At their website, NPR tried to add to the controversy that CNN would dare to air Rep. Michele Bachmann offering a Tea Party response to Obama's State of the Union address, despite her "history of inflammatory remarks." Reporter Corey Dade underlined that it could undermine CNN's image of neutrality, as if it wasn't a liberal network:
"I can't figure how you can partner with a political action committee and claim to be neutral," says Kelly McBride, who teaches media ethics at the Poynter Institute, a journalism training center.
In an interview, Sam Feist, CNN's political director and vice president of Washington-based programming, said any suggestion that CNN couldn't cover the debate impartially is "ludicrous. It reveals a lack of understanding by the people bringing this up. Almost all debates are partnerships with other organizations. In every case, we maintain editorial control."
...Poynter's McBride said CNN made a "business decision. I have not talked to anyone at CNN about this, but when I see this decision I think this is a strategic play for Fox's audience"....
"It may gain credibility with a certain segment of the audience," McBride said of politically conservative viewers, "but it undermines CNN's independence with a broader audience."
Dade interviewed more supportive voices -- including leftists like Jay Rosen, who think potential GOP fissures are a big news story (and liberals always agree with that.) But he avoided any look at CNN's past alliances in debates. For example, in 2008, they co-sponsored a debate with the Congressional Black Caucus Institute. Does anyone remember the Poynter Institute objecting that this could bias CNN in favor of the Congressional Black Caucus? Or is Poynter just another liberal-media entity pretending to be objective?
(It should be noted that this year, Anderson Cooper harped on how Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson abused CBC's scholarship program to enrich aides and relatives.)
Dade underlined some don't believe the Tea Party deserves any establishment respect:
Some political strategists and media critics believe CNN helped legitimize what had been a nascent but disorganized assortment of local movements. Or, as Slate.com blogger Dave Weigel put it: "CNN has a longstanding romance with the Tea Party Express, the PAC that's putting on the Bachmann speech."
Weigel was referring to the Tea Party group's political action committee, which will partner with CNN to host a Republican presidential candidates' debate in September. The arrangement has left McBride and others saying CNN faces a conflict of interest by co-sponsoring an event with a political group that endorses and raises money for candidates whom CNN purports to cover without bias....
On her show Tuesday night, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow lambasted CNN's broadcast of the Bachmann speech as a "remarkable act of journalistic intervention to elevate, in effect, a group with which they are co-sponsoring a presidential debate."
CNN host Piers Morgan, whose new show competes with Maddow's in the same time slot, fired back in a tweet, dismissing her criticism as "nonsense."
"At roughly the same time Rachel Maddow was attacking CNN, Brian Williams at NBC was interviewing Michele Bachmann," CNN's Feist said. "Was she also attacking Brian Williams and NBC?"
Liberals would have been annoyed that Bachmann was interviewed, but it was the unedited broadcast of a Bachmann speech (slamming Obama harder than Paul Ryan did) that outraged them. Someone ought to ask Rachel Maddow if CNN's alliances with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation is a "remarkable act of journalistic intervention" as they've made incredibly one-sided documentaries like "Gary and Tony Have a Baby" and "Her Name Was Steven," or if supportively touting GLAAD's purple ribbons and heavily promoting gay leftist Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" video campaign compromises their independence.