CNN has been accused of ambushing Bernie Sanders and tricking viewers by passing off Democratic political operatives as everyday people during a Monday evening town hall as part of his campaign for the 2020 election. Internet sleuths looked into the backgrounds of those asking Sanders various questions - most of which could be considered fair game to ask a presidential candidate, only to find that there was more than meets the eye as noted by Paste Magazine.
For example, Sanders was asked a tough question about allegations of sexual harassment on his 2016 campaign by "American University Student" Shadi Nasab. What CNN didn't mention is that she's also an intern for a large D.C. lobbying firm, Cassidy & Associates.
“It will not happen again.” Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses allegations of sexual harassment on his 2016 campaign and describes protocols he says his campaign has implemented. #SandersTownHall https://t.co/ZcDCSQIMOm pic.twitter.com/qRMMiHCz5O— CNN (@CNN) February 26, 2019
Another question came from Tara Ebersole, a humble "Former Biology Professor" according to CNN. She's also the chair of the Baltimore County Democratic Party according to her LinkedIn page. What's more, Ebersole's husband is a Maryland state delegate, and was on Hillary Clinton's leadership council in 2016.
Abena McAllister was labeled by CNN as a "Mother of Two," but failed to mention that she's also the Charles County Democratic Central Committee Chair.
"Maryland Voter" Michelle Gregory is yet another 'everyday person' who turns out to be politically active as the chair of the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus.
There are several more examples - as nearly everyone who asked Bernie a question is linked to some type of Democratic activism.
One explanation for why so many political operatives asked Bernie question might be that political activists are more likely to choose to participate in a Bernie Sanders town hall. That said, CNN made it appear as though these were 'everyday voters' - not people people involved in politics themselves.
As Paste's Jacob Weindling reports, most of the questions weren't unfair.
I watched the entire town hall last night, and none of the questions asked by these people resonated as unfair to me. There were a couple asked by other people that were based on wrong assumptions (like the myth that Bernie’s only support comes from young white dudes), but it’s hard to blame individuals for coming to wrong conclusions like that when the Democratic Party’s infrastructure has invested so much time and energy gaslighting the public into thinking that way.
But back to my main point: really the only problem in all this is that because CNN did not disclose many of these questioners’ ties to politics, one cannot help wonder why. The famed Bobby Knight quote of “stupid loses more games than smart wins” is Occam’s Razor here, as Wolf Blitzer isn’t exactly universally respected and we have documented CNN’s struggles with the truth before, but the nefarious angle is the elephant in that Washington D.C. room. -Paste Magazine
As Weindling notes - "being politically-involved doesn't disqualify these folks from asking questions, and it doesn't automatically make their motivations disingenuous," however "had CNN been more accurate in describing the questioners, I wouldn't be writing this column."