News Release

Criticism of CNN’s Democratic Debate Panel


The online activist group launched a petition this morning, asking CNN to include a progressive journalist on its panel of questioners at Tuesday’s Democratic debate. CNN included conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt as one of three panelists who questioned Republican presidential candidates in last month’s debate at the Reagan Library.

The one-sentence petition states: “For the sake of basic fairness and balance, you should add to your panel an unapologetic progressive for Tuesday’s debate.”

JEFF COHEN, jcohen at
Cohen is director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College and author of Cable News Confidential. He co-founded which initiated the petition. He said today: “This is a simple test of balance, and CNN has so far flunked. If CNN included a conservative partisan from the right-wing Salem Radio Network to question Republican candidates for president, why wouldn’t a progressive advocate be included in Tuesday’s panel questioning Democrats?

“Hewitt certainly impacted the tenor of CNN’s Republican debate by declaring that Obama’s ‘knees buckled’ over Syria and that every Republican candidate was ‘more qualified than’ Hillary Clinton, and by pressing Jeb Bush from the right on gun control. Why isn’t an unabashed progressive being allowed to impact the tenor of the Democratic debate – perhaps a journalist from a respected outlet of the left?

“CNN included Hewitt on the panel with two journalists CNN presents as objective or neutral: CNN anchor Jake Tapper and CNN correspondent Dana Bash. To question Democrats, no progressive advocate is to be present – just a panel of Bash and three CNN anchors (Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon and Juan Carlos Lopez of CNN en Español).

“As has been its long-standing practice, CNN seems to be catering to the right-wing, while ignoring or marginalizing the left. Hewitt’s appearance was apparently the result of a three-debate deal that has CNN partnering with the rightwing Salem Media Group for upcoming debates.” Cohen also founded the media watch group FAIR.

Also see RootsAction alert: “Tell the DNC it’s time for more debates.”