CNN employees have done solid reporting in recent months on the background of Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has claimed that “homosexual conduct” should be illegal and that Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to serve in Congress and in the military. During the same time, two CNN commentators have endorsed Moore’s campaign and told followers the country needs him in the U.S. Senate.
Moore is a twice-removed Alabama Supreme Court judge and conservative pundit who is running against Democrat Doug Jones in the state’s December special election. Moore has a problematic history on LGBTQ rights, religion, and environmentalism, among other issues.
Moore’s campaign website lists numerous endorsements from politicians, far-right extremists, and members of the media, including Fox’s Sean Hannity, radio host Mark Levin, and Breitbart’s Steve Bannon. CNN legal commentator Ken Cuccinelli and CNN political contributor Ed Martin have also endorsed Moore’s campaign.
Both Republican commentators have anti-gay histories. Cuccinelli supported anti-LGBTQ policies as Virginia’s attorney general and said, “When you look at the homosexual agenda, I cannot support something that I believe brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of their soul.” Martin heads the organizations Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund and the Phyllis Schlafly Eagles, which have fought against rights for LGBTQ people.
Cuccinelli also heads the Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee that is backing Moore. Cuccinelli stated in early September that he and his group “are proud to support him and we look forward to working with the grassroots to help him win this important race.” Martin endorsed Moore in early September -- prior to joining CNN -- stating, “I believe in him and in his fighting spirit. We need him in the U.S. Senate.”
CNN journalists, especially the network’s KFile investigation team, have doggedly reported on Moore’s extremism. CNN has reported, among other things, that:
- Moore said “in a 2005 interview that he believes ‘homosexual conduct’ should be illegal.”
- His Facebook “page shared inflammatory memes” and an “article praising Russia's anti-gay laws.”
- Moore suggested this year while speaking at a church “that the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks might have happened because the US had distanced itself from God. ... Later in the same speech, Moore suggested God was upset at the United States because ‘we legitimize sodomy’ and ‘legitimize abortion.’”
- Moore “repeatedly” appeared on the radio with a “pastor who preaches [that the] penalty for homosexuality is death.”
- Moore said of Islam in 2009: “Only thing I know that the Islamic faith has done in this country is 9/11.” He additionally claimed, as CNN wrote, that “Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat and the first Muslim ever elected to Congress, shouldn't be allowed to take office. He has also warned that Muslims shouldn't serve in the military.”
- In 2009 and 2010, pro-Confederate activists held a “Secession Day” event at Moore’s foundation.
Media Matters has documented President Donald Trump and his Republican allies’ constant attempts to undermine the legitimacy of CNN by, among other things, calling it “fake news.” (Ed Martin himself has called CNN “fake news.”) At the same time, CNN employs at least a dozen pro-Trump commentators.
Media observers, including Media Matters, have noted that CNN’s use of these explicitly partisan commentators has undercut the work of its journalists and turned the network into a sideshow. As Vox correspondent and former Media Matters research fellow Carlos Maza noted, “CNN’s Trump supporters derail segments critical of the president, misrepresent Trump’s positions to avoid tough questions, and peddle false and misleading information on national TV while being paid by the network. In many cases, CNN’s Trump supporters repeat the same lies and talking points that CNN’s serious journalists spend all day trying to debunk.” That sideshow is now in Alabama with the contributors' endorsements of one of the most extreme and anti-gay politicians in the country.