CNN's Double Standard: Okay When One of Ours Advises the President, Bad When Fox Does It!

The news that CNN's Fareed Zakaria has had private conversations with Barack Obama unveiled a glaring double standard at that network, as back in November 2002, when it was revealed that Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes sent a memo to then President George W. Bush regarding his post-9/11 actions CNN anchors threw a fit.

As the MRC's Brent Baker reported in the November 19 CyberAlert, CNN anchors throughout an entire broadcast day expressed outrage at Ailes' actions, led by Jack Cafferty and Paula Zahn's mocking of Fox News as a biased network, as seen in this November 18, 2002 exchange:

JACK CAFFERTY: Listen Paula, I have a story that may interest you here, a story that might be good for what ails you. That's as in "Roger Ailes," the guy who runs Fox News, that low-budget operation down the street with the red letters.

The Washington Post is reporting over the weekend about something that is in Woodward's soon to be released book called Bush at War. Woodward reports that the Fox News chief, Roger Ailes, has been secretly sending advice to President Bush and the senior aide, a guy named Karl Rove. Woodward writes that Ailes sent a confidential memo to Rove who then took it to the President. The Ailes memo reportedly said that the American public would be patient about Iraq, but only as long as they were convinced Bush was using the harshest measures possible. Ailes is also said to have warned that support would weaken if the public did not see Bush acting harshly. Roger Ailes was a media coach for President Bush's father and he's had a number of other assignments as well. Any comments?

PAULA ZAHN: Does that shed new light on "we report, you decide" Jack?

CAFFERTY: "Fair and balanced" [laughter] We better leave that alone.

Fast forward to 2011 and the CNN reaction to Zakaria advising Obama has been half-hearted at best. After Zakaria's colleague Eliot Spitzer, on Thursday's In The Arena, told him that it "brought a smile to my face" and "makes my heart warm" to learn Obama "calls you for wisdom and advice," Zakaria attempted a meager backtrack on his website. On the official site for his CNN show, Fareed Zakaria GPS, he insisted that he just "had a couple of conversations with the President, off-the-record. At no point did President Obama ask me for advice on a specific policy."


The MRC's Baker reported, on Sunday's Reliable Sources, Howard Kurtz "only offered a gentle reprimand" of Zakaria:

Kurtz relayed how Zakaria claimed "that the two meetings he's had with Obama in recent months give him a sense of the President's thinking, and that he used to have the same kinds of meetings with, for example, Condi Rice."

Kurtz decided: "I agree with Fareed's last point, that part of what he's getting at the White House is high-level spin. That's why I think the fact of the meetings should have been disclosed. Zakaria says that's not part of the arrangement, but it should be. Otherwise, people will inevitably have doubts when word leaks out."

Hardly the tongue-lashing CNN delivered to its much higher rated competitor Fox News in 2002. 

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.