UPDATE: Ferguson’s Facebook page removed the posts referenced in this piece shortly after publication. Screenshots of his since-deleted posts have been added next to the original links.
UPDATE 2 (3/20): Ferguson posted an apology on Twitter:
Today I deleted several fb messages that were posted by an outside company that did not accurately represent my opinion. I apologize to my radio listeners and the CNN community. I am extremely proud of my relationship with CNN and everyone I work with!
— Ben Ferguson (@benfergusonshow) March 19, 2018
Followers of CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson on Facebook are probably confused about why he even works for the network.
On his verified page, Ferguson endorsed and promoted a bogus claim that CNN scripted its town hall debate on gun violence. He celebrated a Roy Moore supporter yelling “fake news” at the network; remarked that a video of President Donald Trump beating up the CNN logo “is kinda funny”; and told followers to check out tweets claiming CNN banned a negative story about former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. He also complained that CNN “can't let conservatives” like himself “express their opinion.”
He has also promoted articles claiming that CNN anchor Jake Tapper is “an embarrassment,” “CNN’s gun control town hall was a stunt,” and mainstream media outlets “aren’t honest and they don’t care about the truth.”
CNN has hired a number of pro-Trump commentators, and many of them have proven to be a liability for the network. For example, CNN fired Jeffrey Lord after he tweeted a Nazi salute at Media Matters President Angelo Carusone. The network also fired pro-Trump commentator Ed Martin in January for, according to Martin, “cause.” While the specific reason was not made clear, he had previously attacked the network and its contributors, including calling two commentators “black racists.”
A Media Matters study found that Ferguson made the second highest number of appearances on the cable network among its employed pro-Trump commentators from July 24, 2017 to October 24, 2017. While Ferguson wrote on Facebook in May 2016 that he’s “proud to be apart (sic) of CNN family,” it certainly hasn’t seemed that way.
Ferguson recently pushed the claim that CNN scripted its town hall special on guns, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student survivor Colton Haab's accusation against the network. In a February 23 post, he wrote: “Wow, it's even worse than we thought” and linked to a story by Young Conservatives editor Andrew Mark Miller claiming:
It was pretty clear that CNN’s town hall debate on gun control was a sham from the very start. They had no intention of moving the conversation forward. It was about shaming Republicans from the very start.
In fact, one high school student who was at the scene of the Florida shooting said that CNN tried to script his questions.
From The Hill:
A student survivor of last week’s mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school said he was asked by CNN to “write a speech and ask questions” for a town hall but declined to attend the event after “it ended up being all scripted,” a claim the network is pushing back on.
“CNN had originally asked me to write a speech and questions and it ended up being all scripted,” Colton Haab told WPLG-TV, an ABC affiliate in Miami.
“I expected to be able to ask my questions and give my opinion on my questions,” said Haab.
Later that day, Ferguson posted a link to another anti-CNN piece with the caption “Good luck trying to explain this one.” The piece by Andrew Mark Miller said that “CNN’s gun control town hall was a stunt” and called moderator Jake Tapper “an embarrassment” and claimed he did a “terrible moderating job.” It added that “one parent [Andrew Klein] is now coming out and saying that CNN explicitly told him only people who supported the liberal narrative could speak” and also quoted Haab’s accusation that CNN scripted the event.
CNN has strongly disputed that it tried to script Haab’s remarks. As The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple reported, “CNN strenuously denied that claim on Thursday, both before and after President Trump picked up the story based on a report on the Fox News program 'Tucker Carlson Tonight.'” CNN also released emails showing that Haab’s father, Glenn, “doctored emails” to the media about an exchange with a CNN producer (Glenn Haab acknowledged altering the emails but defended his actions). The network also issued the following statement in February:
“The Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action Town Hall was intended to be a forum for students, parents and teachers to speak directly to the elected leaders and stakeholders that are at the center of this critical issue. It is unfortunate that an effort to discredit CNN and the town hall with doctored emails has taken any attention away from the purpose of the event. However, when presented with doctored email exchanges, we felt the need to set the record straight.”
In November, Ferguson cheered on a “fake news” attack against CNN’s reporting on the Roy Moore Senate race in Alabama. He wrote: “This is brutal for CNN. While a reporter was reading from an editorial against Roy Moore published by an Alabama newspaper, he was interrupted by a man shouting two words at CNN. Check out the clip.” Ferguson then linked to a piece by Andrew Mark Miller which embedded a video of a Moore supporter yelling: “Fake news! Fake news! Fake news!” The article added that “we simply can’t trust the mainstream media. They aren’t honest and they don’t care about the truth. Moore is staying in this race and the people of Alabama are the ones who will decide his fate.”
Shortly after Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election, Ferguson promoted the claim that CNN banned certain stories that were critical of her on Election Night. Ferguson wrote: “Check out these tweets,” and linked to a radio page that included the unproven claims from disgraced right-wing troll Todd Kincannon that an unnamed CNN reporter said Clinton “was in a 'psychotic drunken rage'” on that night and “the CNN reporter didn't fail to report it. His editors will not let him. CNN has banned all ‘Hillary in the bunker’ stories.”
Bizarrely, several of Ferguson’s anti-CNN posts were also posted word-for-word on the Facebook accounts of other pundits. For instance:
- Ferguson’s “Wow, it's even worse than we thought” post also appeared on Stacey Dash’s page.
- Ferguson’s “Good luck trying to explain this one” post also appeared on the Facebook pages of Dash and Allen West.
- Ferguson’s “Brutal for CNN” post also appeared on Dash’s page.
A portion of Ferguson’s post criticizing Don Lemon also appeared on Dash’s account, though the first-person description was changed.
Ferguson, Dash, and West are all connected to Young Conservatives LLC, a company that oversees clickbait websites, as Media Matters previously documented.
CNN and Ferguson did not return requests for comment.