The shelf life of bad reporting

cnnSo earlier today we looked at how the drama of a CNN headline, subhead and “story highlights” about Gov. Sarah Palin’s religious views were not matched by any facts in the subsequent story. But apparently that is not keeping CNN from just plowing on ahead.

A subsequent story, a write-up of a television interview with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, repeats some of the false “story highlights” from the previous story. And here’s reporter John Roberts’ lead-off question:

Roberts: For a couple of decades, she was a member of the Pentecostal Assembly of God church. Six years ago, she changed to the Wasilla Bible Church. I read an article in which one of her former pastors suggested [the McCain campaign] may be playing down her faith because there may be some misunderstanding about her Pentecostalism. What do you think about all of this?

The “story” Roberts read was this one — the really awful CNN report that claimed, sans evidence, the GOP was obscuring Palin’s faith. How funny is it, though, for CNN to produce the awful story and then reference it in order to spread the meme.

Roberts: You say people are attacking her because of her faith. Are they attacking her or asking legitimate questions, such as when she said at the Assembly of God church back in June. …

[Palin] talked about U.S. troops in Iraq, and she put it this way: “Our national leaders are sending them out on a task that’s from God.” Even some Pentecostals say that could mean that the U.S. is in a holy war with the Muslim world.

What creative editing! That completely obscures and transforms what she actually said. Gov. Palin said that people should pray that our national leaders are sending troops on a task from God. And what drama with the use of the phrase “holy war.”

Isn’t there enough actual Palin religious news to chew on that we don’t have to make stuff up?

Incidentally, of the major news broadcasters, CNN is normally not one we receive a ton of complaints about. But in the comment threads and in story submissions, readers seem to think CNN has had a rough week or so. Hopefully they’ll get back on track in short order. And hey, Palin’s current congregation is praying for them. So that should help.

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  • Ananta Androscoggin

    Some time ago CNN has managed to lose any claim to be a “trusted source” of news as far as I am concerned. I will occasionally look at their Headline News program for a few minutes, but never again will I watch any of their programs that center on how grand the talking head hosts are.

    When I watch the news, THAT is what I want to hear about, not how the ‘anchors’ opinions should replace those of everybody who is watching. Why they put such shows on their “headline news” channel in the evenings instead of news programs, I never understood — neither Nancy Grace or Glen Beck have impressed me in the slightest, except for their abilities for shrillness. I can almost see why “showbiz tonight” would be in there.

  • Maureen

    I miss the CNN that was a news channel. Remember when everybody loved it, because they just told you what happened?

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Maybe CNN has had a “rough week” because the quality of its news coverage has gone downhill.
    Last night I saw a report there on how much trouble Obama is having getting votes in small-town, 98% white, southwest Ohio.
    Repeatedly the report kept implying or outright stating the sole cause was racism.
    But aren’t these the people Obama had insulted and villified by calling them “bitter people who hug their guns and Bibles” to a crowd of his elite donors in SanFrancisco??? Aren’t these the people he snidely called “typical white” folks early on????
    But the report never mentioned the repeated snob-sounding gaffes as possibly having -at least- some effect on the voters of Southwest Ohio (and many other places).
    If a white candidate for president ever gave the reason for his having trouble getting votes in the Black community as “They’re bitter people hugging their sports sneakers and tap dance shoes” to a crowd of white snobs–his campaign (rightfully) would be dead in the water.
    Sometimes the most blatant mistake news media make is they leave out clearly obvious factors that should be included in a report and -if done on purpose- thinking noone will notice what they left out.

  • Stephen A.

    Yes, more spin, bias and slander from CNN. It’s ridiculously obvious to anyone with a brain what’s going on here.

    I saw yet another CNN “report” yesterday in which their legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin was asked about Palin by formerly objective reporter Cambbell Brown and he basically said (paraphrased) that her numbers are up now, but they’re working to get them down, and they won’t stay down the more the reporters “reveal” about her.

    I also saw that report about Ohio, and the implication that it was racism holding Obama back was almost unchallenged (and of course, unproven) One 30 second throwaway line that the Ohio GOP “disputes” the claim, and says it’s because of his liberal policies, did help to balance the 5 minute story by Anderson Cooper. But not much. A conservative Christian friend from Ohio called me afterwards and was very displeased by the implications.

    The Deacon is right about how a Republican would be handled if he had said something racist. This all goes back to Obama’s religious education at the feet of Rev. Wright, who taught black racism and separatism and both he and Obama got off far too easy in my view.

    And yet Palin’s pastor seeking God’s will in all things is painted as “extreme.”

  • Dave G.

    A rough week or so? Correct me if I’m wrong, but the implication isn’t that somehow CNN is just having a bad day, and is usually chock-a-block with fair, unbiased, quality journalism, is it?

  • Melissa

    This reminded me immediately of CNN’s “Mega-preacher’s wife sued over loss of faith” headline from early August that went with an AP story about Joel Osteen’s wife being sued for alleged abuse of a flight attendant. That headline was entirely misleading, and it is not alone. It and the one you cited recently – “Pastor: GOP downplaying Palin’s Pentecostal past” – are examples of an alarming trend at The people given the task of writing headlines that will funnel readers to stories apparently are also given free reign to be spectacular and sensational – at the expense, if needed, of the truth and accuracy. Scandal sells and flashy headlines are nothing new. But I am dismayed at how often I see CNN headlines that twist the truth, often so blatantly you can tell the truth is being manipulated before you even read the story. I would like to hear from the Get Religionistas about, shall we call it, headline ethics. CNN constantly blurs/crosses the line from “interesting” to “inaccurate” with its headlines, and religion’s deeply personal, passionate relevance to so many people (and, related to that, religion’s built-in potential for controversy) makes it a ripe target for such manipulation.

  • Grupetti

    Dear GetReligionistas:

    Are you going to continue to put up with the blatantly partisan comments from Deacon John? His view of Obama’s comments are an example of the problem with the shortcomings in the mainstream media of the soundbite approach to complex issues – I’m talking about his extremely biased view of Obama’s comments.

    I’ve got much more to say, but considering the GetReligion bias, I suspect my comments would be deleted.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    And please follow through through with previous threats to spike his comments.

  • Stephen A.

    Grupetti, I’m sorry to say that he has a point. But if you can’t see the blatant and consistent bias at CNN of which he speaks, then counter it, don’t try to shut down views with which you disagree.

  • Dave

    As someone who’s recently had a comment edited, I agree with Grupetti that the frequent bias and bile in Deacon John’s comments are surprising in an otherwise moderated board.

    Stephen, you are introducing a red herring. The question is about a level playing field, not whose views are silenced.

  • Grupetti

    Stephen A. says:
    “don’t try to shut down views with which you disagree.”

    Good grief! I’m trying to hold GetReligion to its supposedly high standards. Deacon John is not capable of recognizing a non-biased source of information. And I have serious questions about the folks here at GetReligion (aside from tmatt).

    Is anyone here at GetReligion going to request that the media ask the tough questions of the allegedly Christian Palin about her brazen lying? Does she believe the commandment that says “Thou Shalt Not Lie”?

    Please note that my comment has to do with the media and religion, in case you think of deleting it.

  • Mollie


    Both your and Deacon John’s comments are “partisan” technically, but they are on-topic. So neither will be deleted.

    Our standards are that people keep on the topic of media coverage of religion.

    99 times out of 100, deletion occurs for violating this “standard.”

    But you’re free to argue, as you do, that the media aren’t “getting religion” because they’re not asking her about her lies. And people on the other side are free to argue that the media aren’t “getting religion” because they don’t see the larger religious angle about why some people might not be voting for Obama.

    They’re both partisan arguments, but they’re rooted in the purpose of this blog.

    However, arguing that Palin isn’t Christian, as you do, is something that does cause problems. Just as it does when people argue Barack Obama isn’t “really” Christian. So try to steer away from that type of personal argumentation.

  • Grupetti

    Mollie says:
    “However, arguing that Palin isn’t Christian, as you do…”

    I did no such thing. I think the media should ask her some tough questions about her honesty. It’s a fair question to ask of someone who calls herself a Christian.

    And if you think my comments are truly as partisan as Deacon John’s… well, I have no comment.

  • bernie

    Hmmmm…..many of these comments are about the news being biased? The news doesn’t hold a candle to the people that blog their biases. People don’t want straight news – why do you think there are so many reality shows on tv – they like the inuendos, infighting, insults, etc that “reality” brings. My suggestion – if you don’t like the channel, change it. Fox News may be a good option for you.