Conflict of Interest 101…
CNN’s Dylan Byers “reviews” CNN’s debate.
I’m not going to bother quoting this. Byers was mostly even handed…at least that’s how it appears at first blush. But that’s besides the point.
What on earth is CNN doing letting its employees review its own debate?
It doesn’t matter if Byers was even handed.
It doesn’t matter if Byers gave a fair summary.
What matters is appearances. And the appearances here do not look good.
The only way CNN might be able to squeeze through this unscathed is to do a write up on what everyone else said without adding any firsthand observations…and even then legitimate questions would still be raised regarding which highlights were emphasized and which were ignored. Most of Byers article did just that. But the operative word in the previous sentence is “most”.
But even then Cooper was deft at tempering potential conflict: “You agreed to the debate rules,” he told Webb.
“Deft at tempering potential conflict”? How about just saying it straight like this?
Cooper reminded Webb, “You agreed to the debate rules.”
This is why conflict of interest rules exist…not just to prevent conflicts of interest but to prevent obvious questions being raised about whether some part of the story was allowed and about what parts were ignored…or whether they were deliberately ignored or spiked.
CNN thinks it can navigate this. It can’t. Recusal is the only viable option.