Accuracy in Media

CNN’s use of hyperbole and opinion were evident this week after the delay of the Iowa caucus results, the Senate impeachment trial, and Trump’s State of the Union address. It added another analysis to the list of using hyperbole and opinion as facts when it claimed Trump’s speech highlighted his own bigotry.

In its analysis headlined, “At Trump’s State of the Union, the bigotry was in plain sight,” CNN national political writer Brandon Tensley listed a series of reasons about Trump’s alleged bigotry on display during his address to the country.

First, CNN said that Trump’s instinct as a “showman” lead him to “ostensibly pander to black voters” with his re-election at stake this November. The cable news network claimed that Trump “would rather perform support for black Americans than actually champion them,” which linked to a previous analysis about Trump’s relations with black Americans. CNN tried to dismiss Trump’s claim about how black unemployment is at “the lowest rate ever” and said Trump’s “OK economy” was nothing to talk about. In the following sentence, CNN confirmed that “black unemployment has hit all-time lows while Trump has been in office.”

Second, CNN criticized Trump for the “sheer spectacle” of spotlighting black Americans in the audience. Trump praised Iain Lanphier and his 100-year-old grandfather, Charles McGee, one of the few surviving Tuskegee Airmen, the famous group of black male military pilots in World War Two. Trump said, “After more than 130 combat missions in World War II, he came back to a country still struggling for civil rights and went on to serve America in Korea and Vietnam.” Trump added, “General McGee: Our Nation salutes you.” But CNN said that it was “a moment of Trumpian whiplash” of “embracing civil rights gained” while his administration allegedly “undercuts these same rights” today. The network did not provide evidence of the Trump administration’s alleged rollback of civil rights, which evidence could have added validity to CNN’s criticism.

Third, CNN pointed to Rush Limbaugh as an example of Trump’s alleged bigotry. The network called Limbaugh an “archconservative,” without giving a neutral definition of the phrase. CNN then outlined the requirements for the Presidential Medal of Freedom and how recipients were recognized for “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

CNN’s concluded that Limbaugh “devoted his career” to doing the opposite of contribution to American society. It listed multiple instances that were allegedly racist and bigoted, such as “stoking racial panic by promoting the birther conspiracy.” CNN ignored Limbaugh’s dominance in talk radio despite the changing media environment. For example, YouGov said that Limbaugh’s radio show is the “second most famous.” CNN failed to offer a fair defense of Limbaugh and instead adopted a biased approach.

CNN’s analysis concluded that Trump has the ability to “hide bigotry in plain sight.” It was a flawed conclusion and analysis because the cable news network did not back up many of its claims with evidence and did not offer a fair defense of Limbaugh or Trump. In the end, CNN subjected readers to hyperbole and opinions masquerading as facts.

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