CNN suspends correspondent over refugee tweet

CNN has suspended one of its correspondents for posting an opinionated tweet about a congressional bill that could limit the entry of Syrian refugees into the United States.

Elise Labott, the network's global affairs correspondent, tweeted Thursday that the Statue of Liberty was bowing its head "in anguish" over the House's decision to pass the bill, which would suspend the program allowing Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the U.S.

With the tweet, Labott inserted herself into an incendiary political debate over immigration, national security and journalistic ethics.

CNN's position was that Labott violated a written policy against reporters expressing political points of view. But some journalists outside CNN denounced the decision to suspend Labott.

Glenn Greenwald, the co-founding editor of The Intercept, wrote Friday that "the claim that CNN journalists must be 'objective' and are not permitted to express opinions is an absolute joke."

Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple drew attention to Labott's tweet on Thursday afternoon. Wemple observed that evenhandedness "isn't just a matter of journalistic principle for CNN," it's a business imperative, as the news organization strives to be one of the world's best-known nonpartisan sources of news.

Jesse Singal, writing for New York magazine's web site, said that "when you set aside the understandably passionate debate over the refugees, it's not even a very close call. Labott clearly broke an agreement she had with her employer."

In a tweet late Thursday night, Labott apologized for what she described as an "inappropriate and disrespectful" remark.

"Everyone, It was wrong of me to editorialize. My tweet was inappropriate and disrespectful. I sincerely apologize," she wrote.

Labott, who has been with CNN since 2000, has a strong journalistic reputation. She was promoted last year to global affairs correspondent.

A CNN spokeswoman confirmed that Labott had been suspended for two weeks, but declined to comment on the reasoning.

Labott's tweet could be construed as a rare moment of editorializing from a CNN correspondent. It suggested that the House's response to the recent terrorist attacks in Paris was anti-American.

That is at odds with a recent Bloomberg survey showing that 53% of Americans currently believe the U.S. should not accept any Syrian refugees. More than half of U.S. governors have also declared their opposition to accepting Syrian refugees.

While commentators and some CNN hosts have leeway to opine about politics, correspondents generally do not, particularly in unedited forums like Twitter and Facebook.


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