Fake news media manipulation. “Retrumplicans.” Just another night on prime time cable news.
This week Courthouse News looks at two very different evening news hosts, both intent on playing exclusively to their own target audiences.
CNN’s Chris Cuomo railed against the division currently gripping the country and the reluctance by top Republicans to stop paying fealty to the president. Cuomo believes the entire party has been tainted, and no one is coming out of this without dirt on their hands.
Fox News host Sean Hannity, on the other hand, said government officials are overlooking clear-cut evidence of election fraud. Hannity also claims the “fake news media” outlet CNN is avoiding stories that may prove detrimental to President-elect Joe Biden.
(CN) — CNN personality Chris Cuomo began his Wednesday evening broadcast ripping on Republican appointees and elected officials, who he repeatedly deemed “Retrumplicans” for their complicity in backing President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud.
Cuomo postulated that Republican support for these claims is all some doomed attempt to solicit votes from Trump’s base, for which Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida — who previously called Trump a fraud and a con man — have thrown away any pretense of creditability.
Meanwhile Fox News host Sean Hannity didn’t skip a beat in accusing former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams of fraud in what he claims is her attempt to register dead and out-of-state voters to tip the scales in the upcoming Senate run-off race in the Peach State.
Hannity spent much of his time calling attention to what he says are voter irregularities in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and believes the discrepancies are great enough to overturn the results of the election.
Cuomo painted a portentous picture of the months ahead, citing record numbers of new Covid-19 cases cropping up across the country. He pointed out that despite the handful of promising vaccines on the horizon, these are not a cure and preventative measures like masks and physical distancing remain the only tools available to stem the tide until inoculations become widely administered.
CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta worried that the models used by medical professionals to predict virus trends are predicated on the assumption that hard-hit states will roll out mandates to enforce masks and distancing, many of which refuse to do so because of adamant opposition from residents, and thus the actual numbers could end up much higher.
Pandemic fatigue is running rampant and many Americans tuned out case data and safety recommendations months ago, so those concerns appear justified. Gupta noted a number of other countries are doing far better than the U.S. on a case-per-capita basis, and none of them possess a magical therapeutic that isn’t available elsewhere.
Hannity accused the media of playing favorites by ignoring claims of election fraud coming out of the hearings in Michigan. He believes left-leaning media outlets are cherry-picking which whistleblowers are patriots and which are pawns — and then did exactly that himself. Hannity called the Michigan witnesses’ testimony “believable” and “credible” — the litmus test for which appears merely to be whether their claims favor Trump — while decrying the witnesses during Trump’s impeachment trial as hoaxters.
Braden Giacobazzi, a GOP poll challenger in Michigan, described the irregularities he witnessed on Election Day:
“One of the things I noticed by the end of the day: a stack of at least 35 challenged ballots with challenge stickers on them were at the table that I was at, and I noticed they were on several other tables as well. They had the challenge sticker on them because they weren’t in the poll books, so these could have been fictitious voters, all of them, and there was no way to prove that they were the people they were saying, but they were just pushing them through.”
Hannity turned to Pennsylvania and cited the state’s last-minute changes to its election laws, which he claims were intended to benefit Biden. That’s a steep hill to climb, however, given that the difficulty of in-person voting during a pandemic warranted some flexibility; the dispute is over postmark dates on otherwise legally cast ballots and no one is claiming, at least not with evidence, that counters created votes out of thin air to add to Biden’s tally.
Pardon the mess
Cuomo asked Alberto Gonzales, attorney general under President George W. Bush, what he makes of the current state of the Republican Party and the refusal by its highest officials to acknowledge Trump’s defeat in the recent election. Gonzalez was unphased, resolutely declaring that the U.S. has operated under this system for hundreds of years and will continue to do so despite the reluctance of people like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to concede Republican defeat.
“We need to look forward. We’ve got so many serious issues confronting our country, and we need to help President Biden be successful in addressing those issues,” Gonzales said in a welcome and all-too-rare message of unity, of which Cuomo remained skeptical. “I’m hopeful that sound, mature leaders in the Republican Party are going to step up and do the responsible things to help the American people.”
Cuomo also questioned Gonzales, the current dean of Belmont University College of Law, as to the legality of Trump preemptively pardoning himself. No precedent exists for such a move, and under previous administrations the very idea would have seemed unthinkable. But this is 2020, after all.
“From my perspective, even though I may not like it, and you’re right no courts have ever ruled on this, I think you can make a very strong argument that the president of the United States can in fact make a self-pardon,” Gonzales responded.
The fake news media
Hannity, referring to CNN as an extension of the “Democratic socialist party,” claimed network executives instructed staff to avoid covering news that could prove detrimental to Biden. He played a clip obtained by right-wing activist group Project Veritas of CNN president Jeff Zucker questioning whether Trump is himself a national security threat, along with a slew of CNN employees discussing how best to tip-toe around unfavorable news involving Biden’s son Hunter.
James O’Keefe, founder of Project Veritas, described CNN as being willfully asleep at the wheel. “This isn’t journalism — this isn’t any journalism I know. For the president of a news conglomerate to be ordering his troops, ordering his reporters to not look into facts. And the fact that Zucker would call the police to threaten me with arrest for quoting him, I think maybe Zucker may have met his match, because maybe we’re the only reporters who aren’t yes-men to him like his troops on these phone calls to CNN.”
Maybe not, Mr. O’Keefe — who claims his group will release those tapes raw and unedited twice a day until Christmas.