On Friday, Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Ben Shapiro taped a segment for CNN’s media watchdog show, Reliable Sources with host Brian Stelter. The interview played on Sunday was cut, however, to remove Shapiro’s direct accusation against Stelter of bias in his coverage of Arizona’s religious freedom bill.
The first question Shapiro was asked in the taped interview, Shapiro says, was about media bias; Stelter asked whether media bias had played a role in the general public perception of what Stelter termed Arizona’s bill that would have “given businesses the legal grounds to deny services to gay people.” Shapiro immediately stated that not only was media bias to blame for the public’s false perceptions about the bill, but that Stelter had engaged in just that sort of bias by mischaracterizing the bill in his question – the bill did not loosen legal restrictions on discrimination against gays and lesbians. That portion of the interview was sliced out.
Instead, the interview was edited to cut directly to a later portion of the interview, in which Shapiro explained that the media’s liberal bias “reflects L.A. and it reflects New York and it generates feeling elsewhere.”
CNN did leave in Shapiro’s statements about media bias more generally:
SHAPIRO: The press absolutely an opponent of religious freedom, because the press believes that, essentially, religious individuals should be forced to abide by whatever the press’ standards of morality are, and the press is happy to see the government enforce those standards of morality. You’ve seen people like Tony Kornheiser on ESPN suggest that this law would force people, gays in the state of Arizona, to wear yellow stars, or that gays and lesbians in the state of Arizona wouldn’t be able to attend NFL football games. This has nothing to do with the law as written and is specifically designated to create the perception that the American people are a bunch of pitchfork and torch-wielding religious bigots who are looking to crowbar gay people in the streets.
To which Stelter replied, “That doesn’t sound like the America I know.”
Later in the interview, Stelter’s bias showed itself again; this time, CNN couldn’t slice out Shapiro’s response:
STELTER: Ben, when you come on television, when you write columns, do you feel that you are being persecuted or do you feel you are being, you know, put in an uncomfortable position because everybody else seems to believe the opposite of what you believe?
SHAPIRO: Listen, I’m happy to be in liberal areas. I’ve spent my life in Los Angeles and Cambridge. I like being in liberal areas. I like duking it out. But there is no question that the media is biased to the left and there is also no question that the media is very much in favor of fascistic government that gets to control what religious people do with their private businesses. Do I feel persecuted in that way? Well, let’s see. If the government decides that it can tell me to violate my own religious precepts because the government has a greater good that it is attempting to pursue without evidence that that greater good is actually a necessity – anybody who compares the plight of 2014 gays to 1960s blacks is absurd – then certainly I feel persecuted. But that’s a religious citizen, not as a commentator.
Shapiro later continued:
SHAPIRO: [A]s far as being on the defense, being from the right on a left network like CNN, sure, of course I’m on the defensive. And I go in game-planning for it. It’s not the same thing as going on Fox News, which obviously leans to the right.
STELTER: Tell me about how you plan for it. I’m curious because we’re the most meta-show on CNN. How do you plan for it?
SHAPIRO: Well, what I do is I assume that I’m going to get a certain set of questions from folks like you, Brian, that I generally do get, with all the veiled implications therein. ‘Don’t you feel persecuted going on a leftist network?’ The implication, of course, being that I see myself as a victim. ‘Don’t you feel when you come on a leftist network and you’re being attacked that it’s maybe because, you know, you’re just a little intolerant?’ These are usually the way these conversations go. So I’m glad, Brian, you haven’t done all of those things. You’ve done some of them. Of course, when I go in I would be foolish not to think about the questions I’m going to be asked before doing so.
CNN also cut out a portion of the interview in which both Stelter and fellow guest Thomas Frank admitted that they could not name a single restaurant at which gays and lesbians had been refused service anywhere in the United States for their orientation as opposed to for asking businessowners to participate in same-sex weddings.
After the interview was originally taped, Shapiro says, he was informed by the producer that the interview would be cut for broadcast. He then called the producer back and asked that the full interview be released online, suspecting that CNN would likely cut out the portions of the interview least flattering to it. In fact, Shapiro tweeted that just hours after the interview was taped:
Should be on CNN’s ‘Reliable Sources’ on Sunday with @brianstelter! Hope they show the whole interview :) Will be lots of fun.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) March 1, 2014
The producer was noncommittal. As of the writing of this article, the full interview had not been posted.
UPDATE: Stelter responded to a tweet on the subject of the full interview this morning by stating that it would not be released:
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) March 2, 2014