CNN's Soledad O'Brien Responds to Critics Who Claim She's Biased (Exclusive)
The news anchor tells THR she did not cite any opinion -- but did cite a senator's quote -- from the blog Talking Points Memo while interviewing a Mitt Romney supporter.
CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien struck back at critics who objected to her reading from a document printed from what they called a liberal website -- yet not citing her source -- while interviewing an operative for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on the topic of Medicare.
O’Brien was substitute-hosting on Anderson Cooper 360 on Monday when she was seen flipping through a story from the website Talking Points Memo during a segment with Romney campaign adviser Barbara Comstock. Conservative media, most notably Rush Limbaugh, mocked the news anchor for what they perceived to be a journalistic transgression.
“She never cited it. She just used its contents,” Limbaugh fumed Tuesday. “When she talks to a Democrat, she has no pieces of paper, she needs no guidance.”
O'Brien didn't deny referring to a TPM document during the show but said she only did so in order to read a quote from Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, a perfectly benign journalistic practice. She also gets information from conservative sources, like RedState.com, she said.
"Editorially, I was not reading off the Talking Points Memo," she told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday. "The memo had an accurate, verbatim quote of what Sen. Wyden said, and when I was talking to Ms. Comstock, she was saying something that was patently untrue."
O'Brien also answered critics who complain about what they perceive to be a left-wing bias in her reporting.
"I don't think I show bias in my TV show. I think I am aggressive with people about trying to find the facts behind what they say," O'Brien said. "Am I a liberal or conservative? I'm neither. Like most Americans, I find politics very frustrating. Like most Americans, I'd like to hear from politicians the facts. That is what drives me."
Meanwhile, one of O’Brien’s more relentless critics, the conservative media-watchdog group Newsbusters, was suggesting that the CNN anchor was again using TPM as an uncited source, also during a discussion about Medicare and budgets.
Medicare has been a hot topic with O’Brien since Romney named as his running mate Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who says he has an economic plan to “save” Medicare from insolvency, though Democrats say the plan will simply gut the program.
In a heated exchange with Republican former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu on Tuesday, the guest was so frustrated at O’Brien for seemingly siding with Democrats that he told her, “Put an Obama sticker on your forehead when you do this.”
O’Brien took offense to Sununu’s assertion she was biased and accused him of “name-calling.”
On Wednesday at CNN.com, O'Brien further answered Sununu’s -- as well as Comstock’s -- version of the Medicare debate.
“While we here at Starting Point always enjoy a healthy, even if at times a heated debate, when it comes to facts, we like to hold all our guests accountable, including Gov. Sununu," she says at the end of the segment.
Video is below.
After spending several minutes excoriating O'Brien for what he called her liberal bias, Limbaugh on Tuesday posted photos on his website of her with a bumper sticker on her forehead touting the Obama-Biden ticket.
"I didn't hear what he had to say, and it's sort of irrelevant to what I do," O'Brien said Wednesday. "People are entitled to do what they want, and I do what I do -- which is, as a journalist, focus on the substance of someone's argument."