CNN is under fire for shutting out Black-owned media outlets from its June 27 presidential debate in Atlanta. Political organizations and journalists have been heavily criticizing the network for its snub and expressing skepticism at its excuses that try to shift blame to the Black outlets themselves.

1. ‘An egregious oversight’

In May, Biden and Trump came to an agreement to participate in two presidential debates, with CNN hosting the first on June 27 and a Sept. 10 debate hosted by ABC. The debates are the first in decades to not be organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates. One day before the debate, The Atlanta Voice reported “that Black media organizations own and operate none of the nearly 600 national and international media outlets granted credentials for the debate.”

The Congressional Black Caucus PAC released a statement via New York Rep. Gregory Meeks saying that “CNN’s exclusion of Black-owned media represents an egregious oversight and is totally unacceptable” and calling on the network to “immediately credential Black-owned media outlets” prior to the debate.

Keith Boykin pointed out that the exclusion of Black media was particularly egregious for a debate being held in Atlanta, “a city with a large Black population, a Black mayor, and several Black media outlets.”

2. Black journalists push back against CNN excuse on deadline

Roland Martin, linking to a report by the Atlanta Black Star, tweeted that it was “disrespectful” that CNN did not grant credentials to any Black American media outlets even as it “Approved Credentials for Reporters from Other Countries.”

The Atlanta Black Star, one of the local outlets that did not receive credentials to cover the debate, reports that CNN claims in an email that the Black outlets missed a June 7 deadline for applying to cover the event. However, the Atlanta Black Star reports that “Atlanta Voice and Atlanta Black Star were unaware of the deadline until editors from both publications individually reached out to a CNN representative in the past week, who stated that the mainstream media outlet is ‘unable to accommodate any additional credential requests’ past the deadline.”

Journalist Monique Pressley called on CNN to “prove Black media was included in your direct outreach re debate credentials and failed to timely respond.”

The exclusion of Black news sources comes at a time when both the Biden-Harris and Trump presidential campaigns have stepped up their efforts to reach out to Black voters, whose support is seen as key to winning the 2024 election. Despite the rhetoric that Black voters are important, the debate exclusion calls into question the extent to which the institutional news media will actually represent Black voices and interests.