Opinion: CNN’s framing of Sanders-Warren dispute fuels distrust in media

The handling of the “feud” by the network shows a disregard for balanced commentary and debate.


Kurt Strazdins

Logo graphic for CNN. Layers included.

Peyton Downing, Columnist

At the most recent Democratic presidential-nomination debate, CNN took a break from the standard policy questions to ask Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a simple question: Why do you hate women?

It wasn’t phrased like that, but it surmounted to for those at home listening when Sanders was asked about his rival, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

The question was, “You told [Warren] you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?”

Sanders denied the allegation, saying that for decades he’s been a proponent of getting more women into politics. After reaffirming that he did not express that belief, the CNN moderator turned to Warren and asked her, “What did you think when Sen. Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?”

The blatant favoritism in this unconfirmed story is absolutely appalling. The basis of this feud is an alleged 2018 meeting between Sanders and Warren in which the only two people in the room were Sanders and Warren. There is no way to determine who is right, as there are no transcripts from this conversation. Yet, the network decided to run headfirst into this supporting Warren.

To publish a story that amounts to hearsay, then use a national platform to signal boost that story when there are more pressing issues on the table is not a good look. Considering audiences are highly skeptical of the news CNN produces, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll, it seems likely that the trust in the network will only plummet further.

This was not the only line of inquiry that CNN framed poorly. While some candidates were pressed about their preparedness to debate President Trump and how they plan to inspire voters, Sanders and Warren were both barraged with unfair questions.

One of the moderators questioned Sanders, “You have consistently refused to say exactly how much your Medicare for All plan is going to cost. Don’t voters deserve to see the price tag before you send them a bill that could cost tens of trillions of dollars?”

Warren was then asked, “Why does it make sense for the government to manufacture drugs, especially when public trust in government is near historic lows?”

CNN’s abusive use of its platform for the debate is indicative of a development in the world of journalism — people aren’t trusting the news anymore.

It might be a partially good thing that large corporate entities are losing credibility. “Left-leaning” outlets such as CNN have a monetary interest in keeping the status quo of today. They only vaguely dip their toes into the American Left in order to expand their viewership. But even so, distrust in journalism is harmful for democracies.

The need for independent media is sorely evident from CNN’s lack of balanced decorum in maintaining a fair debate. All candidates have their issues and flaws, but this drama-mongering for viewership is what led the U.S. to elect an unqualified president in 2016.

If there is to be change, it needs to start with the people. But if all people see is what corporate media talks about, there won’t be anything of value said at all.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.