CNN spent nearly two years sounding the alarm on all things COVID, from advocating for vaccine and mask mandates to condemning skeptical voices challenging conventional wisdom, but the liberal network has pivoted as the omicron surge has impacted viewers who were following guidance throughout the pandemic.
“It appears the rhetorical narrative in the news agenda might finally be responding to what many independent-minded Americans have been thinking for many months,” DePauw University professor Jeffrey McCall told Fox News Digital.
The liberal network became synonymous with its doom-and-gloom, on-screen COVID tracker early in the pandemic. In August, Jim Acosta scolded Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis for “prolonging” the pandemic and dubbed the delta variant the “DeSantis variant”; by September Don Lemon was calling on Americans to shun “stupid” unvaccinated people; and a guest on struggling morning show “New Day” last month suggested unvaccinated patients should receive treatment “last” while anchor Brianna Keilar chimed in that “a lot of people are interested” in the idea. The remarks were among countless moments in which CNN used polarizing rhetoric throughout the ongoing pandemic. But things have quickly changed.
On Sunday, CNN’s in-house media critic Brian Stelter asked if the media is “out of touch with the public about COVID” during a segment critical of the CDC that would have been unthinkable for the network only a few weeks ago. In recent days, anchor Wolf Blitzer and chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta criticized the Biden administration over “confusing” COVID guidelines, anchor Victor Blackwell asked why he had to wear a mask as a vaccinated person who already had the virus, medical analyst Leana Wen declared cloth masks are useless, and the network promoted its jam-packed New Year’s Eve celebration after months of warning against large crowds. A CNN panelist on Sunday even criticized the Biden administration’s mixed messaging.
“Citizens are tired of being told to live constantly in panic mode. In free societies, government institutions and the mainstream media must be questioned. After months of calling such questioning conspiratorial or crazy, even CNN now can raise doubt about COVID data and question CDC proclamations,” McCall added. “The collective public perspective is kicking in and people are clearly ready to live their lives while dealing with the presence of COVID, instead of simply giving in to ‘hair on fire’ bombast from bureaucrats and media conjurers in corporate towers.”
CNN was also ripped by critics last week over a tweet suggesting there was a link between obesity and serious illness or death related to the coronavirus, a connection already well known from data compiled earlier in the pandemic. Perhaps the most egregious example of CNN’s recent shift occurred Monday when Jake Tapper was widely mocked for suggesting COVID hospitalization stats are misleading. Following CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky’s admission that up to 40% of reported COVID hospitalizations are due to other medical emergencies, Tapper sounded the alarm about the inflated statistics.
“So, the hospitals are still stretched thin because of this … but if 40% in some hospitals- 40% of the people who have COVID don’t necessarily have problematic COVID- they’re there because they got in a car accident, they’re there because, you know, they bump their head, and they’re being included as ‘in the hospital with COVID,’ that number seems kind of misleading,” Tapper told Gupta.
“We’re two years into this, and we need the clearest picture possible. If somebody’s in the hospital with a broken leg, and they also have asymptomatic COVID, that should not be counted as hospitalized with COVID, clearly,” Tapper later added.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald was among the critics who took notice, declaring that “it’s so striking how many arguments that were long taboo are now all being aired.”
“It has been obvious, for at least a year and a half, that this was happening. Alternative media noticed and was attacked for delivering the truth,” Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich tweeted.
Georgetown University Health Law professor and U.S. House candidate Rik Mehta, a former Republican Senate nominee in New Jersey, feels ordinary Americans simply beat CNN to the punch when it comes to coronavirus rhetoric.
“CNN talking points used to promote clickbait COVID stories based on fear-mongering have never held water to actual epidemiological data and medical science,” Mehta told Fox News Digital. “Unfortunately for CNN, a majority of Americans recognized this fact before them, as America literally continues to witness high breakthrough cases in vaccinated individuals.”
Conservative pundit Bethany Mandel, a contributing writer to Deseret News and editor of the book publisher Heroes of Liberty, feels the sudden pivot is the result of high-profile liberals, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and CNN’s Pamela Brown and Ana Navarro testing positive for the virus. Mandel feels that once CNN staffers and their friends caught the virus, the liberal network wouldn’t paint a positive test as a sign of moral failing any longer.
“They all finally got it … They got it at Christmas parties, and they were like, ‘Oh, that wasn’t such a huge deal, was it? Maybe this isn’t justified anymore,’” Mandel told Fox News Digital.
“It was one thing when Florida Republicans were getting it, and they were irresponsible or whatever. But now AOC is getting it in Florida, and she’s going to be fine. She’s young, she’s healthy, and she’s vaccinated. That’s what matters,” Mandel added.
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn and Brandon Gillespie contributed to this report.