A conservative tries watching CNN


Natalie Oktanyan '22

On the left is Tucker Carlson of Fox News. On the right is Chris Cuomo of CNN. In the middle is the conservative-but-curious author, Jessie Mysza ’22.

“Dad, can we watch something else,” I say as I roll my eyes listening to Tucker Carlson make a sarcastic remark. 

“Jessie, I am watching the news. I want to know what’s going on.” 

“But can’t we watch sports? Or literally anything else?” 

Up until 7th grade, I would sit on the couch multiple nights a week and watch Fox News with my parents. As a kid, I would think about why the news was even relevant to me. 

Obama is bad. Our taxes are too high. Too many illegals are crossing the border. 

When I was younger, I had no idea what any of this meant. Like many kids, I just went along with what my parents said because I was never introduced to another side of the debate. I grew up in a conservative bubble inside my home. 

When I was in 7th grade, though, with the 2016 election on the horizon, my friends started talking about politics more. Before this, I had really only discussed politics with my family. Now, my liberal friends at school would constantly bash Trump, and I had never heard that side of things before. Then, after he won the election, things started to get more heated. The day after he won, some of my friends came to school wearing all black, like they were in mourning, and cried throughout the day. My school and school district even offered counseling to those who were distraught over the election results. 

This is when I started to pay more attention, and no, this essay is not going where you think it is going. I still watch Fox News and support Trump. I am, however, more experienced with the liberal side of things now.

After the election in 2016, I wanted to try an experiment and listen to mainstream liberal media, because I wanted to know why liberals thought the way they thought. As I mentioned, I grew up in a household where Fox News was on instead of CNN, MSNBC or any other news channel. In order to be able to form my own views better and see why others thought the way they thought, I decided that it would be a good idea to not just watch Fox News. In addition to Fox News, which is on in my house all the time, I started watching CNN. 

I discovered that Fox News and CNN present two very different worldviews. 

In 2017, one of the main topics of debate was Trump pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. CNN and Fox News each reacted to the decision oppositely and had a different view on the president in this situation. CNN said that “America has indeed elected an incompetent president.” Fox News said that Trump was “leading” and that it was the “right decision for a number of reasons.”

In 2020, the world that CNN and Fox News are illustrating still could not be any more different. After the Trump Town Hall hosted by NBC on October 16, CNN claimed that Trump was “an antagonistic participant” who was “interrupting and criticizing the premise of questions from Guthrie.” Fox News said that Guthrie was “debating Trump instead of moderating.”

If the news Americans read is so opposite, how can they ever agree on anything? And for me, someone who is interested in having peaceful conversations with both my liberal friends and my parents, what am I supposed to think? 

As a conservative watching CNN, I often feel like I’m being yelled at. The way CNN hits me has more to do with tone than information. I started watching CNN because I wanted to try to understand liberals. But it was really hard to feel sympathy for the liberal perspective because I felt like I was being yelled at.

When I watch Chris Cuomo, I hear him screaming in anger and frustration about something President Trump has done or said. He looks dead straight into the camera, raises his voice and curses when he is extra angry. For example, I recently heard Cuomo say, “Of course, you have to be afraid of COVID. It’s killed more than 200,000 of us.” Cuomo was harsh in his tone and used strong language to convey his anger. He was angry at the fact that President Trump removed his mask when coming back to the White House from Walter Reed when he had coronavirus. 

When watching this particular episode, I tried to listen with an open mind to try and see where someone like Cuomo was coming from. As I watched, a wide range of emotions stirred up inside me. I felt annoyance and frustration toward Cuomo. He makes it seem like my family and I are choosing to support someone who deliberately killed 200,000 people. His anger and accusatory tone made it difficult for me to sympathize with what he was saying.

A few nights after watching that episode, I tuned in again. Cuomo said that President Trump was spreading two viruses, “COVID and this cancer of hate.” He was reacting to the relationship between Trump and Governor Whitmer of Michigan, who had been the target of plots to kidnap her. Cuomo even goes so far to say that it seems “all the hateful people are Trump supporters.”

When I see his anger, I think to myself that I listen to reasonable liberals, and I try to understand where they are coming from, but yelling won’t make me want to listen to anyone. It’s sad for me to say that I am numb to the feeling of liberals being angry at me. 

Back in 2016, I decided to look into my liberal friends’ points of view. I was genuinely curious to learn about why they thought the way they thought. However, as I started digging deeper, the anger I saw on CNN made it difficult to actually take something away from the liberal message. I was distracted by the yelling so much that it was hard to understand the liberal perspective. 

I gave it my best effort, and I will continue to do so. I hope that going forward, both Democrats and Republicans can find a way to communicate better than they are now.