San Diego TV Station Accuses AP of 'Fake News' Headline

Charge comes after station's border wall dispute with CNN

A wall is seen along the border between the United States and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico
A wall is seen along the border between the United States and Mexico in Tijuana, Mexico / Getty Images
January 14, 2019

A San Diego television station has hit back at an Associated Press report that said it had "backed off" its belief that CNN decided against using one of its reporters for a border-fencing story because it didn't fit the network's narrative.

Steve Cohen, KUSI's news director, issued a statement Sunday denouncing an Associated Press headline about their position as "fake news," and clarifying that the rest of the AP story about the clash between KUSI and CNN is accurate.

"We are not backing away. The headline is a fiction, for the issue was never raised," Cohen said. "The AP story is factual, but the headline is fake news."

On Friday, the AP ran a story with the headline: "TV station backs off accusation that CNN played politics."

The body of the story said that Cohen, in an interview with the AP, had "conceded" that he didn't really know why the network turned down his offer to have KUSI reporter Dan Plante appear on CNN to discuss how the border fencing was working in the San Diego area.

CNN had called KUSI earlier in the week to see if one of its reporters could appear on a program discussing how the border barrier was working in the San Diego area.

When CNN never responded, Cohen decided to inform KUSI's viewers that he suspected CNN declined to have Plante interviewed because Plante's reporting had repeatedly concluded that the border wall there had worked well, and that such a conclusion might not fit the cable network's consistent negative reporting against the wall.

He said he never got a call back and said he believed the reason was because the KUSI reporting didn't fit the CNN narrative against Trump's argument in favor of a border wall.

"CNN requests KUSI for local view on the border, declines our reporter after finding out wall works," KUSI stated in a headline of a similar broadcast report with the same message.

"They didn't like what they heard from us," said anchor Anna Laurel.

CNN denied it had anything to do with Plante's reporting conclusions and called the issue a "non-story."

The network said it had reached out to reporters at other local stations about a possible segment but didn't follow through when the plans changed.

"This happens many times every single day," CNN said in a statement. "This is a non-story."

Cohen admitted that he didn't know why CNN go with his reporter for the segment, but that didn't mean he believed the network's explanation that it was simply because they decided to use someone else or let the issue slip.

"It's certainly plausible that they didn't want it for the viewpoint, or they just didn't want it," Cohen told the AP. "Both are plausible conclusions. I made one rather than the other."

KUSI is not affiliated with any larger broadcast network. The San Diego Business Journal has described its general manager as "a longtime supporter of conservative causes and candidates in the broader San Diego area," the AP reported.