Desperate to escape its status as an also-ran among its news broadcast peers, CNN has decided to coddle the bigots among us. While this might seem like a typical day for CNN, this incident seems...different.
Nick Sandmann, the wide-mouthed Covington Catholic high school student seen blocking native Vietnam veteran Nathan Phillips during a Washington D.C. rally, became the primary target of a wave of backlash directed at the group of MAGA hat-wearing teenage obstructionists from the Kentucky private school.
In the hours that followed the video’s release and initial traction on social media, social media users who had come into contact with other Covington Catholic students shared their experiences with bullying and misogyny at the hands of the school’s student body.
Soon, Sandmann hired a PR firm to tell his side of the story. Aided by Louisville-based firm RunSwitch PR, Sandmann released a three-page statement Sunday night, describing himself as a practicing Catholic while blaming Phillips for approaching him.
“To be honest,” said Sandmann, who can be seen standing inches from Phillips face as his classmates taunted Phillips, “I was startled and confused.”
For their part, RunSwitch maintains that the Sandmann family reached out to them to help push back against the narrative drawn from (now multiple) videos of the incident.
“They reached out to our firm, and we responded,” RunSwitch partner Steve Bryant told the Courier Journal, adding that the business specializes in crisis management “all over the country.”
While hiring a public relations firm to spin your child’s micro aggression is its own rat’s nest, more troubling is the nature of the note’s dissemination and eventual entry into the news cycle.
CNN host Jake Tapper first tweeted the statement. On late Sunday night, the State of the Union host sent out screenshots of the statement, moments after amplifying a tweet thread decrying the rush to take Sandmann’s side.
Five minutes later, Tapper tweeted the link to a CNN-hosted video, lauding fellow on-air personality Sara Sidner for “looking at more of the video than we all saw.”
“As with any viral video,” the video’s description reads, there is more to the story than what you see here.”
Discontent with merely watching whiteness work, CNN went to work for it, publishing Sandmann’s statement in full.
While the bipolar nature of Tapper’s allegiances to truth-telling and page views presents its own issue, Tapper’s connection to Sandmann goes beyond his willingness to tweet a public relations professional’s version of a 17-year-old’s story with reckless abandon.
Tapper shares a network with RunSwitch partner and CNN exclusive political contributor Scott Jennings, who served as special assistant to the Deputy of Political Affairs for the latter Bush administration before taking an advisory role with Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell.
CNN and Tapper both failed to mention the connection between Sandmann and a paid on-air personality, as well as the statement’s origin. As of this article’s writing, CNN had failed to make mention of this connection in any of its print or online coverage.
Unshackled from the bondage of their lyin’ eyes after the release of Sandmann’s statement, CNN’s coverage set out to obfuscate the issue at hand (racism) with fluff pieces decrying our “reptile brains” while admonishing “bad actors” on both sides.
When faced with a clear case of bigotry at the hands of a white boy, CNN chose to play it safe, free to run with its gotta-hear-both-sides playbook that seems to have secured its spot as America’s bronze medal news broadcast network. With the news cycle yet to wring the last advertising dollars from playing both sides of the fence, CNN has made its stance on the issue clear.
By rushing to hedge on the side of MAGA-brats emboldened by McConnell cronies, the network has come down hard on the side of ratings, integrity and video evidence be damned.