A San Diego television 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 denied.
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 Trump refuses to budge on his demand for $5.7 billion dollars for a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border and congressional Democrats are firmly resisting it. Trump 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 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 didn’t 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 transparent as they might be,” Cohen said.
Cohen acknowledged that he had not spoken directly with anyone at CNN about why Plante was ultimately not booked. He also said he didn’t 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”
So did the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.: “I’m shocked that CNN would do that… Said no one ever.”
Several other conservative figures also weighed in:
The president has used inflated numbers and misleading statements to justify building a barrier between the U.S. and Mexico, according to The Post’s Fact Checker.
For example, Trump has warned of a “security crisis at the southern border” even though the number of people caught trying to cross illegally is at near 20-year lows. He has said that thousands try to enter the United States illegally through the southern border every day. But data from his own administration puts the daily average in the hundreds. He has also claimed that 90 percent of heroin in the United States comes across the border from Mexico, even though most of the drugs come through legal points of entry.
Salvador Rizzo contributed to this article.