The day after Fox News partnered with Google for a GOP primary debate, there is still criticism of CNN partnering with the Tea Party Express for a debate last week.
In an article published today, the American Journalism Review questions whether CNN’s partnership with the Tea Party presents a conflict of interest.
“I think it runs the risk of harming their credibility,” says Kelly McBride, senior faculty for ethics reporting and writing at the Poynter Institute. “The audience could perceive the debate as a Tea Party event, meaning that CNN loses its independence.”
CNN’s DC bureau chief Sam Feist points out that CNN had editorial control of the debate, chose the moderator and paid all expenses.
Ed Fouhy, former executive vice president of CBS News and executive director of the presidential debates in 1988 and 1992, says he and other journalists were appalled by CNN’s decision, and would have argued strongly against entering any such relationship. Not only is it an ethical issue, he says, but it raises questions about CNN’s ability to evaluate such offers and the motives behind them.
“It seems to me the Tea Party, a very young and controversial institution, used CNN’s name and reputation to gain legitimacy and standing through this alliance,” Fouhy says. “CNN, in short, was manipulated.”