CNN’s Left: Doing Syria Analysis or White House PR?

FireShot Screen Capture #611 - 'What's Russia's motive in Syria_' - www_cnn_com_video_data_2_0_video_us_2013_09_11_crossfire-russia-motive-in-syria_cnn_htmlWhen one of the “left” hosts on CNN‘s Crossfire talks about Syria–or anything else, for that matter–is she there to represent the left, or her White House-connected PR company?

As I wrote in the September issue of Extra!, Stephanie Cutter is one of a handful of regular TV pundits who have other financial interests–their day jobs–which are usually left unmentioned by the TV networks that employ them. In Cutter’s case, she recently formed a company called Precision Strategies. Like many similar outfits, the company’s client list seems not to be public. We do know, according to the the Wall Street Journal (5/9/13),  that Cutter was recently “providing strategic advice to Bank of America on several issues, including efforts to break up the banks.”

Earlier this month (9/3/13), Fox News Channel‘s Ed Henry reported that Cutter was meeting at the White House as part of a team to discuss Syria strategy:

The White House is getting advice from some former campaign advisers on how to win congressional support for a strike on Syria, Fox News has learned, with top White House aides soliciting their input during a long strategy session Tuesday afternoon.

The aides met with former top Obama campaign hands like strategist Anita Dunn, former deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter and long-time adviser David Axelrod.

If Henry’s report is correct, it suggests that Cutter is part of the White House discussions about Syria–and then appears on TV to debate how the White House is handling Syria. You might not be surprised that she gives the Obama administration high marks.

“I think the only reason the Russians are coming forward with this is because the president put the use of force on the table,” Cutter declared on September 9.

“The president’s use of force worked and you should admit that,” she said to co-host Newt Gingrich (9/11/13). “I think the president has done an excellent job of bringing an ally who’s not been very much of an ally to the table to help us figure out a process.”

Ironically, one conversation on CNN‘s Situation Room (9/5/13) with reporter Jessica Yellin focused on the White House’s PR efforts:

YELLIN: Secretary Kerry is meeting with liberal bloggers and with–sitting down with left-leaning television host to try to sell them on going into Syria.  I think I have to put this one to you first, Stephanie. How bad is it for the president when he has to make his case, essentially, to the base?

CUTTER: Well, I think that whenever something big like this is happening, we’re always meeting with progressive bloggers and left-leaning talkshow hosts. That’s just part of the deal. So, however, to get to I think the point you’re making, you know, the president’s base is probably not very keen or going into Syria because remember where this base came from. They were against the Iraq war. That’s what gave President Obama his start.

So he has to make the case to them. Just like the rest of the American people about why this is in our security interest. And I think that’s part of the deal.

It makes sense for someone who works at the White House to speak about what “we” need to do in order to mobilize media support for a given policy. But that’s not Cutter’s job. Or is it?

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.