CNN didn’t disclose Democratic Party ties of questioners in Sanders town hall

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Jaybird

Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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68 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    One point that I saw made on twitter (warning, original tweet contains strong language) is that “Ken Bone is famous and CNN thought that nobody would notice the DNC plants asking questions.”Report

  2. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I think this is a big ol’ nothingburger.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Hmmm. CNN is awful, but this is a particularly insidious type of awful, seems to me. Yet, people keep watching CNN…Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Mutatis mundatis for FOX News, my dude, but that’s not really the point, is it? The point is we’re supposed to five-minute-hate on CNN for being some sort of catspaw for the Evil Corporate Democratic Establishment and for my part, I’m not buying it.

        The town hall was held in Washington D.C. and made open to “Democrats and Independents” very early in the primary season. What kind of people ought we to expect to show up to something like this if not the most politically active? Of course such people are likely to have some sort of ties to some sort of machinery somewhere.

        Show me that a) the person asking political questions was given a mission by some higher-up in her machine to try to disrupt Sanders and b) CNN in some way engineered her opportunity to do so, and then I’m a little more interested.

        Otherwise, it’s a Democratic party activist who may well be critical of Sanders for her own reasons, asking Sanders a critical question and Sanders not responding well to it.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Mutatis mundatis for FOX News, my dude

          Seriously? Whataboutism as a defense of CNN? Using Fox as the standard? My dude?

          Add: You’re defending CNN more robustly than CNN defended itself.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Burt, my take is *NOT* that the Baltimore Democratic Party Chair should not have been there. My take is *NOT* that the Baltimore Democratic Party Chair should not have asked a question.

          My take is that CNN should have announced her as the Baltimore Democratic County Chair instead of announcing her as a former biology professor.

          Because announcing her as a former biology professor results in her background being looked into (the exact same freaking way we now know that Ken Bone has a vasectomy) and, wouldn’t you know it, this now looks like a freaking op.

          Which reflects poorly on the Baltimore Democratic Party Chair as well as reflecting poorly on CNN.Report

  3. Avatar pillsy says:

    He’s running for the Democratic nomination for President. The idea that “Democratic Party ties” are inappropriate for, um, Democrats is just plain silly.

    Signed,
    A Local Democratic Party OfficialReport

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      If CNN were to hold a town hall for a *Republican* challenger would it be OK if they filled the room with Democratic Party operatives and didn’t disclose it?Report

      • Avatar pillsy says:

        This seems like a totallyReport

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        Not analogous. This was a Democratic town hall, to which “Democrats and Independents” were invited. They didn’t pack it with Republican operatives, they actually did invite “Democrats and Independents” who were interested in this sort of thing.

        The analogy would be if CNN held a Republican town hall and invited “Republicans and Independents,” one of whom asked a primary candidate who was generally conservative but not actually a Republican a critical question perhaps skeptical of this non-Republican’s candidacy.

        And there endeth the analogy because Republicans don’t allow people who are not Republicans to stand as candidates for their party’s nominations (and maybe they called that one correctly).Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Again, you’re defending CNN more than CNN is defending itself. From the OP:

          “Though we said at the beginning of the Town Hall that the audience was made up of Democrats and Independents, we should have more fully identified any political affiliations,” the cable news network said in a statement.

          Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Seriously, is Bernie not trying to get the Democratic nod? Why shouldn’t the audience be full of democratic party officials; the endorsement race is literally where we are at in the current stage of the primaries. Politically active Democratic minor officials and highly engaged Democratic supporters are quite literally the target audience at this stage of the game.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Rather than all that nonsense, why doesn’t Dem National just *not allow* Bernie to run in the Dem primary unless he changes his party affiliation? Easy peasy.Report

        • Avatar pillsy says:

          Because that wouldn’t change anything.

          Appealing to local officials and Dem activists (groups that overlap considerably) is a big part of what winning the nomination involves.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Because that wouldn’t change anything.

            Sure it would. It would at least prevent you and North from arguing that Democratic party attacks on Bernie are justified precisely because he’s not a Democrat.Report

          • Avatar pillsy says:

            I’m not arguing that the attacks from Democrats are justified because he’s not a Democrat.

            I’m arguing that the attacks from Democrats are justified because he’s running for the Democratic nomination against a bunch of other people who are also running for the nomination, in a party where many people do not want him to be the nominee.

            This is not in anyway unique to Bernie or this primary. On the contrary it’s the general case for every non-incumbent candidate running for a major party’s Presidential nomination.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            Still, you’re at the very same time the one saying that a nominee running for the Democratic nomination is at a disadvantage because his audience is Democratic party members and voters. Who the fish else chooses the nominee? Of course his audience in the town hall should be Democratic party members and voters- they’re his audience in general.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            I was responding to this claim:

            Seriously, is Bernie not trying to get the Democratic nod? Why shouldn’t the audience be full of democratic party officials

            If they’re disclosed as Party Officials in advance of asking their questions, fine. The issue isn’t whether the Dem party will try to protect its own. Of course it will (unfortunately, in my view). The issue is a particular type of deception.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            On that I have no idea what was going on. Did CNN just have people filling out a card when they came in identifying themselves or was there more to it? I will certainly grant that it seems disingenuous for a party chair to identify as a former biology teacher. I just don’t know if that was an individual decision? It may have been an individual choice or a choice on the part of CNN but it most definitely wasn’t a Democratic Party decision.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          All that nonsense as in… the reality of how you run for the President nomination one of the major parties this country? I mean sure, dismissing all the substantive points the Dems could adopt a Republican rule regarding that. I don’t see there’s any need that they do so or any point. Bernie could adhere to the new rule by simply changing affiliation the way he does now.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Well, according to the article, the county Democratic chair was listed as being a “former biology professor”.

    This, by itself, might not be notable if there weren’t four people there at the town hall with this same level of stuff going on.

    This feels like a shenanigan.Report

    • Avatar pillsy says:

      Local Democratic officials being involved in Democratic Party politics is not a shenanigan, it’s a tautology.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        How does “having their involvement obfuscated” register?Report

        • Avatar pillsy says:

          Like nonsense.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Well, then. It was pretty silly of CNN to explicitly apologize for failing to disclose the political ties of the people in the audience.

            They should have just argued that only someone naïve would not have expected democrats to show up at a democratic town hall and ignore the people who got flustered because they see differences between “democrat” and “democratic chair”.

            Easy peasy.Report

          • Avatar pillsy says:

            CNN said something pretty silly?

            My goodness, my whole little world has been flipped upside down!Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Please understand, from my perspective, they realized that they did something that had the appearance of impropriety and apologized for that.

            From my perspective, they realized that they effed up and effed up in a way that they should have seen coming.

            From my perspective, their apology was an attempt to regain lost credibility and, as such, was not silly at all. (Futile, maybe. Silly? Eh. It wasn’t *DUMB*. Certainly not as dumb as obfuscating the jobs of the people they were pretending were best described using their former, rather than their current, jobs.)Report

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        Pillsy, I’m starting to think you’re inability to grasp the point is willful. Jaybird’s post is not about Democrats and the Democratic party. It’s about CNN. (Well, indirectly, of course, it also IS about Democratic party operatives…)Report

        • Avatar pillsy says:

          The complaint about CNN is daft.

          It rests on the idea that there’s a conflict of interest for a Democratic county official asking a question of a Democratic primary candidate, which simply makes no sense.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            If there’s no conflict of interest then a) why didn’t the questioners state their connections to the Democratic party prior to asking the questions and b) why did CNN apologize for not revealing that information to its viewers?Report

          • Avatar pillsy says:

            a) Because why would they? It would never occur to me to state my connections with the Democratic Party before asking a Dem primary candidate a question at a town hall.

            b) Because CNN is dumb and often says dumb things to get people to stop complaining even when the complaints are spurious.Report

          • But pillsy, what if it was something you were more essentially active with? Let’s say a meeting involving some competitor of Ordinary Times, that benefitted Ordinary Times, and you made a public statement under your real name and didn’t reveal your involvement with Ordinary Times at all?

            I mean this plays to me like the old gimmick with the snake oil salesman with the plants in the crowd, only instead of the plants being on the side of the snake oil salesman, they’re the snake oil salesman’s competitor. (not only competitor, but much larger and more successful competitor)

            “Is it true, sir, that your snake oil does not actually contain snakes?” comes off a lot different coming from the maker of the largest proprietor of snake oil west of the Mississippi, than it does from some random citizen.Report

          • Avatar pillsy says:

            I actually am a Democratic Party official (a member of the county committee, though certainly nothing so elevated as the chair). I even won an election to get this spot.[1]

            The “competitor” argument just doesn’t really scan for me, because, well, Sanders is running for the Democratic Party nomination. He’s totally entitled to do that, and has as good a chance as anybody as actually winning the nom, but it means that Dems (including county chairs and the like) have a natural interest in him and his candidacy.

            [1] I got twice as many votes as my opponent.[2]

            [2] He got one vote.Report

  5. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    As others here have noted, how anyone could think that a townhall for the Democratic candidate would be filled with anything other than local Dems is beyond my imagination.

    But even so- this isn’t something new is it?
    I seem to recall a few townhall or focus groups or man on the street interviews which turned out to be actually party operatives, in those cases Republican.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      As others here have noted, how anyone could think that a townhall for the Democratic candidate would be filled with anything other than local Dems is beyond my imagination.

      Imagine, if you will, a town hall for Ford Trucks. In the audience are a number of people from Toyota who are announced to be stuff like “former mechanic” or “racing enthusiast” who ask very pointed questions about stuff that Toyota Trucks are good at.

      Later, Ford people get ticked off that the ties to Toyota weren’t revealed at the time of the questioning.

      Now, stick with me here, imagine someone saying “I don’t understand why you expected people who weren’t car fans to show up at the Townhall!”

      Still with me?Report

      • Avatar pillsy says:

        It was a town hall for Toyota Trucks.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        But this is trying to play it both ways. Bernie has announced he’s affiliating with the Democratic Party as he normally does every time he does his run for the Democratic Party nomination. So in your analogy everyone involved is a “Ford Truck” guy/gal. There’s no Toyota involvement.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          “Why doesn’t Dem national just not allow Bernie to run in the Dem primary? Easy peasy.”Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          North, what I want is for the Toyota salespeople to be pointed out as Toyota salespeople rather than as “automobile enthusiasts”.

          And when I point out that they are Toyota salespeople, not be asked if I really thought that automobile enthusiasts would ever possibly show up at a car show.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            And, again, there were no Toyota salespeople there. Just Ford trucks. The model being touted is a Fort truck. Most of the time it is a Tesla but every few years they strategically align with Ford and run for fords best in show. So the fact that the room was full of Ford salespeople should be irrelevant since the subject is the Ford best in show.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I understand that you see that it was irrelevant, but CNN has already apologized for not pointing out the current jobs of the salespeople but merely pointing out their previous jobs and/or hobbies.

            The question, I suppose, is whether CNN made a mistake by admitting fault.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            I don’t see the harm in it. It depends, from my POV on how they were managing that audience. Like did they invite them specifically, did they ask for applicants to attend in advance and screen them or did they just throw the doors open at such and such a time and then depend on them to fill out a card saying who they are, what they do etc…

            In the former two scenarios I’d say apologizing is the right call for them. In the latter scenario I’d say it was probably unnecessary but probably won’t hurt em.Report

          • Avatar Maribou says:

            @north “It depends, from my POV on how they were managing that audience. Like did they invite them specifically, did they ask for applicants to attend in advance and screen them or did they just throw the doors open at such and such a time and then depend on them to fill out a card saying who they are, what they do etc…”

            But I mean, then they should be learning about how they manage the audiences for those things? Like, “don’t depend on self-reports if you’re gonna put little blurbies up on the screen” or whatever.

            Again, assuming they’re trying to impress/please/keep the eyeballs of/whatever their actual audience of television viewers rather than the participants in their staged media event.

            This really isn’t different in kind from the interview panel that all news shows love to have, only in format / size.

            If they want to sell it as not being an insider thing, they can’t seem to be hiding it being an insider thing.

            From a marketing perspective as much as anything else.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            Sure Maribou they should. But “CNN didn’t manage their audience very well” isn’t the same as “CNN is colluding with evil Dem party establishment operatives to steal the nomination from Bernie again 11!!1!ONEONE!” and it seems to me the latter opinion is the prevailing one here and is also the one furthest from any semblance of reality.Report

          • Avatar Maribou says:

            @north that’s one of the options, sure. but if my comment had a takeaway it’d be not the response of “learn to manage it better then”, but instead where I said,

            “If they want to sell it as not being an insider thing, they can’t seem to be hiding it being an insider thing.”

            Which honestly seems a lot more like what Jaybird and Still were saying before I even showed up.

            I think everyone’s so used to outrage that people aren’t allowed to be cantankerous curmudgeons without being parsed as outraged, anymore.

            Which saddens me as I have an enormous soft spot for cantankerous curmudgeons of all types (even when they’re wrong, but not if they’re nasty).

            (and yes, that was a Janet Jackson joke at the end there. I’ve had that song stuck in my head ALL DAY.)Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        Oh wait, I get your outrage now.

        Bernie is not technically a Democrat, so filling it with Democrats instead of Socialist Independents was the problem.Report

  6. Avatar North says:

    Like pass a rule saying “No, Bernie, you can’t run in our primary.” Somehow I don’t think that’d be a good idea.Report

  7. Avatar Maribou says:

    I think this may be the first time Stillwater, Jaybird and I all agree on something, especially something that no one else seems to agree with us about (unless I’m misreading some comments).

    Here’s my take at length:

    CNN weren’t apologizing for who asked the questions, they were apologizing for deceptive labeling.

    A televised town hall held by a media company isn’t a democratic party event. It’s *for the audience watching on television*, not for the people at the town hall, who are voluntary participants in this particular media event. Performers of the function “audience,” willing representatives (again, one hopes) of that audience, but *not the actual audience to whom CNN is responsible* which is their viewers.

    And the viewers are an audience which should be presumed to be made up of Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and many many people who barely follow politics and have no real idea how the Democratic Party works but are freaked out by the whole Trump thing and trying to figure out what the f is going on and who they should vote for and how to contribute to making that person a viable candidate and have suddenly developed way more interest in primaries and caucusing and all that than they ever have before.

    Those people (and I know many people who fit that description!) deserve clear labelling so they can have a chance in hell of figuring out what’s going on in the limited time they are now willing to devote to something they preferred to blissfully ignore before.

    That’s why CNN apologized. Or, at least, that’s why they ought not to have done it, I couldn’t begin to speculate on what percent of the apology was sincere and what percent was self-serving.

    If you’re going to attempt to be Walter Cronkite or Macneil and Lehrer-esque, and have a positive impact on the country, you really have to hold yourself to the same journalistic standards. Or if you want to make money by being perceived as being that way, you have to appear to be holding yourself to them.

    Either way.Report

    • Even beyond trying to be Walter Cronkite, CNN needs to repair the public trust that they and other media sources have damaged by running misleading and downright fake news stories on numerous occasions over the past 3-4 years. So not only do they need to hold themselves to Cronkite standards, they need to hold themselves to higher-than-that standards until that trust is repaired.

      It’s like a cheating spouse – the rules change when the trust is broken. CNN can’t just say “wellp it’s a Democratic thing, of course there will be Democratic operatives there and you dummies should have assumed as much” any more than a cheater should expect equal right to privacy as someone who hasn’t cheated. The trust has been broken and they need to be above any reproach, until we the victims deem it no longer necessary. There’s no benefit of the doubt any more. That ship has sailed. If we want media to be fair and impartial then we need to hold them to that standard until such a time as they have proven to us that theyre holding themselves to that standard.

      I mean seriously if I could check CNN’s phone I probably would.

      If this was an ideal world made of Cronkites then yeah, this would be a nothingburger, an innocent mistake that I could easily imagine someone making. But it’s not a nothingburger because of this huge context going back at least since 2015 where CNN has been hip deep in some pretty questionable shenanigans. It’s a somethingburger that they should have foreseen, and not foreseeing it indicates that they either did so deliberately hoping to get away with it, or they’re still SO clueless about all this that they really don’t deserve to be gatekeepers.Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine says:

      I kinda think there’s a market for Boring CNN.

      24 hr news that doesn’t breathlessly chase the rumor but tracks down the facts… sure, we’d run to other outlets for initial endorphin rush of new gossip… but we’d all know it wasn’t real until CNN started to weigh in.

      In that scenario, I’m not even sure they lose too many eyeballs… they’d lose some, but then everyone would be checking in to see what CNN says.

      So instead of being another Fox or MSNBC and fighting over fractions of the pie… they would have the whole pie most of the time and some of the pie a fraction of the time.

      But I must be wrong because they kinda had that opportunity and original credibility, but decided being a second- or third-tier “Media Voice” was better than Boring CNN journalsim.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        I wish you were right about that but history suggests otherwise. I mean CNN was boring CNN first right? And then Fox went off the deep end and earned a fortune doing their clown and pony show while selling gold and sleep number beds to the right wingers. Now MSNBC has done a feebler imitation though left leaning and that seems to work for them.
        But maybe the market has changed.Report

        • Avatar Marchmaine says:

          I agree, mostly… that’s kinda my point… if CNN had weathered the storm we might have a journalistic organization with some credibility… but instead it was unnerved by emerging competitors like Fox and MSNBC which were “sexier” for their opinions and bias.

          So oddly, turning to other recent events in Journalism, hiring Sarah Isgur might be a smart move. That is, if the idea is to add some folks who understand the language of the right and can provide ballast for the existing left leaning journos there… then possibly a move in a better direction. I can’t say whether Isgur was a) hired for that reason, or b) whether she’s the right person for that job if she was… but hey, better than more of the same. Even if the experiment fails, it may fail well.Report

  8. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    I guess what makes me shrug my shoulders and see this as outrage porn is that at least since 9-11 the major networks have had a massive systemic failure to present unbiased truth.

    From the runup to the Iraq war where dubious info was selectively leaked to stampede the public into war fever, to the practice of having “military experts” urging military action, who in fact are military investors, to the “Tea Party” members who were just Republicans, to the “Butter Emails” coverage of the 2016 election, or the subsequent Cletus Safaris where lifelong Republicans are presented as objective independents, the idea that this was some egregious breach of protocol seems rather odd.

    ETA: Maybe now that CNN has hired a Republican Party operative to oversee their campaign coverage, do they owe us another apology?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      To repeat myself, I see Ordinary Times as a tiny microcosm of Official Elite Opinion.

      Given that, I imagine that The Official Democrats will say “I don’t see what the big deal is” to the Berniebros.

      And I guess we’ll then see how stuff evolves after that.

      Maybe the Berniebros will all take it in stride!Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        My prediction is that unless Bernie wins the nom, BB’s will be absolutely sure that he was cheated and done wrong. There is no other option. He wins or was treated wrongly.

        Edit: That sounds sort of critical of BB’s. It is. But that is of course completely the fault of D establishment and the evil MSM.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          So, really, given that we know that they’re already going to defect in the iterated prisoner’s dilemma game we’re in, it only makes sense to pre-retaliate.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            Or they could decide whether all they care about is Bernie over all. I mean Bernie might not get the nom. He could lose fair and square as any of the other candidates could. Is their preferred result 1 Bernie 2 Trump 3 any other D? I doubt very few bernie voters feel that way. But of those that do, they tweet often and loudly.

            There is a long tradition on the left side of people always sure they will nobly lose due to the evilll establishment. So they wallow in self-righteousness, resentment and the surety they are Right. I’ve known plenty of them. I’m all for Bernie giving it a good run. I think the subject here is something less then a tempest in a teapot, but whatever. I also think any of the top few or maybe even top 10 or 15 D’s would be far better then Trump, so i’m more interested in seeing who ends up on top and all pulling in the same direction to get rid of Trump. It’s not like in the last couple weeks there haven’t been a bucket full of major scandal worthy issues ( kushner’s top secret clearance, Acosta letting off a pedophile, sec of commerce’s lying and unethics, etc) that are just going by the wayside even leaving Cohen’s testimony aside.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            “There is a long tradition on the left side of people always sure they will nobly lose due to the evilll establishment.”

            You know what might help curtail that?Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            Hmm, can’t reply to the 804 comment. This is an outrage.

            What could curtail that? Growing up. Not going for outrage of the minute. Keeping eyes on the highest goal.

            But really jay. If someone is prone to resentment they are going to find it. There are going to be prominent D’s and D party people who are going to prefer 1 of the other 27 D’s over Bernie. Some people are going to be critical of Bernie. I’m guessing a few BB’s are going to see every example of that as how they are getting screwed. It’s all their priors.

            And as i’ve said before CNN sucks. I don’t watch it and i’m sure why anyone does. But people like asparagus so what do i know. It’s like people watch CNN just to find reasons to freak out. It was just a couple weeks ago the starbucks guy got all sorts of free air time. How many of the other D’s have gotten a town hall yet? I don’t’ know but i haven’t heard about many or any others aside from Starbux dude and bernie.Report

    • Avatar Maribou says:

      @chip-daniels There’s a reason this is in 10 second news instead of being a 3000 word essay, sure.Report

  9. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    If CNN was really in the bag for Democrats, they would not have hired Isigur to be a political director.Report