How Donald Trump is Winning the War Against CNN

September 12, 2017

How Donald Trump is Winning the War Against CNN Ninian Reid / CCL; red, white, and black eye's / CCL

2017 got off to a rough start. A vicious media war on the newly elected President Trump left Americans divided and frustrated. And it was CNN who led the pack, with an unrelenting onslaught of negative coverage — a now widely cited Harvard study recorded that an astonishing 93 percent of CNN’s coverage of Trump was negative. The study confirmed what many Americans already were already thinking — CNN was no longer a balanced news source. It was a political machine.

Despite CNN’s frequent attacks on President Trump — their round the clock coverage of the Russia allegations despite a complete lack of evidence comes to mind — Trump hasn’t hesitated to fight back. In fact, Trump is winning the war against media bias in general, and CNN in particular.

Trump’s approval ratings remain around election day levels (despite media claims to the contrary), and the threat of impeachment remains a leftist pipe dream. CNN, on the other hand, has seen its ratings tank, its credibility evaporate and, to top it off, CEO Jeff Zucker reportedly faces an uncertain future if AT&T’s purchase of CNN parent company Time Warner goes through.

A volatile relationship

At first blush, one might have expected CNN and President Donald Trump to have a great relationship. After all, CNN’s CEO, Jeff Zucker, was instrumental in creating the reality TV show, The Apprentice, which featured Trump.

In fact, when then-candidate Trump began his campaign, CNN gave Trump what The Washington Post called “astonishing” amounts of coverage.

But since then, the relationship has been anything but cozy. CNN’s aggressive anti-Trump coverage earned it a “fake news” label from Trump, who also has accused the network of mounting a “witch hunt” against his administration.

According to CNN, “President Donald Trump rejected CNN’s Jim Acosta’s request to answer questions following an event at the White House, calling CNN ‘fake news.'”

Later, in a move indicative of the conflict between Trump and the media giant, the president retweeted a meme based on a video taken at a 2007 WWE Wrestlemania event that depicted the Commander in Chief pummeling an opponent. The meme covered Trump’s opponent’s face with the CNN logo.

Many criticized CNN’s response to the tweet as absurd. The news channel tracked down the person who created the meme on Reddit, but said they didn’t publish the name of the creator, who they described as a middle-aged man, because he apologized and promised not to “repeat this ugly behavior on social media again.” There was some speculation as to the truth of this statement, however; the president’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., insisted that the meme’s creator was merely a 15-year-old, which may explain why his name was not published.

In a move many criticized as blackmail, CNN maintained that it reserved the right “to publish his identity” should the creator rescind his apology or make another meme.

Likewise, the Trump administration refused to accept the media narrative and hasn’t missed an opportunity to fight back against CNN. After an undercover video showed a CNN producer questioning the network’s decision to bury other news stories to focus on Trump, Sarah Huckabee Sanders encouraged Americans to watch the undercover video, calling the channel a “disgrace to all of media, all of journalism.”

In the end, Trump’s relationship with Zucker has deepened his administration’s negative relationship with CNN. As several journalists have stated, the conflict is “personal.”

CNN is vulnerable

This conflict comes at a bad time for CNN. Facing internal pressures, the network has struggled to define its purpose since its inception in 1980.

The New York Times (NYT) reported:

CNN needed an identity. Fox was the hearth, keeping the homes of conservatives warm; MSNBC would eventually become the consoling voice of perpetual liberal outrage. But what was CNN?

Enter Zucker. The CEO intended to produce “an unending loop of dramatic moments, conflicts and confrontations.”

To accomplish this goal, he tried several experiments, such as “Crossfire.” But these efforts were largely mocked. He also tried to clean house, dismissing several journalists.

It wasn’t until Trump’s presidency that CNN found their place in media. According to NYT, their place is countering Trump, and representing the “fake news.”

Now outside forces are pressuring CNN, and Zucker faces new rumors of instability. As AT&T moves forward on acquiring CNN’s parent company Time Warner, The New York Post reports that “AT&T will look to ‘neutralize’ [Zucker] after it buys Time Warner.”

The “media bubble” is real

CNN is not the only problem player in the media. The journalism industry itself has a significant public image problem: only 7 percent of journalists are Republican.

The impression held by many Americans, particularly Trump supporters — that the media is biased and doesn’t represent all viewpoints fairly — isn’t unfounded. The technology-driven media shift from local newspapers to internet publishing has led to a homogenization of the media.

Politico reported that “73 percent of all internet publishing jobs are concentrated in either the Boston-New York-Washington-Richmond corridor or the West Coast crescent that runs from Seattle to San Diego and on to Phoenix.” As a result, Politico itself admits that “when your conservative friends use “media” as a synonym for “coastal” and “liberal,” they’re not far off the mark.”

Gallup recently found that American’s trust and confidence in the media “has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with 32 percent saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media.” According to the Gallup poll, only 26 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 49 trust the media.

CNN becomes the face of media bias

CNN has become the prominent face of media bias as it was publicly outed for multiple instances of unethical reporting. Earlier this year, three CNN staffers resigned after public outrage forced CNN to retract a story alleging that Congress was investigating a “Russian investment fund with ties to Trump officials.” CNN said it did not follow its own editorial protocols in publishing that article.

In February 2017, Zucker commissioned a survey to determine the public perception of CNN. It found that the public had roughly the same view of CNN as before Trump became president, but they were much stronger feelings — negative and positive:

We actually have a personality now that people either hate or love, whereas we used to be a little more milquetoast in their minds.

CNN’s strategy backfires

Zucker’s strategy, however, doesn’t seem to be playing out well. CNN saw its ratings plummet drastically as 2017 went on, to the point where then-White House adviser Sebastian Gorka told CNN’s Alyson Camerota on air, “More people watch Nick at Night cartoons than CNN today.”

While CNN stakes its future on its ability to divide the electorate, it is the job of President Trump to unite the nation. As Americans’ trust in the media — and especially CNN — declines, it seems Trump is winning.

Let’s hope he continues to upend the liberal media narrative. Perhaps other media networks will take notice and return to higher standards of journalism.


Nicholas Bruno

Nicholas Bruno is a writer for Conservative Institute. He is a practicing attorney in the state of Texas and has experience working in the state and federal governments.