Earlier this week, Donald Trump’s Trump For President committee released its first 2017 campaign ad, which extols the president’s first 100 days in office. It mixes the ascension of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court with the Keystone Pipeline (that’s all the ads says — just “Keystone Pipeline” — as though its existence is due to Trump) and “the biggest tax cut plan in history” to trumpet that “America is winning, and President Trump is making America great again!”
Never mind that Trump took office a mere three months ago and is already apparently running for reelection; it’s the one bit of negativity in the ad that’s getting the attention. After listing Trump’s putative accomplishments, the voice-over narrator says, “You wouldn’t know it from watching the news,” and displays a composite picture of NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, and CBS’s Scott Pelley — over which is stamped, in red capital letters, ”Fake news.” CNN has announced that it will not run the ad because, it says, “The mainstream media is not fake news, and therefore the ad is false. Per our policy, it will be accepted only if that graphic is deleted.”
Now, it’s obvious to any sensible person that the ad is just the latest part of Trump’s effort to discredit mainstream news sources, so we know it’s both cynical and lacks accuracy. But CNN’s refusal to run the ad? That’s equally cynical. Is CNN saying it only runs ads that are 100-percent accurate? If so, the network is going to have to dial down its advertising from the makers of teeth whiteners and dog food, as well as financial advisors, because they all make exaggerated claims that have little basis in fact. Is CNN banning the ad because it’s embarrassed about being called “fake”? Of course it isn’t. CNN knows what it does isn’t fake — you can disagree with the tone it uses or the facts it chooses to emphasize, but it is a legitimate news organization.
What Jeff Zucker — CNN’s top boss — is doing here is garnering some cheap, easy, attention from other media by suggesting the network is taking a stand against Trump’s “fake news” baloney. But banning an ad isn’t the way to take a stand — banning stuff just plays into the hands of people who want to shut down lots of other things that CNN would never think of banning. What if a right-wing organization called for a ban on a TV ad for Planned Parenthood that CNN is running — do you think the network would do it? Of course not. Yet we’re supposed to believe the network is too principled to allow this Trump ad? Gimme a break. In yanking the ad, CNN is just engaging in an easy way to get publicity — to provoke people like me to write pieces like this about the network’s decision.