CNN’s Chris Cillizza Deserves All the ‘Hot Take’ Mockery He Receives on Twitter


Chris Cillizza is a polarizing figure in the media world. The CNN political reporter has been the focus of intense ire thanks to his parody-worthy hot takes and vapid commentary, especially for those on Twitter whose patience for “hot takes” is particularly limited.

CNN recently hired Cillizza from The Washington Post, where his poll-and-chart fetishism grew The Fix blog into a prominent staple of the newspaper. He ended his years-long tenure at The Fix with a breathless spree of coverage dedicated to the Hillary Clinton email story in 2016, before heading to CNN this March.

But CNN’s latest high-profile hire has faced serious headwinds from snark-heavy commentators as of late, most recently for delivering the hottest of hot-takes about newly-elected Montana congressman Greg Gianforte:

Gianforte, of course, won the Montana special election despite body-slamming Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs and breaking his glasses the eve of the election.

Cillizza’s contortion of Gianforte’s impressive display of violence against a reporter into a nugatory talking point that “Republicans bet right” did not exactly sit well with the Twitter press corps. Jamil Smith called his tweet a “cretinous take from an alleged journalist,” Kate Arthur asked if he ever regrets “these tweets that are met with universal mockery,” Charles Pierce asked if he ever “spend[s] a second thinking,” and Todd Zwillich called him “completely incapable of critical thought.”

The tweet played into a common — and entirely justified — complaint against Cillizza: that in his infatuation with horse race of politics he’s wholly blinded to any sort of broader context, i.e. the moral implications of a news report outside of the win-lose dynamic. Cillizza’s staunch dedication to bothsidesism does a disservice to readers that suffer from reporting that relies on non-contextualized facts and the championing of false-equivalency.

Cillizza has long treated politics as sport, obsessing over details that have led to both criticism of his reporting and parody of his commentary. Such soulless punditry as his Gianforte take was on display at The Fix all the way back in 2010: in response to Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour’s controversial comments on Civil Rights in Mississippi, Cillizza asked “how badly has Barbour hurt his presidential chances?” in a story with the headline: “Haley Barbour: How he hurt himself (and how he can come back)”.

Now at CNN, Cillizza still manages to churn out hack-luster contrarian takes, despite the self-reflection an instant social media battering should engender. In response to first daughter Ivanka Trump’s talk at a panel in Germany, during which she was hissed for defending her father, Cillizza grabbed the most garish contrarian flag he could find and ran with it.

He criticized the audience for booing Ivanka, writing in a CNN column that “it’s important to remember that Ivanka is, first and foremost, her father’s daughter,” and that she has no choice but to defend him. Of course, that same argument did not stop Cillizza from once defending the right to scrutinize Chelsea Clinton. Further, as many commentators pointed out in mockery of Cillizza’s piece, Ivanka is now a very powerful public figure, and deserves the same scrutiny as any other senior White House aide.

With Cillizza-hate at a fever pitch this week — to the point that even an innocuous column about Trump’s “covfefe” typo was dragged on social media — it’s important to remember that there is a reason he faces so much criticism. His punditry, at its best, adds little to the political conversation other than vapid observation, and at its worst misleading bothsidesism that obscures the fully contextualized implications of important political news.

Usually defiant in the face of mockery, retweeting his critics, Cillizza was apologetic following his Gianforte take, calling it “dumb” and saying he would “try to do better”:

Far be it from us to play the Outrage Police, but we can agree that we would all benefit from a more thoughtful Cillizza.

[image via screengrab]

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This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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Aidan McLaughlin is the Editor of Mediaite. Send tips via email: Ask for Signal. Follow him on Twitter: @aidnmclaughlin