CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta has appeared in at least one advertisement for his brother’s Democratic congressional campaign, raising questions about his objectivity in reporting on the president’s health.
Gupta’s brother, Suneel Gupta, is running for Congress as a Democrat in Michigan’s 11th district. In May of 2018, Suneel posted an advertisement on his YouTube channel called “Rise,” referring to the medical company he started with the help of Sanjay.
Sanjay Gupta makes an appearance in the ad, asserting, “If people think of him as my little brother that makes me really proud, but I think there’s a lot of people who are going to be referring to me as his older brother and that will make me even doubly proud.”
Suneel Gupta is running on a progressive, anti-Trump platform, stating in an ad just last week, “We need to take this country back from Donald Trump — that’s step number one … enough of Trump’s agenda, we need a progressive agenda.”
While Sanjay Gupta campaigns for his brothers’s anti-Trump political movement, he is also responsible for reporting on President Donald Trump’s health for CNN.
Gupta was blasted in January after he speculated that the president has heart disease, contradicting the claims of Trump’s own doctor. White House doctor Ronny Jackson explained at the time that although Trump is overweight and takes medicine for high-cholesterol, he has normal cardiac health. (RELATED: Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Trump Has Heart Disease)
Gupta disagreed, asserting, “The president has heart disease. Those [coronary calcium score] numbers qualify him for having heart disease.” (RELATED: What CNN Didn’t Tell You About Trump’s Heart Health)
Experts in journalism and media ethics told The Daily Caller that, at the very least, Gupta appearing in a political campaign ad would create a “perception of bias.”
“His appearance in his brother’s campaign video can create, at minimum, a perception of bias and a conflict of interest,” Lois Boynton, an ethics and public relations professor at the University of North Carolina, explained. “Perceptions carry a lot of weight — if viewers don’t believe Sanjay Gupta can fairly report about the president’s health, it can affect the trust they have in his stories. And, it can also affect perceptions those viewers have of CNN.”
Boynton pointed out that the The Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics says reporters should “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.”
Jeffrey McCall, a national media critic and communication professor at DePauw University, agreed that Gupta put “CNN in a pickle” by appearing in the advertisement. Although the ad was likely a favor for his brother, McCall argued that the appearance still could damage Gupta’s credibility as a reporter.
“Suneel [Gupta] clearly wants to borrow the prestige and visibility of his brother to further his political fortunes. That seems understandable enough, but it does also create the appearance that a CNN reporter is a political advocate,” McCall said. “There were other ways to have Suneel get his political message across without using a television medical reporter brother to speak for him.”
“The lines between news and partisanship are blurred in this day and age, and Gupta should not want any more confusion in that arena than already exists,” he added.
Gupta’s propensity for Democratic politics wouldn’t surprise many who know of his history outside of being a CNN reporter. From 1997-1998, Gupta served as a White House adviser to Hillary Clinton and, in January 2009, he was reportedly offered the Surgeon General position by President Barack Obama.
CNN did not respond to a request for comment for this story.