Former CNN political analyst Eliana Johnson tore into the liberal network over its jarring transformation in the Trump era.
Appearing on Tuesday’s installment of the “Ruthless” podcast, Johnson began by saying “the mask kinda dropped” when Donald Trump became president where the media’s “plausible deniability” in its bias against conservatives evaporated and its “hostility” towards the 45th president became so overt.
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“Coverage became more political, more partisan and that the mainstream makes fewer efforts, I think, to conceal where it’s coming from,” Johnson said. “If you look at CNN right now, like that is a left-wing television network. And I don’t think you would have said the same thing in 2006… but it is an unabashedly left-wing network. It makes no effort to include, like, intelligent counterarguments really on the air.”
Johnson, who is the editor-in-chief of The Washington Free Beacon, was let go by CNN in 2019 after it was announced she was leaving Politico as a White House reporter for the top job at the conservative outlet.
“We signed her because, as [BuzzFeed] put it, ‘she was a top White House reporter’ who was ‘breaking significant news.’ She’s now pursuing a different career path and off that beat. Simple as that,” CNN spokesperson Matt Dornic said at the time, rejecting BuzzFeed News’ framing that her contract was not being renewed because she was joining the Free Beacon.
Johnson told BuzzFeed News, “CNN has a right to tap or drop contributors at any point… none of us is entitled to a contract renewal.”
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“Ruthless” co-host Michael Duncan then read a quote from CNN’s poorly-watched media expert Brian Stelter, who earlier this month asked, “Why aren’t there massive American newsrooms dedicated to journalism from a conservative point of view, a reality-based conservative point of view? Why isn’t there a New York Times of the right? Why doesn’t that exist?”
“Before I answer that question, Michael, I think it’s really interesting that Brian Stelter himself is an embodiment of what has happened to the media,” Johnson responded. “I followed him really closely when he was writing at the New York Times doing fantastic reporting about what was happening on the Today show at NBC News. I read his book on the wars between the morning shows… He was fantastic. Now he’s like, a partisan corporate flack in the guise of a reporter over at CNN covering- he covers right-wing media. That is what he does.”
Johnson, who acknowledges the Free Beacon is an “ideological media outlet” versus a “partisan” one, rejected the idea that her publication is the “right-wing New York Times” and told Duncan it is “tremendously difficult” for the Free Beacon’s original reporting “to get traction in the mainstream.”
“It does happen, but we face major obstacles from the likes of Brian Stelter, who I think are considered it beneath them to dignify it when we have real stories,” Johnson said.
Duncan offered a shoutout to Free Beacon reporter Matthew Foldi, who exposed Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm’s investment in the green energy company Proterra and was forced to sell her stock as a result of his reporting.
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When asked why she thought liberal outlets like CNN would avoid certain major news stories, Johnson pointed to the “groupthink” that takes place among journalists.
“I worked at Politico. Your social circle becomes the Politico reporters, the Times reporters, the [Washington] Post reporters, these people are all talking to each other and that’s part of what I found sort of unsatisfying,” Johnson told Duncan. “I was doing CNN for a couple of years, but I felt like, who am I actually- you’re not talking to persuadables or really making a difference.”
Johnson added that “covering things about wokeism gone too far” “doesn’t fit in” at such liberal institutions even though each of them has faced inner woke turmoil among their staff.