I am not a big fan of cable media — the only TV news I watch regularly is the PBS NewsHour, which attempts to base its statements on actual reporting and tries to present both sides of issues and let me decide. What struck me at last night’s debate was the blatant hostility of CNN to Senator Bernie Sanders. Here’s how their reporter framed the question to Sanders about Warren’s claim (which she alone is in a position to make since they were the only two people in the room):
PHILLIP: Let’s now turn to — let’s now turn to an issue that’s come up in the last 48 hours. Sen. Sanders, CNN reported yesterday that — and Sen. Sanders, Sen. Warren confirmed in a statement, that in 2018 you told her that you did not believe that a woman could win the election. Why did you say that?
Now what’s odd about that? Warren couldn’t “confirm” CNN’s reporting. She could only confirm that she had told people who had told CNN that Sanders had told her a woman candidate couldn’t win. It’s strictly a he said/she said situation. And the CNN “reporter” knew that Sanders had denied making the statement. CNN repeated this canard when they asked Warren to respond.
Now here’s the observation I’d make. On the cable media, the two outlets that seem most hostile to Sanders — MSNBC and CNN — also happen to be the most hostile to Trump. One interpretation of this — and I think this is valid — is that they are both ideological outliers: Trump on the populist right and Sanders on the populist left. And I’d say, too, that both outlets are more hostile to Trump than they are to Sanders — and that reflects their view that he is far more malignant. (And I’d agree that he is malignant.)
But there’s another way to see this. What Trump and Sanders have in common is that they also speak to — among others — the left-behinds in the American culture and economy: Trump the industrial/mining, small-to-mid-size, flyover, culturally conservative America; Sanders the college-educated lumpen proletariat who can’t afford health insurance and who are stuck with thousands in college loans that they have no hope of paying back. They are working as interns, as part of the gig economy, as baristas or bartenders in metro blue America and not as six-figure associates at law firms or as reporters on TV. I don’t know what the audience surveys look like, but CNN and MSNBC may better represent the upscale, hyper-socially, liberal, fiscally moderate America that lives in blue America and who are more comfortable with Warren or Buttigieg, to name two candidates, than they are with Sanders. (I still recall the kinds of questions that Harvard kids asked the candidates last April at a town hall meeting — Warren got softballs, and Sanders got breaking curve balls.) I think this factor may also be at work and may account for the bias these two outlets seem to display in their choice of pundits and commentary.