CNN Lets Guest Slam Conservative Media Over COVID Story CNN Also Pushed

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Cross posted to the MRC's NewsBusters blog

On Tuesday's New Day show, a segment CNN set up with a media expert to discredit conservative media as pushing conspiracy theories didn't go as planned as the only alleged "conspiracy theory" their guest cited was a story that even CNN has given credibility to regarding the origins of the COVID-19 virus. In fact, Keilar's own New Day show recently promoted the claim, albeit prior to her joining as co-anchor.

The CNN host blurred social media generally with conservative media as she set up the segment: "So a new study finds that people who got more of their news from conservative media and from social media were also more likely to believe conspiracy theories about the coronavirus."

After introducing Kathleen Hall Jamieson of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Policy Center, Keiler added: "What have you learned about these links between beliefs in COVID-19 falsehoods and reliance on social media and conservative news outlets for information?"

Jamieson recalled that the study focused on news consumers between March and July of last year, asking them questions to test their belief in misinformation about the pandemic. She then speculated about whether news consumers who are "vulnerable" to being misinformed might be rescued:

The question then becomes: If you can intensify or minimize, that means it's not inevitable, and it means we can find a way to catch those individuals who might be vulnerable before they move into conspiracy world, and we can minimize the likelihood that others go there. But you do that by creating a climate in which you have more familiarity with accurate information preemptively.

But the only example of an alleged "conspiracy theory" that Jamieson specified was, in fact, the theory that COVID-19 was genetically modified in a Chinese lab before escaping, which CNN has acknowledged a number of times might be true. Jamieson recalled: "For example, on the origins of the virus, How do we know it's not bioengineered? That's what the conspiracy theory says -- 'China bioengineered this as a weapon.' Well, the scientists have looked at the genome, and they haven't found any evidence of it."

Keilar did not admit that her own network -- and even her current New Day show -- had also pushed the theory that COVID was genetically modified in a lab -- although not deliberately as a weapon -- as she instead pivoted to blaming Donald Trump administration officials for giving credibility to the lab theory:

I mean, look, you have former top officials in the Trump administration who are experts who have breathed life into that. So you also have people of stature who have said things like that. How do you -- how do you stop people from drifting into that? How do you catch them, as you say, before they do that? Because it seems like, once they're gone, they're kind of gone.

But, after months of denying the Wuhan lab theory, CNN in mid-March began to present theories that the virus did, in fact, originate in such a manner. On the morning of March 9, CNN had one of its political analysts, Josh Rogin, who is also a Washington Post columnist, on New Day to promote his book exploring the theory that a Wuhan lab was the source.

A couple of weeks later, the network aired a special which included an interview with former CDC director Doctor Robert Redfield, who made known his opinion that the virus had to be genetically modified in a lab in order to be resilient enough to spread so easily. Keilar's New Day co-host, John Berman, hyped Dr. Redfield's assertions as something that would "break some pretty significant news" as he previewed the special introducing clips of CNN medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, speaking with Dr. Redfield.

Additionally, the next week, Dr. Gupta admitted that he believes Dr. Redfield's theory makes sense as he was interviewed by Mediaite.

This latest dodgy episode of CNN's New Day was sponsored in part by USAA. Their contact information is linked.

Transcript follows:

CNN

New Day

May 4, 2021

8:19 a.m. Eastern

BRIANNA KEILAR: So a new study finds that people who got more of their news from conservative media and from social media were also more likely to believe conspiracy theories about the coronavirus. We are joined now by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, who is the co-author of the study and the director of Annenberg Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. This is fascinating here. What have you learned about these links between beliefs in COVID-19 falsehoods and reliance on social media and conservative news outlets for information?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON, UNIVERSITYOF PENNSYLVANIA: What my colleague, Dan Romer, and I found was that there's a real difference in what you're exposed to over time, so this isn't just one snapshot over time. This is following people over a four-month period across the COVID pandemic, March through July. And what we found was that those beliefs tended to intensify if you were exposed to conservative outlets and, or social media. But they were minimized if you were exposed to mainstream print. 

The question then becomes: If you can intensify or minimize, that means it's not inevitable, and it means we can find a way to catch those individuals who might be vulnerable before they move into conspiracy world, and we can minimize the likelihood that others go there. But you do that by creating a climate in which you have more familiarity with accurate information preemptively. For example, on the origins of the virus, How do we know it's not bioengineered? That's what the conspiracy theory says -- "China bioengineered this as a weapon." Well, the scientists have looked at the genome, and they haven't found any evidence of it.

KEILAR: I mean, look, you have former top officials in the Trump administration who are experts who have breathed life into that. So you also have people of stature who have said things like that. How do you -- how do you stop people from drifting into that? How do you catch them, as you say, before they do that? Because it seems like, once they're gone, they're kind of gone.

(...)

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