CNN's O'Brien Grills Bachmann But Hands Soft Interview to 'Occupy' Protesters

CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien has had a history of liberal bias – to a scale approaching activism – and she showed where her newest CNN show might be headed on Tuesday with a completely liberal double-standard in her interviews.

During the 7 a.m. hour of CNN's Starting Point, O'Brien hit GOP candidate Michele Bachmann from the left on homosexuality, but later teed up liberal "Occupy" protesters to defend their cause and claim to be "non-partisan." Bachmann blasted O'Brien's "gotcha" question and insisted that voters are focused on economic issues.

"You have taken a lot of flak for some of your very strong social issues," O'Brien began in her question to Bachmann, and drew from her quote from 2004 on the homosexual lifestyle being "part of satan." O'Brien asked her if she had "pulled back on any of that". Bachmann retorted that O'Brien pulling up that quote was "bizarre."

"You know, it's just a bizarre thing to bring up today. Today is the election, and what people recognize that the most important issue people will be looking at is who is the best person to deal with the economy," Bachmann responded, adding that it was a "'gotcha' question coming way out of the past."

In contrast, O'Brien's interview of three "Occupy Des Moines" protesters enabled the liberals to comfortably defend their cause. In addition, she allowed them to claim to be "non-partisan" despite the fact that they hit both parties from the left, not the center. CNN claims to be the centrist cable news network, but interviews like these definitively undermine their case.

O'Brien threw softballs like "Why do you feel like you're part of the 99 percent?" In addition, when she did challenge the protesters' motives, she allowed them to give their liberal views without any further challenge – essentially teeing them up to get their message out.

For instance, she asked why they were protesting in Iowa considering the caucus there was already a "grassroots democratic process." The protester was able to trumpet that the "Occupy" movement was "grassroots" and was fighting the "partisan" climate of caucuses and primaries.

"We're definitely non-partisan," protester Martha Doyle told O'Brien.

A transcript of the segments, which aired on January 3 at 7:16 and 7:46 a.m. EST, respectively, is as follows:

CNN
STARTING POINT
1/3/12
7:16 a.m. EST

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: The Occupy Wall Street movement has literally spread to every corner of the country including right here in Des Moines. Protesters using the Iowa caucuses try to focus attention on their cause. They tried to disrupt the candidates' campaign events, like Michele Bachmann in Raleigh – take a look at that – with their "mike check" chants. And then dozens of protesters have been arrested for disrupting rallies and protesting outside of candidates' campaign centers.

They promised a protest tonight, too. They say they're going to keep it to campaign headquarters. But some Iowa Republicans are worried that there will try to be disruption of the caucuses themselves. In fact, they're so nervous that they've moved the caucus vote count to a secret location. So Jessica Reznicek, Marty – Marty, Martha, but she said I could call her Marty Doyle, and Dutch Ruisch are protesters from the Occupy Des Moines movement. It's nice to have you guys. Thanks for talking with us.

No signs. You're so quiet. Not enough coffee for our protesters this morning. Jessica, let's start with you. Why do you feel like you're part of the 99 percent?

JESSICA REZNICEK, Occupy Des Moines: Oh, I mean, the – the socioeconomic gap has become so large that we're all part of the 99 percent. Everybody sitting in this room right here. And I think that it is our moral obligation to stand up and say no, we need to take that money back. We need to take that -- those jobs back. We need to take our homes back. To make a fair and equal society.

O'BRIEN: Is it all about money and jobs and homes? And you know what, Marty I was reading your story. You went from not having any education, essentially for you know – post-high school education to not getting one Bachelor's – two Bachelor's Degree, then got your Master's Degree, then got your Ph.D. And I thought, well, this is the face of the American dream, you know, that you -- why are you protesting? You've sort of lived it?

MARTHA DOYLE, Occupy Des Moines: Well, yes I did go from poverty to middle class, but I also have five grandchildren that I want to have them have that chance as well. So I've been very fortunate and I feel very blessed, but then I also know a lot of –

O'BRIEN: You're worried.

DOYLE: – my friends and family that – that aren't doing as well, and I want my grandchildren to have that same opportunity.

O'BRIEN: Now, Dutch, you worked getting people mortgages and then you had to declare bankruptcy yourself. What did that experience teach you about the economic crisis that this country is in right now?

DUTCH RUISCH, Occupy Des Moines: The American dream is becoming a dream of the past, like Marty said. It's becoming further and further out of reach for the average Iowan.

O'BRIEN: Why are you protesting here in Iowa? When people think about the caucuses, you almost think about the most grassroots democratic process there could be. People come together with their neighbors. They talk about issues. This would, to me, seem almost to be the last place that you'd want to occupy. Why here?

RUISCH: That's what the Occupy movement is all about. We are the grassroots movement. Right now, the political parties are so partisan that by the time we have the opportunity to vote for any politician, they're already bought and paid for. Republican, Democrat – they're like two sides of the same worthless coin.

O'BRIEN: So you see – we know, we've heard a lot about what you're doing on the Republican side. What are you going to be doing on the Democratic side in protest?

DOYLE: We've been busy be there, too.

O'BRIEN: So it is not a --

DOYLE: We're definitely non-partisan.

REZNICEK: Absolutely. I've been arrested twice with affiliation with the Democratic Party, once at the Iowa Democratic Party headquarters. I occupied Obama's office for two days. Obama's headquarters for two days, and I also was arrested at the Iowa -- or the at the Democratic National Committee --

O'BRIEN: So what's the goal with that? I mean you're giving me a litany – I got arrested here, but what's the – the end goal is to be able to say, and we accomplished -- what?

REZNICEK: Reshape the political and economic discourse that is currently being conducted by these --

O'BRIEN: It's about the conversation.

REZNICEK: Absolutely. We need to start talking about real issues.

O'BRIEN: So if we had the candidates all sitting right here – because I know you've been trying to break into their campaign headquarters. Let's say we brought them here.

(Laughter)

DOYLE: They just haven't welcomed us.

O'BRIEN: So what – what would you say to them? What – what is the conversation that you feel that they're not speaking to?

DOYLE: Well, first of all, they're just not speaking to us, period. We invited them to come speak with us. That's what the caucuses all are about. Our candidates come to talk with us. And so we would assume that they would wanted to have talked to us, but they didn't, so we came to them.

O'BRIEN: Will you disrupt – will you disrupt the caucuses?

REZNICEK: No. That is not at all our agenda.

O'BRIEN: Because there's a fear, as you know, of that, that you're going to disrupt the caucuses?

DOYLE: We're – we're trying to get used to that idea that people are scared of us.

O'BRIEN: What's going to -- what's going to happen tonight, in a word? Just watching what happens? Watching the turnout?

REZNICEK: The movement moves where it wants to move. It's very fluid.

O'BRIEN: I appreciate you guys coming in this morning.

REZNICEK: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Occupy now – occupy the counter and get a cup of coffee and stick around with us this morning.

CNN
STARTING POINT
1/3/12
7:46 a.m. EST

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: You have taken a lot of flak for some of your very strong social issues, where you stand on them, and I want to talk about some of them. Your stance on homosexuality, and I want to read a little bit of what you said. You said at an educators' conference in 2004 "Gays live a very sad life," and that "it's part of satan." That's a quote, and you've taken a lot of flak for that. Do you – have you pulled back on any of that?

MICHELE BACHMANN: You know, it's just a bizarre thing to bring up today. Today is the election, and what people recognize that the most important issue people will be looking at is who is the best person to deal with the economy? Probably someone who's created a business from scratch. I came from a family where I was below poverty. I had to earn my way up out of poverty –

O'BRIEN: What you're telling me is you don't want to discuss social issues because you want to talk about the economy. I don't think that's a bizarre question. I think it's a fair question; you're running to be president.

BACHMANN: Well it's a "gotcha" question coming way out of the past.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014