On Sunday night, the 91st Academy Awards were held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles. As usual, the event was broadcasted live across major TV networks with many viewers tuned in to catch the show, as well as the pre and post-show coverages. CNN, one of the biggest and most respected news networks in the United States, provided live coverage, both on TV and its online platforms, keeping viewers updated on all the happenings at the event. However, one thing that caught the attention of many viewers was the exclusion of a possible jab at Don Lemon, one of the network’s prominent anchors, from the Oscars coverage.
The possible jab in question was by conservative commentator and comedian, Bill Maher, who made an appearance on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher on Friday night. During the show, Maher took several swipes at Lemon, calling him a “moron,” a “white-black supremacist,” and accusing him of being one of the reasons why Democrats lost the 2016 election. Maher went on to say, “You know I think Trump is going to get re-elected, and the reason why is because liberals’ own outreach program is, ‘you’re a racist.’ You’re a bigot, you’re Islamophobic’. They’re not going to vote for you because of that. Don Lemon, a guy I respect the hell out of, a guy who I think is one of the smartest guys on television, made that mistake when he was saying, ‘oh Trump voters, we have to stop demonizing them, we need to understand them’. Jesus fucking Christ, of course, we do, they’re the fucking President!”
Given Lemon’s prominence, it would have been easy for CNN to address Maher’s comments during their Oscars coverage. However, the network, surprisingly, chose not to do so, sparking speculation of a blackout. The fact that Maher’s comments received widespread media coverage across several channels and websites, particularly Breitbart, made the non-coverage more puzzling. Could CNN be protecting one of their own, or was there another reason why they chose to leave it unaddressed?
The non-action by CNN has raised several questions, particularly around its objectivity, its support for its personalities, and the appropriateness of airing personal attacks. To understand the situation better, we have to look at CNN’s history, particularly its coverage of controversial events, its stance on free speech, and how it has handled personal attacks in the past.
CNN, like many other news networks, has a history of covering controversial events, including the 2016 election and President Trump’s tenure, which has been marred by controversies and scandals. During the election, CNN, along with other media houses, was accused of bias, particularly towards the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, and against her opponent, Donald Trump. The network was also accused of deliberately undermining Trump’s presidency, with many of its personalities criticizing his policies and often ridiculing his demeanor. This negative coverage of Trump has led to accusations of fake news, and the network has been a target of social media backlash by Trump and his supporters.
Despite this history, CNN has maintained that it is committed to accuracy, objectivity, and truth. Its mission statement claims that the network delivers real-time news coverage and analysis on issues that matter, and it strives to report the truth, no matter how difficult or challenging it is. However, the network has also faced criticism for its handling of personal attacks and freedom of speech issues.
In 2017, CNN presenter, Kathy Griffin, caused a public outcry by posing for a photograph holding a fake decapitated head of President Trump. The image was deemed inappropriate and offensive and forced CNN to terminate Griffin’s contract. Similarly, in 2018, contributor Marc Lamont Hill was fired after making controversial comments about Israel during a speech at the United Nations. Hill’s comments were criticized as anti-Semitic, and CNN disowned them. Given these incidents, it would be reasonable to assume that CNN takes personal attacks seriously and is not afraid to take action against its personalities when they cross the line.
However, the fact that CNN chose not to cover Maher’s remarks about Don Lemon is not an indication of the network’s support of personal attacks. Instead, it is a sign that the network understands the importance of freedom of speech and the right of individuals to express their opinions, no matter how controversial or offensive they may be. By refusing to give Maher any airtime on the issue, CNN avoided fueling the fire, and prevented it from becoming a story. Instead, it focused on covering the Oscars and any other relevant news on the day.
CNN’s decision not to cover Maher’s remarks is not a sign of weakness or indecisiveness, as some media pundits have suggested. Instead, it is an indication that the network understands the complexities that come with news coverage, and is able to balance its commitment to accuracy, objectivity, and truth, with its support for free speech and individual opinions.
It is also worth noting that Don Lemon himself did not take the bait, and chose not to respond to Maher’s comments during his show, CNN Tonight. Instead, Lemon used his platform to cover more pressing matters, including issues affecting the Trump administration, the migrant crisis, and the Jussie Smollett case.
In conclusion, CNN’s decision not to cover Bill Maher’s personal attack on Don Lemon during their Oscars coverage is not a sign of a lack of objectivity, support for personal attacks or protection of one’s personalities. Instead, it is an indication that the network understands the importance of free speech, the complexities that come with news coverage, and is committed to delivering accurate, objective and truthful news, without being swayed by personal opinions or biases. CNN’s non-action on this issue is a lesson to other news networks, and a reminder that news reporting is more than just delivering soundbites and inflammatory remarks, it’s about delivering accurate, objective and truthful news, no matter how difficult or challenging it may be.