Chris Cillizza Tries to Link Far-Right Media to Qanon, but His Fuzzy Math Leaves out CNN

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File

Just as he thinks he nails the right, Chris Cillizza proves CNN fosters Q followers, as well.

The media love playing a game where they obsessively cover controversies on the right, insisting all the while those on the right are the obsessives. Brian Stelter unwittingly showed this recently, when he tried slamming Fox News for avoiding the Liz Cheney controversy and admitting his own network’s obsession, proudly saying they covered her story over 300 times within one week. For a dose of hilarity, on their pre-dawn broadcast Early Start, the show declared they were above giving Marjorie Taylor Greene any airtime and how they would not fall into the trap of her outrageousness — as they proceeded to launch into a lengthy segment focused on her outrageous comments.


Then there is Chris Cillizza. The always dependable source of mirth at CNN, Chris offered up what he felt was definitive proof that the far-right news networks are a grave threat to this nation and our democracy. Citing a recent poll, he was certain he came up with the data to show us specifically how big of a threat we face from “the rise of several cable TV outlets that aimed to out-Fox Fox News.” Well…2 outlets. He is referring to Newsmax and One America News Network. Cillizza cites a recent poll by PRRI that delivers the goods — he thinks. Instead, we discover, thanks to Chris pointing this out, that CNN is almost equally at fault.

In the poll, he references people who were asked if they agreed with three primary statements about the nation which were considered to be talking points from the nebulous conspiracy group Qanon. They cross-referenced those people with party affiliation, various demographic groups, as well as what news outlets they trusted. This resulted in a figure of 40% of those who say they trusted the far-right news outlets saying they agreed with the Qanon statements. Chris was so perturbed by this result (or, probably more accurately, he was giddy over it) that he closed his column with a bold-type summation.


The Point: The rise of far-right channels like OAN and Newsmax has led to a massive amount of disinformation flowing through American democracy.

Now, that is a rather glaring figure, and you can almost see Cillizza spiking his Nerf football in his home office, but I need to borrow his technique for a moment.

The Problem: Once we look over the data in this poll and actually crunch the numbers, the results that are found will not make him happy. They actually show a dose of parity between those networks and Chris’ own CNN.

While there is a question of causation — are the networks guiding this thought, or are Qanon followers arriving at them — there is a measure here that this is a very small segment of the audience. While Cillizza wants to mainstream this ‘Q-thought.’ it is actually shown to be more of an outlier. 

That amount of avowed Q-followers he references is only a part of a much smaller audience. When asked about their preferred news outlets, respondents said they trust public television (8%), MSNBC (5%), and far-right news networks such as OANN and Newsmax (combined to 3%). Recall, Cillizza is hanging on the fact that 4 out of 10 people who said they were far-right news-watchers agree with Qanon.

Looking into the metrics we find the poll had 5,625 respondents. From this pool, 3% said they trusted OANN or Newsmax — amounting to about 169 people. Now it was from THAT sample that 40% agreed with the Qanon content. That brings in just barely over 1% of the respondents overall who watch far-right news and agree with Q. This is the “massive amount” he refers to, a far less impressive figure that Chris has a hard time selling. But, it gets far worse for the pundit. Here is the data he runs away from in his hit piece.


You will note that nowhere in his column does Chris Cillizza ever address the results regarding the audience that watches him. This is for a revealing reason. In the breakdown of news sources preferred by those answering the poll, when it comes to his own network, 10% of respondents said they trusted CNN. Of those in his audience, 11% were in agreement with Qanon (something Cillizza and Brian Stelter will never acknowledge). Here are the hard results.


  • CNN – 62

These are minuscule figures. But it is Cillizza, and his network building these results up to be definitive proof the nation is overrun with conspiracy nutters — and his own network is generating just as many, according to the results. This means that out of thousands of people, only a few dozen are listening to Qanon, and if this is to be considered to be an alarming figure, then their own network is equally to blame.

This is the trap that is set when relying on a poll of this nature. Either Cillizza displayed that he is mathematically stunted, or he was being willfully deceptive in the selected data points he presents. Neither of those is a good look for the pundit.


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