Keeping CNN Honest

Published on February 4th, 2008

Keeping CNN Honest
The Most Trusted Name in News Plays the Race Card 
By Mark Cromer

"Be honest about what you see, get out of the way and let the story reveal itself."
–CNN Anchor Anderson Cooper

As a journalist who has written about immigration and population issues for the past several years, I was intrigued when a reporter for CNN called and asked for an interview about the issue of race and its ramifications in the discussion over immigration, both legal and illegal.

Given my exploration of the Politically Correct parameters that dictate how the issue of race is presented by the media in the immigration debate; I figured this was an opportunity to candidly make a variety of points that are not often heard on broadcast and cable news networks.

I wanted to specifically point out that the groups that frequently label opponents of illegal immigration as "racists" ironically tend to be the very same organizations and individuals who routinely make brazen racial appeals to their own ethnic constituency.

In short, I wanted to tell Anderson Cooper that I thought it was pretty rich for people peddling strident Mexican nationalism and shrieking "Viva La Raza!" to accuse anyone else of being racist. Since CNN branded itself as "the most trusted name in news" and given that Cooper enjoys telling his viewers each night that he’s "keeping them honest," well, I figured mine would be a welcome viewpoint—if only to expand the discussion.

That was my first mistake.

Gary Tuchman, a national correspondent for CNN, assured me over the phone that the special to be aired on Cooper’s 360 show would be an honest exploration of the issue. They were looking for someone to address the oft-repeated charge that bigotry is fueling opposition to illegal immigration, Tuchman told me.

A few hours later I was on camera and Tuchman started to ask his questions, which were fairly generic at the start. But it didn’t take long at all before Tuchman was essentially asking me, in a polite-if-incredulous manner: "So, how long have you hated Mexicans?"

And just when did I stop beating my wife.

I probably wouldn’t have minded as much, were it not for the fact that he clearly was not interested in anything else I had to say—but rather was only looking for a white guy whose role in CNN’s pre-written narrative was to deny being a bigot. He thus asked me essentially the same question repeatedly—isn’t it because they are Mexican and not Scandinavian that’s really behind all this anger!?—fishing for the appropriate sound bite.

It was a journalistic equivalent of a car dealership’s ‘bait and switch’ skullduggery.

So when the report aired I wasn’t exactly shocked to see the narrative unfold along a very tidy, PC plotline: Whites bemoan a "changing neighborhood," enter immigrant activist Angelica Salas who declares that racist "anti-immigrant" groups are pressuring presidential candidates to attack poor Latino migrants and then, on cue, I appear for literally five seconds to declare that we’re not really hate-mongers.

The irony is that Tuchman’s reportage did indeed highlight just how race plays a part in the debate over immigration, in a way he and Cooper never intended: it laid bare how many reporters have given Latino activists and so-called immigrant rights groups a free pass to tar anyone who opposes their agenda as a racist.

It’s quite simple: Latino activists and their surrogates make the charge to a media shill; Anglo opponents are then forced to deny them. And obscured in the contrived rancor is any substantive debate over the staggering impacts that a surging population of illegal immigrants has brought our communities—exactly what the immigrant activists want to avoid at all costs.

Noticeably absent from Tuchman’s report was a black perspective. In Southern California, long-established African American communities have been virtually overrun by illegal immigrants; forcing working class blacks to compete for already scarce resources, jobs and affordable housing.

But I suppose blacks decrying the impact that illegal and mass immigration has had on their everyday lives would have been corrosive to the script Tuchman had already produced for Cooper’s newscast. Indeed, Salas might have had trouble with her lines had she been called upon to label black opponents of mass immigration as racists.

After he got his sound bite, Tuchman told me he would call and see what I thought of the special report after it aired. Going on a week now, he still hasn’t rang.

But now I understand why Cooper can’t stop talking about "keeping them honest"—it’s a Freudian slip.

Me thinks he protests just a little too much.

Mark Cromer is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), www.capsweb.org . He can be reached at [email protected].

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