In the era of Donald J. Trump, CNN has emerged as the pied piper of Fake News. Now there is evidence that CNN is attempting to fix, or fake, the ratings, as well.

Television ratings are critical to the success of the business. The objective measuring of how many people are watching a channel during a particular program or time of day determines the all-important rates that are charged for advertising. The stakes are high, with a successful channel like Fox News making hundreds of millions of dollars a year in profits from the commercials that it runs.

An old adage is “Figures don’t lie, but liars can figure.” This appears to apply to what CNN has been doing lately.

The Cable News Ratings Wars

In recent months, CNN has been fighting a desperate ratings war of attrition with its competitors the Fox News Channel (FNC) and MSNBC. In the new era of President Trump, CNN, like MSNBC, has been trying to gain traction by being the go-to source for the Resistance and the Never Trumpers (RINOs who have opposed Donald J. Trump from the onset of his campaign).

For CNN, the ratings battle has not been going well. On August 1, 2017, A.J. Katz, one of the leading and most objective analysts of the TV news business, wrote in TVNewser:

It was a wild month in U.S. politics, and CNN had a tough time keeping up with the competition from a ratings perspective.

For July 2017, CNN was minus 48 percent in total prime time viewers, minus 29 percent in total day viewers, minus 48 in the prime-time demo, and minus 28 percent in the total day demo versus July 2016.

Because analysis of TV ratings is both a science and an art aiming at a moving target, CNN put out a “spin city” news release insisting that it beat MSNBC during the month of July 2017, “CNN #2 in Total Day in July Among [Viewers] 25-54.”

If it’s not the originator of the Fake News model that is now largely defining the MSM, CNN has certainly perfected it This past week, the situation seemed to rise to a shocking new level with the CNN programs that followed President Trump’s prime time 80 minute speech Tuesday night to a campaign-style rally in Phoenix. CNN host Don Lemon followed Trump’s speech with a live appearance by the channel’s new contributor James Clapper, former director of National Intelligence in the Obama Administration.

Don Lemon

In full attack mode, Clapper questioned President Trump’s “fitness,” his “ability,” and his “motivation” for the job as president. Clapper also said that he found the President’s Phoenix rally “downright scary and disturbing.” Exactly why, he didn’t say. Clapper added, “How much longer does the country have to, to borrow a phrase, endure this nightmare?”

Piling on further, Clapper said this on CNN about President Trump’s access to nuclear weapons launch codes:

In a fit of pique he decides to do something about Kim Jong Un, there’s actually very little to stop him. The whole system is built to ensure rapid response if necessary. So there’s very little in the way of controls over exercising a nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary.

As Jack Benny used to say, “Well!”

Compounding Fake News With Fake Ratings

Fake News is bad enough, but now we have Fake Ratings to give Fake Credibility to a bogus news source.

Case in point: Analyzing the cable news ratings for Monday August 21, the night of President Trump’s 9 P.M. E.D.T. speech to the nation – his first address as the commander-in-chief in prime time – I observed a strange anomaly which is being reported here exclusively. First, it should be noted that the viewers of cable news that evening were at least twice as many as the typical number for a weekday night because of the major public interest in the president’s address. This benefited all three cable TV news channels. The ratings are measured, as they always have been, by the Nielsen Company. Nielsen relies on the channels and networks to honestly provide their schedules including identifying the programs that aired during a certain time of the day or night – which are then matched up with the ratings.

On Monday, MSNBC and FNC described their programming from 9:01 to 9:27 P.M. E.D.T. (or 9 to 9:30 P.M. in the case of MSNBC) as “Pres Address-Afghanistan” (FNC) and “MSNBC Special Coverage” (MSNBC), instead of The Five and The Rachel Maddow Show which normally air at 9 P.M. on each of those channels respectively.

CNN, however, told Nielsen it was airing “Anderson Cooper 360” even though, as with the other channels, President Trump was on CNN during that entire time. This means, in effect, that the ratings surge provided to CNN during that half hour by viewers tuning in to see President Donald J. Trump – ironically CNN’s nemesis – are being attributed to the lagging Anderson Cooper program!

Screen Shot CNN Monday Aug. 21, 2017 9:14 P.M. E.D.T.

The document screen shots below are from the Nielsen Company raw data for cable television news ratings on the evening of Monday August 21, 2017 in prime time (in this case, 7 to 11 P.M. E.D.T.) Once again, the Nielsen Company relies on the good faith of each channel to accurately provide the information about what the channel was airing during the time being measured.

CNN, unlike the other two channels, told Nielsen that it was airing Anderson Cooper 360 rather than President Trump’s address to the nation.

Nielsen Ratings Raw Data CNN Prime Time Monday Aug. 21, 2017
Nielsen Ratings Raw Data FNC Prime Time Monday Aug. 21, 2017
Nielsen Ratings Raw Data MSNBC Prime Time Monday Aug. 21, 2017

In addition to the daily ratings, the weekly and monthly ratings will reflect the fake reporting of Anderson Cooper’s CNN show as having generated double its usual ratings.

The previously mentioned television writer A.J. Katz was not fooled by CNN’s sleight of hand. In his article about Monday’s cable news ratings that was published the next day, Katz, without any mention of or comment on the anomaly in Nielsen’s raw data, correctly described the 9-10 P.M. hour on CNN Monday night as “Trump/Ryan.” (President Trump’s half hour address was followed immediately by a CNN town hall with Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.) Unfortunately, Katz’s description is apparently not reflected in the record that counts, the Nielsen Company’s tabulation.

Other funny business has reportedly been going on to skew TV ratings lately. On July 6, 2017, a satirically titled article in the Wall Street Journal, “In TV Ratings Game, Networks Try to Dissguys Bad Newz from Nielsen,” described how the broadcast networks are misspelling the titles of poorly performing episodes of scheduled programs in order to fool the Nielsen company:

That explains the appearance of “NBC Nitely News,” which apparently aired on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend this year, when a lot of people were away from their TVs. The retitling of “NBC Nightly News” fooled Nielsen’s automated system, which listed “Nitely” as a separate show.

It appears that the growing lack of credibility in the reporting of news these days – the rise of Fake News – is not the only questionable practice being foisted on us by the mainstream news media.

Throw another shovel of dirt on the rotting carcass of the MSM as it is finally laid to rest in the graveyard of American journalism.

Peter Chowka is a widely published author and journalist. He writes most frequently these days for American Thinker and The Hagmann Report. His Web site is Follow Peter on Twitter.



Peter is an author, journalist, media analyst and commentator on a wide range of issues including national politics, health care, media and popular culture. He has over four decades of experience reporting for a variety of publications and media. Since May 2017, Peter has written over 150 articles for American Thinker and his work has also appeared in several other major publications. Peter also contributes feature articles to The Epoch Times.