Alcindor confronted Rion after the briefing, telling her that his behavior was “dangerous” and endangered the health of both. Alcindor and PBS also raised their concerns with the White House Correspondents House, the organization that oversees the seating arrangement within the James S Brady Press Briefing Room.
The truth of the matter was that, according to WHCA rules, Rion should not have been present at the briefing that April day. He didn’t have a seat and his network had been started by the rotation of the briefing, a move that drew OAN’s wrath.
The founder of the network, Robert Herring, has repeatedly expressed his frustration that Rion doesn’t have an official seat in the meeting room. And an OAN lawyer even sent a letter on April 25 to the White House complaining that Rion and another OAN correspondent were forced to “stand in a closed corner” by everyone else “as if they were suspicious and unwanted intruders.”
It’s just one way the White House has worked to uplift the OAN, a poorly watched channel that probably has more in common with a state-run propaganda network than a credible news organization.
President Donald Trump, friendly to the media in favor of him, has recently become interested in the network. During the briefings, he requested OAN, praising the network for asking him the main questions framed in a way that portrays him in a flattering light. And he repeatedly promoted the network on his Twitter feed.
Yet despite Trump network propaganda, most Americans are probably unfamiliar with the OAN. The channel is tiny compared to major cable news networks. He does not have a good score and his web traffic is not significant. Nor does it offer viewers compelling television with professional graphics. Indeed, in terms of presentation, the OAN recalls a university news station produced by a group of volunteer students.
What OAN offers viewers is a diet of right-wing conspiracy theories and pro-Trump comments mixed with cable video news packages that are sometimes distorted to fit its editorial point of view through the text entered by the network in the part of the lower thirds of the screen. The network would be largely irrelevant, confined to the margins of conservative media, were it not for Trump’s continued promotion.
Many White House spokesmen have not responded to repeated requests for comment for this story. Herring and Rion also ignored several inquiries and an OAN spokesperson did not respond. OAN’s attorney, Bruce Fein, answered a call, said he was busy and said he would call back, but never did. Alex Salvi, an OAN host, however, has agreed to speak with CNN on the network.
“All we have is Fox”
The San Diego OAN was founded in 2013 by Robert Herring, a Californian businessman who made his fortune in the technology industry.
When the channel was launched, his son Charles, who is president of the network’s parent company, Herring Networks, Inc., said it would be a factual channel aimed at competing with Fox News for a conservative audience.
“Fox is an excellent platform,” he added. “A lot of people like it, it gets exceptional ratings. There’s nothing wrong with Fox. The problem is that if you take the channel line-up, national news sources tend to bend to the left … and all that we have is Fox. “
Salvi echoed Herring’s previous comments. He told CNN that OAN tried to “look at some of the mistakes Fox News” made and tried to “rely on it, meeting the needs of what the public wants.”
“And in fact I would say that we are not only replicating the things that worked at Fox News, for example, but we have also looked at other networks,” added Salvi.
In its early years, OAN didn’t make much sketches. His studies and on-screen graphics had an amateur quality. That is, the professional Polish of his main rival, Fox News, is missing.
Furthermore, the network does not have a large pool of journalists and correspondents compared to other national networks. Much of the programming depends heavily on news packages created by wire services such as Associated Press and Reuters.
OAN had some luck with one of his evening opinion guests, Tomi Lahren. The conservative fire brand, which is now a Fox News commentator, has generated publicity for the OAN through its viral and controversial monologues.
But a host who occasionally goes viral on YouTube doesn’t translate to a large network audience. And despite Lahren’s success, OAN has struggled to emerge from the darkness.
When Trump launched his campaign in the summer of 2015, the channel saw an opening. OAN has begun to gain some prominence among Trump fans for live streaming of all presidential candidate rallies.
“We started with the premise of the news in the middle,” former OAN anchor Cassie Leuffen told The Post. “But the bias is revealed in the choice of the story. The owner really felt that this was what was needed. He saw Trump’s popularity before almost anyone, and Trump has become our bread and butter.”
Much of OAN’s programming is reminiscent of Fox News. The news on the network shows that it claims to provide headlines in a non-partisan way, but in reality they frame the news of the day in a way that is often beneficial to Trump. In the evening, guests of OAN’s opinion, such as Liz Wheeler and Graham Ledger, offer classy conservative comments that generally endorse the White House.
But OAN also nods to the darker belly of the conservative news industry. Two of his prominent personalities, for example, are far-right agitators who have an amateur history in conspiracy theories.
Rion did not respond to requests for comment when asked about his promotion of such conspiracy theories.
On his website, Rion’s bio page states: “Chanel has often been described as one of Hillary Clinton’s” worst nightmares “because she stands as a fierce enemy of anything Clinton, all of Obama, and as a total enemy and relentless of the academic left – liberalism and political correctness everywhere – is ready to eradicate it and when Chanel sticks the enemy, it can be a powerful push – sometimes shocking, always articulated – linguistic and graphic gems that hit the heart of the madness of the political left. “
The other major OAN agitator is Jack Posobiec, a right-wing conspiracy theorist who is a strong supporter of Trump. Posobiec, who works as a correspondent for the OAN, is widely known for streaming an investigation into the comet Ping Pong, the pizzeria at the heart of the dispelled Pizzagate conspiracy theory.
“There have certainly been times when I have talked about several conspiracy theories that are out there and I have talked about the Seth Rich thing,” Posobiec granted to Philadelphia Magazine in a 2017 profile, which called him the “king” of fake news. “You know what, I won’t even talk about that stuff anymore.”
An OAN spokesman did not respond to CNN when asked if Posobiec had further comments on his role in Pizzagate.
Posobiec and Rion have continued to use their platforms to push disinformation. When Trump was on trial for impeachment, both personalities helped push conspiracy theories about Ukraine into public conversation.
In exchange for positive coverage, Trump has been a persistent supporter of the network, especially as he faces a skeptical press body that questions his response to the coronavirus pandemic.
During the daily coronavirus briefings, the channel correspondents functioned as a lifeline for the President. Faced with questions he does not like, the President knows he can ask the OAN a question he likes.
And in the past, facing unfavorable headlines, Trump has leaned on the net.
But the rank-obsessed president must know that OAN’s audience pales in comparison to that of other cable news networks.
The network does not subscribe to Nielsen Media Research, which is the industry standard for measuring television audiences. But in the spring of 2019, Nielsen Media Research briefly measured the OAN audience in the measured markets, which represent the country’s largest metropolitan areas.
In these markets, OAN recorded an average of only 14,000 total viewers from April 1, 2019 to June 11, 2019. Its main rival, Fox News, recorded an average of 631,000 viewers in the same markets over the same time period. MSNBC recorded an average of 558,000 viewers and CNN recorded an average of 341,000 viewers.
Online, the image isn’t much better for OAN. According to Comscore, a company that measures web traffic, OAN had only 33,300 average daily visitors in March, the last month for which data is available. By context, Fox News registered 135 million unique visitors to the United States in March and CNN had 184 million.
“This letter constitutes a formal notice to you”
Despite the constant promotion by the President, in addition to the special treatment that OAN receives from the White House, the network is still not completely satisfied.
For one, Salvi noted that the OAN has never been given a formal interview with Trump.
“When he was a candidate we had the opportunity to speak with him, but since President Trump has been in office we have not had an interview to sit,” said Salvi, noting that Trump only spoke briefly to the network once in front of a event.
Robert Herring, the founder of the OAN, has also spent the past few weeks using Twitter to criticize the White House that Rion doesn’t have a physical place in the briefing room.
The meeting room seats have been for decades – under the republican and democratic presidency – controlled by the WHCA, not the White House. WHCA started OAN when Rion ignored the new coronavirus rule that required news organizations to alternate the days they attended the briefing.
Rion also tried to bring his chair into the meeting room one day in April, according to reporters who saw her take to the White House camp. But Rion, according to a person familiar with the matter, was told that she could not fit her folding chair into the aisle next to the seats and was later seen being taken out of the White House park.
“Seat assignments in the Briefing Room or otherwise when space needs to be rationed should be done by the White House Press Office using a lottery or a first-come, first-served basis to safeguard neutrality,” she said. letter.
“Neutrality under the First Amendment is too important in the coverage of the White House press to be left to the private prejudices of the WHCA,” added the OAN prosecutor.
The association of White House correspondents declined to comment on OAN’s letter.
In a separate letter, OAN’s attorney wrote to the secret service, arguing that Rion – who recently wore what appears to be a GoPro camera while in the White House – has been subjected to “various acts of harassment, intimidation, and bullying. , verbal and physical intimidation and assault “while working on the White House grounds.
“This letter constitutes a formal notice of the acts of aggression, harassment and intimidation mentioned above,” wrote lawyer OAN Fein. “We respectfully ask to open an investigation into these acts before they intensify further.”
Fein cited the incident with Alcindor, interpreting the PBS correspondent as a “threat”. He wrote that Rion was “reasonably afraid of being imminently touched physically and offensively by Mrs. Alcindor.”
A PBS spokesman said on behalf of Alcindor that the network believes the lack of compliance with social exclusion rules is “deeply worrying” and that it has raised the issue with the White House press office.
Fein’s letter also cited another incident with Doug Mills, a photographer for the New York Times. According to the letter, Mills “got very upset” with her. The incident occurred during a press conference where Rion presented himself in violation of WHCA’s social removal rules. Fein said Mills “accused her of inventing the rules” and said Mills reprimanded Rion “aggressively and threateningly”.
Through a Times spokesman, Mills declined to comment on the incident.
When contacted by email about the OAN’s request to open an investigation by the Secret Service, a police agency spokesman told CNN: “The Secret Service does not confirm or comment on the absence or absence of the existence of specific investigations “.
“The risk is actually physical”
The promotion of Trump’s channel, which occurs while simultaneously working to undermine credible news organizations, is cause for alarm, said Phil Napoli, a Duke University professor specializing in media and democracy and who has studied propaganda efforts.
The fact that this happens during a public health crisis is of particular concern, said Naples.
“The risk is actually physical,” he said, noting that people need accurate and reliable information about the coronavirus.
Napoli said it had never seen a president of the United States promote a network like OAN while launching a lasting assault on credible news organizations.
“We should start looking in some countries that I wouldn’t classify as democracies for some of these types of things,” he said.
Julian Zelizer, Princeton University history professor and CNN analyst, agreed.
“I haven’t seen anything like that,” he said. “Obviously there have been presidents who criticize the press and try to limit their access. Almost all presidents have had some sort of tension with the press and some like Richard Nixon have created their list of enemies. The FDR has used chats on fire as a way to control his message around conservative newspaper editors. But now we’re in a completely different role-playing game. “
“In the midst of a historical crisis like this, supporting unbelievable news sources while doubling its normal attacks is surprising to watch,” added Zelizer. “Furthermore, this crisis is one in which information is absolutely essential for the cure. Without facts and figures from legitimate sources we will continue to trample on water for a long time. While the president weakens the institution that can provide us with such information, we it weakens our collective ability to return to a sort of normal “.