Thursday, May 2

CNN's Biased Coverage of Spanier Case

CNN continues its bias against all things Penn State as it promoted the factually challenged statement of AG Josh Shapiro and hasn't published the Spanier response

Ray Blehar
May 2, 2019,10:55 AM EDT

Over the last several years, CNN has relied on anonymous sources, single sources, and unquestionably unreliable and biased sources in its coverage of all things related to Joe Paterno and Penn State. 

This practice dates back (at least)  to June 2012 when Susan Candiotti was told about excerpts of PSU emails and spewed forth the PA Attorney General's preferred narrative when it came to interpreting their meaning.

Yesterday, CNN's Madeline Holcomb, with support from three other reporters not named Sara Ganim, gave rather biased coverage that was favorable to PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro's factually challenged press release regarding his alleged intent to appeal the court's decision to vacate the verdict against former PSU President Graham Spanier

Of course, CNN didn't fact check any of the quotes they used from Shapiro's release, thus repeating the following falsehood:

"As the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has made crystal clear, Spanier's conduct was illegal," 

The fact was/is that the PA Supreme Court never ruled on the merits of the case.

CNN also didn't make clear that the verdict was set aside by a Federal magistrate, instead referring to Judge Karoline Mehalic simply as a "district judge."  Nor did it mention that the grounds for the ruling was that Spanier's Constitutional Rights were violated. 

It also didn't question Shapiro's statement that the courts ruling was "highly unusual" and went along with the AG's contention that the court exceeded its authority.

Later in the column, CNN pulled derogatory quotes about Spanier from the sentencing memo provided by Shapiro's prosecutors -- even though the quotes were refuted by testimony at the trial and unsupported by any known evidence.

Those quotes included that Spanier was "choosing to protect his personal reputation and that of the university instead of the welfare of children" and that showed "a stunning lack of remorse for his victims."

Obviously, the trial jury did not find that Spanier victimized anyone.

Sadly, CNN's practice of simply repeating statements from law enforcement officials as "gospel" has become a tragic epidemic across the U.S. national media that has resulted in essentially stripping individuals of their Constitutional right of due process (i.e., the presumption of innocence).

CNN simply ran the AP wire story on the decision to vacate Spanier's verdict.  It has not yet published Spanier's statement in response to Shapiro.


  1. Thanks Ray for exposing these lazy hacks.

    1. Thanks, Carole, for the kind words.

      CNN and Ganim exposed their lazy hackery years ago and keep giving encores!

  2. I agree that CNN has biased and inaccurate coverage on Spanier but they are far from alone in that.

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had the headline "Former Penn State president Spanier richly paid as he fought charges."

    The reporter, Mark Scolforo, didn't actually know Spanier's salary and complained that Penn State would not tell them.

    Several other news outlets have similar headlines for the same article including PennLive.

  3. Tim,
    Thanks for commenting on the blog.

    Must have been a slow news day for Scolforo if he had to dredge up a story about Spanier being paid by PSU —- something that the public knew or should have known since 2012

    1. It seems like shoddy reporting for Scolforo to claim Spanier is getting a big paycheck when he doesn't know Spanier's salary or whether Spanier is even being paid at all.

      He reported that Spanier is on "administrative leave," not paid administrative leave. PSU is clearly not happy with Spanier, so would they really put him on paid administrative leave for years while he deals with a criminal trial and appeals?

      We do know Spanier got $600K per year salary for 5 years as part of his separation agreement but that ended after 2016. It seems very unlikely his salary would have continued at that level.

  4. Another major deficiency of news coverage of this case is that they don't have a legal expert weighing in, and they barely quote from the judge's 42 page opinion. There are lot of nice passages that explain the reasons for the decision.

    For example the following footnote from page 31 of the decision:

    "In effect, following the Supreme Court’s reasoning in Bouie, the state court’s construction of the 1995 statute in Lynn to effectively adopt the language of the 2007 amendment, operate as a violation of the ex post facto and due process clauses."

    What Judge Mehalchick seems to be saying is the PA Supreme Court's decision in the Lynn case did not follow US Supreme Court precedent in the Bouie case, a rather famous 1964 Supreme Court decision. State courts are bound by US Supreme Court precedents on Constitutional issues.

  5. Dear Ray,
    I have always been amazed at that way you speak in your writings of the facts
    in "Plain English" Thank-you.

    Chuck O'Connor
    State College

  6. This should be no surprise. CNN's coverage of the Freeh Report/Sandusky scandal is no different than their coverage of the Mueller report. They ignore facts to continue a narrative.