This post has been updated to reflect that Labott has been suspended.
CNN strives for a tricky balance in its news programming. It wants spicy, watchable coverage enlivened by perspectives and opinions — but no partisan biases from its corps of reporters and anchors. Take controversial anchor Don Lemon, who is licensed to express opinions on air on the condition that they’re not “predictably partisan.”
So we’ve asked CNN what part of the company’s editorial guidelines smiles on this very recent tweet from the network’s Elise Labott:
That tweet references a highly partisan affair. By a 289-137 margin, the Republican-led House today passed a bill that would suspend the program that allows Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the United States, as CNN reported in a very neutral manner via this story. President Obama has signaled his intention to veto the bill, which is also opposed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada).
Scrolling back a couple of months on Labott’s Twitter timeline turns up mostly straightforward tweets about hearings and the news of the day. Makes sense: She’s CNN’s global affairs correspondent and not a commentator, meaning that she’s bound to comply with the CNN neutrality principle/sham.
Evenhandedness, mind you, isn’t just a matter of journalistic principle for CNN. It’s a business imperative. Competitors Fox News and MSNBC are “two partisan networks, that are looking out for their viewers,” CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker has said. That split, he has argued, makes CNN ever more “essential” to viewers.
We’re awaiting a response from CNN.