By Miriam Raftery
October 15, 2015 (San Diego) – After the CNN-hosted Democratic presidential candidate debate Wednesday, all major polls--including CNN’s own poll--showed Bernie Sanders the winner by wide margins. Yet post-debate coverage by CNN and other major media almost unanimously declared Hillary Clinton the winner.
No matter what your party or political preference, this sort of blatant media manipulation should disturb you. Equally disturbing to advocates of a free press, many pro-Sanders comments or those questioning the network’s impartiality were repeatedly removed off CNN’s website stories on the debate. How come?
The fact that CNN’s owner, Time-Warner, is one of Clinton’s largest campaign donors appears to have influenced the news organization to skew its coverage to favor its corporate parent’s preferred candidate. Other media that has given large sums to Clinton's campaign or to the Clinton Foundation similarly ignored polls and declared her the winner.
CNN partnered with Facebook to sponsor the debate, which featured five Democrats: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Virginia Senator Jim Webb, former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, and former Massachusetts Governor Martin O’Malley.
Right after the debate, a CNN poll found 81% of viewers thought Sanders won. A CNN-Facebook poll, no longer findable on the CNN website, at one point had Sanders on top with 75% of the vote, Clinton with 18%, O’Malley and Webb with 3% and Chafee with 1%. See screenshot.
Yet CNN’s post-debate coverage included articles titled “Hilary Clinton’s Big Night on the Debate Stage” and “Best of Hilary Clinton from the Dem Debate.” When viewers complained about the obvious distortion in coverage compared to polls, CNN started deleting critical comments leading new commenters to compare the tactics to Russia, as Media Equalizer reported.
The CNN-Facebook poll wasn’t an anomaly. We googled “CNN Democratic Debate Poll” and checked every one that we could find. Polls by both liberal and conservative media all had Sanders winning the debate easily, though polls varied in the amounts. Most polls put Clinton second, though some at sites with many conservative readers had Webb, a pro-gun, pro-coal and nuclear Democrat, ahead of Clinton.
Granted, online polls are not scientific and exclude people who don't have internet access, thought that's a shrinking number of voters. But the sheer volume of polls as well as a look at who voters were looking up on Google after the debate are compelling--and seemingly unanimous in their outcomes as far as the winner. Some polls remain open. As of this morning , here are the results:
Time magazine’s poll: Sanders 59%., Clinton 12%. U.S. News live blog poll : Sanders 82%, Clinton 12%. Google Consumer Surveys poll conducted for IJ Review, (founded by a past advisor to ex-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney): Sanders 43.7%--15 points ahead of Clinton. Fox 5 San Diego TV: Sanders 78.77%. Google Trends also found Sanders won as the most-Googled candidate post-debate in all 50 states. Sanders was also the most-discussed candidate on Facebook, followed by Clinton then Webb, U.S. News reports.
We could not find a single poll that put Clinton in the lead, nor any of the other contenders.
Yet the major corporate-owned media blithely fawned over Clinton’s “victory.” Here are a few more examples:
CBS news: “Many political experts declared Hilary the winner of Tuesday night’s presidential debate.”
Forbes graded the debate with letters, giving Clinton an “A-“ and putting her at the top of the class. The National Journal claimed Clinton was the better debater, but was far from glowing, also calling her “dishonest.” The New York Times called Clinton’s showing at the debate the “best moment of her campaign.”
Follow the money
According to the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-check site Politifact, (image, right) Time-Warner, which owns CNN, is the 7th largest donor to Clinton's campaign. Her top donors also include primarily banks and corporations -- the very institutions Sanders has railed against and seeks to regulate. Tellingly, two of her opponents, O'Malley and Sanders, criticized Clinton in the debate her opposition to breaking up big banks -- footage not shown on the major networks. (Sanders' major donors are predominantly in labor, education, and civil justice.)
Besides direct donations by some media outlets to the Clinton campaign, Politico in May reported on media donations to the Clinton Foundation. Those include NBC, Viacom (owner of CBS), the CEO of Fox News, a top ABC anchor, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Reuters news service, an anchor for PBS, and many more amounting to millions of dollars in media money.
The media also skewed coverage in which clips it did and did not include. Most networks aired footage of Sanders saying he’s sick of hearing about Clinton’s “damn emails.” But how many saw him talk about wanting to support small and medium-sized businesses? Or heard him discuss specifically how he would fund his ambitious plans to provide free college, free healthcare, and expand Social Security by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans?
Could the fact that some of those big corporations own media outlets account for such bias? Interestingly, the only candidate to raise the issue of media bias was Sanders. Perhaps the media moguls want to make sure no light is shined on that troubling issue.
So who really won the debate?