CNN Claims No Favorites, But MRC Data Shows Campaign Coverage Skewed Left [UPDATED with CNN Reaction]

11/12: UPDATE with CNN reaction below the fold

CNN has launched a new advertising campaign, claiming to be the only cable network without an ideological ax to grind. “If you want to keep them all honest, without playing favorites, the choice is clear: CNN, the worldwide leader in news,” the on-screen message argues.

So, did CNN “play favorites” during the midterm campaign? MRC analysts reviewed all of the guests and commentators on CNN’s primetime weekday programs from October 4 through October 29, the last four full weeks before the November 2 elections. Guests were grouped into three categories: “Democrat/liberal,” “Republican/conservative,” and “Other.” The latter category included all non-political guests, as well as guests who were not associated with a clear political point of view.

Results and chart below the fold:


The results show that liberal guests outnumbered conservatives by a more than three-to-two margin, 61% to 39%. Our analysts found 88 “Democrat/liberal” guests to just 56 “Republican/conservative” guests. All three of the network’s primetime programs — Parker Spitzer, Larry King Live, and Anderson Cooper 360 — featured more liberals than conservatives among their politically-affiliated guests.

To be clear, CNN offered opportunities for conservatives and Republicans to speak during the crucial final weeks of the campaign. But as for not “playing favorites,” the data show the networks provided clear advantage for liberals.

UPDATE, 5:30pm ET November 12: The Politico’s “On Media” blog picked up on the MRC study, with a reaction from a CNN executive:

CNN took issue with MRC’s methodology.

“Simply using partisan labels on guests who are not even talking about politics is not helpful to the national discourse,” said Barbara Levin, vice president of media relations at CNN. “And counting a newsmaker/headliner guest who gets twice the airtime as a roundtable guest, distorts the true overall picture. As our promo says, CNN doesn’t play favorites and is proud to be the only cable news network without partisan primetime programs.”

Politico’s Keach Hagey invited me to respond. That, in part:

UPDATE: Rich Noyes, MRC’s research director, responded to CNN’s points, saying the content of the discussion was not parsed if the guest was strongly ideologically identified.

“If a guest (such as The Nation's Ari Melber) comes from a strong ideological perspective, we did not parse each interview,” he said. “National Review's Will Cain sometimes talked about non-political issues on Parker Spitzer, but he was consistently labeled as "conservative/Republican."

I also appended a comment to the Politico article as a rejoinder to the assertion that “Several of the people listed as ‘Democrat/liberal’ in study, such a Wanda Sykes, Kathy Griffin and Sean Penn, were on the air talking about non-political topics, such as bullying and the disaster in Haiti.”

I wrote:

FYI, the guests CNN claims were really nonpartisan made liberal points. For example, Kathy Griffin on LKL, talking about bullying, unleashed against conservatives:

“I think that the way that we had trickle-down economics in the 80s, this is trickle down homophobia. And I really want people to connect the dots. And that's why I believe there's a connection between Prop 8, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and now the string of teen suicides. It's almost sanctioned to bully gay people and treat them as second-class citizens.”

That's why we classified her as a liberal.

Rich Noyes
Rich Noyes
Rich Noyes is the Senior Editor for Newsbusters