Nothing to See Here: CNN Largely Omits Tainted Eliot Spitzer Was Once Its Prime-Time Host

CNN mentioned Eliot Spitzer's prostitution scandal in every single report on his comeback bid in politics on Monday and Tuesday, but hid that he was recently a CNN prime-time host in five of the seven reports.

Spitzer was originally hired by CNN as a liberal voice, to co-host a prime-time show with "conservative" Kathleen Parker that debuted in October of 2010. When Parker left the show months later in February of 2011, Spitzer – originally hired for his liberal bias – became the sole host of In the Arena, which was canceled later in July. Yet CNN only disclosed this information twice in its seven reports on Spitzer's candidacy for New York City comptroller.

"A new start to tell you about this morning for a politician who last his last job, thanks to a prostitution scandal," reported Early Start co-host Michaela Pereira on Monday. "He's been a commentator ever since, including some time spent working right here at CNN."  

For the rest of Monday's news, CNN made no mention of Spitzer's recent employment at the network. Finally on New Day, correspondent Mary Snow noted in her report, "After stepping down, Spitzer has worked as a TV commentator, including at CNN."

And CNN only once identified Spitzer as a Democrat, his party affiliation when he resigned amidst scandal as New York's governor. On Monday's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer called him "The former New York Democratic governor" who " is trying for a comeback after a prostitution scandal halted his political career."

Here is a compilation of CNNers mocking and denouncing Spitzer in 2008 when he resigned as governor -- over two years before he was hired by CNN.

Below is a transcript of the segments which aired on CNN on July 8 and July 9:

CNN
EARLY START
[5:42 a.m. EDT]
7/8/13

MICHAELA PEREIRA: Welcome back to Early Start. A new start to tell you about this morning for a politician who last his last job, thanks to a prostitution scandal. Eliot Spitzer, the former New York governor, now says he is running to be the top financial officer in New York City. You'll recall, he resigned the governorship in disgrace back in 2008 after admitting he routinely visited with prostitutes. He's been a commentator ever since, including some time spent working right here at CNN. Now, he says he's the right person to help keep an eye on New York City's spending and he's hopeful voters will give him a second chance.

NEW DAY
6:50 a.m. EDT
7/9/13

KATE BOLDUAN: But first, New York City voters are being asked to give a disgraced politician a second chance not once but twice. CNN's chief national correspondent John King is here to break it down for us. It's almost like deja vu in a very short amount of time. One big city, two political scandals. Now, Eliot Spitzer is asking voters to give him a second chance, wanting to be New York City comptroller. I'm sitting here wondering, do you think Spitzer saw the bump in the polls for Anthony Weiner and he thought, hey, if he can do it, I can.

JOHN KING, CNN chief national correspondent: Kate and Chris, good morning. There's no surprise here. Eliot Spitzer, since he did leave the governor's office, has made clear if there's an opportunity for redemption, if there's an opportunity to get back into public service, he would be very interested. So, the only surprise might be the timing and the specific job he wants here.

And it is a big question now for New York City. You have Anthony Weiner running for mayor, now Eliot Spitzer wanting to be the city's top money guy, if you will, and at a time when Mayor Bloomberg is fading from the scene. You know, watch for the opponents here. How negative do they get? How quickly do they bring up the personal stuff or do they try to make the case, look, it's time for New York generationally to turn the page.

That will be what you'll hear first from the opponents. The mayor is leaving, we need new leadership. The question now, can Mr. Weiner, and now Eliot Spitzer say, no, you also need some experience. And yes, we've made mistakes, but judge us by what we did in office, not just by the personal stuff.

BOLDUAN: Interesting, though, the personal stuff does play in when you're running for office. That's always definitely the case.

[8:14 a.m. EDT]

MICHAELA PEREIRA: Former New York governor Eliot Spitzer is trying to make a political comeback after five years after resigning in disgrace over a prostitution scandal. Spitzer confirms he's running for New York City comptroller. The primary will be held in September. Spitzer was forced to leave office in 2008 when he was caught on a federal wiretap arranging a meeting with a high-end escort.

THE SITUATION ROOM
[6:51 p.m. EDT]
7/8/13

WOLF BLITZER: The former New York Democratic governor, Eliot Spitzer, is trying for a comeback after a prostitution scandal halted his political career. He launched a petition campaign today in a bid to become New York City's comptroller. And get this: Spitzer is challenged for the post by Libertarian Kristin Davis, who says she was the madam who supplied him with escorts. If Spitzer makes September's primary, he'll be on the ballot with the former Democratic congressman, Anthony Weiner, who's also trying to make a comeback from a sex scandal. He's running for the mayor of New York.

ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
7:51 p.m. EDT
7/8/13

ERIN BURNETT: Well, now, to Eliot Spitzer, who is apparently – believes he can stage a comeback. The disgraced governor of New York, former governor, Eliot Spitzer, he resigned five years ago after the feds caught him soliciting prostitutes. He has announced he's running for the comptroller of New York City.

It's a pretty powerful job. He will control about $140 billion. That announcement turns his first campaign event into a mob scene earlier today. I mean, look at that. Spitzer says this campaign is about returning to a life of public service, that he hopes voters will forgive him and focus on his record, not his predilection for prostitutes.

(Video Clip)

ELIOT SPITZER, former New York governor: I sinned, I owned up to it, I looked them in the eye, I resigned, I held myself accountable. I think that was the only right thing to do.

(End Video Clip)

BURNETT: OutFront tonight, Dean Obeidallah and Stephanie Miller and Reihan Salam. Great to see you all of you as always. Dean, $140 billion, that's a lot of money to oversee.

DEAN OBEIDALLAH, comedian: It is.

BURNETT: This is money that, you know, is invested with big banks, the big banks that he went after successfully as the "Sheriff of Wall Street." There's some great irony to this whole situation.

OBEIDALLAH: There is –

BURNETT: But he's shooting low for comptroller.

OBEIDALLAH: He is. It's probably a smart move. You go down lower, people maybe forgiving for that. As a comedian, this is great. We've got him, we've got Weiner, if we could just get Silvio Berlusconi to move to New York, they run together, it's a dream team. But the guy spent $4,000 on one prostitute. How come we trust him with our money? He should have shopped around, haggled. That's a ridiculous price. To be honest, it's made the entire race – I thought Weiner had a chance for redemption, add Spitzer, it turns this whole thing into a Comedy Central special. It's a joke.

BURNETT: This whole story – and then Weiner's name constantly coming to it – is tough to take, at least from a comedic point of view. Reihan, Spitzer does have the credentials, though. The guy is incredibly bright, we know that. But does that mean that he will be forgiven?

REIHAN SALAM, CNN contributor: I do not like Eliot Spitzer, and I think that many people who've crossed paths with Eliot Spitzer feel the same way. But the thing is, that New York City is facing an enormous major budget crisis. And the truth is that Eliot Spitzer had many flaws as a human being and as a governor. One thing he did do however was keep an eye on overspending. He kept an eye on overspending at the World Trade Center site –

(Crosstalk)

OBEIDALLAH: $80,000 altogether on prostitutes.

SALAM: Well, I honestly think it's really appalling, but I also think that what's really appalling is the fiscal state of New York City. This is a city where spending has increased in inflation-adjusted terms by more than 50 percent under Bloomberg. You have pension and benefit costs ballooning. This is a huge problem. And you need a fiscal watchdog and that's something he's very well-suited to do. So, I don't love the guy, but he should be in the mix, he should be in the race.

BURNETT: Stephanie, Steven Ratner, venture capitalist, friend of Eliot Spitzer's, was on MSNBC with my friends Joe and Mika this morning. And he said, "I have no doubt watching Sanford and watching Weiner," referring to Mark Sanford, of course, in South Carolina, and, of course, with Weiner, he said, "why not me?" I mean, do you think there was a little bit of that? I mean, come on, why not John Edwards?

STEPHANIE MILLER, radio show host: Well, exactly. You know, there's been a -- the bar has been lowered on sex scandals, and I have to admit to being kind of a fan of Weiner and Spitzer, and I think I would like to move to New York and run both of their campaigns just so I can say hi, it's Stephanie Miller calling from Weiner-Spitzer.

I think that – I think that you raise a good point that honestly, you know, is falling in love with a mistress or impregnating the nanny in your bed worse than this? Probably. And, you know, certainly other people have been forgiven. And I happen to think he's a really smart guy, and I think he's been really great on financial stuff, including Wall Street, and he's well suited for this job.

SALAM: The problem is, this is a crime that he himself had prosecuted. He actually declared a war on Johns and then he turns around and does this. This is very serious hypocrisy.

(Crosstalk)

SALAM: But we have to (Inaudible) a smart guy in this job.

DEAN: At least we have one bipartisan thing, both Democrats and Republicans in sex scandals. The one thing they're doing that's bipartisan in this hyper-partisan era.

BURNETT: Well, that's good to know, men will be men as some would say. These happen to be all men. I'm not saying women don't do it. I'm just saying.

All right. Thanks very much to all three of you. And by the way, for those who are watching this, I'd like you to know, if Spitzer gets on the ballot and get all the signatures, he will be running against Kristen Davis, the former madam who claims to have set up his trysts. So, they'll be going head to head.

ANDERSON COOPER 360
8:54 p.m. EDT
7/8/13

RANDI KAYE: Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer announced a bid to run for New York City comptroller, which oversees and manages the city's finances. Spitzer resigned in 2008 amid a prostitution scandal.

NEW DAY
7/9/13
[6:41 a.m. EDT]

CHRIS CUOMO: Another provocative question now, is this the year of the political comeback? Eliot Spitzer seems to think so. The former New York Governor is back on the campaign trail, asking for redemption and votes as he starts his bid for city comptroller. As CNN's Mary Snow reports, there's reason to think he just might get both.

(Video Clip)

ELIOT SPITZER (D), former New York governor: You got to put yours down there –

MARY SNOW, CNN correspondent (voice-over): Five years after a sex scandal forced him out of office as New York's governor, Eliot Spitzer hit the streets looking for political support.

A crush of cameras outnumbered potential voters.

SPITZER: People have forgiveness in their hearts, whether that forgiveness extends to me –  

HECKLER: Not everybody forgives!

SNOW: Hecklers brought up Spitzer's admission of using prostitutes that led to his 2008 resignation.

SPITZER: The remorse I feel will always be with me.

SNOW: After stepping down, Spitzer has worked as a TV commentator, including at CNN. Can Spitzer win a second chance like Mark Sanford did?

Rep. MARK SANFORD (R-S.C.): – Washington, D.C.!

SNOW: His political career seemed over after having an extramarital affair while governor of South Carolina. But he was recently elected to Congress. Anthony Weiner is now leading the polls in New York's mayoral race after resigning from Congress when he was caught sending lewd photos of himself to women. Spitzer needs nearly 4,000 signatures by Thursday to run for the city's chief budget officer.

This man signed his name.

ANDREW FINE, New York voter: If he can prove himself as a viable candidate and win, he wins. That's democracy.

SNOW: Not everyone agrees.

TIFFANY DUPREE ATWELL, New York voter: Why don't we just get Marion Berry back and run for office, too? I think it's like a circus.

SNOW: One Democratic strategist who worked on a previous Spitzer campaign says don't count Spitzer out.

HANK SHEINKOPF, Democratic strategist: Ten minutes in politics is 50 years in anything else, and anything can happen all times, any time, forever.

SNOW: But can Spitzer clock enough support in a New York minute to run again? Mary Snow, CNN, New York.

(End Video Clip)

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