IS CNN NOW THE ‘CLINTON NEWS NETWORK?

Yesterday we reported on the animosity that Rick Kaplan, the new head of CNN, has towards Accuracy in Media and chairman Reed Irvine — "liars," in his words, for criticisms made of him when he was a top executive at ABC News. Oddly, Kaplan never made any such charges during phone conversations he’s had with Irvine over the years, nor did he cite any specific "lies" — his word, not ours, during the Vanity Fair interview. But let’s give the full quotation of what Kaplan said about Irvine and another media critic, Brent Bozell.

Kaplan said, quote "If they — meaning Irvine and Bozell — weren’t such liars, they wouldn’t make whatever money they make. There’d be no purpose for them on the planet." The Vanity Fair writer didn’t bother to get a comment from Accuracy in Media on Kaplan’s insinuation that our criticisms of the media are driven by a desire to make money. So let’s set the record straight about who earns what.

Vanity Fair stated that CNN pays Kaplan $1.7 million a year to run its news operation, which we think you will agree is a healthy sum of money. By contrast, the entire annual budget for Accuracy in Media — staff salaries, rent, printing, the phone bill, whatever — is less than the $1.7 million paid to Kaplan. Reed Irvine himself takes a salary of $28,000 a year.

So, what does Rick Kaplan do at CNN for his fat salary? Within days of his arrival there, according to US News & World Report, he infuriated staff members by saying that the word "scandal" should not be used so freely in stories about — well, about the Clinton Scandals, for lack of a better word. One of our friends at CNN told us at the time that when he heard of Kaplan’s statement, he told his agent to start sending resumes to other networks — that he did not wish to spend the rest of his professional life working for a news executive who valued the friendship of a President above honest news reporting.

What Kaplan does not seem to realize is that many persons other than conservative media critics question how a man with his long ties to President Clinton can be truly objective in reporting on a scandal-riddled Administration. Kaplan boasts that he’s known Clinton since the 1970s, that he is so close to Hillary that he hired her to work on coverage of the 1980 Democratic National Convention, that he helped daughter Chelsea get a rare birthday president for her dad, a golf club fashioned from a melted-down Soviet missile.

CNN is a troubled network. Ratings now are in the same neighborhood was they were in 1980, when CNN began operations. There have been temporary blips during such events as the Gulf War and the O. J. Simpson trial — but on a daily basis, viewership is minuscule. Is turning CNN over to an FOB — a Friend of Bill — going to help its credibility? We think not.