The PJ Tatler

Did CNN do an unethical number on Gov. Pawlenty?

It sure looks like it. The former MN gov appeared on CNN’s Piers Morgan show Tuesday night, and Morgan asked Pawlenty if, should the situation arise, he would accept a veep slot with Donald Trump or another candidate. Hours before the show aired, CNN released a clip of that exchange on its Political Ticker blog, cut so that it includes only the following part.

Morgan: There was a poll out only today, a CNN poll which probably made quite the disturbing reading for you. Did you ever imagine in your wildest nightmares that you’d see a poll of potential Republican candidates which had you at 2 percent and Donald Trump at 19 percent?

Pawlenty: Well for me, I’m just getting known Piers. So our trajectory is kind of a tortoise and hare strategy and as we get better known particularly in the early states I think you’ll see those numbers change for me. But as to Donald Trump, the Donald I think he’s funny, I think he’s exciting. He’s obviously very successful. I think he brings a lot to the debate so I welcome him to it. If hair is going to be a factor in this race, Piers then I’m going to grow my mullet back out. I had a mullet when I played hockey in high school.

Morgan: In a hypothetical scenario governor, if someone like Donald Trump was to emerge as the Republican nominee and asked you to be vice president, would you accept that honor?

Pawlenty: I’m running for president. I’m not putting my hat in the ring rhetorically or ultimately for vice president so I’m focused on running for president.

And hype ensued. But that wasn’t the entire exchange.

In the entire exchange, Morgan notices what Pawlenty has just said, and asks the obvious follow-up.

Morgan: And governor, unless I was mistaken you just said you were running for president. Can we take that as a formal announcement?

Pawlenty: Well I’ve got an exploratory committee up and running and we’ll have a final or full announcement in the coming weeks here, it won’t be too much longer, but everything is headed in that direction Piers.

So…no formal announcement, just a reaction to a question asked, the kind of reaction a candidate always gives when they’re asked nearly a year before any primaries if they’ll settle for second place. Pawlenty could have been a tad clearer, but the full exchange is clear enough. CNN kept that part of the interview off its web site, though, only releasing it this morning after it had had several hours to milk the “I’m running for president” headline and get the Drudge link, and only after the show aired last night, at which time the jig is up. In fact, the truncated version of their post, which appears on the Ticker’s main page, still promotes the exchange as if the exploratory committee portion never happened. Most readers won’t bother clicking through to see the full exchange. They’ll watch the clip, see the CNN write-up, and conclude something that isn’t true. This…is CNN? Yep.

So why is this relevant? Well, for one, once you’ve moved from the exploratory committee phase past the formal announcement phase, the campaign finance rules change. But more importantly, CNN knew all along that Pawlenty had not made a formal announcement that he’s running. It’s right there in their tape — he’s still in the exploratory committee phase. But that relevant fact wasn’t there in the way CNN presented the quotes last night. CNN hyped the whole thing, at the expense of the truth. This…is CNN.