WATCH: CNN’s Poppy Harlow Omits Crucial Info in Misleading Defense of Serena Williams


CNN’s Poppy Harlow on Monday ran a lengthy 10-minute segment with guest Christine Brennan of USA Today on the outburst and penalizing of tennis star Serena Williams, during which no blame or even criticism was offered regarding the player’s outburst, and the shabby treatment of fellow female tennis star, and victor, Naomi Osaka was glossed over.

In the above clip, blame was placed on professional tennis at large, sexism and chauvinism, racism, on the official… on everyone but Serena Williams and her coach, who both committed violations of the rules. The fact of the violation of the rules is not in dispute, yet those facts were missing or underreported in the segment.

In fact, Harlow and Brennan strongly implied the only real issue was the fact that Williams argued with a judge.

“This morning Serena Williams is fined as the tennis world and beyond battle what she calls blatant sexism after she lost the U.S. Open final to Japan’s Naomi Osaka,” said Harlow to introduce the segment.

Harlow then offered her synopsis.

“Here’s what happened. She was warned by the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, after he said that her coach was giving her hand signals from the stand, which is considered illegal coaching. She said that wasn’t the case at all.”

It was the case, though, and the coach immediately admitted it when it happened; extremely pertinent information, simply omitted.

“She later slammed her racket in frustration,” editorialized Harlow. “That was another automatic violation. And because of the earlier strike against her she was docked a point. Well that, led to this.” At that point Harlow played some of the video.

“So she screamed ‘I would never have cheated’, she called the ump a thief, she was penalized an entire game for what the ump said was verbal abuse, she lost what could have been her 24th grand slam title, after the match Serena claimed that double standard, she said a male player would never have been treated that way,” said Harlow, leading into the clip of Williams saying it was sexism and that she will continue to fight for women.

The clear implication of the opening was not only that the original call is in doubt, which it is not, that this incident robbed Williams of a win, which it did not.

The match ended for Osaka at 6-2, 6-4. She was already losing and even her most ardent defenders admit she would have lost anyway. She also lost to Osaka once before, earlier this year.

Harlow interviewed Brennan at that point, who made the same implications and inferences. They also claimed near unanimity of opinion among former players, despite the fact that conclusions regarding the incident have varied. Martina Navritalova, for one example, disputes a number of assumptions made by both Williams and Harlow, notably defending the actions of the official in calling the rules violations.

“You cannot make an argument against what Serena is saying,” said Brennan. “You just can’t. You can dislike the behavior potentially,’ she said, “but I think without a doubt Serena’s got a great point on this one.”

“I thought so as well,” said Harlow.

Later in Newsroom, Harlow returned to the topic with a different guest.

In both clips, the guest and Harlow herself praise Serena Williams as having been kind or gracious to her opponent. In the first segment, Harlow characterized William’s on-stage remarks by saying “She put her arm around her and said let’s, like, ‘let’s celebrate this champion’ as well.”

In the second clip Time Magazine‘s Sean Gregory goes as far as to defend the abusive booing crowd, saying it only “appeared” they were attacking Osaka’s deserved win.

Watch tearful Osaka humiliated and scorned, and her victory booed and denigrated by those on stage, as Williams offers a thin defense of the victor.

“She played well,” said Williams of Osaka. “This is her first grand slam. I know you guys were here rooting and I was rooting too, but let’s make this the best moment we can and we’ll get through it. But let’s give everyone the credit where credit is due and let’s not boo anymore.”

“Congratulations Naomi. No more booing,” said Williams, concluding the devastating assessment of her opponent’s win.

“I know that everyone was cheering for her and I’m sorry it had to end like this,” said a publicly shamed and tearful Osaka of achieving her lifelong dream. When she said she was grateful to be able to play with Serena Williams, and turned to thank her, Williams nodded slightly.

That clip was not in either CNN segment.

There are dozens of editorials that were published in the wake of the incident. Harlow read from none that disputed Williams’ point of view or even criticized her behavior.

These two segments were not actually news coverage of the events that occurred, or a presentation of the very much and legitimately in-dispute controversy as it stands, but instead editorials on the part of Poppy Harlow and her guests, which presented a particular point of view at the expense of presenting the full set of facts.

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

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