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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Why Do Conservatives Get to Question Candidates–but Not Progressives?

Published on October 9, 2015 by
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
by Jeff Cohen
Common Dreams. October 9, 2015

CNN‘s Republican debate included questions from conservative talkshow host Hugh Hewitt. Why won’t there be a progressive asking questions at CNN‘s Democratic debate? (Photo: Bill Rice/cc)

At the CNN-sponsored Republican Party debate last month at the Reagan Library, one of the three panelists CNN selected to question the candidates was conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, affiliated with the proudly right-wing Salem Radio Network.

But at Tuesday’s upcoming Democratic Party debate, CNN is not planning to include a single progressive advocate among its panel of four questioners.

It’s clear that who gets to pose questions has impact on the tenor of the debate. For example, Hewitt used September’s Republican debate to declare that President Obama’s “knees buckled” over Syria and that every Republican candidate was “more qualified than” Hillary Clinton. Hewitt pressed Jeb Bush from the right over his comment about making sure guns are not in the hands of the mentally ill: “Where does it go from what you said last week, how far into people’s lives to take guns away from them?” (Hewitt’s appearance on the CNN panel is reportedly part of an agreement by which CNN and the right-wing Salem Media company are teaming up on three GOP presidential debates.)

At CNN‘s Republican debate last month, along with Hewitt, the panel was composed of two journalists CNN presents as neutral or objective: CNN anchor Jake Tapper and CNN correspondent Dana Bash.

At CNN‘s upcoming Democratic debate, the panel is to be composed of four journalists CNN presents as neutral: CNN‘s Bash and three CNN anchors (Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon, and Juan Carlos Lopez of CNN en Espanol.)

Glaringly missing from this proposed lineup is an unabashed progressive advocate.

There are many qualified journalists for this seat—from respected progressive media institutions that haven’t taken sides in the Democratic primaries (like The Nation or Mother Jones, to name just two).

For the sake of basic fairness and balance, CNN should add to its panel an unapologetic progressive for Tuesday’s debate.


Please call on CNN to bring in a progressive perspective to its Democratic debate, just as its Republican debates include a conservative.


You can send messages to CNN here (or on Twitter @CNN). Feel free to leave a copy of your message to CNN in comments. Remember that respectful communication is the most effective.

You can sign Roots Action’s petition to CNN here.

Jeff Cohen is an associate professor of journalism and the director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, founder of the media watch group FAIR, and former board member of Progressive Democrats of America. In 2002, he was a producer and pundit at MSNBC (overseen by NBC News). He is the author of Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media - and a cofounder of the online action group,

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