It's one thing to maintain neutrality while reporting on a controversial topic. It's another to adopt over-the-top rhetoric as if it's serious or real.
In its coverage of the so-called "Cablegate" scandal, CNN appears to be attempting both.
During a Dec. 12 broadcast, the network compared Assange and his supporters to old-west bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde, among others, suggesting the outcry over the WikiLeaks founder's imprisonment is much like the flurry of support for other famous criminals.
"[Julian Assange] may be the Robin Hood of data or information," Greg McCrary, an FBI profiler, told the network.
It's an analogy that might actually work, had he stolen anything. A lone Army soldier, Private Bradley Manning, stands accused of the security breach. Officials were still trying to determine whether he acted alone.
In the segment that followed, featuring an interview with former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, CNN's on-screen graphics wondered whether Assange is a "journalist or terrorist."
To be clear: that's one of America's major news networks suggesting that it's debatable whether or not funneling sensitive information to the press equates one with those who commit shocking acts of violence against civilians.
McGovern, who also recently interviewed with Raw Story and declared that the nation's watchdog press is "dead," admonished the network for propagating falsehoods about the case and comparing Assange to a terrorist.
Anchor Don Lemon asked McGovern whether Assange is a journalist, then seemed genuinely taken aback when McGovern shamed him.
"Of course he's a journalist," he said. "Thomas Jefferson said that if it were a choice between a government and a free press, he'd pick a free press. This is what's needed to preserve democracy. The idea is to tell as close to the truth as possible and not simply take notes on what the government is saying. That's what Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have done to the embarrassment of the government because a lot of our dealings are kept in secret and need not be kept in secret."
McGovern then suggested that CNN follow WikiLeaks' example and seek out truths that cross lines drawn by the US government.
"Seek out the secrets," he said. "Find out why it is that my tax-payer money is going to fund trafficked young boys performing dances in women's clothing before the Afghan security forces who we are recruiting to take over after we leave. Take a look at the documents and see the abhorrent activities that our government has endorsed or done through its contractors. And then tell me you don't think the Americans can handle that. Well, I think they can handle it."
The US State Department has said they do not consider Assange to be a journalist, claiming that having a "political objective" disqualifies one from the title. The Obama administration ordered a Department of Justice investigation into Assange, to determine whether the US can prosecute him for espionage. If he's charged and convicted, Assange would be the first foreign national outside of government to be charged of the crime.
WikiLeaks has published less than 1 percent of over 250,000 State Dept. documents it claims to have. Major newspapers like The New York Times and The Guardian have published many more secret files than WikiLeaks, which worked with numerous media partners around the world to ensure the documents were faithfully reported upon.
Assange was granted bail on Tuesday in a case ostensibly unrelated to the release of US diplomatic cables.
This video was broadcast by CNN on Dec. 12, 2010, as snipped by MoxNews.