Michael Flynn: Fox News vs. CNN

The big news all over the world continues to be that US President Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn admitted to lying to the FBI. He has pleaded guilty to one count, although the court documents detail evidence of other lies.

This is going to have huge ramifications for the Trump administration. I would go so far as to say this could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency.

I won’t go too much into what happened. If you’ve been keeping up with the news you probably have a pretty good idea of that already. What I’m going to write about here is the different way the two US cable news networks we get in New Zealand covered the story. The difference was startling.


Blatant Hypocrisy

One of the reasons I found the difference interesting is because there’s a frequent theme on Fox News of commenting how much time other networks spend on stories they think are important. They will frequently note how the “mainstream media” all but ignores stories that Fox News dedicates significant time to. To be fair, sometimes they are right – the story is one that other outlets should spend more time on.

However, their complaints that other news outlets should be spending more time on the story of Hillary Clinton approving the Uranium One deal, for example, are beyond ridiculous. There are reporters on Fox News who are genuinely fair and balanced, and Shepherd Smith is one I’ve admired for a long time. He openly debunked the Uranium One story on his show. It didn’t, of course, stop several of his colleagues going on about it with the dedication of a True Believer.



Smith’s methodical explanation of the truth behind the accusations has Trump’s base mad as hell. Several are even calling for Smith’s sacking because of this! Despite Smith’s clear explanation, they continue to believe that Clinton is evil and the accusation against her is true.

Fox News frequently displays graphics of the time different networks spend on particular stories, like Uranium One. Then they make the case that the “mainstream media,” unlike them, is failing to inform viewers of these “important” stories. That, of course, riles up their viewers in support of Fox News and against other outlets.

When it comes to the Michael Flynn story, the shoe is firmly on the other foot.


Fox News: ‘The Five’

Greg Gutfeld

Greg Gutfeld, one of ‘The Five’s co-hosts. (Source: Fox News.)

The first show I watched on Fox News following hearing about Michael Flynn was ‘The Five’. (Remember, NZT is 18 hours ahead of EST.) It’s an opinion show, not a news show, though they have strong pretensions to being a news show.

The original plan was clearly to make the first segment of their show that day about the acquittal of Kate Steinle’s killer. Then Michael Flynn happened, so that story shared the first segment.

I’m not sure how long the first segment is, though it is longer than the others. I’m guessing fifteen minutes, of which about half was spent on Flynn. In general, the whole story was minimized.

There was a lot of focus on the fact that Flynn spent 33 years in the military, including five years on active service in Afghanistan. They spoke of the dignified way he carried himself in court, and how his military service had given him the ability to be calm and collected in difficult circumstances.

The discussion was that he had only been charged with one thing, and that happened after the election. Therefore, there was still absolutely no evidence whatsoever of any Russian collusion.

Two of the five panelists saw this as a nothing-burger. One was in two minds. The two others, one of whom is a Democrat, thought this was serious. However, the last two didn’t get much chance to discuss why it was serious. The first two dominated the discussion.


Fox News: ‘Special Report’

Bret Baier

Bret Baier (Source: Fox News.)

‘Special Report’ is the second show I saw on Fox News. It’s a news show anchored by Bret Baier. Baier has just been awarded “the 2017 Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism” by the US National Press Foundation. He’s also executive producer of ‘Special Report’.

Baier was on location at the Ronald Reagan Library in preparation for the annual Reagan National Defense Forum, so perhaps was caught off guard.

Baier’s story on Michael Flynn began with the same reporter that ‘The Five’ cut to: Chief Intelligence Correspondent Catherine Herridge. She repeated similar lines as before. That is, her focus was Flynn’s long career and the way he conducted himself.

As with ‘The Five’, it was clear that Baier had already prepared a schedule for the day’s show, and the Michael Flynn story got in the way of that. He spent time on it, but it was largely minimized.

The probable involvement of Jared Kushner, for example, was not mentioned as far as I recall. (If it was, it was only in passing.) This is extremely important as, without being named, another person was mentioned in the court documents as directing Flynn. All media I have seen are naming that person as Jared Kushner. It is, of course, unlikely that Kushner acted independent of Trump.

A viewer who got their news only from Fox News could be forgiven for not realizing the seriousness of the situation. Therefore, when the investigation exposes illegal behaviour by those closer to Trump (like Kushner), or even Trump himself, they will not be prepared and likely to respond badly to the news. Denial and anger will be common responses amongst those not ready. This is dangerous in a country already riven by partisan politics.


Fox News: ‘The Story’

I didn’t watch Fox News‘s ‘The Story’ but I saw the beginning as it followed ‘Special Report’. The lead story was the acquittal of Kate Steinle’s killer.

At this point I should note that the Michael Flynn story was the lead on the 6 o’clock news in New Zealand. Normally, our news is lead by stories about New Zealand. Overseas stories wait until after the first ad break unless there’s something major. We’re over 14,000 kilometres (over 8,700 miles) away and our genuinely fair news can see the importance of the Michael Flynn story to the world, but Fox News can’t.


Kate Steinlee

The acquittal of Kate Steinle’s killer is seen as a major miscarriage of justice by the far right, which I really can’t understand. Many think it should be first degree murder despite the fact that Ms Steinle’s was around 100 feet from her killer and was killed by a ricochet.

Her killer is an illegal immigrant, and there’s no doubt she would be alive if he wasn’t in the country. However, that is not relevant to the case.

The far right think the killer’s immigration status and (non-violent) criminal history should be part of the trial and don’t understand why it’s not. Further, they think if those things were brought up, the killer would have been convicted.

They put his acquittal down to the liberal leanings of San Francisco juries.

(See here for more information.)


CNN: ‘AC360’

CNN‘s AC360 with Anderson Cooper was the next show I watched. Cooper lead with the Michael Flynn story. Before five minutes was up I had a far more thorough understanding of the issues than I had from anything on Fox News. There was a detailed timeline of all that’s happened so far. There was an analysis of the court documents. Most importantly, there was an analysis of what it all means.

On Fox News, as I noted above, the charge against Flynn was minimized. The focus was that there was only one charge of lying, and that was related to after the election. Unlike CNN, Fox News had no analysis of the information in the court documents. There is evidence in the documents of other lies to the FBI. They also show the Mueller investigation has evidence of other crimes that Flynn could be charged with.

Most of Cooper’s show was spent on the Michael Flynn story. There was also a detailed examination of the Kate Steinle issue, which looked at both sides of the issue. At the beginning of that, I thought Cooper felt the acquittal of Steinle’s killer was a miscarriage of justice. (He did receive a conviction for illegal possession of a firearm, for which he went to prison.) Once all the details of the case were discussed with experts, he understood why there was an acquittal. This is the difference in proper exploration of an issue.


Note on Prison Sentences for NZers

Only charging Flynn with one lie is significant because US prison sentences tend to be sequential. In New Zealand, of course, they’re usually concurrent.

The charge of lying to the FBI carries a maximum sentence of five years. So, in the US, each additional charge would increase the possible sentence by another five years. In NZ, it is unlikely to make a difference as two (or more) five years sentences would normally be served concurrently.


CNN: ‘Lead Time’

Following ‘AC360’, CNN broadcast a special episode of ‘Lead Time’ with Jake Tapper. This show went into even more depth on the Michael Flynn case. Anyone who watched this couldn’t fail to understand all the ins and outs of the case.

Knowing all the information, as in the Steinle case and the Uranium One case, makes all the difference to making an informed judgment.


Statement from Trump’s Personal Lawyer

Ty Cobb is Donald Trump’s personal lawyer. His statement following Flynn’s guilty plea was bordering on the pathetic. However, there are those (I heard a couple of them on Fox News) who cling to this statement and repeat the talking points as if they are valid. This is it (via CNBC):

Today, Michael Flynn, a former National Security Advisor at the White House for 25 days during the Trump Administration, and a former Obama administration official, entered a guilty plea to a single count of making a false statement to the FBI.

The false statements involved mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation in February of this year. Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn. The conclusion of this phase of the Special Counsel’s work demonstrates again that the Special Counsel is moving with all deliberate speed and clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion.

This attempt to minimize both the issue and the contact, and to tie Flynn to the Obama administration is patently ridiculous. Besides, Obama sacked Flynn and warned Trump about him personally. Later, Sally Yates, as acting Attorney-General, warned the Trump administration that Flynn was lying.

Michael Flynn was stumping for Trump at a time when almost no other senior military figure would have anything to do with him. His leading of a “lock her up” chant at the 2016 RNC convention is a key moment in the Trump campaign.


Michael Flynn and the “Lock Her Up” Chant

This was the moment when I personally lost all respect for Flynn. The deranged look on his face and the complete lack of judgement displayed in this situation was very concerning to me. He acted like a teenager going crazy over a pop idol. This man was no longer a general with 33 years experience in one of the world’s top militaries.

Former Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, who served with Flynn, spoke about him on CNN yesterday. He said there was something that he believed changed Flynn from the man he was in his earlier career to the man he has become more recently. However, he declined to comment further except to state that it was an episode in his personal life.


More to Come

There will be more developments following this. It is clear from the full analysis on CNN that despite Flynn being a big fish, he’s bait for even bigger fish.

When that occurs, those who get their information solely from Fox News will be in for a surprise. They will believe Flynn’s guilty plea changes nothing. They’ll think a charge of one lie is because that’s all that was found. There will be no understanding that Michael Flynn has taken this plea to protect himself from worse.

In the meantime he will be telling the Mueller investigation all about those further up the food chain. And, if he doesn’t have information about people higher up, there are more charges that will be laid against him. The documentation makes that clear.

However, it is also clear that the Mueller investigation has good reason to believe that Flynn can provide damning evidence against others.

Cartoonist’s Dream

Donald Trump has been a cartoonist’s dream since his announcement that he was running for the presidency. Every possible subject has been part of their art, including Michael Flynn. The following is a slideshow of cartoons I’ve put in tweets since Michael Flynn was fired after 25 days as Trump’s National Security Advisor.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



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43 Responses to “Michael Flynn: Fox News vs. CNN”

  1. j.a.m. says:

    “Most importantly, there was an analysis of what it all means.”

    Don’t keep us in suspense: Now that you know what it all means, do share. Most people don’t need cable news to explain to them that somebody cops a plea to protect themselves from worse by giving evidence of another, presumably more serious offense. Now that you know what it all means, what are those supposed offenses? More alleged faulty recall of perfectly legal conversations about UN meetings?

    Or something to do with Flynn’s dealings with Turkey and a plot to kidnap Fethullah Gulen? Or perhaps the cover-up of Hillary’s illegal e-mail scheme, or bribery and corruption at the Clinton Foundation?

    Today we learn that the top FBI official looking into Hillary “was taken off that job this past summer after his bosses discovered he and another member of Mueller’s team had exchanged politically charged texts disparaging President Trump and supporting Hillary Clinton”.

    • Steven in Tokyo says:

      You really are a piece of work. If you are unhappy with Heather’s commentary, please just stay away.

    • Despite what you seem to think, most of those on CNN don’t make wild accusations relating to potential scenarios.

      You may be smart enough to realize he’s taken a plea deal, but many on Fox are either not mentioning, denying, or minimizing that likelihood. The 30%+ that make up Trump’s core groupies are unable to see that.

      As for someone who is a strong supporter of Clinton being taken off an investigation into her, I would think you would like that. It shows the FBI is doing its best to not only remain neutral, but to be seen to be neutral.

      I would remind you that multiple investigations into Hillary Clinton have found nothing she could reasonably be charged with.

      • j.a.m. says:

        To the contrary, multiple investigations have found plenty that both Clintons could reasonably be charged with. Unfortunately, the burden of proof is not reasonableness, but beyond a reasonable doubt (in the opinion of 12 Democrat-leaning jurors randomly selected from a jurisdiction that went 91% for Clinton in 2016).

        Anybody who’s ever read or watched a police procedural understands what it means to turn state’s evidence. They also understand that anybody who already has admitted lying is an impeachable witness. And most people who’ve been around the block a time or two can recognize baseless speculation when they hear it.

        • It seems there are rather a lot who can’t recognize a “baseless speculation” given some of the attacks on Hillary Clinton.

          Fox News is accepting the ridiculous contention that Trump’s lawyer wrote the latest tweet in which he sticks his foot in his mouth re Flynn lying. Apart from the legal reasons Ann German (attorney) gave above, I would say this: no lawyer would use the phrase “plead guilty.” A lawyer would always use correct English in that situation and say “pleaded guilty.” It’s clearly a Trump tweet imo.

    • Mark R. says:

      Most people don’t need cable news to explain to them that somebody cops a plea to protect themselves from worse by giving evidence of another, presumably more serious offense.

      As Heather’s analysis reveals, FOX viewers (the declining millions are probably 99% Trump [republican] supporters) don’t watch any other news channels/shows. It’s not a lapse of logic, FOX isn’t a news show; it’s a propaganda channel. I will add that FOX viewers probably don’t read much outside a strange propaganda bubble either; I have many family emails and facebook posts to prove this btw. So, when I read your “most people don’t need cable news” to know what the hell is going on in regards to Flynn’s plea deal; you are giving your tribe A MIRACLE in sudden logical, intelligent and knowledgeable thought processes. But miracles don’t exist and your tribe is hopelessly indoctrinated into a fugue of hate and ignorance. What I opine to be true is if FOX doesn’t define a plea deal, their many viewers don’t know what it is. Ergo, they don’t know how serious Flynn’s plea is and the implications thereof. The force that is Mueller only needs one felony account of perjury to hold a very large carrot. As the many cartoons imply, Flynn is the Titanic’s iceberg. You think your republican peers (esp. the seniors…don’t know if they’re peers) understand this impending massive collision? They don’t; FOX won’t allow the truth to be told to its fragile millions. Confirmation-bias obfuscates icebergs and other deadly impediments. A little advice to all people, most importantly the religious, read up on the Dunn and Kruger effect. Let’s save this sinking Democracy.

  2. Jenny Haniver says:

    Even though I’m here in the States and did not see the programs you saw because I don’t have a TV, I followed the story through Google News, dipping into various print news sources, and the details of the revelations unfolded for me pretty much as they did for you. It was only as time passed that the particulars became evident. In the meantime, Trumps’ reckless tweets about the firing of Flynn have complicated things the more, so now his lawyer is taking credit for the lapsus tweeteri, which places Trump’s claims of being ignorant in serious jeopardy. If one of Trump’s lawyers is so idiotic as to actually be the author such a tweet, Roy Moore’s attorney has a bright future ahead of him.

    I found this article “Sweeping aside Russia Probe, Trump Says We’re Unbeatable”,-Trump-says-'we're-unbeatable‘, which is about his response to the Senate passage of the tax bill, but I link to it here for the priceless photo, which unintentionally turns Trump’s reflective image into Pinocchio. Only problem is that it shouldn’t be his image that has the long nose, but the subject. However, the image is so good, I love it anyway.

  3. rickflick says:

    Your analysis of the differences between CNN and FOX is a good one. Most of the mainstream news outlets do their best to get the facts out before they start talking about possible implications, and they are often quite constrained when going beyond the facts at hand. That’s been my impression over the past 50 years of watching TV news. Once in a while they will take a stance that is not quite justified and they end up with egg on their face, but that doesn’t happen often and when it does they always set the record strait. Fox news, or faux news as it is sometimes called, is more typically operating as a mouthpiece for the GOP which makes it a total waste of time.

    • The biggest problem with Fox is they don’t make a proper delineation between news shows and opinion shows. Viewers think of the opinion shows as news shows because they have a similar format to news shows and act like news shows. And, of course, all the shows are on a channel called Fox NEWS. It takes credibility away from the few actual news shows and leads people to believe they’re watching informed analysis when they’re just being led towards a particular viewpoint and not even being told the other side of the story.

  4. Bob Terrace says:

    It has been clear for decades that Fox is not a legitimate news channel but is a propaganda arm of the right wing and Murdock. It had been many years since I would even spend 5 minutes tuned in to the lie-per-minute network.

    • I find it useful to know what they are saying and how they are presenting different topics. I do spend a lot of time getting extremely irritated and frustrated, and I can certainly understand why others wouldn’t want to do it. However, unlike me, most of you probably have lives! 🙂

      • Bob Terrace says:

        Other legitimate news organizations and late nite shows report on the constant lies of Fox News, so it is not necessary to actually listen to their dreck (Yiddish term).

        • Jenny Haniver says:

          If one wants to know what the ‘other side’ says and be in a position to give critical analysis (positive as well as negative), I think that it’s vital to go to the sources, explore them, listen intently, and not simply rely on “late nite shows [to] report on the constant lies of Fox News” . Isn’t that a kind of “appeal to authority” argument so beloved of the religious/authoritarian mentality? One needs to go straight to the horse’s mouth in order to know what’s going down, to be truly informed and able to make substantive judgments about the state of affairs. I know people who become apoplectic if I mention anything and source Fox News (and there’s also an implicit assumption of my critical naivety), but sometimes that’s where I find critical information that is factual — and it’s also essential to see how Fox distorts and manipulates the facts, not just to hear or read about them.

  5. Randall Schenck says:

    Believe you have given a pretty good review of these news agencies and how they cover things like this. I am always amazed at how much you know about the goings on in this country when you are half way around the globe. Of course you still have television as do I and many seem not to. Those among PCC’s followers seem to think it a badge of honor to not have a television as if the intellectuals have moved on to a better way to be informed. Kind of like really old people who brag they have no computer and never will.

    I would only throw in a plug for another news source on the tube at MSNBC. The evening shows – Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell are what I would refer to as news education shows. They do not pretend to be anything other than liberal folks but they provide far more in depth material on the major political stories of the day. They do bring other experts on their shows but spend a great deal of the time giving you the view the story and laying it all out there in front of you. There is a great amount of research that goes into these shows that summarize it all for you. Saves all of us a lot of work.

    • j.a.m. says:

      “Saves all of us a lot of work.”

      That kind of says it all.

      Let’s hope nobody ever comes up with a gizmo that offers immediate direct access to facts and opinion on virtually any topic in virtually any locale the world over. Oy! What a load of work that would be!

    • We don’t get MSNBC here. I watch Rachel Maddow on YouTube sometimes, and am generally impressed by her analyses. Lawrence O’Donnell is not so familiar. I’ve seen clips, but not much more. What I’ve seen is good though.

      I think some of the best analysis comes from comedians. I especially enjoy John Oliver and Trevor Noah.

      • Randall Schenck says:

        I might mention the Fareed Zakaria show on CNN as one of the more informative shows. My complaint with CNN in general as apposed to MSNBC is that CNN continues to bend over backwards to get the republican take on every issue of the day. So they drag out the pundits to bark out the republican dogma on the subject even when it is obvious crap. This waste time they could spend telling the story. One example of the detail from MSNBC, Maddow I think, explained what Flynn was doing in the Obama administration just before he was fired. It included informing govt. agencies that this Russian company’s software could not be trusted and should be removed from systems. One of the first places Flynn went to make money when he left was this company.

      • Ann German says:

        Historically, the jesters were always the wisest.

  6. Lee Knuth says:

    Your commentary on the difference between Fox News and CNN is on the mark. Luckily we have PBS News Hour too to give us unbiased reports.

    • Linda Calhoun says:

      PBS News Hour is a fraud. They were actually doing fine until the Koch brothers bought them. The Kochs started giving massive donations to PBS, and said that they weren’t going to try to influence content.

      But those people are not stupid. They know where their bread is buttered. So what they do now is give right wing liars air time to spread their BS, and they never challenge any of them. One example was a segment that featured someone from NARAL and some forced birther lawyer from TX. They were discussing the TX legislature’s passage of what was later to be determined to be an unconstitutional law limiting women’s access to abortion. The lawyer made the comment that it was too bad that people didn’t understand that they were only concerned about women’s health and safety. That statement went unchallenged. But, TX has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the US. And the US has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world. So TX is the most dangerous place in the developed world to be a pregnant, delivering, or post-partum mother. Gwen Ifill didn’t even bring that up to ask the lawyer what TX was doing about that, given their “concern” about women’s health.

      There are many other examples. Another strategy they use to cover their whoring for the right wing is in their choice of what to report and what to leave out. An example of that is after the elections last year, when South Dakota voters had overwhelmingly passed an ethics law for their legislators, the SD legislature met, declared a “state of emergency”, and voided the law. Did you see that reported on PBS News Hour? No, you did not. One of those bozos should have been interviewed and asked exactly what the “state of emergency” was. One of them said that the voters had been “hoodwinked”. Yeah, so much for local control. The Repubs really have no respect at all for the rule of law, no matter what they tell you.

      And, PBS has been co-opted, no matter what THEY tell you.


  7. j.a.m. says:

    Always amused by those who know everything they need to know about FNC because they never watch it.

    • Randall Schenck says:

      Actually, it is the other way round. We have watched it plenty and found it to be a very unbalanced and bias organization and therefore, do not watch it. It is Murdock owned and operated. Take a look at National Geo for a view of the splendid job he has done there.

      • j.a.m. says:

        I’ve read the New York Times for enough years to know that it’s an extremely skewed and partisan source with a highly porous border between fact and opinion, but I still look at it (online — I did get sick of paying for it).

        Broaden your perspective. It won’t kill you, and you might like it.

        • Randall Schenck says:

          If you are certain the NYTs is extremely skewed and partisan how do you determine the fact from fiction and why would anyone continue to look at it if they believed this to be true? You are a walking contradiction in thought. Broadening the perspective is not the problem so much as having one in the first place.

    • Steven in Tokyo says:

      A comment like this makes me wonder whether you actually read what Heather writes. And if you do read what she writes, this sort of comment is inexcusable.

  8. Ann German says:

    Hi – just seeing this and haven’t read all comments so others may have brought this up, but I am FASCINATED that Atty Dowd is “taking credit” for drafting the tweet yesterday sent out by pussygrabber that he had fired Flynn for lying to the FBI. As an attorney, am thinking, 1) he just violated attorney-client privilege (or conceded that it’s been waived by his client) and 2)admitted setting his client up to give a written admisison to committing obstruction of justice, or, at least, covering it up. As one put it, this is equiavalent to the 18 minute gap in Nixon’s tapes that was blamed on Rosemary Woods. As Heather likes to remind us, history WILL be repeated by those who fail to study it.

    • Ann German says:

      And, I’m going to leave this here as another good source of factual reporting:

    • Randall Schenck says:

      I thought is was equivalent to a lawyer falling on a grenade but then, they never do that, surely?

    • Jenny Haniver says:

      This is fascinating. You make some tantalizing suppositions that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Sure hope that somebody with some power and sense of responsibility and justice will explore this, and, if warranted, nail that stupid sucka.

    • I want to know how Trump manages to get so many people into one of two conditions:

      1. Either he has them so overwhelmed they cannot see him as anything other than perfect.

      2. They are prepared to lie and even commit perjury for him. They’ll also take the fall for him, like a gang leader.

      I often wonder if some of the professional people like lawyers are ones he has something on in the same way it appears the Russians may have Kompromat on him. Otherwise why would they compromise themselves ethically to protect him. We know he’s a bully and throws tantrums, but lawyers etc should be able to stand up to that.

  9. nicky says:

    One would think that Shepard Smith’s systematic debunking of ‘uranium one’ would be sufficient to have it laid to rest, especially since presented on Fox News.
    However, we know it will not. Something as trivial as facts rarely trumps a deeply held conviction.
    Still, thanks for posting it.

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