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CNN Scoffs at White House Critics

Anchor with Bush ties dismisses abuse-of-power hearings as 'stagecraft'

SOURCE: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)
The suggestion that looking into the weighty matters addressed by the hearing is a "waste of taxpayer money" is a remarkable statement from a supposedly unbiased anchor.

7/31/08—CNN's Election Center program devoted a July 25 report to mocking a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee investigating White House abuses of power.

"Believe it or not, there was a congressional hearing today about impeaching the president," scoffed host Campbell Brown, who added: "It was all stagecraft, though." Brown went on to introduce the report by CNN correspondent Erica Hill by saying, "Tell us about this piece of Kabuki theater, Erica."

Hill explained: "From the beginning it was pretty clear this was all just stagecraft, for what one Republican lawmaker deemed impeachment light." Hill underscored this notion by claiming: "The Democratic leadership made it clear impeachment is not on the table at this hearing today for two reasons. Not only is there not enough time left in President Bush's term, but also they know any real impeachment hearings at this point could cause a major backlash."

It's difficult to know exactly who Hill is referring to; at the hearings she was apparently covering, there was scarce mention of a potential "backlash" from voters, nor was there much time spent determining precisely when it might be too late to bring impeachment hearings. More typical were comments from Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), responding to the sentiment that impeachment would be "overzealous partisanship":

But I ask, would impeachment be a vehicle to restore life and vitality to the delicate system of checks and balances, which is the hallmark of our Constitution and which this administration has shattered--aided and abetted by the do-nothing, Republican-controlled, rubber-stamp Congress which failed to exercise its constitutional responsibility to oversee the operations of the executive branch of our government?
Johnson went on enumerate the criticisms of the White House:
Warrantless wiretapping of Americans; torturing and kidnapping and detaining numerous prisoners, foreign enemy combatants, prisoners, whatever they could be classified as; the fact that we have become a severely surveilled population now with the abuses of the Patriot Act--all done under the cloak of government secrecy. Political spying; the attacks on academic freedom; the politicization of the Justice Department; selective prosecutions--so many areas fertile for inquiring by this Congress.
Host Campbell Brown closed the report by saying: "All right. So this is really just stagecraft, not to mention a real waste of taxpayer money and Congress' time." Needless to say, the suggestion that looking into the weighty matters addressed by the hearing is a "waste of taxpayer money" is a remarkable statement from a supposedly unbiased anchor.

It is worth noting that Brown is married to Dan Senor, who was a deputy press secretary for George W. Bush before becoming the chief spokesperson for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. (He's currently a Fox News analyst.) Given that much of the discussion of executive malfeasance concerns the Iraq War, it is inappropriate for Brown to even be covering an investigation of abuses of power that involve her husband's former associates--let alone for her to dismiss such inquiries as a waste of time and money. If CNN had been around in 1974, would it have allowed the spouse of a former Nixon spokesperson to report on the Watergate hearings?

The report closed with Hill assuring voters that George W. Bush was not threatened by any of this: "As for the president today, clearly, not too worried about this hearing. He was in Peoria, Illinois. As you can see here, kissing babies, smiling, taking pictures." The two CNN reporters then mused about the difficulties in getting babies to wear sunglasses--all of this mere moments after they derided Congress for wasting time with a investigation of White House abuses of power.


Ask CNN why an investigation of abuses of power by elected officials was treated as fodder for humor and not serious reporting. And ask Campbell Brown why she didn't recuse herself from commenting on an inquiry into wrongdoing by her husband's political associates.


CNN Election Center

Host Campbell Brown:

CNN President Jonathan Klein:
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This story was published on July 31, 2008.