NPR’s Eric Deggans Warns CNN Against Creating ‘False Equivalence’ Between Left- and Right-Wing Politics (Video)

The press needs to “feel free to call out prejudice and stereotypes” “without being accused of being unfair politically,” Deggans says

Brian Stelter Eric Deggans
"Reliable Sources" host Brian Stelter with guest, NPR's Eric Deggans (CNN)

NPR’s Eric Deggans has some concern about the more apolitical direction that CNN is seeking under its new boss Chris Licht, saying on the network, “I hope that what we’re not going to see CNN do is institute some sort of false equivalence.”

On the final episode of“Reliable Sources” Sunday, the NPR TV critic said he thinks the problem with the perception of the media right now is the lens through which it looks at today’s politics and the lack of accountability for politicians who break the law or use damaging rhetoric.

“The problem is that people put a political lens on top of something that is about preserving democracy and about holding politicians accountable,” Deggans said during his segment on Brian Stelter’s final show, which was canceled last week. “When you have one politician who’s denouncing the press as the enemy of the people. When you have one politician who insists that he won an election that he did not win. When you have one politician who’s blaming immigrants unfairly for America’s ills, you have to have a journalism apparatus that is free to call out those excesses, without fear of being accused of being unfair. And I think that’s the problem.”

The exit of CNN’s chief media correspondent, Stelter, and the cancellation of the 30-year-old “Reliable Sources,” which he hosted for the last nine years, has many who lean left worried about the expressed desire by Licht to move away from opinion-based news programming and establish a more “neutral” voice.

“I hope that what we’re not going to see CNN do is institute some sort of false equivalence, where the extremism of one party is balanced with the regular dysfunction of another party,” Deggans said. “We need to be free to call out when someone breaks the law, when someone breaks norms, when someone introduces prejudice and stereotypes into the public debate. We need to feel free to call those things out without being accused of being unfair politically when what we’re really doing is trying to see things very clearly and root out the most negative anti-democratic impulses that have risen to the fore in a lot of our public debate.”

But is it what the public wants? The news business is a business, after all. It’s all about bringing in eyes (and therefore advertising dollars). Deggans isn’t certain that facts alone without context or insight tells the complete true story.

“I’m concerned also that it will be hard to hold on to viewers if all you do is just give them facts,” he told Stelter. “They do need context. They do need free and fearless exploration. Even when you have to look hard at a political party or look hard at a political candidate and say this person is breaking the law or breaking norms,” he said.

“Will CNN have the courage to do that? I hope so,” he added.