A former CNN reporter who served in key national and international reporting roles today criticized the network and Chicago-based reporter Susan Roesgen for their coverage of last week’s “tea party” in Chicago.
Eileen O’Connor, who is now a Washington-based lawyer and media trainer, said Roesgen’s on-camera confrontation with two protesters “crossed a journalistic line.”
“She needs to apologize,” O’Connor said of Roesgen. “She crossed a line. She crossed a journalistic line. … She was rude to people she was interviewing. I think there’s no excuse for that.”
O’Connor made the comments in response to a question posed by Accuracy In Media at the Politics Online Conference in Washington. She was participating in a panel titled “Palin-ated — Online Media Training Don’cha Know.”
At the Chicago rally against government spending and taxes, Roesgen chastised one protester for having a poster that merged images of President Obama and Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and that called Obama a fascist. (She did not cop a similar attitude with another protester who portrayed former President George W. Bush similarly in 2006.) Roesgen also interrupted and badgered another man about his answer to her question and parroted Obama administration talking points about economic stimulus.
O’Connor said she has been hit over the head and pushed over while reporting on riots abroad and acknowledged that being a reporter during tense situations in the field is tough. But she said journalists must remain “professional.”
“I think that that was unprofessional,” she said of Roesgen’s reporting.
During her panel discussion in Washington, O’Connor critiqued the media mistakes of both Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and wannabe New York Sen. Caroline Kennedy. She said Kennedy unwisely went “underground” after withdrawing her bid to be appointed to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s seat, and now Kennedy is defined by mocking YouTube videos that show her repeatedly saying “you know” in interviews.
She agreed that CNN and Roesgen have made similar mistakes since the public outcry against the network’s coverage of the tea parties surfaced. Roesgen reportedly is “on vacation,” and CNN forced YouTube to remove a video that criticized her encounter with the two protesters and showed the aftermath.
“This is ridiculous,” O’Connor said of CNN’s reaction during the past week. “They have to come out — she needs to come out and say, ‘I did the wrong thing.'”
“The funny thing about that is he’s taking it on as, ‘I did good,'” she said. “And I think he’s digging himself a bigger hole.”
She added, however, that she is “a little confused” about Santelli’s role at the business network. “I thought he was a reporter, but it appears he’s sort of making himself as more of a commentator and excusing it that way.”