Americans dislike the news media, though we depend on them for information. And cable news has been a target for ridicule for at least a decade, ever since Jon Stewart used The Daily Show to lampoon the genre. But CNN is particularly disliked, especially — though not uniquely — by supporters of President Donald Trump.
CNN’s unpopularity is reflected in its shockingly poor ratings, but also in the chants of “CNN sucks!” that erupt at Trump rallies.
What is it about the pioneering cable news network that is so hated?
CNN might argue that it is the victim of a vicious campaign, led by President Trump himself, to label the network “fake news.”
But Trump would not be the first president to single out a news outlet. Barack Obama did the same to Fox News, telling Rolling Stone in 2010 that the network was “destructive to [America’s] long-term growth.” His staff also called Fox “opinion journalism masquerading as news.” Few journalists, and even fewer Democrats, denounced Obama’s attacks as a threat to democracy.
Democracy survived — and so did Fox, which actually thrived under attack from Obama. CNN’s fortunes, by contrast, have moved in the opposite direction.
One reason is that CNN has competition that Fox does not, in the form of MSNBC, the openly left-wing network that has seen its ratings rise in the Trump era. In an increasingly divided political environment, viewers may have less interest in news produced by a network whose brand — theoretically, at least — is one of non-partisan objectivity and “facts first.”
The question is whether CNN is actually true to that brand. And many viewers feel that it is not. CNN is perceived as being guilty of false advertising — namely, claiming to be in the middle of the political spectrum while actually driving a hard left-wing agenda.