CNN Criticized For Comparing Bernie Sanders' Campaign to Coronavirus, Not Fact-Checking 'Communist' Accusation Made By Guest

Supporters of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' campaign criticized CNN and host Michael Smerconish over a Saturday segment which compared his campaign's rise to that of the coronavirus spreading across the globe.

Members of the Sanders campaign and his supporters demanded an apology from CNN and Smerconish after a segment used the chyron, "Can Either Coronavirus or Bernie Sanders Be Stopped?" Smerconish was also criticized by Sanders backers for not pushing back after Pressley Stutts, Chairman of the Greenville, South Carolina Tea Party, described the 2020 Democratic presidential frontrunner as a "communist." Sanders campaign national co-chairman Nina Turner later confronted CNN on-the-air during host Ana Cabrera's program, ridiculing both the chyron and the classification of Sanders as a communist.

"One of your colleagues on this station compared Senator Sanders' rise and the rise of his movement to that of the coronavirus and you were just highlighting how important that is and dangerous it is and also allow somebody to come on this station and compare Senator Sanders to his belief in democratic socialism to communism," Turner said. Cabrera responded by saying she can't speak for the hosts of other CNN programs.

One @ninaturner called out @cnn on @AnaCabrera's shift for @smerconish's shameful question comparison of "Bernie Sanders rise to the spread of the Coronavirus wise."

Suffice to say, Cabrera was very nervous of that justified criticism. #SCPrimary pic.twitter.com/PNIL8ifA9O

— Andrew Jerell Jones (@sluggahjells) February 29, 2020

Last week, MSNBC was accused of being overly biased against Sanders after host Chris Matthews made a World War II comparison he later apologized for. But CNN was also criticized by Sanders supporters this week, particularly after the network fact-checked an entire speech the senator gave at the University of Houston, labeling three of his claims "false" and 18 "mostly true." Six others could not be verified.

Smerconish's Saturday CNN show focused on a mix of politics and America's first deadly case of coronavirus being confirmed by Washington state health officials. Critics accused his "Can either coronavirus or Bernie Sanders be stopped?" chyron of being anti-Semitic and a juxtaposition of Jewish stereotypes.

"Shame on you @CNN and @smerconish for your lead story's headline, comparing @BernieSanders to the Coronavirus," responded Muslim-American activist and Fast-a-thon co-founder Tarek El-Messidi.

"Here is @cnn's @smerconish casually linking Corona Virus and @BernieSanders in the same sentence. Unreal," tweeted Status Coup journalist and founder Jordan Chariton. Chariton also shared a brief clip of Smerconish's show.

On Friday, former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly appeared to make a similar metaphorical comparison between the rise of Sanders' popularity and the disease. "The truth about the coronavirus is very important. Also, the emergence of Bernie Sanders as a threat to our freedom ... listen to my conversation with Glenn Beck about these two issues. It is worth your time," O'Reilly tweeted.

Smerconish had initially used the coronavirus analogy to point out that it's a challenge to Trump's presidency - something the president himself has accused Democrats and the news media of doing by "weaponizing" coverage of the disease. "Thankfully for [Trump] and the nation, absent during his tenure has been any national or international crisis. That's now changed. As coronavirus spreads, it places the president under a microscope while managing a crisis," Smerconish said on the program.

"I guess comparing Bernie Sanders to Coronavirus is better than comparing his victory in Nevada to the fall of occupied France, right?" quipped journalist Richard Lewis, referencing MSNBC host Chris Matthews making that Sanders comparison - and later apologizing - last week.

michael smerconish cnn bernie sanders
Supporters of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' campaign criticized CNN and host Michael Smerconish over a Saturday segment which compared his campaign's rise to that of the coronavirus spreading across the globe. Screenshot: CNN