Accuracy in Media

In looking for a reason behind the order to kill Iranian general Qassam Soleimani, the mainstream media pointed fingers at President Donald Trump, alleged warmongers in his cabinet and administration, but not at Iran or Soleimani himself. CNN joined in on the blame game and alleged that Trump has an Obama obsession.

The analysis, headlined, “Trump’s Obama obsession drives his foreign policy,” reported that Trump is too obsessed with Obama’s legacy.

Trump “has consistently invoked Obama’s record since the successful strike on Soleimani last week,” the piece claimed, saying that the overall White House messaging hammered home the point that the fatal drone strike was a reversal of Obama-era foreign policy.

CNN kept a running tally of how many times that Trump invoked Obama’s policy by name or by reference:

  • Trump’s Wednesday address referred to Obama’s Iran nuclear deal and the negotiated release of frozen Iranian funds,
  • Trump mentioned Obama’s name “four times in the first five minutes of a 20-minute interview,”
  • Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “Team Obama appeased Iran, and it led to Shia militias with money, Hamas, the PIJ, hundreds of thousands of Syrians killed by Soleimani himself…This was the place we found ourselves in when we came in.”

Trump mentioned or referred to Obama five times.

CNN then transitioned to how the Trump administration is allegedly obsessed with Obama’s legacy and how “the blame often falls on Obama.”

The analysis said Trump felt he needed to clean up Obama’s mistakes in foreign policy, America’s economy, bilateral trade deals, North Korean negotiations, and the U.S.’s standing in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). CNN cited its own research, which claimed that “Trump has mentioned Obama and the Obama administration by name more frequently in the past 18 months than he had in the first 18 months of his presidency.”

By CNN’s count, Trump mentioned Obama by name 537 times in 2019.

However, the analysis failed to mention how Trump was elected by the American people to reverse Obama’s legacy.

Trump ran on platforms that resonated in formerly-Democratic political strongholds and labor union territory, such as trying to preserve and bring back coal industry jobs, jump-starting the American economy which appeared stagnant, addressing trade imbalances with China and other countries to get a better trade deal for American workers and consumers, and reversing the Obama-era foreign policy to pivot to an “America-first” policy. CNN ignored these campaign promises and platforms and blamed Trump for an alleged obsession with Obama’s legacy. The cable news network also said that Obama rarely attacked his predecessor, Republican President George W. Bush, as if to contrast the presidential decorum between Obama and Trump.

Trump may have mentioned Obama by name hundreds of times, but CNN failed to recognize that Trump was elected to reverse much of Obama’s legacy. By ignoring the political reality that presidents tend to reverse much of their predecessors’ accomplishments (especially if they were from different political parties), CNN ignored important context and information for the sake of a biased analysis.

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