TV Station Accuses CNN of Dropping Appearance by Reporter Who Says a Border Wall Would Work

(The Washington Post) -
Cable News Network (CNN) offices on the Sunset Strip, Hollywood, CA. (Photo by David McNew/Newsmakers/File)

A San Diego TV station accused CNN of dropping an appearance by one of its reporters after learning that person’s reporting does not fit an anti-border-wall narrative – an allegation the cable news network denies.

KUSI said earlier this week that CNN had asked if one of its reporters could appear on the network and talk about the local debate surrounding the border wall and government shutdown.

The partial shutdown has become the longest in U.S. history as President Donald Trump refuses to budge on his demand for $5.7 billion for a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border and as congressional Democrats firmly resist it. The president also has hinted he might declare a national emergency to build his signature campaign promise, only to later back down as the shutdown enters its fourth week.

After receiving the interview request from CNN on Thursday, KUSI offered Dan Plante, who reports on issues related to the border, said Steve Cohen, KUSI’s news director. Cohen said the station informed CNN that Plante’s reporting showed barriers have been effective in preventing illegal crossings into the United States. Later that day, Cohen said one of his producers told him that CNN had decided to pass.

Cohen and KUSI claim CNN dropped the request because the cable news network preferred to air only negative reporting about the border wall.

CNN denied that it played politics in deciding whether to book journalists on its shows and called the allegations a “non story.” CNN’s public relations department wrote on Twitter that it called several local stations, including KUSI, but did not end up booking any of them for a show.

“That happens every single day,” CNN said, adding that it booked a KUSI reporter in November for a story on immigration and the border wall.

KUSI is owned by McKinnon Broadcasting Company and is not affiliated with any major cable news network. The San Diego Business Journal described its general manager, Michael McKinnon, as a “longtime supporter of conservative causes and candidates in the San Diego area.”

KUSI also blasted the Associated Press for reporting that it is backing off from its accusation against CNN. Cohen, whom the AP also interviewed, took issue with how the story’s headline – “TV station backs off accusation that CNN played politics” – characterized his comments.

“We’re not pulling back on our thoughts on this. We really do think that CNN has not been as transparent as they might be,” Cohen said.

He acknowledged that he had not spoken directly with anyone at CNN about why Plante was not booked. He also said he did not think the allegation would snowball into a controversy.

“I wasn’t that interested in getting us into anybody’s narrative … All we know is [CNN] asked, we answered, it didn’t happen,” Cohen said.

The president seized on KUSI’s allegation, tweeting Friday: “@CNN called a San Diego news station (@KUSINews) for negative reports on the Wall. When the station said that Walls work, CNN no longer had interest. #FakeNews”