CNN's conservative contributors are still pushing the false notion that Fox has separate “straight news” and opinion sides even after latest Dominion filing
Other CNN journalists say that Fox News has blurred the line between news and entertainment
The latest filing in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News further demonstrates that there is no difference between the network’s purported “straight news” and opinion divisions. However, during CNN’s coverage of the filing, conservative commentators, including David Urban, Alyssa Farah Griffin, and Jonah Goldberg, continued to claim otherwise — contradicting CNN’s own journalists.
On February 27, the latest filing in Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit was released to the public and revealed that Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of Fox News’ parent company Fox Corp., and other executives knew that claims about Dominion and election fraud during the 2020 presidential election were false, but allowed hosts and guests to continue to push them.
The filing also included new details about how decisions around reporting were made to appease the network's pro-Trump viewers, rather than on the basis of facts. In one instance, the filing revealed that Murdoch instructed Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott to fire then-Managing Editor Bill Sammon, who oversaw the network’s call of Arizona for now-President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election and drew ire from former President Donald Trump, his supporters, and hosts such as Tucker Carlson. The filing also showed that Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch complained that coverage of a Trump rally was too critical, telling Scott, “News guys have to be careful how they cover this rally. So far some of the side comments are slightly anti, and they shouldn’t be. … The narrative should be this is a huge celebration of the president.”
Since the release of the filing, which clearly laid out how Fox personalities on both the “straight news’ and opinion sides were influenced to deprioritize factual information, some mainstream media figures, including a CNN host and some reporters, acknowledged that Fox News does not truly have separate “straight news” and “opinion” divisions. Yet, some of CNN’s paid contributors, who have ties to the Trump administration, Fox News, or conservative circles, have continued to push the fiction that Fox distinguishes between real reporting and opinion.
CNN pundits are still pushing Fox talking points, saying that there is a distinction between “straight news” and opinion at the network
Conservative CNN contributors Urban, Griffin, and Goldberg continued to defend Fox’s reputation as a news outlet during CNN’s coverage of the latest filing.
- Urban said that there’s a difference between “hard news and entertainment” on Fox, calling shows like Hannity or Tucker Carlson Today “the news equivalent of the WWE.” Urban has been a paid contributor at CNN for years, and Media Matters has previously highlighted numerous ethical problems with the arrangement, as the network has repeatedly failed to disclose Urban’s lobbying efforts and role in the Trump campaign. Most recently, Urban participated in discussions about the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, during which the network failed to disclose that Urban lobbied for the train operator Norfolk Southern. On the February 27 edition of CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper, Urban pushed the false notion that Fox has separate news and opinion divisions.
- Griffin placed blame on Trump for Fox News hosts spreading conspiracy theories in hopes of retaining their viewership, while claiming that “there’s a lot of really good journalists at Fox, dayside programming I don’t have really any major problems with.” CNN formally hired Griffin in December 2021, despite her lengthy history of lies and distortions, including during her tenure as a spokesperson for the Trump administration. In December 2020, Griffin had appeared on Fox News and claimed there had been voter fraud in the election.
- Goldberg placed blame on Fox CEO Suzanne Scott for her “lack of leadership,” claiming that, when it comes to Fox’s role in the lawsuit, “the opinion side basically became the dog wagging the tail instead of the other way around, and the news side basically became sort of this cleanup crew.” Goldberg is a former Fox News contributor and founding editor for conservative magazine National Review, who now simultaneously works as a CNN contributor and editor-in-chief of right-wing online magazine The Dispatch.
CNN’s own journalists point out that there is little difference between Fox’s opinion and news branches
Others at CNN, such as host John King and reporters Oliver Darcy and Phil Mattingly, have emphasized that the most recent Dominion filing shows Fox’s lack of news credibility because “news networks are supposed to inform viewers what's the truth.”
- CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy has repeatedly pointed out the lack of distinction between opinion and news at Fox. On Monday, he said, “I think this really actually exposes the fact that Fox is not at its core a news network. News networks -- they deliver the truth as they know it to viewers. They do the best job to attain the truth and sometimes it's not perfect but that's what they do.” [CNN, Anderson Cooper 360, 2/27/23]
- When asked if he would call Fox News a “news organization” on Tuesday’s edition of CNN’s This Morning, Darcy said: “No, and that’s because news networks are supposed to inform viewers with the truth. In this case we know that Fox News knew the truth and refused to not only tell their viewers but they actually fed them lies to keep their audience because of the financial incentive. That's not what news networks do. That's what maybe, you know, propaganda outlets might do, but it's certainly not what a news network would do.” [CNN, This Morning, 2/28/23]
- Darcy also wrote an analysis on some of the biggest revelations from Dominion’s legal filing, saying that Fox “continues to be exposed for the dishonest organization that it is – this time, with the help of its billionaire owner.” He later continued, “In totality, the documents continue to underscore that at its core, Fox News is not a news network. News networks work hard to deliver the truth to their viewers. … The documents lay bare that the channel’s business model is not based on informing its audience, but rather on feeding them content — even dangerous conspiracy theories — that keeps viewers happy and watching.” [CNN, 2/28/23]
- Darcy said that “the perception that they are a news company is crumbling.” According to Darcy, “To preserve these business relationships they have to at least, have some reputation they're a legitimate news company. And I have been saying obviously that that's not the case. But the perception that they are a news company is crumbling, and this could result in damage to the actual Fox Corp. brand and really result in problems for shareholders.” [CNN, This Morning, 3/1/23]
- On Inside Politics with John King, King claimed that “Fox is not about news, it's about opinion.” King then played clips of Fox hosts airing claims about voter fraud in the 2020 election and said, “It was not just once, it was not twice. It was this over and over and over again.” [CNN, Inside Politics with John King, 2/28/23]
- In response to King, CNN reporter Phil Mattingly said, “These filings are laying bare the fallacy of the idea that there is a separation between opinion and editorial.” [CNN, Inside Politics with John King, 2/28/23]