This post is my sixth foray into the world of PolitiFact pants-on-fire charges against President Trump. So far the score has been 5-0 in favor of President Trump. Will PolitiFact finally get on the scoreboard? We shall see.
— PolitiFact National on Monday, July 3rd, 2017
I’m done a series of Google searches on the subject of CNN ratings and one thing easily leaps out. According to some criteria, CNN is doing better than it has before, and according to other criteria it is doing worse. In other words, for its rebuttal, PolitiFact was able to find stats to back up its case against President Trump. But, and this is critical, PolitiFact could have just as easily found stats totally supporting President Trump’s claim about CNN’s ratings going down the tubes. Why didn’t they?
On the first page of every google search I performed on the subject of CNN ratings, there were links to articles saying CNN was doing great and other links to articles saying CNN’s ratings were dropping. It appears to me that PolitiFact only read the former articles and not the latter. If they had read both sets of articles, they would have walked away from this issue.
PolitiFact chose to cherry pick only those stats that supported its side of the story. For nineteen years, my father worked for the last Hearst newspaper in New York City, the New York Journal American, and if he were alive today he would say that this is not the way good journalists work.
Though there are statistics on both sides of the CNN ratings story, two things are not debatable:
- If you narrow the look at CNN’s ratings to the month right before President Trump made his tweet, CNN ratings had taken a crashing nosedive just like he said.
- Further, if you broaden the issue to include CNN’s ratings vs. its competitors, CNN is far, far below Fox News and even MSNBC, its rival for the liberal cable news market in the coveted primetime demographics. Clearly, CNN is having problems. Clearly.
These facts are easily found on the internet with even the most basic of Google searches. See the graph below. From June 7th, to July 3, 2017, CNN’s viewership took a drastic plunge. President Trump’s tweet was sent out on July 3rd.
Also below is data showing CNN not doing well vs. its main competitors: Fox News and MSNBC. The numbers are from July 5th, just two days after President Trump sent out his tweet. True, the data below doesn’t prove that CNN’s ratings were plunging, but only that they were pretty poor vs. its competitors. But, still, combined with the graph above and the numbers below, the picture is clear: President Trump had a good case to make vs. CNN. How on earth did PolitiFact not only call his tweet a lie, but a pants-on-fire lie?!
Total Viewers (Live +SD) for July 5th 2017
- Total day: FNC: 1.722 | CNN: 671 | MSNBC: 1.019 | HLN: 239
- Primetime: FNC: 2.718 | CNN: 856 | MSNBC: 1.983 | HLN: 318
Also, according to Nielson, in the week between June 26th and July 2nd , Fox News came in first, MSNBC came in second, and CNN came in 13th, (Nick-at-Night was number 11), in the primetime cable channel rankings. Again, I’m forced to ask PolitiFact: Really, President Trump’s tweet was a ridiculous lie?
Also, even if you look at CNN’s ratings since last year, they appear to have taken a bigger beating than their competitors. Again, PolitiFact failed to note this:
“According to Nielsen ratings data compiled by TV Newser, Fox News’ overall viewership indeed grew in the month following the election, while both MSNBC and CNN saw their ratings dip. In the key 25-54-year-old demographic for the primetime hours, however, all three networks saw their audience shrink, although the losses for CNN (-47%) and MSNBC (-42%) were proportionally much larger than that of Fox News (-2%).” CNN and MSNBC Ratings
Like I said earlier, PolitiFact also had a few points in their favor in defense of CNN. And I have no reason to dispute their numbers – only their misapplication of them. In its piece, PolitiFact said:
“CNN is at a five-year high in each of the categories we looked at, according to data provided by the Nielsen Company.”
“CNN just posted its most-watched second quarter in history,” a CNN public relations account tweeted in response to Trump. “Those are the facts.”
“We rate Trump’s statement Pants on Fire.”
The problem with PolitiFact’s argument is that President Trump wasn’t talking about their ratings over the past five years or even over the last quarter. Though he didn’t specify, it is highly likely he was talking about CNN’s recent ratings problems. His tweets are notoriously current. During the month of June, when President Trump published his tweet, CNN’s reputation and ratings had taken a big hit. They had shot themselves in the foot by botching several news stories, mostly about Trump.
In June 2017, these stories emerged, causing CNN great embarrassment:
- Three CNN reporters had to resign because of a bogus story they ran attacking President Trump.
- CNN displayed as real news a fake National Enquirer cover about Ted Cruz.
- As a punishment, CNN threatened to review the identity of a Reddit user who created a video used by President Trump to mock CNN.
- A CNN editor promoted a deceptively edited video supposedly showing Poland’s first lady snubbing President Trump. Extending the video by 3 more seconds showed this interpretation was totally bogus.
- A CNN producer admitted on camera that the CNN Trump/Russian collusion story is “mostly [expletive deleted]” and that “the president is probably right to say [CNN] is witch-hunting [him],” but that CNN pursues the story anyway because it is “good for business.” CNN Producer Admits Russian Story is Nonsense
So the question remains, with all this going on at CNN why was PolitiFact fighting the fact that CNN’s ratings were way down in June. Your guess is as good as mine. It just makes no sense that PolitiFact would waste their time disputing what President Trump tweeted about CNN ratings, let alone label what he said, “pants-on-fire.”
My ruling: PolitiFact is biased against President Trump. If he said ‘up was up,’ they would say it was down. For this I give them the “Up is Down” Award.