MRC Study: CNN Hands Airwaves to Liberals After Supreme Court Decisions

CNN really showed its bias in reacting to two very different Supreme Court decisions this week. On Tuesday, the Court struck down a portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act; in the hours that followed, CNN's coverage included four times as many critics of the decision as supporters (8 vs. 2).

Then on Wednesday, the Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and permitted the nullification of California's Proposition 8 banning gay marriage. This time, CNN's coverage skewed in favor of the Court, with roughly three times as many on-air guests supporting that decision as opposing it (20 vs. 7).

The common denominator: in both instances, CNN permitted the liberal viewpoint to overwhelm its coverage -- in favor of the Court rulings on Wednesday, criticizing them on Tuesday. Yet, CNN continues to act as if it's somehow a middle-of-the-road network between the hard-left MSNBC and more conservative Fox News.

For example, on Tuesday CNN's Wolf Blitzer began The Situation Room hyping the words of "veteran civil rights activist Congressman John Lewis" – he left out Lewis' Democratic party affiliation – that the Court's decision was "a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act."

Lewis later told Blitzer in an interview, "It is awful. It's a sad day. I never thought that I would see the day when the United States Supreme Court would put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965."

Then later that evening, host Piers Morgan trashed the Court's decision: "But it is sad and pretty extraordinary that you have to have the first African-American President of the United States coming out blazing with fury at a Supreme Court decision like this. It's almost, you know, all the steps he took forward for America with his election being thrown right back again."

Fast-forward to Wednesday, when CNN hosts and guests cheered the Court's decisions. Piers Morgan gushed to the lawyers of the couples challenging Prop 8: "Ted Olson and David Boies, you've obviously famously opposed each other in the past. I prefer you getting together because that seems to be very effective. So, congratulations on a terrific day, and long may you continue to move forward with this in the future."

Morgan even asked if Court's gutting of DOMA didn't go far enough: "Are you frustrated, though, despite the success, that what we didn't get today from the Supreme Court was a decision on a homosexual's constitutional right to get married in America?"

And CNN's Wednesday bias wasn't just limited to its hosts and on-air guests. The network gathered soundbites from many different same-sex marriage advocates celebrating the decisions at a gay bar, outside the Supreme Court, and outside the San Francisco city hall.

Anchor Don Lemon showed live footage of a gay "kiss-out" and took viewers inside the Stonewall Inn in New York City, a gay bar, to get the reactions from various patrons.

Correspondent Brian Todd interviewed four different same-sex marriage advocates outside the Supreme Court just before and after the rulings. Dan Simon got the reaction from a happy same-sex marriage supporter in San Francisco.

And CNN also showed live coverage of statements by the plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 case, two same-sex couples, as well as the statement of Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in the DOMA lawsuit.

CNN was even more biased in the prime-time than during the day. From the 5 p.m. through the 9 p.m. ET news hours, 13 guests supporting the same-sex marriage rulings appeared on CNN, compared to only two opponents.

Guests throughout the day included singer and gay activist Melissa Etheridge, and NFL punter Chris Kluwe who actively supports same-sex marriage. Host Wolf Blitzer gave a fawning interview to a gay couple and their adoptive child during the 1 p.m. ET hour.

"And I'm sure it will be a lovely, lovely ceremony. Your daughter Ellie is there, she's got two dads. Tell us a little what it's like for Ellie to have two fathers," Blitzer cooed to the couple. He added, "She's obviously a pretty smart little girl over there. And both of you should be very proud of her. Once again, congratulations on your upcoming – is there a date already for the wedding?"

In contrast, traditional marriage supporter John Eastman got a colder reception from Around the World co-hosts Michael Holmes and Suzanne Malveaux. Holmes challenged his opposition to the Court's DOMA ruling, "how are you harmed by this decision? How is anyone harmed by this decision?"

Malveaux cited polls to ask if Eastman was on the "wrong side of history": "Does it concern you might be out of step, lock-step here and on the wrong side of history?" When he answered that "polls come and go," Malveaux butted in that "It's clear that people's opinions are changing about this evolving issue."

Host Erin Burnett gave a glowing interview to two same-sex marriage advocates on Wednesday's OutFront. "And Joel, how do you feel? Is jubilant a fair word to describe how you feel today?" she asked openly-gay Fort Worth city councilman Joel Burns.

When Burns described how he would file his tax return jointly with his partner, Burnett interrupted to tout, "I only have to interrupt you for a quick second just to say you are the first person I have ever heard excited about filing tax returns. And that should say how meaningful this is."

On Anderson Cooper 360, Cooper hosted pro-gay bloggers Andrew Sullivan and Evan Wolfson. Cooper revealed he was gay last summer on Sullivan's blog.

Then Cooper interviewed Jean Podrasky, the lesbian cousin of Chief Justice John Roberts, as well as her partner. "So Jean, your cousin the Chief Justice's majority opinion in the Prop 8 case, dismissing it on procedural grounds, means that you and Grace and millions of other gay and lesbian California residents will be able to get married. It's not like he went to bat for gay rights, certainly, in that opinion, but the practical impact is huge for people in California. How do you feel?"

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