Mass Media Attacks on a Surging Sanders

CNN’s Sanders Hit Piece Doesn’t Pass the Smell Test

CNN (1/13/19) has an anonymously sourced hit piece out today on Bernie Sanders, claiming that at a meeting in Elizabeth Warren’s home on December 18, 2018, he told her “a woman can’t win” the presidency.

The article, by CNN correspondent MJ Lee, is so journalistically shoddy that someone reading only the first few paragraphs would end up believing that it is a fact that the current top-polling candidate for the February 3 Iowa Caucus actually said that. Never is Sanders’ “quote” prefaced with the term “allegedly.”

None of the four anonymous staffers/friends making the charge of Sanders sexism were actually witnesses who were apparently in the room that day. Two, according to Lee, spoke to Warren “shortly after” that meeting. The other two “sources” were described only as people who “knew about the meeting.”

CNN: Bernie Sanders told Elizabeth Warren in private 2018 meeting that a woman can't win, sources say

CNN (1/13/19) on Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren: Let’s you and him fight.

Sanders issued a blistering denial to CNN, saying, “It is ludicrous to believe that at the same meeting where Elizabeth Warren told me she was going to run for president, I would tell her that a woman couldn’t win.” He added:

It’s sad that, three weeks before the Iowa caucus and a year after that private conversation, staff who weren’t in the room are lying about what happened. What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could. Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016.

So far, Warren has not commented on the story, either to confirm or deny it.

The timing of this poorly sourced and poorly written story, appearing the day of a crucial candidates’ debate and days before the start of the actual primary season on a network that has been hostile to or dismissive of Sanders for years, is a journalistic outrage.

On its face, the claim allegedly made by Lee’s four anonymous sources makes no sense. Sanders is in fact on the record as far back as 1988, saying, “In my view, a woman could be elected president of the United States.” As Sanders points out in his debunking of CNN’s story, since then a woman has actually won the popular vote for the presidency;  Hillary Clinton, whom Sanders campaigned for, could have won the electoral college as well, if she hadn’t neglected campaigning in key battleground states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Why were CNN’s sources allowed to makes such an explosive, far-fetched claim anonymously? Anonymity is most justifiably granted to protect sources from retaliation for revealing damaging information about their superiors; would Warren staffers (assuming they were the source) be fired for giving an accurate account of their candidate’s conversation? When corporate media withhold the names of sources to allow them to make attacks against rivals without political consequences, that is an abuse of anonymous sourcing.

Sanders is clearly alarming powerful elements of America’s ruling elite: corporate executives who fear what is now being considered a possible Sanders presidency, and Democratic Party leaders who fear a Sanders presidential nomination will cut the party off from the river of cash it and its favored candidates have been collecting for decades from major industrial sectors, from Wall Street to Hollywood to the arms industry and the healthcare industrial complex. Not to mention the corporate media that are backed by ads from all these sectors.

This hit piece has the feel of the kind of attack that Sanders supporter Norman Solomon (Common Dreams, 12/27/19) warned of once Sanders’ polling began taking off and he could no longer be simply ignored.

  • First published at FAIR.
  • Dave Lindorff writes for ThisCantBeHappening!, the independent Project Censored award-winning online alternative newspaper where this article first appeared. Read other articles by Dave.