Is CNN Moving to the Right?

June 1st, 2007 10:52 AM

What’s going on lately at the station formerly known as the Clinton News Network?

Last week, CNN was the only major American news outlet other than Fox News to cover the al Qaeda torture manual story.

On Tuesday, unlike virtually every press organization that did its best to sidestep the issue while covering Cindy Sheehan’s resignation from the peace movement, Kiran Chetry actually said on “American Morning” “she renounced her ties to the Democratic Party.”

And, as reported by Allah at Hot Air Thursday:

If you’re keeping score, this makes not one, not two, but three hard slaps on ethics delivered in the span of nine days.

What was Allah talking about? Well, in the past couple of weeks, CNN has done a number of segments tearing into federal spending, in particular, earmarks by – wait for it – Democrats.

Impossible you say?

Well, take a look at the following video of a rather shocking segment from Thursday’s “CNN Newsroom” that went after prominent Democrat Jack Murtha. Here’s the transcript with emphasis added at key points so that you can read along and be even more amazed by what you see:

TONY HARRIS, ANCHOR: Thirty-nine million dollars poured into a secretive federal agency and tucked away in a former department store? It's funded by you and it's protected by a powerful Congressman.

CNN's Drew Griffin went looking for answers. He is keeping them honest.


DREW GRIFFIN, INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's somewhere down there, a $39 million taxpayer gift to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, hidden among the shuttered steel mills and not so bustling streets two hours from Pittsburgh. It was also hidden here, too, among the pages and pages of this year's House Intelligence Bill, hidden until some Republican Congressman, including former FBI agent Mike Rogers dug it out.

REP. MIKE ROGERS, (R-MI): Subsequently they came forward and said, oh, this was an oversight.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Yes, after you caught it.

ROGERS: After we caught it.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Caught what? An "earmark," a special spending request slipped into the Intelligence Bill by Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha. The $39 million funds the National Drug Intelligence Center, located right here in Murtha's district on the fifth floor of a former Johnstown, Pennsylvania department store, 200 federal jobs.

What did they do with your $39 million at the National Drug Intelligence Center? No one inside would talk to us, neither would the parent agency, the Department of Justice. It was even hard finding NDIC employees heading to work, less than eager to share what they were up to.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Do you guys work at NDIC? Sir? Do you work at NDIC?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, you need to talk to our upper management.

GRIFFIN: I tried that. They won't talk to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, sorry, thank you.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): What the National Drug Intelligence Center was supposed to do when first proposed back in 1990, was gather information on the national drug war, then become a resource for local and federal agencies. Isn't that what the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Department of Justice, and even the FBI, already were doing? Answer, yes. According to the government accounting office report issued way back in 1993 when the NDIC first opened, that report found the NDIC was doing work already being done by 19 other agencies.

In 2005, the Office of Management and Budget asked the NDIC be shut down because it "has proven ineffective in achieving its assigned mission." U.S. News and World Report called it "a drug war boondoggle." With the DEA short on funds and under a hiring freeze, Congressman Rogers again proposed shutting down the NDIC this year, using the money to hire more drug agents.

ROGERS: Clearly, it would show that this is not the right place to place that money. They've wasted a lot of it already. And we're just throwing money down a rat hole when we've got serious challenges in the intelligence community and law enforcement community across this country.

GRIFFIN: Instead, the Republican found himself in an open fight with a powerful Democrat. Representative John Murtha threatened to eliminate earmarks in Representative Rogers district, $45 million worth.

ROGERS: This is old in the 1950s ward-style "Soprano" type politics that you go along to get along and you don't talk about these things in my district if you want something in your district.

GRIFFIN: The dispute ended on the House floor, with Congressman Murtha chastised for his back room threats, he ended up offering an apology. But, that $39 million for an agency that has proven ineffective is still in the Intelligence Bill. The federal jobs in Johnstown appear safe.

(on camera): And what does Congressman Murtha have to say in defense of the National Drug Intelligence Center here in Johnstown, Pennsylvania? Surprisingly, nothing at all.

(voice-over): "We have decided to decline a CNN interview," is what Murtha spokesman wrote in an e-mail who added the NDIC "was fully funded in last year's Congress."

I asked if Congressman Murtha would show us his other earmark requests. The spokesman told us his requests had all been submitted to the Appropriations Committee. "They are available for review with the committee." Then, we got another e-mail saying that he was mistaken, those earmarks aren't available for review after all.


HARRIS: Drew Griffin joins us now. And Drew, how often does this kind of thing -- it seems crazy -- but how often does this kind of thing happen?

GRIFFIN: Look, this is done -- this is how business is done in Congress.

HARRIS: Business -- exactly.

GRIFFIN: Thousands of pages of earmarks in a bill, time after time after time. And the Democrats promised reform. And it's not happening.

Shocked? Well, then take a gander at this video and transcript from an “Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees” segment aired just twelve hours before on Wedneday evening:

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: During the most recent elections, a lot of politicians made a lot of promises. Now that they're in power, we thought we would check up on some of those politicians, and see if they had kept their word.

We call it "Keeping Them Honest." And, in this case, that's been a challenge, sort of like looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack, because what some politicians promised to make public is still very much hidden, as CNN's Drew Griffin found out.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We're on a treasure hunt, looking for your money. Let's start with two million bucks, your tax dollars right here.


(on camera): I think I hear a plane.

(voice-over): This is the tiny airport in tiny and remote Rice Lake, Wisconsin. Pull up a chair, grab a magazine, a newspaper, because it's going to take a while to show you how your federal tax dollars were spent here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a pretty slow day today, so, if we had known you were coming, I'm sure we would have been busier.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): we will get back to how Congress spent your money in Rice Lake in a moment.

Meantime, here are more ways Congress has secretly spent your money.

Chances are you weren't a guest at the historic Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida, last summer, but taxpayers spent $96,000 to help renovate it.

Skiing more your style? You paid $250,000 last year to renovate a ski lift. In our treasure hunt, it was tricky to find that one. The money came out of last year's massive transportation bill -- no mention of skiing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the construction of the Alyeska Roundhouse in Girdwood, Alaska, $250,000.

GRIFFIN: In Congress, such treasure is called an earmark.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got no -- no name. And, oftentimes, these earmarks are certainly a bit vague.

GRIFFIN: Annie Patnot (ph) watches Congress for a conservative economic watchdog group. She found two earmarks for the Alyeska Roundhouse, a total of $500,000 for the top of a ski lift.

The new open, Democratic Party-controlled Congress promised the earmark process would no longer be secret. All earmark requests would be made public, with plenty of time for debate.

(on camera): But Dave Obey, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and one of those Democrats bragging about the changes, has decided that earmarks, those generous gifts of your money, will be inserted into bills only after the bill has cleared the House floor. In other words, earmarks will still be done in secret -- no public debate.

There was supposed to be some kind of change.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, they lied to the American public. It was a game.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Senator Tom Coburn says it's the same over on the Senate side. Not even other members of Congress can find out who asked for how much and for what.

COBURN: No, they are published. And they're not out there. I couldn't find them if I wanted to.

GRIFFIN: And that's the way the new appropriations chief in the Senate wants to keep it.

Appropriations Chief Robert Byrd apparently thinks other members of Congress, and even the public, can't be trusted with seeing spending requests in advance.

In an e-mail to CNN, the senator's staff told us: "If all earmark requests are made public," the e-mail says, "this would almost certainly lead to an increase in requests, as members are pressured from home to compete for more projects."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is an omnibus appropriations bill.

GRIFFIN: This behemoth of a bill is chock-full of one-line requests for your tax dollars. We followed the clues back to where we started this treasure hunt.

(on camera): So, this is the Rice Lake Airport I asked you about?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sure. Look for it on there.

GRIFFIN: And this is on page 1,384. And it's somewhere in this fine print, I'm taking it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look -- look for it.

GRIFFIN: The -- right down here.


GRIFFIN: So, Rice Lake Regional Airport, Carl's Field, Wisconsin, various improvements, $2 million.

(voice-over): Two million dollars in federal funds, without debate.

Back at Rice Lake, Wisconsin, we sat at the end of the runway and waited four hours. In all that time, we counted just seven private planes. There are no commercial flights at Rice Lake.

But this airport is vital, we are told, for corporate executives, who like to visit Rice Lake's manufacturing plants but don't like to stay the night.

JERRY STITIES, RICE LAKE AIRPORT MANAGER: Before we did the expansion on the runway, they couldn't land here. They had to drive an hour and half to get to their plant, because our airport wasn't large enough for that.

GRIFFIN: And which U.S. congressman decided extending the runway for a few corporate jets was worth your money? Wisconsin Democrat David Obey, the very same person now in charge of appropriations and earmarks.

He said in a statement, Wisconsin doesn't get its fair share. "My only apology," he wrote, "is I can't do more for Wisconsin." (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: And that's the kind of apology that plays well in Wisconsin.

Shocking, wouldn’t you agree? Two different reports on CNN in a twelve-hour span absolutely lambasting prominent Democrats? Are you kidding?

Add to this the at the time exclusive report last Wednesday on the al Qaeda torture manual, and CNN coming very close to telling viewers that Cindy Sheehan resigned from the Democrat Party last Saturday, and one has to wonder whether the management at CNN are comparing Fox News’ ratings with their own and reconsidering their overt liberal bias.

Now, granted, a couple of balanced pieces is no indication of a policy change. However, this bears further observation in the future, don’t you agree?