Piers Morgan, Wolf Blitzer (CNN/Salon)

Hack List No. 6: CNN

The flailing cable news pioneer could be less dumb if it wanted to be -- but it doesn\'t want to be

Alex Pareene
December 19, 2012 3:00PM (UTC)

This year, my annual list of the worst of political media highlights not just individuals, but the institutions that enable those individuals. The 2012 Hack List will be counting down the 10 media outlets that are hurting America over the next two days -- stay tuned! (Previous Hack List entries here, here and here.)

Maybe we beat up on poor CNN too often. I have previously bemoaned CNN's inability to get breaking news right, offered advice on how to save the network and offered constructive criticism of their decision to hire Jeff Zucker. CNN was also well represented in 2011's Hack List, with Wolf Blitzer, Piers Morgan, Erick Erickson and Erin Burnett all making appearances.


But it deserves to be criticized because so many of the things it does wrong could be so easily corrected. (Say, by firing Piers Morgan and cutting back on Wolf Blitzer's hours.) And not only that, but CNN the institution is clearly capable of doing better, as it shows every day on CNN International, the sober (and profitable) overseas arm. Instead, it chooses every time to go harder on "personalities" and gimmicks. It has hired, to run its whole operation, the man who took NBC's "Today" show and turned it from a regular news broadcast to a celebrity chat show and concert showcase. (He then proceeded to destroy all of NBC.)

CNN has a bigger staff, larger reporting budget, and many more overseas bureaus and correspondents than any of the other cable news channels, but the only time it ever betrays any evidence of those resources is during an international crisis. The rest of the time it's Wolf babbling at a giant TV screen or Piers Morgan obsequiously interviewing a famous person. Take it away, anonymous CNN staffer:

“It’s frustrating to hear our leadership talk about the exemplary journalism we do, then turn on the TV during the day and see CNN doing another story about ‘birthers’ or ‘tips for dining out alone,’” said one staffer.

CNN's Ashleigh Banfield -- who used to report from war zones -- today covered the Newtown massacre by asking "where was God?" and interviewing self-promotion expert "celebrity rabbi" and former "spiritual adviser" to Michael Jackson Shmuley Boteach for the answer.


This is an actual quote from Wolf Blitzer about national laughing stock Donald Trump:

“I’ve known Donald Trump for a long time and interviewed him on many, many occasions,” said Blitzer. “He’s an intelligent guy, not a stupid guy or anything like that. I assume maybe it’s an obvious reason. He believes it. He believes that there are a lot of questions out there. He’s read a lot of the conspiratorial theories and believes what he’s saying.”

Do you know what kind of person thinks Donald Trump is "an intelligent guy"? A stupid guy. And Blitzer is not exaggerating when he says he interviewed Trump "on many, many occasions." Throughout the 2012 campaign season, CNN did not waste a single opportunity to provide free publicity to the racist birther fraud.

Just in case anyone still harbored any doubt as to whether Wolf Blitzer is the dumbest man on television, CNN.com publishes a Blitzer-penned blog that pretty definitively settles the question.


Also, CNN host Piers Morgan clearly engaged in phone-hacking and then dissembled to the British government about it, but CNN already knew he was guilty of insider trading and printed a hoax on the front page of his newspaper when it hired him so who knows where it would actually draw the line with him.

To make a moron and an unethical slimeball two of your network's most prominent faces does not scream "the most trusted name in news," to me. Though CNN changed its motto, last year, to "America's Choice," which does neatly sum up the network's modern identity crisis. CNN: The generic store brand of cable news.

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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