Ahead of a speech in Miami on Monday in which President Donald Trump promoted the ouster of Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro, progressive media critics continued their warnings that corporate news outlets like CNN, MSNBC, and others are carrying water for the White House’s regime change policy in the country despite interventionist failures like the invasion of Iraq in 2002, the overthrow of the Libyan government in 2011, and the long U.S. history of backing bloody coups and civil wars in Latin America going back to the 1980s.
Leading the charge is journalist Adam Johnson, a contributor to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) and host of the Citations Needed podcast, who recently warned that the “same U.S. media outlets that have expressly fundraised and run ad campaigns on their image as anti-Trump truth-tellers have mysteriously taken at face value everything the Trump White House and its neoconservative allies have said in their campaign to overthrow the government of Venezuela.”
According to Johnson, “The self-aggrandizing ‘factchecking‘ brigade that emerged to confront the Trump administration is suddenly nonexistent as it rolls out a transparent, cynical PR strategy to delegitimize a Latin American government it’s trying to overthrow.”
Last week, Johnson specifically analyzed the coverage by MSNBC and found that its coverage of Venezuela “ranged from outright support” of Maduro’s overthrow “to virtual silence” on the critical issues and context that surround the situation. “Based on a search of MSNBC’s website,” only a 5-five minute segment by anchor Chris Hayes could be described as critical of regime change, he reported, and “these were the only five of the cable channel’s 30,240 on-air minutes since Trump’s coup was launched three weeks ago that were dedicated to criticizing it, and these did so only mildly.”
To counteract such a trend, FAIR called on viewers to contact MSNBC to “urge the network to balance its pro-coup coverage of Venezuela.”
However, as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was on the ground in neighboring Colombia over the weekend and assuring journalists covering his trip that U.S. aid sent to the Venezuela border “will get through” whether the Maduro government likes it or not, there was very little questioning from most U.S. reporters about whether Rubio or members of Trump’s hardline foreign policy team—including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security advisor John Bolton, and the State Department’s special representative to Venezuela Elliott Abrams—actually have the best interests of the Venezuela people in mind as they push for Juan Guaido, current leader of the nation’s right-wing opposition, to be officially recognized as the “Interim President” of the country.
As Johnson’s fellow FAIR contributor Joe Emersberger put it, “Facts Don’t Interfere With Propaganda Blitz Against Venezuela’s Elected President.”
Speaking on Democracy Now! last week, journalist Glenn Greenwald pointed out that the proper question media outlets should ask about U.S.-backed regime change in Venezuela is not whether or not people support or oppose the leadership of Maduro, but whether or not anyone believes that Trump, Rubio, Bolton, and Abrams should be allowed to “engineer regime change and then prop up whatever leader like they best.” Watch:
On @DemocracyNow, here was my answer about the bizarre spectacle of watching the bipartisan political & media class – including @SpeakerPelosi – unite behind Trump, John Bolton, Marco Rubio and Elliott Abrams as they try to engineer regime change in Venezuela pic.twitter.com/HENOqEqGeg— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 11, 2019
So what does the pro-intervention line that CNN is uncritically parroting look like?
Johnson and others pointed to this segment that aired over the weekend:
A US military plane with humanitarian aid for Venezuela has landed in Colombia amid political crisis. (A previous tweet incorrectly stated the plane landed in Venezuela. It has been removed).— CNN (@CNN) February 16, 2019
CNN's Nick Valencia reports from the Colombia-Venezuela border https://t.co/gcmOcnDAvX pic.twitter.com/Cvjz4fPnHd
According to Johnson, “If the U.S. had a major state TV network it exactly like this. 100% pure, uncritical cheerleading. CNN, which markets themselves as brave truth-tellers in the age of Trump, read off the Trump admin script word for word.” In a subsequent tweet, he added:
If the US had a major state TV network it would sound exactly like this. 100% pure, uncritical cheerleading. CNN, which markets themselves as brave truth-tellers in the age of Trump, read off the Trump admin script word for word. https://t.co/GZ0KwvARNS— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) February 17, 2019
He also pointed out that despite best efforts control the optics, the situation in Venezuela is not likely to play out as the Trump administration originally hoped:
US regime change operators reportedly thought their initial plan of just announcing a new president would work in a day or two. Absent any military defections theyve been reduced to contriving a crisis by amassing aid on the border. What your watching is the shoddy, ad hoc plan B https://t.co/jPODqawtYu— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) February 17, 2019
And lastly, to emphasize the gap in much of the coverage, Johnson on Monday morning posted a series of photoshopped headlines from mainstream outlets in the U.S. to show what they would look like if stripped of the pretense that the Trump administration is sincere in its attempts to deliver “humanitarian aid” to the people of Venezuela:
cut out the bullshit humanitarian pretext and you get the actual breaking news pic.twitter.com/pqIKvfEMBc— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) February 15, 2019
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