaking time CNN gave more air time and allotted speaking time to candidates with big name ID and big profiles.

On the first night of the Democratic debates, Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) dominated the stage, speaking nearly 20 minutes each.

According to the latest 2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination poll average, Sanders is polling at 16.4 percent while Warren trails him at 14.8 percent.

Other candidates that are not polling as successful include Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio), Marianne Williamson, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who shared the debate stage received significantly less talking time.

Wednesday night, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) squared off on the middle of the stage often exchanging heated jabs on experience, policy, and public profile. However, CNN who operates on the slogan, “The most trusted name in news, facts first” allowed Biden to speak for more than double the amount of time (twenty-one minutes and twenty-seven seconds) than three of the bottom tier candidates.

Not only was Biden able to speak for the longest time, but former California Attorney General and current US Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) spoke for over seventeen minutes, often sparring with Biden on his policy stance on healthcare and his time as a public servant.

Despite Biden’s shaky first debate performance(s), the Economist/YouGov survey, 26 percent of Democratic presidential primary/caucus voters said they would vote for Biden. Warren is in second place with support from 18 percent of primary/caucus voters, while Sanders had support from 13 percent of respondents, and Harris fails way behind with 10 percent of respondents.

Emerson’s latest poll also had Biden in the lead with 33 percent of likely Democratic voters. Sanders remains in second place with 20 percent support, and Warren in third with 14 percent.

The true purpose of an election campaign debate is supposed to give candidates a chance to share their views and attract possible voters, according to The Economist, rather than providing the most popular candidates more time.

Debate moderators and networks have a civic duty to all viewers who tune in to become more educated. Over the course of the two-day Democratic debate spectacle, CNN continues to prove that its viewership is more important than a fair, and free democratic process. CNN’s top stories included titles such as, “The Debate Winners and Losers,” and “Who Won Last Night’s Debate?”

In all of CNN’s “analysis and reporting,” the network failed to mention or take ownership in playing favorites with candidates.

If CNN continues to provide air time to high profile candidates who are polling in the top three spots, the network is hindering low-polling candidates from reaching voters across the country.

Marissa Martinez is a political contributor for Accuracy in Media and The Hill. She is the former political director to Massachusetts Governor’s re-election campaign, alumna of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and current national PAC political consultant. @MarissaAlisa

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