Former President Donald J. Tensions within CNN over its Trump coverage came to the fore during an internal call with the network’s reporters on Thursday, as one executive openly questioned the approach of the channel’s new chief executive, Mark Thompson.
CNN aired Mr Trump’s victory speech after winning the Iowa caucuses on Monday for about 10 minutes and then cut it off. The decision to remove him from office drew ridicule from the former president and his allies, though critics on the left questioned why CNN carried Mr. Trump live in the first place, given his propensity for spreading lies and conspiracies. MSNBC decided not to air any of his comments live.
Mr. Thompson began his morning conference call on Thursday by acknowledging a debate within his newsroom, saying he believed the network had a journalistic obligation to air the comments of the leading Republican presidential candidate. Is.
After a brief silence, Jim Murphy, a senior vice president of programming, began to tell Mr. Thompson that the network had given Mr. Trump too much time when the network aired his live news conference following Mr. Trump’s civil fraud conviction last week. did. tests. Mr Murphy said CNN should cover Mr Trump’s comments when they make news, not when he is repeating political talking points.
The debate on the conference call, which was open to thousands of CNN journalists, was described by three people who either listened to the call or were briefed on its contents. He requested anonymity to avoid retaliation if he shared details of conversations that were intended to be private.
The conversation between Mr. Thompson and Mr. Murphy, which lasted about 15 minutes, was lively but formal, the people said. According to one account, Mr. Thompson said he believed CNN had struck the right balance between allowing the public to hear from the Republican front-runner while not allowing Mr. Trump an endless soapbox Is – and he believes CNN, to some extent at points during the 2016 election, gave too much airtime to Mr Trump. This is a criticism acknowledged by Jeff Zucker, the network’s president at the time.
The puzzle of how to cover Mr. Trump, who often makes increasingly inflammatory and misleading comments, has vexed news executives since the early days of his first presidency. The tensions within CNN suggest the debate will continue in the journalism world as Mr Trump moves closer to clinching the Republican nomination.
Rachel Maddow, anchor on MSNBC, a network popular with left-leaning viewers, told viewers on the night of the caucuses that she would not broadcast Mr Trump live.
“It is not out of malice. This is not a decision we are happy about,” Ms. Maddow said. “This is a decision we revisit regularly and honestly, honestly. This is not an easy decision. “But as a news organization, we have to pay a price for deliberately spreading falsehoods.”
That viewpoint was mocked later in the week by Trump ally, Fox News anchor Sean Hannity. “What?” Mr. Hannity said on his Fox News program. “Will the audience melt if they hear that?”