CNN Gives Obama a Pass Amidst Major Coverage of His Leno Interview

CNN had extensive coverage on Wednesday of President Obama's interview with NBC's Jay Leno, but only two CNN hosts actually challenged some of the President's claims during the 11 different news hours that played clips of the interview.

One of Obama's statements went completely unchallenged for the entire day. The President said that "we don't need a huge government, but we need government doing some basic things," in reference to infrastructure. He added that the country needs to "make sure we don't waste money."

No CNN figure even asked if Obama's government has not been "huge" or limited to doing "basic things" or has not wasted money during his tenure as President. Nowhere did anchors bring up his massive stimulus plan and some of the controversial projects that received stimulus money, and taxpayer-funded failed green energy companies.

CNN spent over 21 minutes on Wednesday  just playing clips from the President's interview with Leno, although a whopping 13 minutes came during the 9 and 10 a.m. ET hours of Newsroom. The 10 a.m. ET hour alone featured seven minutes and 34 seconds of the Leno interview.

However, CNN missed a number of gaffes the President made in the interview that were pointed out by NewsBusters, including his claim that "the odds of people dying in a terrorist attack obviously are still a lot lower than in a car accident, unfortunately."

CNN never played that clip. Only The Lead host Jake Tapper even broached the subject of terrorism from the interview, when he questioned State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki about the President's decision to close embassies due to the supposedly high threat of terrorism.     

"How much concern does the Obama administration have that by closing all these embassies and consulates, the U.S. may appear to be running scared from the region, feeding into this criticism we have heard from some hawks about waning U.S. influence, the suggestion that nobody is daunted by the U.S. anymore? Was that a concern at all when this was issued?" Tapper asked.

Tapper was also the only CNN figure to bring up Obama's statement that "We don't have a domestic spying program." An incredulous Tapper noted, "First of all, obviously we do have a domestic spying program through the FBI and whatever."

And then only Tapper and Wolf Blitzer, host of The Situation Room, asked if Obama's 2012 opponent Mitt Romney was even somewhat right about Russia, given the President's criticism of the country in his interview and his cancelation of a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

"Didn't Governor Romney have a point about Russia being if not the number one, at least a geopolitical foe? Your own account, you call this a roller coaster. It's been a very -- a relationship in some trouble," Tapper posed to Psaki. Blitzer asked in the next hour, "was Romney right when he called Russia America's number one geopolitical foe?"

Another Obama gaffe that CNN played twice but did not correct is his claim that Putin "headed up the KGB." As NewsBusters' Geoff Dickens pointed out, the Washington Post back in 2003 reported that Putin was not the organization's head, but  "spent 17 years as a mid-level agent in the Soviet KGB's foreign intelligence wing, rising only to the rank of lieutenant colonel."

The President also incorrectly claimed that the cities of Charleston, Savannah, and Jacksonville – all of them on the Atlantic coast in their respective states of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida – were "ports all along the Gulf [of Mexico]." CNN ignored that gaffe on Wednesday.

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