The CNN screen graphic at 6 p.m. on Sept. 12 was blunt: "PENCE REFUSED TO CALL DAVID DUKE 'DEPLORABLE.'" Donald Trump running mate Mike Pence had granted Wolf Blitzer a 30-minute interview, and what he received in return was a reckless leftist smear.
Let's be clear about this interview. Blitzer offered 39 hostile questions or interjections about Trump's tax returns, medical records and charities, and made offensive remarks before asking a single question about policy. In the middle of this contentious exchange, Blitzer arrived at Hillary Clinton's recent gaffe of calling Trump backers a "basket of deplorables." Blitzer obnoxiously underlined that some Trump backers were truly deplorable: "David Duke, for example, (and) some other white nationalists, (would) fit into that category of deplorables. Right?"
Pence protested: "I'm not really sure why the media keeps dropping David Duke's name. Donald Trump has denounced David Duke repeatedly. We don't want his support, and we don't want the support of people who think like him." Blitzer pushed back: "So you call him a deplorable. You would call him deplorable." Pence replied, "I'm not in the name-calling business, Wolf."
CNN ignored that denouncement of Duke and his backers. It was spiked in favor of a cheap National Enquirer-style "Pence Won't Deplore Duke" headline.
It's the kind of "gotcha" journalism that has the public disgusted with the press. Whatever Pence answered would have been deemed wrong and exploited by the media. Had he uncorked the easy answer and called Duke deplorable, Blitzer and everyone else would have had their headlines read, "Pence Admits Hillary Was Right." Pence chose not to give them that luxury, so he gets "Pence Won't Deplore Duke."
Do you imagine, in your wildest imagination, Blitzer posing any of these questions to Clinton running mate Tim Kaine?
—"The Communist Party USA endorsed you. Is it deplorable?"
—"You've been endorsed by Planned Parenthood, an organization that harvests baby parts for sale. Is it deplorable?"
—"You are supported by Seddique Mateen, the anti-American father of Omar Mateen, who murdered 49 gay people in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub. Isn't he deplorable?"
In an interview on Aug. 28, Blitzer's colleague, Jake Tapper, asked Pence about Duke's support for the umpteenth time. Tapper at least offered a "that must really bother you" expression. For his part, Pence blasted it over the fence, explicitly making a comparison between Duke and Seddique Mateen, saying, "The fact that ... a contemptable individual like that supports my running mate is no more relevant than the fact that the father of a man who killed 49 people in Orlando, Florida, was cheering Hillary Clinton at one of her rallies."
CNN could grill Kaine about a sympathetic September 2 story in The New York Times about the Democratic vice presidential nominee seeking out communist priests as his mentors in El Salvador and Nicaragua. He "walked miles" to meet Rev. James Carney, who even the Times reported took "an extreme view of liberation theology that supported the taking up of arms against military oppressors." Kaine's mentor, Rev. Jack Warner, believed "the gospel is an extremely communist document." Were these priests "deplorables"? Did Kaine's hunger for their Marxist mumbo-jumbo make him deplorable?
Here's another question CNN will never ask:
"Hillary Clinton's husband has been exposed as a serial philanderer. He was impeached. He committed perjury, and was disbarred. There is also the accusation by Juanita Broaddrick that he raped her. Is Bill Clinton deplorable?"
Instead, Blitzer & Co. unloads smears designed to help Hillary Clinton because they know she is in trouble. And CNN is all too willing to do Clinton's dirty work. Media credibility continues to erode in the polls because there is nothing the press won't undertake to slander conservatives.
L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.