Fact Check: CNN Did NOT Cut Off Benjamin Watson Because He Spoke About Jesus During Brooke Baldwin Interview

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: CNN Did NOT Cut Off Benjamin Watson Because He Spoke About Jesus During Brooke Baldwin Interview Time Ran Out

Did CNN cut Benjamin Watson off in mid-sentence during an interview because the NFL star started talking about Jesus? No, that's not true: Watson, who was at the time a tight end for the New Orleans Saints, was interviewed via satellite feed by CNN journalist Brooke Baldwin on November 28, 2014. The topic of the interview was not football, but an essay he had written that had gone viral. In the essay he described his feelings about the riots in Ferguson, Missouri. As the interview was closing, Baldwin asked Watson to use the last 60 seconds they had remaining to summarize what he thought each person could do. Seventy-six seconds later Watson was cut off mid-sentence and the screen turned to stripes because the pre-arranged time with the satellite carrier -- a "satellite window" -- had ended. In 2021 Baldwin and Watson met again to discuss and clear up the misperceptions of some who still believed Watson had been intentionally cut off by CNN because he was speaking about Jesus.

The CNN interview happened on November 28, 2014, and there was some controversy regarding the abrupt end to Watson's half of the interview. A December 3, 2014, article in the Christian Post titled, "Christian NFL Player Benjamin Watson Cut Off From CNN Interview After Glorifying Jesus Christ" reported on the questions surrounding the abrupt end of the interview. Recently the subject was pushed back into circulation in a Facebook reel published by the Facebook Page "Traci Coston" on April 4, and again on April 6, 2023. The post was captioned with several hashtags:

This is SUSPICIOUS #CNN #Jesus #christian #faith #cnnnews #fyp #shorts"

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:


(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu Apr 6 17:49:02 2023 UTC)

The video has the "Spooky, quiet, scary atmosphere piano" song by Skittlegirl Sound added to the audio. Text transcript captions are also added to the video. Some of the words of the transcription are not an accurate reflection of the spoken words. Lead Stories clarifications and the name of each speaker are offered in brackets:

you can't tell me that this isn't suspicious
this man starts talking about Jesus Christ on TV
and all of a sudden he loses connection
watch to the end
[The only salvation] for this end [sin] is the gospel
the only way to really cure that was [what's] on the inside
is understanding that Jesus Christ died for our sins
and so that to me on a micro level is understood
oh and just like that we lost him
if you're not ashamed of the gospel and Jesus Christ
then share this video so everybody hears his name

After the interview Baldwin and Watson each posted from their respective accounts on Twitter (pictured below) thanking the other. Baldwin's tweet explained that the satellite window, the time reserved for Watson's end of the interview, with New Orleans had closed. News viewers frequently see interviews with guests who are appearing live from another location without giving the technology behind it much thought. News stations can employ a satellite service to send a feed of a guest who is in another location. These time slots are booked in advance and will be cut off at the set time.


(Source: Lead Stories composite image of Twitter screenshots taken on Thu Apr 06 18:44:46 2023 UTC)

On October 16, 2021, Watson and Baldwin met again (screenshot below) this time over Zoom, to remember and to clarify what happened at the end of that 2014 interview. The video is posted on Benjamin Watson's official Facebook page. The 2021 video begins with a clip from the 2014 CNN interview, starting just as Baldwin says, "In the sixty seconds I have remaining with you..." the Facebook timestamp on that video shows that 76 seconds passed before the feed cut to stripes as Watson was speaking.


(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Thu Apr 6 17:49:02 2023 UTC)

Watson's video caption explained:

Nearly six years ago, the internet was set ablaze when I was seemingly cut off mid sentence during a CNN interview when I was talking about Jesus, in relation to sin and the problems with racism in our country.
Brooke Baldwin and I spoke soon after, and she assured me that it really was an issue of satellite time running out.
Nevertheless the real reason had never been talked about online, and the video itself has never stopped being shared, but always in the context of the assumption that CNN cut me off because I was talking about Jesus.
To lay the rumors to rest once and for all, I asked Brooke herself to do a Zoom call with me to relive that infamous interview.
I hope you enjoy!

This is not the only example of an unfortunate timing out of a satellite feed. On June 8, 2008, baseball fans in southern California watching KCOP/Channel 13 missed the final play (article here) of a 12-inning game between the Angels and Oakland A's when the screen abruptly turned to stripes at 5 p.m. In another instance CNN's Don Lemon was cut off (video here) just as MSNBC's Joy Reid finished introducing his book.

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  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


Read more about or contact Sarah Thompson

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