CNN Showcases Romney's Connection to Trump, But Had No Initial Inquiry of Bill Maher and Obama

CNN jumped all over Donald Trump's "birther" remarks on Tuesday as Trump hosted a fund raiser for Mitt Romney. CNN ran the story almost every single hour on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, hyping Romney's message getting "Trumped" by his supporter's controversial statements.

In contrast, CNN showed no initial scrutiny of foul-mouthed comedian Bill Maher's $1 million donation to a pro-Obama Super PAC in February. Maher is infamous for his vile and disgusting insults of conservative women, but when he announced the donation CNN simply reported it without any hint of controversy.

"Bill Maher, he's putting his money where his mouth is," said anchor Suzanne Malveaux on CNN Newsroom on February 24. "It's a big boost for the super PAC." Piers Morgan, during a February 27 interview with Maher, let him mock Christianity and expressed that it was "always a great pleasure" to interview him.

It took 11 days for Maher's vitriol to make it into the conversation about his donation, and only after controversy erupted over Rush Limbaugh's insult of Sandra Fluke. And CNN did not insist themselves on a controversy, but rather inserted the "conservatives say" line when talking about Maher's rhetoric and his donation to the Obama Super PAC.

And prior to Maher's announcement, the network had hosted him several times over the previous year for softball interviews and some flattery. Then-CNN host Eliot Spitzer lauded Maher's HBO show as "brilliant," in March of 2011. Piers Morgan told Maher last summer "May you remain gloriously uncensored on HBO." And host Anderson Cooper simply winced at Maher's "LDS punchline" when the comedian predicted that Obama would "beat him [Romney] like a runaway sister wife," back in January.

Meanwhile, when Trump hosted a fund raiser for Romney and expressed his doubts about Obama's citizenship on the same day, CNN cut right to the Romney's controversial relationship with Trump.

Host Wolf Blitzer struck an somewhat ominous tone on Tuesday's The Situation Room. "Tonight, Romney is expected to clinch the Republican nomination and become the first Mormon presidential nominee ever in the United States. That milestone though may be overshadowed, at least on this day by Donald Trump, and his ongoing support for the so-called 'birther' movement."

And then CNN ran a marathon of coverage, touching the issue almost every news hour until late Wednesday afternoon. Former New Hampshire governor John Sununu ripped CNN on Wednesday for its "fixation" over a non-issue.

"It's not an issue. There is nobody in the Romney campaign that believes that the President was not born in the United States," he told Soledad O'Brien on Wednesday's Starting Point.

The Trump marathon began during Tuesday's 4 p.m. hour of The Situation Room, when host Wolf Blitzer grilled Trump over doubts that Obama was born in America. Correspondent Jim Acosta spotlighted Romney's "new message" getting "Trumped," and from there CNN covered the story extensively through the 6 p.m. hour.

CNN continued the coverage during the 7 p.m. hour of OutFront and on the 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. hours of Anderson Cooper 360, where Anderson Cooper asked Romney's adviser if remarks the candidate made on Constitutional eligibility for the presidency could be a "dog whistle" to birthers, even though Romney has made it clear he believes Obama was born in Hawaii.

And CNN led off its Wednesday morning coverage with Trump "stealing Mitt Romney's thunder." Both the 5 and 6 a.m. hours of Early Start touted the story, as well as the 7 and 8 a.m. hours of Starting Point – including the lively scuffle between anchor Soledad O'Brien and guest John Sununu who lambasted CNN's "fixation" on the non-story.

The 9 and 10 a.m. hours of Newsroom talked about "Romney's 'birther buddy'," and the coverage continued on the 12 and 1 p.m. hours of Newsroom.

And the story came full circle on Wednesday's The Situation Room, 24 hours after CNN began its "birther" beat. Jim Acosta reported that "Mitt Romney has left Las Vegas, but Donald Trump is refusing to leave the campaign stage."

Of course, CNN had a hand in Trump not leaving the spotlight given that they kept him squarely in it on Tuesday and Wednesday.
 

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