Glenn Greenwald replies to CNN's attempt to discredit story about compromised Bahrain coverage

Yesterday, I blogged Glenn Greenwald's Guardian story about CNN suppressing its own award-winning documentary on human rights abuses in Bahrain, which Greenwald linked to CNNi's commercial relationship with the ruling Bahraini regime. I was quickly contacted by two different PR flacks from CNN with a list of small, picky points it disputed about Greenwald's article, presented as though this constituted a thorough rebuttal. I immediately noticed that CNN's reps didn't dispute that the company had threatened to cut off Amber Lyon's severance payment if she continued to speak out on the issue, so I asked about it.

CNN's reps both told me they couldn't comment on "individual employees," which is awfully convenient. How nice for them that they can prepare and circulate a dossier that disconfirms minor elements of its critics' stories, but that it has some nebulous confidentiality code that prevents it from confirming the most damning claims made by those critics. Given that Lyon is no longer a CNN employee, and that she has divulged this threat, this feels more like an excuse than a reason. I certainly hope that CNN's own investigative journalists wouldn't accept such a pat evasion from the PR flacks that contact them.

Glenn Greenwald has published a thorough rebuttal to CNN's memo:

CNNi has nothing to say about the extensive financial dealings it has with the regime in Bahrain (what the article called "the tidal wave of CNNi's partnerships and associations with the regime in Bahrain, and the hagiography it has broadcast about it"). It has nothing to say about the repellent propaganda it produces for regimes which pay it. It has nothing to say about the Bahrain-praising sources whose vested interests with the regime are undisclosed by CNN. It provides no explanation whatsoever for its refusal to broadcast the iRevolution documentary. It does not deny that it threatened Lyon's severance payments and benefits if she spoke critically about CNNi's refusal. And it steadfastly ignores the concerns and complaints raised by its own long-time employees about its conduct.

In sum, CNNi's response does not deny, or even acknowledge, the crux of the reporting, and simply ignores the vast bulk of the facts revealed about its coverage of, and relationship with, the regime in Bahrain. Indeed, one searches its response in vain for any explanation to the central question which New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof asked nine months ago:

Reply to response from CNNi


  1. Obvious that the media does what it wants and still doesn’t care if they are ‘outed’ as a propaganda machine.

    Every single time they are caught in a lie, a few more people see the truth. Good work Cory and Glenn.

  2. ” I certainly hope that CNN’s own investigative journalists…”
    Haha! He used “CNN” in the same sentence with “journalists”!

  3. We got a comment on the previous article from a guy whose Twitter profile freely admits that he received an award from the Bahraini government’s information office.  Not to mention a comment from a CNN employee who didn’t identify himself as such until I requested it.  Synchronized damage control.

    1. Yes, indeed. To paraphrase the final sentence of CNN’s “response” to Greenwald,  identifying yourself upfront as a PR flack for the organisation you’re supporting in online forums is PR-flackery 101. Oh, right; it’s not. Sneaking around pretending to be a happy mutant when in fact you work for CNN is the correct PR flack approach… These guys never fail to dig the hole just a little bit deeper. 

      Greenwald, btw, appears to have it all over CNN on this one. His response is devastating. CNN look like the outfit people have always thought they are. 

      Tip for Mr Greenwald: dig a little bit into CNN and its reporting of China… 

  4. So, where are all those people OUTRAGED!!!!1 to have  A MOOSLIM in the Withe House, those who live in perennial fear of CREEPING SHARIAH!!!!!1 ? 

    Where are those men and women, the real Americans, who are the salt of the Earth? Where are their self righteous rants?

    1.  Hey Guido, I must with all sincerity and humility, say:  Umm… What?  Huh?  WTF you talkin’ bout Willis?

  5. I witnessed CNN do this kind of propaganda bullshit back in the 90’s firsthand when I lived in D.C.

    They set up government employees who were issued little American flags to greet Bush (senior) when he arrived to the White House via helicopter during Desert Storm.

    My friend with the Dept. of Interior was told by a superior to show up with the crowd of other government employees to wave his little flag.

    We watched TV together later that night when CNN “reported” them as a group of “well wishers” who “spontaneously” arrived to greet and cheer Herbert Bush which was a complete lie. My friend got some camera time and just had a comical, confused look on his face.

    Sorry to see CNN hasn’t changed after all these years and is just like the rest of the corporatist media that reports “what we should think” instead of simply reporting the truth.

    [cow waves to cnn lurkers]

    hi thar, liars!

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