CNN Highlights Assault on MoveOn Worker, Omits Assault on Paul Supporter

Screen cap from video footage of assault on MoveOn.org employee outside 25 October 2010 Kentucky Senate Debate | NewsBusters.org[Update, 12:15 pm Wednesday: See below on CNN's additional coverage of the assault.]

CNN devoted seven news briefs on Tuesday to an assault on a MoveOn.org employee by Rand Paul supporters caught on camera outside the Kentucky Senate debate on Monday evening, but failed to mention a second assault on Rand Paul supporter by a booster of Paul's opponent, Jack Conway. Most of the briefs also omitted how the MoveOn employee was trying to get an embarrassing picture of Paul.

Emily Maxwell of KYPost.com reported late on Monday how "tensions flared at he senatorial candidates' debate here Monday night in two confrontations between Conway and Paul supporters, Lexington police reported. The first involved a woman who is a member of www.moveon.org and who was determined to pose in front of Rand Paul holding a sign that read 'Rand Paul Republicore: Employee of the Month.'" After detailing this first incident, Maxwell continued that "the second occurred after a Conway supporter stepped on the foot of a female Rand supporter, who recently had foot surgery, according to police. The woman was wearing a surgical boot, but after the injury, her incision was cut open. Police say she refused medical treatment and also filed an assault report."

Anchor John Roberts set the example for CNN's coverage of the incidents in his news brief six minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour of American Morning, as the video of the assault on Lauren Valle, the MoveOn.org employee played:

ROBERTS: There was an ugly moment outside the debate between Kentucky Senate candidates Rand Paul and Jack Conway. Have a look at this video. It shows several men wearing Rand Paul T-shirts pushing a MoveOn.org supporter to the ground. One of the men, after she's down on the ground, stomps on her head. The woman was not seriously injured- just let this play out here for a second: watch the fellow in the jeans- boom- woman not seriously injured. Lexington police are investigating.

Roberts's co-anchor, Kiran Chetry, gave a similar brief an hour later during CNN Newsroom, but both times, the assault on the Rand Paul supporter wasn't mentioned. The anchors also omitted the liberal affiliation of MoveOn.org.

CNN's Kyra Phillips gave briefs on the assault on Valle during the 9 and 10 am hours. Unlike Roberts, her fiancee, and Chetry, Phillips noted that MoveOn is a "liberal group," but like them, she failed to mention the attack on the Paul supporter:

PHILLIPS: One of the ugliest flashes of anger happened just before the [Kentucky Senate] debate. This is a worker for the liberal group Moveon.org getting roughed up outside the forum. She's getting stomped on by a man wearing a 'Rand Paul for Senate' T-shirt. Lexington Police are investigating, and they say that all the people who roughed up that woman could face charges now.

Anchor Tony Harris gave a promo on the assault by the Rand Paul supporters at the top of the 11 am Eastern hour: "Political nastiness at its worst: a woman gets attacked and stomped on by men outside a debate in Kentucky. She is with a liberal group- the men wearing Rand Paul T-shirts and stickers. What would their mothers say?" Harris also became the first CNN personality to mention Valle's reason for being there at the debate venue during his subsequent news brief:

HARRIS: Tempers flare: with just one week until the mid-term elections, a liberal activist gets stomped on before a debate in Lexington, Kentucky. Have you seen the video? There it is. It shows several men wearing Rand Paul T-shirts ripping a wig off the woman and pushing her to the ground, right? One of the men stomps on her shoulder, and his foot lands on her head. The woman, from MoveOn.org, was trying to get a picture designed to embarrass Rand Paul in a TV commercial. The Paul campaign calls the incident 'incredibly unfortunate.'

The anchor, like his colleagues during the previous briefs, failed to mentioned the second assault on the Rand Paul supporter. Harris would go on to give a nearly identical brief during the 12 noon hour.

CNN's Brooke Baldwin gave the seventh and last brief on the assault on Valle 40 minutes into the 3 pm Eastern hour of Newsroom. As in the previous six briefs, Baldwin played the video of the assault:

BALDWIN: I want to start in Kentucky where some violence broke out. You have Republican Rand Paul and Democrat Jack Conway- they are up against each other here in a nasty Senate race. But take a look at what happened before the debate last night. One of Paul's supporters literally- you saw the foot, right?- stomps on the head of a woman who we found works for Moveon.org- that is a liberal group that supports progressive candidates. See his foot?- look at that, stomping multiple times. Paul's campaign calls the scuffle 'unfortunate.' We're told the woman suffered a concussion and a sprained shoulder and arm.

Oddly enough, CNN.com's write-up on "the stomping outside [the] Kentucky debate" mentioned the second assault, but downplayed it by devoting only two paragraphs to it out of 25:

[Lexington, Kentucky Division of Police Public Information Officer Sherelle] Roberts confirmed that a second assault report was filed Monday night by a woman who said her foot was stepped on in a crowd outside the debate venue before the event. In that case, Roberts said, the victim "was unsure if it was purposeful or accidental."

Local media reports said the woman who filed the second assault report was a Paul supporter, but Roberts was unable to confirm that information. Roberts said that the woman had her foot in a cast from recent surgery and that her foot was re-injured in the incident.

[Update: CNN devoted three more news briefs on Tuesday evening to the assault on the MoveOn.org worker, each time continuing their omission of the attack on the Rand Paul supporter. Correspondent Kate Bolduan reported on the "nasty incident" 47 minutes into the 6 pm Eastern hour of The Situation Room as the network played the video once again. Anderson Cooper 360 also played the video twice during the 10 pm Eastern hour, once as Democratic pundit Paul Begala cited the incident as an example of "an undercurrent of violence on the right this year that is troubling" early in the hour, and during a brief by correspondent Joe Johns just after the bottom of the hour.]

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center