Monday, October 25, 2010

You wouldn't see this over here! CNN anchor belittles Republican candidate

On 19th October, Tea Party supporter Christine O'Donnell, who is the Republican candidate for Senate in Delaware, made a fool of herself in front of an audience of law students by questioning where in the Constitution the separation of church and state appeared. Commentators have called her a national phenomenon and suggested she may even knock Sarah Palin off her perch at the top of the Tea Party.

Watch the video. Lasts 4:45 minutes 

(By the way, the Republican party establishment was deeply unhappy with O'Donnell winning the primary and getting to be the Republican candidate for the seat, but that’s another story.)

What's on my mind right now, is the difference between American TV and what I'm used to.  The first time I played this I thought it was a Democrat campaign video. Only when I played it a second time, did I appreciate that it was actually part of CNN’s news output.

The video is introduced by Anderson Cooper, a high-profile CNN anchor. A Paxman figure I guess?  It starts with a clip from a debate hosted by a law school, between O'Donnell and Democrat opponent Chris Coons. They are sparring over the teaching evolution in schools. First O’Donnell displays her ignorance of the First Amendment, to guffaws from the audience. Then we get Cooper’s derogatory comments and a series of quickfire clips of O'Donnell digging her grave by spouting about the Constitution. Terrific stuff.

O'Donnell is shown parading a "graduate fellowship from the Claremont Institute in constitutional government".  Cooper the CNN man demolishes this with : "By the way, the graduate fellowship she talks about from the Claremont Institute? The Claremont Institute is a conservative think tank, it's not a university, and the fellowship lasted a grand total of seven days ... A lot of people, including myself, get confused about constitutional amendments," Cooper says. "But not a lot of people are running for senate based on their deep analysis and study of the constitution."

The thing is, I can't imagine the BBC or RTÉ screening something like this. It would be called partisan.  I've never really watched much CNN, and I had a mental image of it as being firmly rooted in the right of politics, a sort of Fox News lite.  Clearly I got that all wrong! 

... and climate change a scientific fact ...

And another thing you wouldn't get on the BBC or RTÉ.  Here's an 11-minute piece from a radio programme called All Things Considered on NPR (National Public Radio) describing how a Republican victory in the upcoming congressional elections may mean defeat for Obama’s climate change policy. 

The presenter starts as follows: “The more carbon that gets released into the atmosphere, the higher the average temperature rises. That's a scientific fact. Human activities, such as driving, flying, building and even turning on the lights, are the biggest contributor to the release of carbon. That too, is a fact. And yet the majority of Republicans running for House and Senate seats this year disagree.”

Would you get a BBC or RTÉ presenter stating climate change facts this baldly?  Especially when it's explicitly a party political issue, as it is in this story. Wouldn't it be “most scientists says” or something along those lines?


  1. An aside first: I know I shouldn't be surprised, but I always am, when a dimwit with a smart suit and nice teeth proves to be electable.

    Partisan reporting? Well it was hugely enjoyable, and I could see Paxman doing the same sort of thing on Newsnight, but the key difference would be that the target of his scorn is present and invited to defend themselves. It may also be that the more monumentally dim British political candidates are rigorously weeded out in the selection process and therefore the verbal combat seems less one sided. I'm not sure.

    Good sport anyway.

  2. On reflection Neil is right.

    An American correspondent tells me CNN really tries to present reporting unfiltered by ideology, and for their pains gets vilified by right wingers as well as lefties. And I can I CAN imagine BBC or RTE doing that same, he says. It's not partisan to shine a light on factual errors. They do the same thing with Democrats.