Leftwing Media Try to Block OANN from White House Briefing Room
Threatened by conservative media outlet’s growing clout.
By Joseph Klein
One America News Network (OANN) is a conservative TV network that was formally launched on July 4, 2013 at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). OANN is owned by Herring Networks, Inc., a family run business. Robert Herring Sr. is the founder and CEO. The network’s president is his son, Charles Herring. OANN and Newsmax TV have served admirably as alternative conservative voices on cable TV. Before the launch of both these networks, Fox News stood alone to counter the prevailing leftist sources for TV news and political discussion.
OANN is carried by DirecTV, AT&T U-Verse, Verizon FiOS, CenturyLink PRISM, Frontier Communications, and GCI, as well as by numerous local and regional distributors. However, OANN could be reaching many more households if some major cable distributors carrying its competitors’ programming would agree to distribute OANN as well. Charles Herring told me that he believed some cable companies were engaging for political reasons in “viewpoint discrimination.” Democracy suffers, he argued, as a result of such efforts to suppress diverse programming voices.
OANN has most recently been the victim of blatant viewpoint discrimination at the hands of the leftwing White House Correspondents Association (WHCA), which arbitrarily voted on April 1st to bar OANN’s White House correspondent Chanel Rion from the daily White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefings. Her “sin” was asking President Trump a question that hit too close to home, after various White House correspondents had used the race card against President Trump for calling the virus that originated in China the “Chinese virus.” At the March 19th briefing, after introducing the concern that “major left-wing media, even in this room, have teamed up with Chinese communist party narratives,” Rion asked President Trump to comment. “It amazes me when I read the things that I read,” President Trump replied.
The leftwing media retaliated against OANN’s White House correspondent for speaking truth to power. First, an anonymous note was left on Rion’s desk asking her whether she thought her question was helpful in halting the spread of the coronavirus. Three days later, the White House Correspondents Association mandated that the seat assigned to OANN since 2017, which for years was shared by only one other news organization, now accommodate five networks, including Al Jazeera. OANN’s seat was singled out for such treatment. On March 23rd, OANN was placed in the “supplemental Seat Rotation,” a shared seat with a total of 10 media outlets. OANN for all intents and purposes lost any reasonable opportunity to participate in the briefings as a result of the WHCA’s discriminatory edict. When OANN managed to secure an invitation from the White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham for Rion to stand in the back of the briefing room, the White House Correspondents Association dropped the hammer and sought to close the briefing room door to OANN altogether.
CNN’s Trump-hating Jim Acosta and Oliver Darcy reported that the White House Correspondents Association voted on April 1 to “remove One America News, a small right-wing media organization, from the rotation for a seat in the briefing room.” They went on to rationalize this outrageous action by claiming that the “decision was made after a fringe personality for the far-right media outlet, Chanel Rion, continued to attend the briefings, in defiance of the WHCA’s new rules limiting the number of journalists in the room.” Charles Herring has confirmed that OANN’s White House correspondent was present as “an invited guest to the President’s briefings by Stephanie Grisham, White House Press Secretary.” Chanel Rion stood apart towards the back of the room to adequately address any social distancing issues. “The WHCA organization members were aware that Ms. Rion was extended an invitation by Stephanie Grisham but took retaliatory action anyway,” Charles Herring said.
The briefing room is on the White House premises, which belongs to the people and not to the White House Correspondents Association. Yet the White House Correspondents Association tried to flex its muscles to keep Rion, an accredited journalist, out of the White House briefing room. It didn’t work. Rion communicated with Stephanie Grisham and received another invitation to attend the April 2nd White House press briefing. Rion not only appeared at the briefing. President Trump called on her for a question, which disturbed the lamestream media no end. “Trump makes sure to take a question from OAN staffer Chanel Rion even though she was banished from the White House Correspondents’ Association for attending briefings she wasn’t supposed to be at,” leftwing Vox reporter Aaron Rupar tweeted.
If capacity problems exist because of social distance requirements, then CNN, which has inexcusably skipped President Trump’s introductory live remarks at the briefings in favor of its own vapid talking heads, should begin sharing its seat with nine other media outlets. Remember how CNN’s Jim Acosta whined when his White House press credentials were suspended for good reason back in 2018? Now he leads the leftwing media mob in smearing OANN and trying to block its access to the White House briefing room in contravention of OANN’s constitutional right of freedom of the press.
OANN fits neither the “small” nor “far-right media outlet” caricatures that Acosta fabricated. The network is currently available in approximately 35 million homes. OANN was ranked as the fourth-highest service in the genre of networks categorized exclusively as Cable, News/ Business/ Info networks, according to data compiled by third party national ratings service Comscore as of March 2019. Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and CNN ranked ahead of OANN, but OANN outperformed other cable networks including CNN Headline News, Fox Business Channel, CNBC, BBC World News, and Bloomberg. For the week of March 23 -29, 2020, as measured by ComScore across 70 markets on one of the country’s major national distributor’s set top boxes, One America News Network ranked 25th out of 307 national cable networks of all genres. In other words, OANN has climbed to reach the top 10 percent of national cable channels in the Comscore rating.
One reason for OANN’s growth may well be the bright line it has drawn between its straight delivery of news and its conservative-leaning opinion shows. The network presents 19 hours of unvarnished news Monday through Friday. Conservative-leaning opinion shows occupy only a limited number of hours in the evening. The opinion shows include “The Daily Ledger,” hosted by Graham Ledger, and “Tipping Point,” hosted by Liz Wheeler.
OANN draws its news packages from journalistically respected sources such as Reuters, Euronews, and the Associated Press. OANN is a subscriber to the live “pool” footage provided by major national networks such as ABC and CBS. The network also operates its own news bureaus in California and Washington, D.C., as well as a small office in New York. The news anchors are not allowed to express their opinions as a matter of corporate policy, Charles Herring told me. “We’re trying to return news back to just news, and really distinguishing that divide between opinion and hard news,” Amanda House, the Washington bureau chief, explained as quoted by the National Journal. “We have a ton of people who watch us that have no right-leaning tendencies whatsoever.”
Even liberal Marty Kaplan, who holds the Norman Lear chair at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, has acknowledged OANN’s success in maintaining a wall between its news coverage and its opinion shows. Kaplan wrote in a 2015 article for HuffPost that “the Herrings have so far walked the talk about walling off opinion programming from news… Minute for minute, and nearly 24/7, OAN delivers more hard news about America and the world, more impartially, with less attitude, less lighting up of our lizard brains, and less of a makes-you-want-to-take-a-shower factor, than any other news on TV.”
OANN’s record of unbiased news coverage does not matter a bit to such leftwing smear machines as Media Matters, however. They shamelessly slam OANN with slurs like “racist,” “conspiracy-mongering” and “shilling for Trump.” But Rachel Maddow and her MSNBC network took matters far beyond such badmouthing. They brazenly slandered OANN when Rachel Maddow told her audience that OANN “really literally is paid Russian propaganda.” Maddow and her network refused OANN’s demand for a retraction, employing doublespeak to argue that the term “literally” as used by Maddow was a “kind of figure of speech that connoted opinion.” To the contrary, Maddow represented as fact, not opinion, that OANN “really literally is paid Russian propaganda,” in reckless disregard of the truth. OANN filed a defamation lawsuit last September. OANN’s lawyer explained that “One America is wholly owned, operated and financed by the Herring family in San Diego. They are as American as apple pie. They are not paid by Russia and have nothing to do with the Russian government. This is a false and malicious libel, and they’re going to answer for it in a court of law.”
For years, Fox News was alone in presenting a conservative perspective on cable television. Newsmax TV and OANN have added two more fronts on the conservative side in the battle against leftwing dominance of news and the national conversation on American TV. Rachel Maddow, Jim Acosta, Media Matters and their comrades in arms do not believe in the marketplace of ideas. They want to corner the market all for themselves and engage in the currency of lies, ad hominem attacks, and false accusations to go after those they consider their ideological enemies. These left-wingers have tried and failed to bring down Fox News and Newsmax TV with such despicable tactics. They are trying to do the same to OANN. They are afraid that OANN, with its expanding household reach, is fast becoming an effective therapeutic to their pandemic of leftwing bias and lies. They have reason to be afraid.