CNN, Flunking Journalistic Integrity 101

What? Oh THAT...

The stunning revelation that Arnold Schwarzenegger  has been hiding a love child for a decade has media pundits pondering, “What was the biggest sex scandal  to snare an American politician? There’s Bill and Monica, obviously, and Mark Sanford’s South American soul mate; Sen. Ensign’s inter-staff incest and the probable winner after Clinton, John Edwards’ despicable betrayal of his dying wife. It’s a tough field, made tougher by the presence of one more formidable contender: Eliot Spitzer, who lost his job as Governor of New York after being caught playing in a prostitution ring, the exact same kind of criminal enterprise that he busted up as a crusading prosecutor on the way to the State House.

Yesterday, CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux did a feature story on notable political sex scandals, and mentioned all of these and more, with one  exception. Can you guess which? Here’s a hint: the author of the scandal currently stars as one of CNN’s political commentators.

Yes, Eliot Spitzer’s sexual meltdown didn’t make the cut of CNN’s scandal review. What does this tell us about CNN, Malveau, and everyone involved–producers, writers, executives…Spitzer?— in the feature vetting process?

Here’s what:

  • They have no integrity. If CNN is going to do a story, the fact that one of its own employees is a necessary component to it cannot change the network’s handling of the topic one iota.  Indeed, the fact that a CNN employee might be embarrassed cannot influence the decision to do the story, either.  This was the equivalent of photo-shopping history. Eliot Spitzer is permanently in the front row of the group portrait of  politicians brought down by their inability to keep their zippers up, and CNN  cut him out for its own convenience and his comfort.
  • They are untrustworthy. If the public cannot trust the network to give proper exposure to  historical events that are detrimental  to the reputations of its employees, then it cannot be trusted to be fair and unbiased in its coverage of issues that its management and employees care about. A journalistic enterprise must commit to making independent judgments, unfiltered by bias, about what its readers or viewers need to know, and be committed to the truth.
  • They are dishonest. By omitting Spitzer, Malveaux lied by omission. If former President Clinton was a CNN commentator, would she do a story about presidential impeachments and only include Andrew Johnson?  Well, maybe she would. She and her network are apparently capable of leaving out uncomfortable facts, and we can only scpeculate on what makes them uncomfortable.
  • CNN shouldn’t have hired Spitzer in the first place, if they are ashamed of his record, as they should be.

But we knew that, didn’t we?

11 thoughts on “CNN, Flunking Journalistic Integrity 101

  1. Will Spitzer now be joined with new commentary partners like Blago and Schwarzenegger? It seems that the name recognition that comes with being the morally challenged ex-governor of a major state can bring with it “journalistic” dividends. There was a time (long ago, it seems) when integrity was sought out by the media in preference to scandal. Now scandal is rewarded. The more blatant and “juicy”, the better. Nor, it seems, do such networks as CNN care one whit about the message this sends to its younger viewers.

  2. I caught a few minutes of CNN last night when Anderson Cooper was going on an unbelievably long rant about a woman who spoke loudly on her cell phone on a train for 16 hours straight. Outstanding journalism there. It’s no surprise they blatantly left Spitzer off a list presented by the insufferable Suzanne Malveaux.

    What’s sad is that I watched a bit of Parker/Spitzer several months ago and they were mediating a round table discussion. It was actually good, and Spitzer wasn’t Spitzer, it would have restored a little bit of my faith in cable news.

    • But Spitzer is Spitzer, just as Mel Gibson is Mel Gibson, Woody Allen is Woody Allen, Lindsay Lohan is Lindsay Lohan, Rev. Wright is Rev. Wright, and Ted Kennedy was Ted Kennedy (as James Taranto would say, “Mary-Jo Kopechne was unavailable for comment.)

      All of these people have or had talents and accomplishments, but you can’t cherry pick—if you take them, you take them baggage and all.

      • That’s what I was getting at. If I was Q from Star Trek and could replace Spitzer with a completely different person and have exactly the same things said on CNN, it’d be good. Unfortunately, I’m not an omnipotent being that has surpassed this plane of existence, so Spitzer is still Spitzer and by definition sucks.

        • Well by that argument, Martin Luther King, Jr. “sucks,” and so does Thomas Jefferson… ad hominem is generally considered to be fallacious reasoning.

          Human beings are fallible creatures, and will always fall short of our best expectations. It doesn’t mean that they’re completely incapable of doing any good, or that any good that they have accomplished should be disregarded.

          That aside, Jack’s original point is spot on – CNN can’t ethically point fingers at other politicians for their peccadilloes and improprieties, while ignoring the one working for them.

  3. Are you sure CNN didn’t mention Spitzer’s prostitute? I think I saw a little feature on CNN that coupled Spitzer with Arnold, Clinton, and Sanford, and maybe Ensign.

    • He turned up in an on-line “slide show” and in some other brief pieces. Not in Malveaux’s, which ran in the afternoon. Supposedly a producer decided to omit him. It’s true CNN hasn’t consistently left him out—maybe it needs to release a schedule telling us when it will be broadcasting uncensored news.

  4. Pingback: I think it’s Time we STOP! Hey, What’s That Sound? « blogsense-by-barb

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