Conservatives often criticize CNN, but a leading intellectual on the right has just penned what might be the most brutal indictment of the network written to date.
In a 2,800 word essay, National Review editor Charles C. W. Cooke verbally demolished the cable channel, stating it suffers from an acute case of "monomania" and peddles "glossy propaganda."
Cooke reminisced how, growing up in the 1980s and 90s, CNN could assert its "most trusted name in news" slogan with some credibility as a respectable media organization that was "careful and self-consciously non-partisan."
"It could be sensationalist and intrusive at times, but it was sensationalist and intrusive in the way that the paparazzo is rather than in the way that protesters who bang drums in your face and insist that you give up gasoline are," he wrote.
Now, the author of "The Conservatarian Manifesto" argued, the network has been reduced to "a peculiar and unlovely hybrid of progressive propaganda outlet, oleaginous media apologist, sexless cultural scold, and frenzied Donald Trump stalkerblog."
Trump drove them crazy
What has happened to CNN? Cooke said its descent can be attributed to a mix of Trump Derangement Syndrome and an insatiable appetite for ratings.
In a compelling passage, the British-born American writer compares the front page of the network's website to that of the New York Times to illustrate how low CNN has fallen.
It is difficult to convey in words just what the candidacy and then presidency of Donald Trump have done to CNN, but one can gain a sense of the descent by comparing the network with a news organization that has largely maintained its sanity: the New York Times. On April 30 of this year, the front page of the Times featured stories on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the consequences of ISIS's rule of Raqqa; on the biggest measles outbreak of the 21st century; and on the Labor Department's decision to treat workers in the "gig economy" as contractors rather than as employees. The first column of CNN's homepage, by contrast, featured — in order: "77 lies and falsehoods Mueller called out"; "What's in the Mueller report? CNN breaks it down"; "William Barr now has to try to defend the indefensible"; "Barr gave his version of the report. Then we read it"; "Democrats ramp up Trump financial probe, make new hire"; "Prosecutors seek to block Stone from seeing unredacted portions of Mueller's report"; "Analysis: Is Rosenstein the hero of the Russia probe? Or the villain?"; "Biden: Congress would have 'no alternative' to impeachment if Trump blocked Mueller probe."
Cooke also contrasted the Times' coverage of Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro's torture of military foes and Hong Kong protests with CNN's headlines on the same day.
More prominent than any of these stories on CNN.com were an "analysis" titled "Trump's talking more than ever about men's looks"; an "analysis" of "Donald Trump, plastic pusher"; an "analysis" under the headline "This one word is a telltale sign Trump is being dishonest"; and a piece providing "proof Obama was better for the stock market than Trump."
Tough words for Jim Acosta, Don Lemon, and Brian Stelter
CNN personalities Jim Acosta, Don Lemon, and Brian Steler were not spared of criticism either.
Cooke wrote that Jim Acosta "seems to believe that his job is to act as the loyal opposition to President Trump, serves as a good example of the tendency, prone as he is to showing up at press conferences and emoting until he inspires a reaction about which he can subsequently complain on Twitter."
Worse than Acosta, according to the National Review editor, is Don Lemon. Cooke argued the host of "CNN Tonight" is a "'news anchor' in the same sense as that in which Nick Saban is a referee." He also detailed how Lemon interviewed Rev. Bill Owens on his show and when the African American pastor refused to agree with him that President Trump is a racist, the show's producers changed the chyron from "African American faith leader" to "controversial pastor" within minutes.
However, perhaps the harshest words were reserved for Brian Stelter, host of CNN's "Reliable Sources," a program Cooke said primarily exists "to whitewash the most egregious decisions it makes, to defend similar decisions made by its allies, and to explain why mirror-image behavior by Fox News represents a unique threat to the republic."
Stelter calls himself a "media critic," but Cooke suggested that a more fitting title for him would be "media apologist." He wrote, "Stelter clearly believes that his job is to suppress any information that makes the outlets he likes look bad and to highlight any information that he believes makes the outlets he likes look good." He added that the CNN anchor is "in his own mind, the Arbiter of the Press. A National Media Ombudsman. The First Amendment's Own Inspector General."
"So self-indulgent has the organization become, in fact, that when I learned this year that it was starting a 'CNN Hero of the Year' award, I half-expected to see Brian Stelter tearfully giving it to himself," Cooke concluded.