CNN Political commentator speaks on media and politics

John Singleton

Political Commentator and Public Relations Executive Scott Jennings spoke to WKU students and faculty about honesty and how it is applied in today’s political affairs on Tuesday.

A graduate from the University of Louisville, Jennings was appointed to the position of Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Political Affairs by President Bush in 2005. He previously served as Executive Director of the Bush-Cheney campaign in New Mexico in 2004, and as a staff member of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Kentucky in 2000.

Political science professor Joel Turner hosted the event held in DSU titled “Scott Jennings: Media and Politics.”

Turner said Jennings is now a founding partner of RunSwitch Public Relations, Kentucky’s largest public relations company since 2013. Jennings has been writing a regular column for the Louisville Courier-Journal since 2013, and was signed as an on-air contributor by CNN in 2017.

He contributed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaigns for the U.S. Senate in 2002, 2008 and 2014. Jennings is a visible presence on the speaking circuit, briefing groups on the political landscape and taking part in entertaining panel discussions.

Jennings started off his presentation and said cable ratings are “through the roof” right now because of politics.

“If you are in the business of ‘talking,’ which is what I am in the business of, business is good,” Jennings said.

When asked how effective President Trump’s attacks on “fake news” networks were, he said the term “fake news” was not adopted by the president.

“The media’s credibility has been degrading for a long time,” Jennings said. “It did not start with Donald Trump. He recognized and used it as his advantage.”

Jennings said he thinks the media affects both sides of the aisle. He said a lot of information consumed by the public via social media that people think is real, trustworthy news, is what he calls “actual fake news.”

“The majority of people in both political parties do not trust what they hear from the media,” Jennings said.

On a political party spectrum, Jenning said MSNBC is more left-leaning, while Fox News is a more conservative news outlet.

“CNN kind of rides the middle,” the commentator said. “Although at times, they are very critical of the president.”

Jennings said the media has created a very individualized experience for people now and is not a common experience anymore. The days of a common experience and being able to automatically trust the press are over.

Tuesday, Nov. 13, CNN filed a lawsuit against the White House in response to their suspension of reporter Jim Acosta’s press pass last week.

“The White House should not have suspended his pass,” Jennings said. “That was not the right thing for them to have done. It is just not a great signal to send, and I think they will regret this decision.”

When speaking on the unity of the Republican Party, Jennings also said Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing was the reason Republicans won the Senate in the midterm elections.

“There has not been an issue since Trump became the president that has unified the ‘MAGA people,’ the ‘lukewarm Trumpers,’ the ‘never Trumpers,’ whatever you’d want to call the factions of the Republican Party,” Jennings said. “There has not been an issue until Kavanaugh that has unified them all.”

Based on statistics, Jennings said 90 percent of republicans support the president, while the media “over-represents” the population of Republicans who do not. Most of them are with him, Jennings said while democrats are more divided amongst themselves.

“People ask me if there is going to be a Third Party candidate in 2020, and I say yes, but it’s likely to come from the left, not the right,” Jennings said. “The democrats are far more divided and headed for a far more divisive primary than the republicans.”

An audience member asked Jennings if the people of the United States should consider their sources of media to which Jennings had a direct response.

“It is the consumers’ job to consider the source from where the information is coming from,” Jennings said. “However, the one and only job of the media is to present facts and actual information. If they were to do this all the time, there would be no discussion of which news outlet we received the information from.”

John Singleton can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow John Singleton on Twitter at @jsing43.