Jill Biden bombs in CNN ratings fiasco

Anybody watch the "Jill Biden Abroad" special on CNN?  The one that featured this breezy headline on the CNN website?

Jill Biden opens up on Africa trip, being first lady, her marriage to the president and a possible 2024 reelection run

That was her big trip to Africa, taken while Joe Biden was drawing attention for stumbling up stairs in eastern Europe. 

Seems it couldn't even outrank Andy Griffith reruns in the ratings.

According to Fox News Digital:

The "CNN Primetime" special, branded "Jill Biden Abroad," featured an interview with CNN White House correspondent Arlette Saenz that shed a staggering 43% of viewers of CNN's average 2023 9 p.m. ET viewership. 

"Jill Biden Abroad" averaged a dismal 368,000 total viewers compared to 2.7 million for Fox News' "Hannity" and 2.3 million for MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show," which both aired in the same time slot. It was CNN's worst weekday performance at 9 p.m. since June 17, 2022, with the exception of Christmas Eve, Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

TBS' midday repeats of "Friends," Investigation Discovery's "Murder Comes Home," "Andy Griffith Show" and "Gunsmoke" reruns on TV Land Classic, Hallmark's decades-old airings of "The Golden Girls" and Lifetime's "Castle" were among Monday's basic cable offerings to outdraw CNN's 9 p.m. ET program.  

CNN's "Jill Biden Abroad" didn't perform much better among the advertiser-coveted demographic of adults age 25-54, averaging only 84,000 viewers among the key category to lose 42% of the network's 2023 year-to-date average 9 p.m. viewership. On the same evening, "Hannity" averaged 322,000 demo viewers and "Maddow" managed 219,000. 

CNN recently finished February with historically low viewership, concluding the news-heavy month with its smallest audience among the demo since 2012. It was CNN's worst primetime performance in the category since 2013.

That's nearly half the audience, and that includes the padded numbers "cushion" of people in airports who can't flip the channel.  Maybe that's because the audience was treated to tripe like this.

As the Bidens prepare for a possible 2024 presidential campaign, the first lady pushed back on concerns about President Joe Biden's age, citing his recent travel schedule as reflective of his stamina.

"How many 30-year-olds could travel to Poland, get on the train? Go nine more hours, go to Ukraine, meet with President (Volodymyr) Zelensky?" she said. "So, look at the man. Look what he's doing. Look what he continues to do each and every day."

The re-election stuff was pure gaslighting.  Jill spoke of Joe Biden's "energy level" as president, absurdly claiming that a 30-year-old couldn't make a trip such as Joe's when the reality is, we all know that almost any 30-year-old could.  She was in a way echoing Joe, whose defiant "watch me" seems to forget that the audience has been watching him as he stumbles, sleeps, and has bathroom incidents throughout public appearances in and out of Europe.

It didn't help that Jill made her dreary pitch for Joe's re-election in a lavender blazer with green lapels, and jarring heavy black mascara.

It called to mind La Rochefoucauld's maxim 403: "The most dangerous absurdity of old ladies who used to be attractive is to forget that they no longer so."

Look at CNN's poor ditsy dumpling reporter, with that expectant, eager-beaver expression on her face, just nodding along credulously to Biden's old-lady certainties:

Is this the best they've got?

It's an amazing news misjudgment on the part of CNN, which doesn't ask tough questions when it gets exclusive access and can't complain that its audience is shrinking as a result.

Did they ask Jill about her loathing of Kamala Harris?  Did they ask her if she runs the White House in Joe's dotage?  Did they ask her why she's supposedly a working teacher — at age 69?  Did they ask Jill what her involvement with the teachers' union is?  Did they ask her why she never bothered to learn even beginner's Spanish despite teaching at schools with high numbers of Hispanic kids?  Did they ask her where she gets her taste in clothing?

If they don't want to ask the questions the audience wants to know instead of smile and nod after casting softballs, they can't complain they can't attract even a basic, ordinary weekday average audience.  They let the first lady completely control the "narrative" instead, so why would anyone want to pay attention?

What's interesting here is that they spent a lot of money to do it.  I went on one of these overseas trips as part of the official press pool once, at the invitation of then–undersecretary of state Tom Shannon, accompanying then–secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to Colombia in 2008.  It was a short trip, about three days long, and the distance flown was not far from Maryland, where the official jet took off from, and it came at a hefty price tag of $6,000, not counting accommodations, something I am amazed and grateful my editors at Investor's Business Daily gave the OK to and shelled out for.   

You can bet the price has gone up since then, and a five-day trip to farther-away Africa on an official jet would have cost a news agency far more to send an invited correspondent.  News agencies shell out a lot for these trips, which is why it's pretty important that they be able to recoup what they spend in ratings or clicks or newspapers sold.  It also explains why they have such small attending pools.  This one for CNN, featuring Biden walking through African markets, was undoubtedly a huge loser.

What's more, it cost CNN quite a bit of goodwill among the other media organizations. 

Politico reports that the trip was basically a rat's nest among the reporters:

When JILL BIDEN arrived last month in Kibera, a large settlement at the center of Kenya's capital city of Nairobi, she interacted with locals as she walked through the slum. The scene provided some of the most moving images of her five-day Africa trip.

But no one besides a CNN TV crew was there to capture it.

That's because the press pool — the small group of reporters and photographers traveling with the first lady and tasked with sharing information with journalists who aren't there — was positioned hundreds of feet away. The pool was stuck behind large palm trees, out of sight of the first lady who had allowed CNN to shoot exclusive footage of her interactions.

The pool members were livid.

"The rest of the U.S. and Kenyan pool missed at least four minutes of her visit because, again, we were being held at least a hundred feet away and behind several trees," The Washington Post's JADA YUAN, one of the print poolers on the trip, wrote in an email distributed to the larger press corps. "Pool vehemently objected. The pool had also asked to send two representatives, one US and one from Kenya, to witness the movement and were told no."

This should cost CNN — and Jill — a bit of goodwill among them, too.  We haven't seen her on any magazine covers lately.

Who at CNN came up with the idea that Jill Biden had anything interesting to say?  Was it an exchanged favor?

What of the claim that CNN was set to become an objective news organization?  This interview was pretty much the opposite.

No wonder no one paid attention.  I sure didn't.

Image: Screen shot from CNN video via YouTube.

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