Aaron Brown Goes Out Channeling Joe Wilson; Plus Lowlights from Brown's CNN Years

The last moments on CNN for the network's most liberal anchor, Aaron Brown, were spent channeling Joe Wilson's talking points. (As noted by Noel Sheppard, CNN on Wednesday announced the departure of Brown and the end of NewsNight. The two-hour block starting at 10pm EST will now carry the Anderson Cooper 360 title while The Situation Room gets the 7pm EST hour.) Brown was last on CNN on Friday night wrapping up headlines at 11:01pm EDT before an airing of CNN Presents narrated by David Ensor, "Dead Wrong: Inside an Intelligence Meltdown." Just before that, at 10:54pm EDT, Brown conducted his last interview on CNN, a brief live session with Ensor, in which he pushed the spin of the radical anti-war left. He told Ensor that “people who are opposed to the war say that it wasn't just that the intelligence was wrong. It's that the intelligence was cooked." Ensor inconveniently admitted that “I also thought that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction,” before Brown followed up: “At some level, this is about Joe Wilson saying -- I'm not, I'm not saying he's right about this, I'm just saying what he said -- is that they took the country to war, when they knew the evidence was at least ambiguous and they never framed it in an ambiguous way."

Below are a few examples of Brown's bias from his CNN years -- he left ABC News in 2001 -- which the MRC's Rich Noyes and I quickly collected from NewsBusters and the MRC's archive. These quotes, some with video, include how Brown, after Katrina, pressed a black Congresswoman to agree that race was behind the delayed response in New Orleans; how Brown one night trumpeted a Republican who turned against the war and wondered if the administration has been “honest”; how he ridiculed the contention that John Kerry didn't earn his Purple Heart; how he insisted that while some “will see willful deception on the part of CBS” in the Memogate scandal, “smarter and more reasoned heads know better”; how he declared the “record unambiguous” that “John Kerry was a war hero”; how, without uttering a syllable about questions about Kerry's Vietnam record, on Memorial Day 2004 Brown delivered a panegyrical, event-by-event tribute to Kerry's heroic Vietnam service; how he boasted of “a permanent smirk” spurred by Rush Limbaugh's drug troubles; how he proposed that the White House “twisted or ignored” global warming science; and how Brown swooned over Jimmy Carter: “In many places, dusty and difficult places, James Earl Carter has brought hope and dispelled, as well as anyone alive these days, the vision of the ugly American."

# Brown, who since Katrina had been put into a co-anchor situation with Anderson Cooper, solo-anchored his last NewsNight on Friday, October 28, which he opened at 10pm EDT: "Good evening again, everyone. It began with 16 words uttered by the President about Iraq and nuclear weapons, only 16 words in a very long speech. It became a battle and a scandal, and now, perhaps, a crime."

About 54 minutes later, Brown introduced his last interview on CNN: "We learned today that a Marine from Ohio was killed in Iraq on Thursday. Lance Corporal Robert Eckfield Jr. was 23 years old. As the war continues, so, of course, do the questions. Today, the special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald was asked if the indictment was a vindication that the Bush administration took the country to war on a false premise. This is how he answered."

Peter Fitzgerald at press conference: "This indictment is not about the war. This indictment's not about the propriety of the war. And people who believe fervently in the war effort, people who oppose it, people who have mixed feelings about it should not look to this indictment for any resolution of how they feel or any vindication of how they feel."

Brown: "I don't think there was a more interesting person today, by the way, than Mr. Fitzgerald. Democrats disagree with him. They believe the indictment has everything to do with the war, how we got to war, partisan, yes, but it is part of the national debate. Our national security correspondent, David Ensor, has been doing an incredible amount of work, and good work, on the intelligence that led up to the war and how it came to be. And David joins us now. David, I think the, people's perspective on this is, you know, of people who are opposed to the war, say that it wasn't just that the intelligence was wrong. It's that the intelligence was cooked. Do we know? Can we answer that for them?"

David Ensor, from Washington, DC: "Um, cooked is probably a little too strong a word. You know, people in the intelligence community -- and let's be honest, I also thought that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. They had used them on their own -- Saddam had used them on the people, he'd used them against Iran. There were chemical weapons that were unaccounted for after the war. So, there was lots of good, logical reason to think there were weapons of mass destruction there. The amazing thing is, there were not. And, you know, I have tried to find out why, how this could go so badly wrong, which is part of what, I guess, we're going to be showing people in the next hour, this, this look at how this could go so badly wrong. But I was also today at the press conference that you just mentioned, Mr. Fitzgerald's press conference. And there were -- what was so striking there was, there were lots of questions about, well, isn't this really about Iraq? Isn't this really about theWMD? And he, of course, it is in his interests to be as narrow as possible, to say, no, it is just about lying. That's about all it is about. I don't want to go there. But, for most of the people in the country, whether they're for or against the war, that's what this is really about, in political terms."

Brown: "At some level, this is about Joe Wilson saying -- I'm not, I'm not saying he's right about this, I'm just saying what he said -- is that they took the country to war, when they knew the evidence was at least ambiguous and they never framed it in an ambiguous way."

Ensor: "Right. But they did believe there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And, as I say, a lot of people did, myself included. Now, that turned out to be wrong. And that may not have been the real main motivation for going to Iraq in the first place, which is yet another question."

Brown: "David, as you mentioned, we'll take a deeper look at this in the hour ahead. We appreciate your spending a few minutes with us in anticipation of that to sort of set the stage."

Indeed, after a commercial break, Brown spent his last minute at CNN reading some headlines before, at 11:01pm EDT, CNN replaced the second hour of NewsNight with a CNN Presents narrated by Ensor, "Dead Wrong: Inside an Intelligence Meltdown."


# Days into Katrina
, on the September 2 NewsNight as recited in this NewsBusters item, Brown prodded black Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones to blame racism for delays in rescuing hurricane victims in New Orleans: “What I'm wondering is, do you think black America's sitting there thinking, if these were middle class white people, there would be cruise ships in New Orleans?” When she wouldn’t take the bait, Brown lectured: “Now, look, here's the question, okay? And then we'll end this. Do you think the reason that they're not there or the food is not there or the cruise ships aren't there or all this stuff that you believe should be there, isn't there, is a matter of race and/or class?”

Just under two weeks later, Brown invited MRC President Brent Bozell aboard NewsNight to discuss that interview. See this September 14 NewsBusters item, “CNN's Brown Confronts MRC's Bozell on Criticism of Injecting Race into Coverage,” which features a couple of video clips.


# A June 21, 2005 CyberAlert item, “CNN's NewsNight: Downing Memo, Tribute to Jones & Bush Dishonest,” recounted: CNN's NewsNight on Friday (June 17), under Aaron Brown's guidance, delivered a trio of liberal agenda stories on Iraq. First, Brown suggested that "support for the war seems to be ebbing more so in the wake of a once-secret British government memo that was recently leaked and seems to have had a delayed reaction." John King then provided an overview on liberal claims about the so-called "Downing Street memo." Second, Brown set up an empathetic profile of Congressman Walter Jones as he stressed a potential wider trend: "What might make the White House and the war supporters the most nervous are the stirrings of a few voices, a few, on the Republican side. They're not big names, not House or Senate leaders, they're back benchers, but sometimes that's where rebellion starts." Third, Brown brought aboard liberal Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, whom he described as part of what "used to be called the moderate wing of the Republican Party." Brown ludicrously claimed that "he may now be the entire moderate wing of the Republican Party." Brown asked him "sort of the elephant in the room question," whether "since it became clear that there were no WMD in Iraq, do you think the administration's been honest with the American people?"


# Brown won the “GI John Award (for Saluting John Kerry's Vietnam Record)” in the MRC's Best Notable Quotables of 2004: The Seventeenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting, for this from Brown on the November 10, 2004 NewsNight as he displayed a front-page photo of a line of U.S. troops in Iraq receiving their medals:

"Okay, time to do morning papers....Stars and Stripes starts it off: ‘U.S. Troops Control Most of Fallujah,' the headline. 'U.S. Officials Believe Most Insurgents Have Fled the City.' Look at this picture here, if you can. 'Troops' Bravery Honored in Iraq.' These are all Purple Heart winners. Someday, one of them will run for President and someone will say they didn't earn the Purple Heart. Welcome to America."

For the page of the awards with a RealPlayer video of that from Brown. Direct link to the RealPlayer video clip.


# Brown, in a commentary about the CBS forged documents scandal, at the start of NewsNight, September 20, 2004:

"There is not an honest reporter in the country today, not an honest news organization that hasn't in the last few days, when looking at the story of how the now CBS discredited documents on the President's National Guard service, said ‘there but for the grace of God go I,' excepting that some partisans will see it otherwise, will see willful deception on the part of CBS. Smarter and more reasoned heads know better."


# Brown on the August 23, 2004 NewsNight, just after the controversy broke over the ads by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth:

"What are the facts here? Not necessarily the whole gospel truth -- given that memories fade and records don't tell an entire story -- but the facts as best we know them, and nothing more. Here are a few facts that seem to matter most. The available official record is unambiguous: John Kerry was a war hero. The citation that accompanies his Bronze Star speaks of his, quote, ‘professionalism, great personal courage under fire, complete dedication to duty.' If you go by some of the witnesses to those events, like the young Special Forces soldier Kerry pulled from the river, there is no argument."


# A June 2, 2004 MRC CyberAlert item, “CNN Features Glowing Tribute to Kerry’s Heroic Vietnam Exploits,” recounted: CNN on Monday night aired a four-minute info-mercial for John Kerry, but the Kerry campaign didn’t have to pay a cent for it since it was aired in the guise of a news story by Aaron Brown, tied to Memorial Day, on NewsNight. Without uttering a syllable about questions raised about whether Kerry had really earned the first of three Purple Hearts, which allowed him to leave Vietnam early, or how his Swift boat commanders and colleagues have questioned his fitness to lead and motivations in Vietnam, Brown delivered a panegyrical, event-by-event tribute to Kerry’s heroic Vietnam service.


# Brown was a runner-up for the “Al Franken Cheap Shot Award (for Lambasting Rush Limbaugh)” in the MRC's Best Notable Quotables of 2003: The Sixteenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting, for this shot at Limbaugh as he introduced his guests on the October 10, 2003 NewsNight, after Limbaugh announced he was seeking treatment for an addiction to prescription pain medicine:

"Rush Limbaugh has been more than a bit unkind to me more than once. He's also been unkind to Al Franken, who in turn has been unkind to him. He's taken shots at Michael Wolff, New York magazine's media critic and Michael is hardly the retiring sort. So, here we all are, Al, Michael, and me, and the subject is Rush -- made worse, no doubt, by the permanent smirk that seems to be attached to my face."


# Brown was also a runner-up for the “Politics of Meaninglessness Award for the Silliest Analysis” in the MRC's Best Notable Quotables of 2003: The Sixteenth Annual Awards for the Year's Worst Reporting, for global warming panic and confusion, on the June 19, 2003 NewsNight, about Galileo, who was actually punished by the Catholic Church for saying the Earth revolves around the sun:

"Once upon a time, a scientist named Galileo said the Earth was round, and the political leaders of the time said, 'No, no, Galileo it's flat,' and Galileo got life under house arrest for his little theory. Today, the vast majority of scientists will tell you the Earth is getting warmer and most would agree that industry is at least in part to blame. So far nobody's gone to jail for saying that, which doesn't mean the idea isn't squarely at the center of a political dust up -- and not an insignificant one at that because, if the charges leveled against the White House are true, an important environmental question is being twisted or ignored for the sake of politics."

For the page of the awards with a RealPlayer video of that from Brown. Direct link for the RealPlayer clip.


# Brown on the October 11, 2002 NewsNight after Jimmy Carter won the Nobel peace prize:

"There is hardly a troubled place in the world he hasn't visited, worked in, in a quest to bring peace and spread democratic values....Jimmy Carter told Larry King today he is slowing down some, cutting back. Age makes globe-trotting especially hard. But in many places, dusty and difficult places, James Earl Carter has brought hope and dispelled, as well as anyone alive these days, the vision of the ugly American."

That's but a drive-by of Brown's political advocacy in the guise of reporting, but a representative sample.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center