CNN’s broadside of Ted Cruz is wrong. The network has denied that it bears any responsibility for Cruz’s camp spreading rumors that Ben Carson might be quitting the presidential race. CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin even went so far as to call Cruz’s explanation “BS” on the air.
Yet the network’s claim can be true only in the most deceptive – in other words, the most Clintonian – sense. Instead of what the meaning of the word is is, CNN is parsing what the word indicate means.
Somewhat ironically, the network rests much of its case on tweets rather than on-air coverage. CNN concedes that during the Iowa caucuses the network reported that Carson would not be going from Iowa to New Hampshire as the other candidates would. But after Cruz’s people used the report as their reason for suggesting Carson might be getting out of the race, CNN on Wednesday declared, “Senator Cruz’s claims about CNN are false. At no point did the network indicate Dr. Carson would suspend his campaign.”
While their embeds in the field may never have specifically reported that Carson was out, the network’s live coverage – which included star anchor and face of CNN Anderson Cooper – not only operated on the assumption that Carson was withdrawing, but actually included speculation of where his voters would go after Carson left the race.
Cooper even said Carson’s stated reason – that he was going to Florida to get fresh clothes – for not going directly to New Hampshire like the other candidates “has got to be the weirdest explanation I’ve heard.”
One of Cooper’s panelists then suggested that “maybe Carson should take a page from Martin O’Malley’s book and call it quits for the good of the party and the good of the country.”
Then, working on the assumption that Carson was leaving the race, the panel began to speculate on who would pick up Carson’s voters, with Democrat operative Paul Begala suggesting, “I think they go with Cruz.”
Here’s a transcript of this segment of CNN’s live Iowa coverage:
[ANDERSON] COOPER: Let me ask about Dr. Carson because he’s now in the fourth place with a 10 percent. Word from his campaign was that he’s not going to go to New Hampshire; he’s going to go down to Florida. Then his campaign put out a statement saying, the reason he’s going to Florida is because he needs to change clothes. He gets to get some new clothes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, Anderson.
COOPER: Which has got to be the weirdest explanation I’ve heard. I mean, frankly, I’ve been wearing this suit for four days. I’m going to have something FedEx to me when I go to New Hampshire on Wednesday and that’s better of course.
[22:14:56] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, welcome to the Carson campaign. And maybe Carson should take a page from Martin O’Malley’s books and call it quits for the good of the party and the good of the country. You know, whether it was the Egyptian pyramid grain silo debate that we all ended up having to have, or any number of…
[DAVID] AXELROD: The war against [inaudible]?
COOPER: He’s got 10 percent of the vote but where did his voters go.
PAUL BEGALA, DEOMOCRATIC [sic] STRATEGIST: I think they go with Cruz.
The printed word doesn’t fully capture the CNN panel’s air of incredulity over Carson’s stated reason for not going on to New Hampshire. Watching live, it was obvious that the moderator and the panel felt that Carson’s campaign was toast.
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