FLASHBACK: When CNN Censored Obama’s 2008 Memorial Day Idiocy

May 26th, 2024 10:06 AM

How far would a liberal network go to protect their favorite candidate? Sixteen years ago, CNN deliberately censored a blunder by likely Democratic nominee Barack Obama, when in a Memorial Day speech before veterans, he stupidly said of America’s “fallen heroes” that “I see many of them in the audience here today.”

Actually, Obama’s audience in Las Cruces, New Mexico on May 26, 2008, consisted of veterans who were alive and well, not those who had fallen in service to their country. It was the sort of goofy gaffe that would haunt a Republican candidate for days. Then-Associate Editor Noel Sheppard made sure to quickly embed video of Obama’s unedited speech on NewsBusters, predicting: “You’re not likely to hear about this, because it seems a metaphysical certitude Obama-loving media won’t consider this newsworthy.”

But it wasn’t just that the media ignored the embarrassing story (although they did). The next day, CNN’s Joe Johns crafted a report about Obama’s patriotism, and decided to include this exact soundbite from the Democrat’s Memorial Day speech. But he and his producers deliberately edited out the clause “and I see many of them in the audience here today” to create the illusion that Obama’s gaffe never even happened.

On May 26, CNN covered Obama’s Memorial Day speech live, but joined it in progress a few moments after it began, so the ridiculous phrase wasn’t shown in real time. The next night, during the 8pm Election Center program, anchor Campbell Brown introduced brief clips of both Obama and GOP candidate John McCain at Memorial Day events. This was CNN viewers’ only chance to see the uncensored quote from Obama, although it aired without any acknowledgment from Brown that it was a mistake:

CAMPBELL BROWN: Over the holiday, both Obama and McCain surrounded themselves with flags and rubbed elbows with veterans. It was all about patriotism.

BARACK OBAMA: On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes — and I see many of them in the audience today — our sense of patriotism is particularly strong.

JOHN MCCAIN: I have had the good fortune to know personally a great many brave and selfless patriots who sacrificed and shed blood to defend America. But I have known none braver and none better than those who do so today.

Later in the same show, viewers saw a packaged report from reporter Joe Johns about Obama’s patriotism. If you watch the video (below), you’ll see a faint flash effect — that’s where CNN snipped out Obama’s error, to make it seem as if it never occurred.

JOHN JOHNS: This is Barack Obama doing what you would expect a guy running for president to do on Memorial Day. He’s honoring those who sacrificed everything.

BARACK OBAMA: On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes, our sense of patriotism is particularly strong.



The next day (Wednesday, May 28), the same deceitful piece ran again on CNN during the 11am and 3pm hours. The edited clip was only about two seconds shorter than the original, so the idea that it was done to save time is extremely unlikely. The only plausible explanation is that Johns, or someone else at CNN, decided to censor their favorite candidate’s stupidest comment of the day to spare him embarrassment.

The “I see dead people” gaffe came just days after Obama had talked about the U.S. having 58 states (“I’ve now been in 57 states? I think one left to go”), and ridiculously stated that 10,000 people had died in a tornado in Kansas (in fact, 11 people had died). Yet in spite of ongoing questions about whether the freshman Senator was actually ready to be President, none of these amateur goofs were seriously covered by the liberal media.

But in removing the key phrase from Obama’s Memorial Day quote, CNN went beyond just ignoring the Democrat’s blunders. The network deliberately doctored a quote to improve the candidate’s image.

It’s certainly not the worst mistake a candidate has made on the campaign trail, but it’s telling that CNN decided they would rather hide it from viewers than let them make their own judgment about its relative importance.

For more examples from our flashback series, which we call the NewsBusters Time Machine, go here.