CNN and the jihadist faith whose name it dare not speak

The last couple of days we’ve been contemplating the chronic stoogery of CNN, which has routinely edited the facts in order to preserve friendly relations with dictatorships that have expelled other international media and imprisoned domestic journalists.

bitterman (2)
Jim Bitterman

As eager as CNN has been to placate tyrants around the world, it’s been particularly careful to mollify Islamic regimes. Every time Muslim terrorists strike anywhere around the world, CNN can be relied upon to do two things. One, it goes into 24-hour live reporting on the event, knowing that it’s pretty much only when such things happen that it manages to rack up decent ratings. Two, it goes into heavy denial mode, omitting from its coverage, as fully as possible, those two supremely incendiary words, Islam and Muslim.

A recent example: in early May, a man stabbed one person to death and injured three at an S-Bahn station on the outskirts of Munich. Many news media reported that he had shouted “Infidel, you must die!” and “Allahu akbar!” (Allah is the greatest), a strong indication that this was an act of jihad. But CNN scrubbed these details entirely from its reports on the incident, in which the assailant was identified simply as a “27-year-old German man.” The closest CNN came to identifying the man as a jihadist was to say that in the view of police “a political motive could not be ruled out.”

More examples. After a series of terrorist actions in France in December 2014, one blog posted a two-minute You Tube video showing an exchange about the subject between a CNN anchor and Paris correspondent Jim Bitterman. Asked about the perpetrator’s motives, Bitterman said inanely that “those questions are being asked today” but refused to offer anything close to a serious answer. While noting that one killer’s brother had gone off to join ISIS, Bitterman said it was “too early to tell” why that killer might have been motivated to murder. While willing to use the word terrorism, Bitterman delicately avoided the “I” and “M” words throughout.

Some CNN hosts are so eager to distance Islam from terrorism that sometimes they end up saying things that are patently ridiculous. Last December, for instance, in an attempt to paint the GOP as a nest of anti-Muslim bigots, Chris Cuomo (whom we recently saw proudly wearing a shirt Fidel Castro had given to his father, the late New York Governor Mario Cuomo) sneered that sixty percent of Republicans “think all jihadis are Muslim.”

Chris Cuomo

Of course, all jihadis are Muslim.

Or consider CNN’s live coverage of the July 2015 Chattanooga shooting, during which the network’s “national security analyst” Tom Fuentes played dumb about the name of the shooter, Muhammad Youssed Abdulazeez. In answer to a suggestion that the perpetrator’s name might indicate something about his religion and motives, Fuentes said, absurdly, “We don’t know it’s a Muslim name.”

UPDATE, June 10, 2016: On Wednesday, reporting on a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv that took the lives of four people and injured 16, CNN issued a tweet in which the  word “terrorist” was put in quotation marks. Yesterday, after being widely criticized, the network put out a follow-up tweet that read: “A previous – now removed – tweet appeared to call into question the Tel Aviv attack as an act of terrorism. It undoubtedly was.” Similarly, a story about the attack at CNN’s website stated: “Information about a motive wasn’t immediately available.”   

Chris Cuomo: not exactly a descamisado

CNN reporter Chris Cuomo

During the next couple of days, in the wake of President Obama’s highly touted sojourn in Cuba, we’re going to make a brief return visit to that long-suffering island – and to the useful stoogery of those in the West who now dread the prospect of a Cuban populace living in freedom and prosperity. Or who, at the very least, in the name of some perverse concept of sensitivity, subtlety, and/or solidarity, refuse to explicitly acknowledge the black-and-white distinction between liberty and tyranny.

Take CNN reporter Chris Cuomo. He’s the son of late New York governor Mario Cuomo and the brother of the Empire State’s current honcho, Andrew Cuomo. On March 21, Cuomo (the reporter) appeared briefly on a CNN morning program, New Day. He was not in the TV studio but out in the Havana sunshine, covering the presidential visit. Asked by the in-studio hosts about the shirt he was wearing, Cuomo announced, with palpable delight, if not outright pride, that it was a Cuban guayabera, presented to his father many years ago by Fidel Castro.

What Cuomo then went on to say was rather puzzling. Having explained the shirt’s provenance – which was obviously the whole point of wearing it – Cuomo hastened to deny that the garment meant anything, either to himself or his father, “because it came from Fidel Castro necessarily.” No, he insisted, it was important “because it marked conversations going on decades ago that were the same as those today.”

Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo

Huh? Cuomo explained, or pretended to:

The concern was the freedom of the people. What is the point of this communist regime if it is not to truly make everyone equal — not at the lowest level; not by demoralizing everyone; but lifting everyone up? My father, generations of politicians, have been fighting this. So, I wear this shirt as a reminder of that, and of my pop.

(FILES) In this 04 September1999 file photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro discusses his request to the president of the International Olympic Committee in Havana for an investigation into the treatment of certain Cuban atheletes. Castro said the communist nation is not afraid of dialogue with the United States -- and not interested in continued confrontation with its powerful neighbor. The comments came as a group of US lawmakers visited Cuba this weekend to try to end nearly half a century of mutual distrust and amid reports that President Barack Obama was planning to ease economic sanctions on the island, including travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans. "We're not afraid to talk with the United States. We also don't need confrontation to exist, like some fools like to think," Castro, 82, said in an article on the Cubadebate website on April 5, 2009. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUE /FILES (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images) Original Filename: Was672139.jpg
Fidel Castro

What exactly was Cuomo trying to say there? He certainly wasn’t serving up a categorical condemnation of Communism. Such a condemnation would have been easy to put into clear, unmistakable words. No, what Cuomo was giving us was something that came off as incredibly murky. On the one hand, he was affirming the importance of freedom and equality. On the other hand, it sure sounded as if he was suggesting that Communism, when properly implemented, might actually have the capacity to provide freedom, engineer equality, boost morale, and lift everyone up.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo stands during a news conference following a bi-state meeting on regional security and preparedness in New York, September 15, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS DISASTER HEADSHOT) - RTR46CAA
New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

We may be reading him wrong. But if we are, it’s his fault – because he seemed to be deliberately out to obfuscate. Perhaps the fairest thing to say is that he was loath to denounce Communism unreservedly – but, at the same time, quite understandably disinclined to praise it too full-throatedly.

It seems fair, in any event, to say this: if he did mean to put down Communism, doing so while wearing a shirt presented to his dad by a Communist dictator sent exactly the wrong signal.

We’d have loved to see him douse the camisa in gasoline and set fire to it: that would have made the right point and done it beautifully. But of course who would ever expect any member of the mainstream U.S. news media to do anything so gauche?