Donald Trump has been pretty vocal in his criticisms of CNN, repeatedly calling the network out for what he says is “fake news” and saying its expert commentators are “almost exclusively anti-Trump.” CNN, in turn, says it stands behind its reporting, and that its commentators are just as varied and opinionated as any other cable news network.
Now, in an outrageous report coming out of the Wall Street Journal, it looks like the Trump administration is taking its anti-CNN stance even further, and possibly even threatening the network’s parent company Time Warner. In a story published today, reporters Keach Hagey and Damian Paletta say that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, has been meeting with Time Warner execs in secret in an effort to express “the administration’s deep concerns about CNN’s news coverage.”
Specifically, Kushner has been airing his grievances—including concerns about Trump critics and CNN contributors Van Jones and Ana Navarro—to Gary Ginsberg, executive VP of corporate marketing and communications at Time Warner, as well as to CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker, who Trump claims he helped rise to the top of the network’s heap. Though Kushner and Ginsberg have been friendly for about a decade, the claims are particularly troubling at this moment considering that Time Warner is currently waiting for federal approval on its $85.4 billion sale to AT&T Inc, something that Trump said during his campaign that he would not approve. Whether that’s out of consumer concerns or pure spite is anyone’s guess, really.
In a statement, the White House told the Journal that “It’s no secret that the President and his team have been critical of CNN’s dishonest coverage of the President both during the campaign and since his inauguration, and it’s obvious their ratings have suffered as a result. FOX on the other hand provides mostly fair, and more complete coverage of the Administration and their ratings have never been better.” Meanwhile, longtime FOX host Shepard Smith went off on Trump last night on the network, saying it’s “crazy what we’re watching every day” and saying, “Your opposition was hacked and the Russians were responsible for it and your people were on the phone with Russia on the same day it was happening and we’re fools for asking the questions? No sir.”
Though presidents have long been angered to one degree or another by news coverage of their administrations, Trump’s qualms seem particularly egregious. Mark Feldstein, a journalism historian at the University Of Maryland, told the Journal that “to engage in that kind of bare-knuckled tactics is extraordinary.”
A CNN spokeswoman told the Journal that the network’s “journalism has never been stronger as we continue to hold the administration’s feet to the fire. Those are the facts.” According to Neilsen, the network’s ratings are up 51 percent over last year in key demographics.