CNN rejects Trump campaign’s demand for apology over poll showing him losing to Biden by 14 points

Authoritarian demands, such as the one made by Trump, "have typically come from countries like Venezuela," CNN says

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published June 11, 2020 1:34PM (EDT)

Donald Trump | CNN logo (Salon/Getty Images/CNN)
Donald Trump | CNN logo (Salon/Getty Images/CNN)

CNN rejected the Trump campaign's demand for an apology after the network's recent poll found the president trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 14 points.

The poll showed Biden leading Trump 55-41 and the president's approval rating plummeting to just 38%, or his lowest mark in 18 months. Trump attempted to un-skew the poll by tweeting a memo from an infamously wrong pollster arguing that the network under-sampled Republicans in the poll even as polls by Fox News and Trump's own campaign showed him losing badly, as well.

The Trump campaign sent a letter Thursday to CNN demanding the network retract the poll and apologize for it.

"Media polls such as these are designed to manufacture an anti-Trump narrative and misinform and mislead actual voters," the letter, signed by Trump campaign's senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis and chief operating officer Michael Glassner, said. "It's a stunt and a phony poll to cause voter suppression, stifle momentum and enthusiasm for the president and present a false view generally of the actual support across America for the president."

Though Trump has complained about polling for years, this marks the first time he made a legal threat to suppress the results of a poll.

The campaign demanded the network retract the poll "by publishing a full, fair and conspicuous retraction, apology and clarification to correct its misleading conclusions."

The letter said that CNN was "on notice" and should preserve documents related to the poll.

CNN rejected the campaign's demand, calling out the "numerous incorrect and misleading claims" within its letter.

"To my knowledge, this is the first time in its 40-year history that CNN had been threatened with legal action because an American politician or campaign did not like CNN's polling results," David Vigilante, the network's executive vice president and general counsel, said in his response. "To the extent we have received legal threats from political leaders in the past, they have typically come from countries like Venezuela or other regimes where there is little or no respect for a free and independent media."

CNN also published an article debunking claims made in the memo shared by Trump, noting that it incorrectly claimed that the network had only polled "adults" and not "registered voters." CNN also pointed out that Biden's lead would actually be larger if the sample was only limited to "likely voters," as the memo argued it should.

The article also noted that Trump previously lashed out at Fox News, because its polling was worse for the president than CNN's.

"Why doesn't @FoxNews put up the CNBC POLL or the (believe it or not!) @CNN Poll?" Trump tweeted just three weeks earlier. "Hope Roger A is looking down and watching what has happened to this once beautiful creation!"

With Fox News apparently joining the outlets Trump had deemed "fake news" because they show what respondents actually tell pollsters, the president has instead turned to the far-right One America News Network, which has pushed debunked conspiracy theories and misinformation as "news."

Trump cited a completely baseless OAN report earlier this week when he suggested that a 75-year-old peaceful activist shoved by Buffalo police was an Antifa provocateur who faked the incident even as the elderly man was still recovering in an ICU.

Robert Herring, the network's chief executive, on Wednesday teased an OAN poll, which he claimed "looks as though it will be in favor" of Trump.

The poll, which he said would be published on Wednesday, still has not been released.

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's senior news editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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