LTP News Sharing:

CNN’s Dana Bash and Jake Tapper sit with Univision’s Ilia Calderon in Washington, D.C. on March 15, 2020. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

At a time when CNN should be convincing the nation that it was the best choice for hosting the first debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump before the Nov. 5 presidential election, the network has instead jumped feet first into absolute chaos.

From scandals to tantrums, the formerly revered news giant has crafted the worst possible week leading up to what will likely be the most watched program on CNN in years. And it didn’t exactly have a stellar reception at the initial announcement. 

CNN declared that the rules of the first presidential debate between Biden and Trump, his predecessor, would take place in its Atlanta studio without a live audience, include periodic commercial breaks (the first presidential debate to have those in history) and would give a new power to the debate moderators—the ability to mute either candidate at will. 

Pundits, candidates, and Trump’s campaign all pointed out that commercial breaks would likely benefit Biden, whose mental health has come under severe scrutiny over the past several years. 

The attention has included innumerable moments in which Biden appeared lost, forgot his words, confused names and locations, or mumbled incoherently. Special counsel Robert Hur ruled that he would not recommend federal charges against Biden for possessing classified documents from his terms as vice president and senator because the president was too feeble to stand trial.

Pundits also pointed out CNN’s lopsided decision to host the Biden-Trump debate without a live audience, suggesting that Trump’s communication strength is amplified in front of crowds as he draws from his stints as an entertainer and celebrity.

CNN’s choice for its two moderators drew the most ire: Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, two network anchors who consistently expressed open disdain for Trump. Tapper and Bash have accused Trump of crimes ranging from Russian collusion and corruption to channeling Adolf Hitler and not “trusting the science” during COVID-19.

Tapper has made a point to refuse showing widely covered Trump rallies and speeches on CNN, explaining that Trump was too “mean” to air clips of him with audio. I’m very certain that giving Tapper a “mute button” to use at his discretion will be handled professionally and objectively.

Regardless, I was stunned that Trump accepted these terms and joined the rest of the nation in waiting for Thursday night—and then four days before the debate, all hell broke loose at CNN.

As if CNN wasn’t already perceived as “hostile territory” for Trump, former MSNBC contributor Kasie Hunt—now a CNN host—silenced and kicked former assistant Trump press secretary Karoline Leavitt off her show for the grave crime of referencing the prior statements and behavior of Tapper and Bash in the context of Thursday night’s debate.

After Leavitt answered Hunt’s question about Trump’s strategy and planning for the debate, Hunt demanded that Leavitt not “attack” her colleagues, and claimed: “If you’re attacking the moderator, you’re usually losing.”

Leavitt’s so-called attack consisted of calling CNN a “hostile environment” and mentioning thatTapper and Bash had made their prior opinions on Trump “very well known in the past eight years in their biased coverage of him.” That’s it.

Hunt asked Leavitt to describe past and present debate performances and expectations. When Leavitt began her answer by responding to Hunt’s first point about the moderators, Hunt raised her voice to lecture Leavitt, then kicked her off the air and reiterated her allegation that citing past statements from Tapper and Bash was “attacking” her colleagues.

Following this train wreck, Hunt added gasoline to the fire by defending her actions on the social media platform X:

By standing on her “track record,” Hunt opened the door for pundits, officials, and other critics to share some of that past online—including an MSNBC segment in which she described the assault and battery of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., as “one of my favorite stories.”

As though this wasn’t enough, Tapper now finds himself at the center of a gargantuan defamation lawsuit that could result in CNN paying $1 billion in damages.

According to Nicholas Fondacaro, an associate editor at the Media Research Center, reporters and editors at CNN may have defamed Zachary Young in an investigative story about the evacuation of people from Afghanistan when the U.S. chaotically withdrew in August 2021. 

Young’s lawyer alleges that the CNN reporter, Alex Marquardt, went after Young, who was hired by corporations such as Bloomberg and Audible to rescue corporate clients from Afghanistan amid the return of the Taliban regime, by maliciously accusing him of being a “war profiteer” and “human trafficker,” costing Young any future of employment.

Internal communications from the reporter to his editors about Young were laced with profanity and a stated desire to make this Young’s “funeral.”

Tapper aired this apparent hit on Young on his show “The Lead,”  alleging without evidence that those evacuated by Young were given “no guarantee of safety or success.”

Judge L. Clayton Roberts, of Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal, ruled that the circumstances surrounding the potential defamation were so severe that he would remove the typical limits for punitive damages, usually between $100,000 and $400,000.

Fondacaro joined me for a interview Monday on his developing story:


As a cherry on top of this disastrous cake, The Post Millennial reported Tuesday that CNN announced that any outlets providing commentary during the debate would be forbidden from using CNN’s live feed, resulting in more backlash from commentators, pundits, and show hosts.

You don’t need me to tell you that this is not the best way to engender trust and respect for your hosting of a presidential debate, especially in such a contentious time. 

It wouldn’t be that difficult. After all, I praised left-leaning NBC News for doing a far better job of hosting one of the Republican presidential primary debates this year than Fox News did.

Whether CNN’s apparent “scorched earth” strategy is to drive publicity and ratings or is the network’s best internal expression of objectivity remains to be seen. But I would caution that other doomsday prophecies this year supposed to be the “end of Trump” backfired catastrophically.