Whitney Tipton, DCNF
Attorney General William Barr’s use of the term “spying” during his testimony Wednesday triggered a firestorm on CNN, with many pundits unloading on his contentious choice of words.
Barr was asked by Democratic New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen about his plans to review conduct related to the Trump investigation. “I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” Barr told the Senate Appropriations subcommittee. “I think spying did occur, yes. I think spying did occur.” Shortly thereafter, CNN published a tweet:
Attorney General William Barr says spying on Trump campaign “did occur,” but provides no evidence.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) April 11, 2019
Questioning Barr’s testimony appeared to be the theme for the network’s evening programming, with anchors and guests offering commentary that supported the position that there is no evidence that the Trump campaign was spied on.
On his “Inside Politics” show John King said the term “spying” was significant and “that word has meaning. When the attorney general of the united states says ‘spying’ … he’s channeling his boss the President.”
CNN anchor Anderson Cooper characterized the term “spying” as “loaded,” describing Barr’s testimony as “striking” for someone who is typically “lawyerly and precise.” Cooper asked if Barr was just sending a message that he is the president’s “guy,” and he was embracing Trump’s “conspiracy theory about the origins of the Russia probe.”
His colleague Chris Cuomo said choice of the word “spying” was calculated, “an insult to the men and women” who work for Barr, and a “defamatory way to refer to surveillance.”
“CNN Tonight” host Don Lemon called Barr a soft-spoken man with a sterling reputation in Washington, but whose “outrageous claim that the Trump campaign was spied on” was not supported by any evidence.
Declaring that the “paranoid lunacy of the right wing” has taken over the Department of Justice, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin added that Barr’s remarks were “loaded’ and “false” during a segment on Cooper Anderson’s show.
“This is a classic demonstration of the ‘Fox Newsification’ of the Republican party,” Toobin said.
CNN has struggled to regain ratings losses after investing two years into substantial coverage of investigations into President Trump’s alleged Russian collusion, culminating in lackluster Mueller report findings and subsequent ratings drops for CNN’s political line-up.