Category: Cable News

Donald Trump rages in CNN meltdown over Obama 'birther' issue


Donald Trump is seething over the President Obama "birther" issue — and the latest target of his wrath is CNN.

In an interview Tuesday, the real estate magnate and "Celebrity Apprentice" overseer got into a war of words with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, castigating the network for what he dubbed "inaccurate" reporting and ridiculing its low ratings.

At one point, Blitzer said that Trump was beginning to sound ridiculous. "I think you sound ridiculous," Trump shot back via telephone.

Trump has been a leading proponent of the theory that Obama either was not or may not have been born in the U.S. This view is a focal point of attacks on the administration from some critics, although the state of Hawaii has offered documents that say Obama was indeed born there. Most leading GOP politicians have shied away from the issue, but it persists, particularly at a grass-roots level. Trump is keeping the issue alive even as he brandishes his support for the presumed Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. 

"A lot of people do not believe that birth certificate," Trump told Blitzer.

The mogul also trashed CNN's reported summary that led in to the interview, calling it "highly inappropriate." Trump said that if CNN would report the issue accurately, the network would draw "better ratings than you're getting, which are pretty small." Last week, CNN sank to its lowest prime-time audience levels in more than 20 years.

It's been quite the ride for Trump the past few days, with sharp attacks from both the right and the left. On Sunday's "This Week" on ABC, conservative columnist George Will called the mogul "a bloviating ignoramus."


Jon Stewart to Donald Trump: You're fired

Piers Morgan jokes about CNN's low ratings

Donald Trump talks politics, new "Celebrity Apprentice" 


— Scott Collins (

Piers Morgan jokes about CNN's 20-year ratings lows

CNN host Piers Morgan may be under renewed criticism for alleged phone hacking, but at least he hasn't lost his sense of humor. On Wednesday, he cracked wise about his record-low ratings on "Piers Morgan Tonight."

Interviewing Conan O'Brien at a cable TV industry event in Boston, the British-born host surveyed the roughly three-quarters-full convention hall and joked, "I haven't had an audience this big for quite a while."

Though the crowd may have appreciated the witticism, it must have made Morgan's bosses wince. New Nielsen figures released Wednesday showed that CNN's prime-time lineup last week was its least-watched overall in more than 20 years, since at least September 1991.

Last week, "Piers Morgan Tonight" averaged 429,000 total viewers. How bad is that? Well, Morgan's show premiered in January 2011 with 2.1 million. And his predecessor, Larry King, was averaging 657,000 in late 2010 -- a level that was considered unacceptable at the time.

On the other hand, "Piers Morgan Tonight" was a star compared with "Anderson Cooper 360," the 8 p.m. version of which drew just 352,000 viewers. In the adults ages 25 to 54 demographic, Cooper's performance was catastrophic, with just 95,000 viewers in that category. To an advertiser, such a level means extremely low rates for commercial time; there are big-city newscasts that deliver more viewers in the target audience.

A CNN spokeswoman did not reply to an email and a Morgan rep did not comment.

What do you think of Morgan and CNN these days? What would you do to fix their problems?


Piers Morgan fingered in phone-hacking scandal

Anderson Cooper ratings plunge to record lows on CNN

Anderson Cooper kicks "human Barbie" off his talk show

-- Scott Collins (

Photo: Piers Morgan has seen CNN's ratings droop to their lowest in more than 20 years. Credit: Jerod Harris / Getty Images.







Bill O'Reilly duels Tavis Smiley over race and Norfolk mob attack


America's latest racial controversy got things heated on Thursday's "The O'Reilly Factor."

Host Bill O'Reilly debated guest Tavis Smiley over an alleged "mob attack" in Norfolk, Va., last month, when two white reporters said they were attacked by a group of blacks. The reporters work for the Virginian-Pilot newspaper, which has drawn criticism for not publishing anything about the incident for two weeks. Police charged a teenager in connection with the case on Thursday.

O'Reilly prodded Smiley -- a PBS interviewer and co-author of the new book "The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto" -- by arguing that the media would have reported immediately such an attack on a black couple.

"I don't know that," Smiley said. 

"You don't think they would cover that?" O'Reilly replied incredulously.

Smiley said another current racial controversy, the shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin case, took weeks to get coverage, "but inside black America, it was being discussed every day."

"When we first heard about Trayvon Martin, we got on it," O'Reilly said of Fox News. "I can't acknowledge that [delay], because I don't know the timeline."

"Come on, this is the No-Spin Zone!" Smiley said, alluding to O'Reilly's famous slogan. "It's the white babies in this country who end up on the milk cartons."

What do you think? Are the media partly to blame for the racial controversies currently sweeping America?


Bill O'Reilly returns to "The View"

Bill O'Reilly debates Jon Stewart

Geraldo Rivera backtracks from Trayvon Martin remarks

-- Scott Collins


Mitt Romney-Rick Santorum debate ratings on CNN beat NBC lineup

Rick Santorum, left, and Mitt Romney

The Mitt 'n' Rick Show is so entertaining, maybe they should make a regular series out of it. It already has NBC beat.

At least that was the case Wednesday night, when the GOP presidential debate featuring a showdown between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum delivered 4.7-million total viewers for CNN, according to Nielsen.

Unfortunately for NBC, that was more than the audience for its entire struggling prime-time lineup between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.: the sitcoms "Whitney" (4.1 million) and "Are You There, Chelsea?" (3.4 million) and the newsmagazine "Rock Center With Brian Williams" (2.7 million).


The CNN face-off was far from the most-watched debate. A December outing on ABC, when the GOP field had more active candidates (it's now down to four), scored 7.6 million viewers.

Still, the Republican debates have proved to be a ratings draw the past few months. Too bad for TV executives that Wednesday's outing was supposedly the last of 20.

What did you think of the debate?


Jon Stewart mocks rowdy Republican debate

ABC debate hits ratings highs

GOP debate beats 'Biggest Loser' in the ratings

-Scott Collins (

Photo: Rick Santorum, left, and Mitt Romney squared off in Wednesday's GOP presidential debate on CNN. Credit: Jae C. Hong / Associated Press.


Kadafi death video creates queasy choices for TV news

The graphic images and video of what is purported to be Moammar Kadafi's death are creating some queasy moments for TV news executives, who are generally deciding to air the footage preceded by content warnings.

"We've just received some very graphic, dramatic video," CNN's Wolf Blitzer informed viewers as the story broke Thursday. "We want to warn our viewers that it is dramatic and it is graphic."

 PHOTOS: Moammar Kadafi | 1942 - 2011

Kadafi, the strongman who ruled Libya for decades, was evidently killed by rebels, although the exact circumstances of his death have yet to be confirmed.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Pictures of a corpse identified as one of Kadafi's sons (top photo) were also turning up on the Internet Thursday.

Shaky, hand-held video making the rounds online showed a man who appeared to be Kadafi, bloodied but evidently still alive, being roughed up by a jeering mob. Networks also showed cellphone images of what appeared to be the dictator's lifeless body.

"Warning: graphic content," the Fox News website informed users.

"We are reviewing everything that's coming in and are not putting anything on the air that hasn't been carefully screened," David McCormick, vice president of standards for NBC News, said in a statement. He added that NBC and MSNBC wanted to keep viewers informed "without crossing a line into offensive or unnecessarily graphic material. We feel the footage that has aired meets those boundaries."

What do you think? Should the TV networks and online sites be using the Kadafi images? Sound off in the comments or on our poll below.


Full coverage: The death of Moammar Kadafi

Kadafi son also reported dead

Defiant Kadafi back to hard line against West

— Scott Collins

Photo: Libyans gathered to take pictures of a corpse identified as Kadafi's son, Mo'tassim. Credit: Saad Shalash / Reuters.

GOP debate beats 'Biggest Loser' in ratings

CNN hosted the latest Republican presidential debate Tuesday. At it Mitt Romney and rivals gathered to sling mud at one another.

An average of 5.6 million viewers tuned in, according to Nielsen, which was a little soft considering that CNN put its prime-time star Anderson Cooper front and center at the event. The Sept. 22 debate on Fox News attracted 6.1 million, although it's possible -- just possible -- that the Fox News audience might be more willing to hear Republican talking points rehashed again. 

But here's a fun fact! This seventh in a series of GOP debates this year actually beat NBC's "The Biggest Loser" (5.2 million) in head-to-head competition in much of the country.

The awesome ratings power of political debate, proven yet again. OK, maybe not (CBS' "NCIS" gathered almost three times as many viewers, after all). What the comparison actually shows is how desperately NBC's prime-time lineup continues to struggle this season. And "Biggest Loser" is supposed to be one of the network's bright spots.

When more viewers would rather listen to an argument over whom Romney hired to take care of his lawn than watch your entertainment show, it might be time to order new entertainment shows.

What did you think of the GOP debates? Or did you watch "Biggest Loser"?


'Biggest Loser' recap

The last-minute twist to 'X Factor'

Carson Kressley heads home on 'Dancing With the Stars'

-- Scott Collins

Photo: Mitt Romney, left, and Rick Perry square off at Tuesday's GOP debate in Las Vegas. Credit: Steve Marcus / Reuters


News networks cover quake with earthshaking urgency

Although the 5.8-magnitude earthquake that struck northern Virgina on Tuesday afternoon caused little apparent damage, that didn't stop television networks from going into all-out breaking-news mode shortly after the temblor hit.

ABC, CBS and NBC all interrupted daytime programming, a move generally meant for cataclysmic events. (The storming of Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi's compound earlier in the day did not merit an interruption.)

The cable-news networks went a step further. CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, which had been in heavy Libya coverage for much of the afternoon, shifted to full-on earthquake mode, interviewing experts and showing evacuations.

The decision created something of an odd spectacle: reports of a major disaster that lacked any disaster images.

On CNN, the Washington-based Wolf Blitzer did a stand-up in front of, well, a number of people standing up. MSNBC showed aerial shots of the New York skyline and kept a camera trained on the Washington Monument, while also offering up reports about a burst pipe at the Pentagon that had caused...standing water.

(Incidentally, the coverage  seemed odd to anyone on the the East Coast who hails from or lives in Los Angeles, such as this blogger, amused by the networks' breathlessness over an earthquake that, if it struck in the Southland, would mostly cause an eye roll.)

About 90 minutes after the earthquake hit, CNN and MSNBC were still running with the story, talking about such incidents as nuclear power-plant evacuations, even though the moves seemed only precautionary. Fox News by that point had cut back to Libya, with anchor Shepard Smith talking to correspondents on the ground about developments in the North African country; Smith even noted wrly that "the East Coast appears to be, for reasons unknown, in a bit of a freak-out mode." (Fox News did, however, evacuate its Washington, D.C., bureau and alert reporters to the same.)

All this comes as MSNBC was previously criticized for being slow to cover the Libya developments this past weekend, prompting the network to release a statement.

But Libya and the earthquake ensured that one news development that might have otherwise dominated a slow late-August day remained nowhere in site. Yes, right now, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith are really grateful for the Earth's seismic hiccup.

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: People stand outside the Javits federal building in New York after an evacuation. Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Nancy Grace says 'the devil is dancing' at Casey Anthony verdict

Nancy Grace has never hidden her feelings about the Caylee Anthony murder case, and the HLN host didn't hold back Tuesday when the 2-year-old's mother was acquitted of her murder.

Grace, a trained lawyer who'd derisively dubbed the defendant, Casey Anthony, "tot mom," said Caylee's "death has gone unavenged" and that "tot mom's lies seem to have worked."

Grace, via her prime-time talk show, has been covering the case extensively for the past three years, since the toddler was initially reported missing in summer 2008. Her attention helped take it from a local case to a national spectacle, and Grace became somewhat of an expert on the investigation, appearing on other HLN shows, sister network CNN and sparring with legal analysts like Dan Abrams on ABC News.

The network, with Grace leading the charge, kept expanding its coverage of the murder investigation, the arrest of Casey Anthony and the trial, which just ended its five-week run. It was practically all-Casey-all-the-time for the last month, with record-breaking ratings as a result.

Grace said Tuesday that "there's no way this is a verdict that speaks the truth," appearing stunned moments after the jury decision. "But this is our jury system."

As she's done all along, Grace tugged at heartstrings by reminding viewers that an angelic child had been murdered, with her body found "15 houses from where tot mom put her head on a pillow each night... Little Caylee, thrown away like she was trash."

She criticized the defense celebrations and said "the devil is dancing" at the case's conclusion.

In televised comments shortly after the verdict, one of the defense attorneys slammed what he called the media's rush to judgment, not naming Grace but pointedly saying some anchors and talking heads crossed a line and convicted Casey Anthony long before trial. He said he hoped they learned a lesson from the acquittal. (Casey Anthony was convicted of four misdemeanors for lying to police during the investigation.)

Bryce Nelson, journalism professor at USC's Annenberg School, said there is a difference between talk show hosts and news professionals, though viewers may not always make the distinction.

TV personalities like Grace, who clearly pick sides, have "a lot to answer for" when the verdict goes the opposite way, he said. Will they learn from it, as Casey Anthony's defense lawyer said?

"It might cause more people to think about how they report the news, or we can at least hope so," Nelson said. "But unfortunately it won't last for long. The rewards for sensationalism are all too great."


What do Dexter Morgan and Kim Kardashian have in common? Casey Anthony?

HLN to face withdrawal symptoms from Casey Anthony verdict

Casey Anthony acquitted

 — T.L. Stanley

About (Late) Last Night: Keith Olbermann on what went wrong at MSNBC [Video]


Did Keith Olbermann resign, or was he pushed out at MSNBC? Since his abrupt departure in January, the question has fueled much speculation among media prognosticators.

On Thursday, Olbermann stopped by "The Late Show" to promote the new incarnation of "Countdown," which launches June 20 on Current TV. As always, David Letterman was there to ask the question on everyone's mind.

"The last we knew of you, you were at MSNBC, you had 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann,' the most successful show on MSNBC, kind of the prime-time keystone," said the host in his distinctive, sputtering fashion. "Not only that but you also brought us Rachel Maddow. Things seemed to be going along well. The next thing we heard, you're announcing that you're leaving MSNBC. So fill in some blanks for us here."

"Well, how much time do you have?" Olbermann joked. But then he struck a more serious note, claiming that his real motivation for leaving MNSBC was to escape the strictures of working for a corporate conglomerate.

"It's occurred to me that the best place to start doing the news ... would be at a place that's just in the news business, that doesn't also own an amusement park in Orlando, or doesn't have outdoor advertising or, you know, beet plantations in the Azores. Just a company that just did news, and we could make every decision relying on that."

"And in what condition are these bridges that you've left behind?" Letterman asked. 

'Well, some people have said that I did not burn the bridges, I have napalmed them," Olbermann replied, before once again defending his record. "I've had nine full-time employers, ... and three of them have later hired me back."

What do you think?

-- Meredith Blake

About (Late) Last Night: Bill O'Reilly and Jon Stewart debate Common's visit to White House [Video]


Last week, Bill O'Reilly challenged "Daily Show" host to a debate on the recent controversy surrounding rapper Common's invitation to join the White House poetry slam. Last night, Stewart took him up on the offer and sat for a lengthy and mostly civilized discussion of the issue.

O'Reilly insisted that Common should be disqualified from visiting the White House because he once wrote a song about Assata Shakur, a member of the Black Liberation Army who was convicted in the killing of a New Jersey police officer in the 1970s. Only artists who are truly "unimpeachable" should be bestowed with the honor of a White House invitation, which may be considered by some a rather high bar.

Stewart, meanwhile, insisted that the Fox News "selective outrage machine" had manufactured a fake controversy. O'Reilly and his cohorts had failed to make a crucial distinction: Just because Common believes that Shakur was unjustly convicted does not mean that he approves of killing police officers. More to the point, Common is not the first artist to have written a song about a convicted criminal to receive a White House invitation.

"You may think he's ignorant for believing that Assata Shakur is innocent, for believing that Mumia [Abu-Jamal] is," Stewart said. "But then guess what? Bono can't go to the White House, Springsteen can't go to the White House, Bob Dylan can't go to the White House. You've got a lot of people that can't sit in the White House because they've written songs about people convicted of murder."

So who do you think won the debate?


Bill O’Reilly will go head-to-head with Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart argues for release of Bin Laden death photos

Jon Stewart takes Donald Trump to the 'Daily Show' boardroom and fires on him

-- Meredith Blake





Osama bin Laden's death leads to huge boost in CNN and other news ratings

Obama News of Osama bin Laden's death made Americans turn their dials to the cable news networks on Sunday night.

CNN, which tends to deliver its highest ratings in breaking-news cycles, led the cable race with 7.8 million total viewers during the 8 p.m. hour (Los Angeles time), when President Obama officially announced the death in a live national address, according to the Nielsen Co. Fox News Channel averaged 4.8 million and MSNBC 2.3 million.

Overall from 7 p.m. to midnight, CNN averaged 4.1 million viewers, up an astronomical 981% from its Sunday average the previous four weeks.

The picture among the broadcasters was a bit more unclear. NBC was the first big network to cut in to its regular programming, with a special report around 7:45 p.m. Los Angeles time that preempted the final minutes of Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” on the East Coast. Within minutes, all the networks had reported the death and were awaiting the White House statement.

NBC and CBS stayed with the story until about 9 p.m., at which point they returned to scheduled programs. ABC hung on to the story for another hour.

“We had substantially more reporting than some of our competitors so we had a lot to talk about,” said ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider, adding that the news division had conducted numerous drills for how to handle news of bin Laden’s death or capture.

The broadcast ratings will be inconclusive until Nielsen releases final numbers on Tuesday morning. But based on early results, CBS won the night with an average of 9.5 million total viewers. The night’s most-watched program was CBS’ “60 Minutes” (10.6 million viewers), which aired a highly publicized segment on the sexual assault of reporter Lara Logan by a mob in Egypt.


ABC reporter talks about how he got exclusive video inside Osama bin Laden's compound

Video from ABC showing bin Laden's lair

— Scott Collins (

Photo: President Obama on Sunday, announcing the death of Osama bin Laden. Credit: Jason Reed/Reuters.

Gilbert Gottfried, Glenn Beck, 50 Cent take heat for offensive Japan comments

Gilbert What is it about a natural disaster that brings out tasteless, insensitive and downright horrifying comments from people in the spotlight? Whether it's incendiary talk show host Glenn Beck, comedian Gilbert Gottfried, rapper 50 Cent or TV writer Alec Sulkin, the inappropriate sound bites about the earthquake and tsunami in Japan have been coming fast and furious over the last several days.

The immediacy of Twitter, and its unfiltered, stream-of-consciousness nature, could be to blame for the spread of some of the thoughtless statements so quickly. The churn of a 24-hour news cycle and live TV, where CNBC anchor Larry Kudlow tripped up on Friday, also may take some of the heat.

But at the heart of the matter are the sentiments themselves, said Stuart Fischoff, senior editor of the Journal of Media Psychology, who sees a "reservoir of prejudice" against the Japanese people that's been unearthed by the disaster. See: tweets that reference Pearl Harbor.

"No doubt, there's a mordant sense of humor that comes out in times of stress," Fischoff said. "But in this case it's bringing up culturally accepted prejudice against the Japanese. We didn't see this during Haiti."

The backlash has been as lightning fast as the gaffes, with Gottfried getting fired from his long-time gig as the voice of the Aflac insurance spokescharacter after tweeting jokes about Japan. (These tweets have now been deleted.)

Joan Rivers, who's been known to use the ironic catchphrase, "Too soon?," stuck up for Gottfried via Twitter.

"Oh come on people -- this is outrageous! Gilbert Gottfried was FIRED from Aflac for making jokes about the tsunami in Japan. That's what comedians do!!! We react to tragedy by making jokes to help people in tough times feel better through laughter."

Gottfried apologized on Twitter on Tuesday. "I sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by my attempt at humor regarding the tragedy in Japan," he tweeted, continuing, "I meant no disrespect, and my thoughts are with the victims and their families."

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