TV station backs off accusation that CNN played politics

A U.S. Border Patrol agent rides a vehicle on the beach in San Diego, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, seen through the border wall from Tijuana, Mexico. U.S. President Donald Trump walked out of his negotiating meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday —The Associated Press
A U.S. Border Patrol agent rides a vehicle on the beach in San Diego, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, seen through the border wall from Tijuana, Mexico. U.S. President Donald Trump walked out of his negotiating meeting with congressional leaders Wednesday — "I said bye-bye," he tweeted— as efforts to end the 19-day partial government shutdown fell into deeper disarray over his demand for billions of dollars to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

An executive at a San Diego television station that accused CNN of rejecting an appearance by one of its reporters for political reasons conceded Friday he didn't really know why the network turned him down.

After CNN reached out to KUSI-TV to see if reporter Dan Plante would come on the air Thursday to talk about how a border barrier was working in the San Diego area, the segment never happened. CNN said plans change all the time, and that the network chose to have its own reporters talk about border security. But KUSI saw other motivations.

Steve Cohen, KUSI's news director, said he told CNN that it might not want Plante because his reporting has concluded that a border wall there has worked well, and that such a conclusion might not fit the cable network's "narrative" against the wall. He said he never got a call back.

Cohen decided to inform KUSI's viewers of the alleged rejection.

"We believe CNN declined a report from KUSI because we informed them that most border patrol agents we have spoken to told us the barrier does in fact work," the station said on its web site, and followed up with a report on its air.

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

CNN said it had also 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," the network said in a statement. "This is a non-story."

Cohen said he never actually spoke to anyone about CNN about why Plante wasn't used.

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

KUSI-TV is unaffiliated with any broadcast network and owned by McKinnon Broadcasting Co. Its general manager, Michael McKinnon, was described by the San Diego Business Journal as a "longtime supporter of conservative causes and candidates in the San Diego area."

CNN noted that it had aired another report from KUSI about border security in November.

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