CNN: A Simple Twist of Fake

vfn

“We are not fake news” –CNN’s Jim Acosta

Sorry Jim Acosta, The Cable Gamer will be the judge of that. Let’s start with this:

Fox host compares 9/11 memorial to Confederate monuments, by CNN’s Tom Kludt.

As it turns out, Fox host Brian Kilmeade didn’t compare anything to anything. What’s more, he didn’t reference “Confederate monuments.” The only mention of “confederate” in the story is the one Tom Kludt inserted. And where did he get it from?

Fox’s Kilmeade asks if people will one day try to take down 9/11 memorials like they are with Confederate statues, by Media Matters staff.

Again the mention of “confederate” is not from Mr. Kilmeade. It’s inserted by the writers, the time the ones at Media Matters. And yet in a few hours time this invented angle has found its way to the reporters at CNN where they insert it, Media Matters style, into a discussion where it was never referenced–a shoddy bit of “reporting” if there ever was one. And the very definition of #FakeNews.

Media Matters is a partisan spin operation, a one-sided pressure group that seeks (and often succeeds) in pushing mainstream media to parrot its spin and talking points. It certainly achieved that goal with Tom Kludt. No matter that Brian Kilmeade has refuted this falsehood at length; CNN’s story makes no mention of his rebuttal. That would spoil the fakiness of the #FakeNews.

Fast forward to today. From Matt Gertz, Media Matters “Senior Fellow:”

One of CNN’s media reporting team quickly echoes the sentiment:

And if that wasn’t enough, CNN’s prestigious Jake Tapper fell into line as well:

Mr. Tapper obediently parroted the Media Matters spin,* and thereby contributed another dose of #FakeNews to CNN’s crumbling reputation. But did the White House spokesperson call for ESPN to fire anyone? Actually, no:

SANDERS: I think that’s one of the more outrageous comments that anyone could make, and certainly something that I think is a fireable offense by ESPN.

Your Cable Gamer has read that statement over and over, and has yet to see where Sanders called for anyone to be fired. To say “I think it’s a fireable offense by ESPN” is not to say “ESPN should fire her.” It’s a comment on the seriousness of the infraction, and does not call for, demand, or request anything. Long-time Cable Gamer “Spud” of Inside Cable News noted that, given ESPN past practices, it may in fact be a fireable offense:

So another twisting of the truth from Media Matters finds itself being spread by CNN’s allegedly nonpartisan reporters. What accounts for this? Who better to ask than the host of Reliable Sources, CNN’s Brian Stelter?

Mr. Stelter has not responded.

Footnote:

* People don’t realize how much mainstream journos rely on Media Matters for their hot takes on current affairs. You wouldn’t know it from Jake Tapper’s tweet in isolation, but the chain is as clear as Tinker-Evers-Chance. It all started with Matt Gertz of Media Matters:

Matt Gertz was retweeted by Noah Rothman:

Rothman retweeted by Fallows.

And Fallows tosses to Jake Tapper:

Amazing how people, some of whom should know better, take Media Matters “reports” at face value. Do Mr. Tapper’s followers realize they are in effect reading Media Matters spin? No wonder some are starting to call him “Fake Tapper.”

Advertisements

You Don’t Say, Mr. Wemple

If you want to spot agendas at play, look for the “mash-up.” Propagandists love to assemble these catchy montages of clips, all carefully selected to point to a pre-determined conclusion. The Cable Gamer was not surprised to see CNN’s Brian Stelter promoting a Fox News mash-up from Media Matters–as partisan and biased a source as the internet has to offer. It’s another sign that Stelter has given up on journalism and is now a partisan activist, because he knows as well as anyone that a “mash-up” can be edited to make any point you like. It’s all about what you include, and more importantly, what you omit.

It surprised us that the Washington Post would make a Fox News mash-up in the Media Matters style, yet they did. That a news organization would fashion coverage in the manner of a partisan political operation is disturbing enough, but it’s small potatoes compared to their Erik Wemple’s seemingly endless attack on Fox News, and its morning program in particular. Column after column offers a transcript of some snippet from that day’s Fox & Friends, designed to reinforce his insistence that it’s pure propaganda for Trump.

Clearly, it’s not hard to find two minutes in any three-hour news program where somebody says something nice about Trump. It’s especially easy on Fox & Friends. So Wemple is making as pointless a point as your Cable Gamer can imagine. Basically he’s making a slow-motion print-media mash-up. Instead of putting a dozen clips into a video, he’s just publishing the cherry-picked bits one at a time, each in its own column. As with the mash-ups, he never fails to make his point, because he just omits what doesn’t comport with the pre-selected meme.

On Tuesday Wemple gave us a Q&A with people at a diner near a military base reacting to Trump’s Afghanistan speech. A pretty safe bet there: a live remote on Fox News down the street from a military base. Sure enough, the people in this segment had a positive view of the speech, and that’s what Wemple wrote up. But what did he omit? This:

It’s very hard to imagine how we win a lasting peace in Afghanistan if we couldn’t do it with 100,000 troops. Now we’re gonna have about 13,000. … What does a victory look like in Afghanistan? We’re gonna be in Afghanistan until we take the long dirt nap ourselves. Is that really what the American people thought they were getting? They thought they were getting drain the swamp, not clear the desert.

Why didn’t Erik Wemple include this analysis by Laura Ingraham in his column? Because he says right at the top that Fox & Friends “hews most closely to state-run media,” and this contradicts his point. So he leaves it out. What readers don’t know won’t hurt the meme.

One day later Wemple wants readers to believe that Fox & Friends didn’t dare question Trump’s comments about the media, so he writes:

Considering that “Fox & Friends” is part of a news network, you might suppose that such rhetoric would chill the program’s co-hosts. Or at least prompt some neutral coverage of such a contention. But no way…

And in the exchange he quotes, there is no pushback against Trump’s comments. Yet once again, it’s not so much what Wemple says, it’s what he doesn’t say:

EARHARDT: He pointed to the media up there. He said all those guys, basically on the platform or in the rafters, and the whole crowd, this huge crowd turns around, they look at the media, and they go “Boo!” And one guy in particular was pointing—

DOOCY: They had an anti-CNN chant going for a while.

EARHARDT: He called out specific networks too.

BRIAN KILMEADE: It doesn’t make me comfortable, to be honest. I don’t feel comfortable with 15,000 people turning around, screaming at me. You know, you could have another President, another leader pointing at you. How would you feel if you had to leave that arena then?

Is this outraged alarmism a la Don Lemon or Morning Joe? Hardly. But then, neither was it the slavish “state-run media propaganda” that Wemple was selling. So, it ends up on the cutting room floor. In the best tradition of Media Matters and the other mash-up specialists whose expertise is cherry-picking of the most selective, disingenuous kind.

It’s like that fellow Tom Kennedy said: It’s not what you say that counts, it’s what you don’t say. And with Wemple what he doesn’t say tells us an awful lot.

UPDATE:

Shepard’s Strange Disclaimer

In his rush to separate himself from Judge Andrew Napolitano (a frequent guest on his program, at least up until today) Shepard Smith made an odd claim about the Judge’s theory that British spymasters surveilled Trump Tower at Obama’s request:

SHEPARD SMITH: We’ve not reported on that on this program or any Fox News programs. It was on the morning show but not on Fox News.

The Cable Gamer has a couple of problems with this statement. When Judge Napolitano advanced this notion on Fox & Friends Smith claims he was “not on Fox News.” Where was he then, on HGTV? Fox News has bragged for years that their morning program Fox & Friends is #1 in all cable news, yet here is FNC’s primary news anchor pretending like they’re on some other channel.

SMITH: We’ve not reporting on that on this program or any Fox News programs. It was on the morning show but not on Fox News.

Assuming that Shep will allow that hours other than just 3:00 pm Eastern are Fox News, then what is The First 100 Days, anchored by Martha MacCallum, one of FNC’s designated two top political news anchors? Yes, Judge Napolitano discussed what his sources told him there too:

Your Cable Gamer wonders what is going on with Shepard Smith. Is he just vamping, ad-libbing whatever pops into his head? Or is this all in the teleprompter–which might be even worse, given that it appears to have been written by person or persons who don’t have a clue what airs on their own news channel?

Hair Brained

The Cable Gamer is somewhat sensitive about “dumb blonde” stereotypes. But she really gets hacked off when they come from an ignorant partisan without a glimmer of a clue what she’s talking about. An apt description for Hadley Freeman, a writer for the lefty Brit “news” site The Guardian. Her article is titled:

Why do all the women on Fox News look and dress alike? Republicans prefer blondes.

That’s nonsensical on its face, and underneath appears a graphic showing three blondes: Kellyanne Conway, Ann Coulter and Ivanka Trump. The alert reader may have noticed that none of these women work for Fox News (in fact Ann Coulter was an employee of MSNBC). But Ms. Freeman isn’t picky about such things as accuracy, and plows ahead with enraptured descriptions of “left wing media women” like Andrea Mitchell who looks like “all the Golden Girls at once.” Then comes the good stuff…the attack on Fox News:

But then we turn to rightwing women. Kellyanne Conway, Scottie Nell Hughes, Tomi Lahren, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Ivanka Trump, and pretty much every single woman on Fox News: a uniform vision of girlishly long bottle-blond hair.

Ms. Freeman must have spent all of three minutes researching this piece. She cites five women who have never been employed by Fox News in any capacity, plus Laura Ingraham who is a contributor (though Freeman doesn’t seem to realize that). In fact, as far as the plethora of Fox News blondes is concerned, that’s as far as she goes. One. Hadley Freeman never cites any further examples, even though she’s sure “pretty much every single woman on Fox News” is a blonde and they all look alike:

When I see them all lined up as talking heads on the news, I get a rare insight into what it must be like to gaze upon the bar area of one of those private American tennis clubs that don’t allow anyone whose name is “too urban” or ends in -stein or -berg. Welcome, people, to death by Wasp… How hard it must be having to operate within such a narrow aesthetic palette. I mean, this is a demographic that considers being brunette a physical deformity

The author’s ignorance of FNC is impressive. In an article ostensibly about “all the women of Fox News” she cites close to a dozen women…and only one works at Fox. And then she claims Ivanka Trump is “rightwing.” Plus there’s her assertion that she has seen them “all lined up as talking heads on the news,” talking about six women, only four of whom are talking heads (i.e. pundits) and only one on Fox. In what alternate universe are they all talking heads on Fox News?

And as for brunette hair being “a physical deformity” because of a “narrow aesthetic palette,” Freeman is full of it. She clearly has no clue who’s on Fox News and who isn’t. Blondes are not “pretty much every single woman on Fox News.” Most likely they are a minority. If the reader doubts that, your Cable Gamer has assembled a selection of Fox News on-air reporters, anchors, correspondents, and contributors who are not of the blonde persuasion:

browne acuna guilfoyle banderasherridge  cowan green gabriel fischer faulkner boothe holder huntsman lee joshi 1446482252329griffin ratner  bartiromo jackson mcglowan uma miller neville roginsky2 turner mcdowell vogel williams pirro

It’s doubtful Freeman could pick any of these people out of a line-up, let alone identify them. Yet among those pictured above are a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter, a former CBS News correspondent, a winner of an “outstanding newscast” Emmy, a member of the Jesse Jackson family, a former Navy fighter pilot, the first openly gay commentator hired by a cable news channel (Fox), and a six-time Emmy winner who is also America’s most watched female African-American cable news anchor. And there are more than just these 30. To sum it up: Sod off, Freeman. Your incompetent, hair-brained hit job is giving fake news a bad name.

Postscript: The Cable Gamer would be remiss if she did not acknowledge that there are fair-haired females at FNC, and like Megyn Kelly (now with NBC News) they are smart, savvy, and thoroughly professional. They break the blonde of the ordinary.

No Laughing Matter (Updated)

CNN’s Brian Stelter is a must-follow on twitter. While some media personality twitter feeds don’t show much personality, Stelter’s is a virtual window into his thoughts. And it’s fair and balanced–far-left Trump haters get retweeted, but so do media establishment Trump haters.

Thursday night Mr. Stelter issued the following:

screen-shot-2017-02-17-at-12-19-08-am

This was a retweet + comment from Stelter; in this case the pointing fingers constituted Stelter’s contribution. A perfectly reasonable RT, even though it’s devoid of any actual details, sourcing, or verification. But maybe that’s why Stelter pointed to it with only three fingers.

This, however, was not the first time Brian Stelter issued this tweet. That happened a few minutes earlier:

screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-11-22-02-pm

This is an artist’s conception of how that tweet looked; it was deleted before a screen grab could be made. But it was seen, however briefly, by any Stelter follower watching their timeline when he sent it. The Cable Gamer has confirmation from others that they also saw this tweet, and its peculiar, inexplicable extra emoji: the laughing face.

What was Brian Stelter trying to tell us with the laughing face? That it’s funny more classified information was being made public? That CNN’s nonpartisan media reporter was happy to see Trump unable to stop the flow of government leakers? Your Cable Gamer asked that very question:

More than three hours and over a dozen Stelter twitter entries later, CNN’s fearless media critic has not replied.

UPDATE: 

Brian Stelter: Against Cheap Shots Before He Was For Them

cnn_rs_deray_150524a1-800x430-696x374The things you learn on twitter.

Reading Brian Stelter’s twitter timeline is like tromping through a strange world pockmarked with establishment journalism fossils, #Resistance activists, and empty entertainment icons. You’ll also see a healthy number of attacks on CNN’s competitors (with Fox News the favored target) along with an unending stream of RTs praising Brian Stelter.

When a Media Matters bigwig complained that nobody wanted to broach the topic of President Trump’s insanity, Stelter jumped in, tipping him to watch the next Reliable Sources. (It featured an embarrassingly softball interview with discredited birther conspiracist Andrew Sullivan addressing that very topic.) Mr. Stelter did not care for your Cable Gamer pointing this out on twitter, but his argument was flawed at best.

One of today’s Stelter attacks on Fox News came by way of retweeting a clip collection assembled by GQ. The theme: while the good guys were covering A, silly Fox News was covering B, or even worse, C. People in the business know how easy it is to make any channel look bad using this premise: there’s hardly any hour in the day where at some point one channel isn’t covering something different, or even worse, less serious than the day’s top story. So just pick those moments and any news channel can be made to look frivolous or worse. It’s a propagandist’s technique, and Brian Stelter knows it.

But when it’s used to attack Fox News, CNN’s media critic can’t resist. So he promptly forwarded it on to his 454,000 followers. And The Cable Game caught it:

Another cheap shot by CNN…not exactly breaking news. But Cable Gamer Johnny Dollar spotted this and told us a Brian Stelter story. A while back Dollar was seeing a lot of cherry-picked comparisons of what was airing at odd times of the day, invariably chosen to make Fox News look bad. And Brian Stelter was not above RT’ing them to his followers. So Mr. Dollar did one of his own, and Stelter pounced:

  • Johnny Dollar: Fox News covering the shooting in Missouri as CNN leads off the hour with the still ‘breaking news’ that The Interview is streaming online.
  • Brian Stelter: cheap shot
  • Johnny Dollar: Inexpensive, perhaps. And yes, these moment-by-moment comparisons are often used to make cheap points. However I would argue what leads the hour is somewhat more on point than comparing, say, 24 past the hour, which I’ve seen.

The Cable Gamer’s point here is simple, but telling. Stelter insists it’s a “cheap shot” when it makes CNN look bad, but will send it out to half a million people when it makes Fox News look bad. This says a lot about Brian Stelter: a “company man” rendered unreliable by partisanship and hypocrisy.

The Worst Interviewer in the World?

cnn_rs_deray_150524a1-800x430-696x374There was a bit of a dust-up last week when POTUS chewed out CNN’s Chris Cuomo over an interview with Senator Richard Blumenthal. Mr. Trump complained that CC didn’t even question Blumenthal about misrepresenting his combat experience, only Cuomo did in fact do so, in his very first question:

CUOMO: All right, so first we have a credibility attack and then an attack on the facts. What is your response to the president of the United States saying you should not be believed because you misrepresented your military record in the past?

Not a particularly pointed question (note how Cuomo separates himself from the uncomfortable fact of Blumenthal’s dishonesty by out-sourcing the issue to Trump) but at least he asked it. Whereupon the Senator simply ignores Cuomo’s question and gives a pre-scripted answer. A competent interviewer (like Jake Tapper) wouldn’t let him get away with that, but Cuomo–whether for lack of competence, or just to protect a fellow Democrat–gives the Senator a total pass and promptly drops the issue.

That’s a pretty poor job of interviewing, but The Cable Gamer has seen worse. In fact, what she saw yesterday may just go into the record books.

To say Andrew Sullivan has credibility issues is like saying you might find sand in the Sahara. For years he has promoted a daft conspiracy theory involving Sarah Palin’s son Trig: that she faked her 2008 pregnancy to cover up for the fact that he was actually Bristol’s child. Even Donald Trump faced facts and abandoned his birtherism, but Andrew Sullivan seems reluctant to let his go. And yet here he is, on Reliable Sources (yes, the irony is thick), to proclaim it’s Trump who’s the “unstable” one.

This is a situation rife with cross-examination possibilities, all of which Brian Stelter studiously avoided. No mention of Sullivan’s history of tin-foil conspiracy mongering at all.  The Q&A is full of obvious gaping holes where questions about Sullivan’s birtherism would be mandatory to anyone who calls himself a journalist:

STELTER: My next guest, Andrew Sullivan, a pioneering blogger, now a contributing editor for the “New York magazine” is taking it a step further, questioning Trump’s mental health…

SULLIVAN: …And he’s [Trump] able to command his underlings to actually go out there and say things that are empirically untrue.

STELTER: You said unstable. In your column you said mentally unstable. Why do you think it’s appropriate to be describing the president that way?

SULLIVAN: I’m not a shrink, and if I were, I wouldn’t say this, anyway, because you can’t diagnose someone. But I’m a human being, and I can tell if someone is saying things that we know not to be true and never corrects it.

STELTER: But you’re taking it a couple of steps further by questioning his mental stability. And I wonder why you think that’s not been said more often on television or in columns like your own.

SULLIVAN: I think sometimes you want to assume that there is a rationality at the center of our entire republic. That there is someone who can listen to reason, who see an empirical fact, who can distinguish between an opinion and a fact, between what he wants to be true and what is true.

Look at those doors, flung wide open to question Andrew Sullivan about his own “empirically untrue” statements that he “never corrects” because he “wants it to be true.” Yet Jeff Zucker’s wunderkind journalist, Brian Stelter, blindly stumbles on, never once mentioning the pachyderm in the room:

SULLIVAN: He won’t correct anything. In fact, I don’t think of all the hundreds and hundreds of false statements he’s made, he and his spokesman have not actually retracted a single one.

SULLIVAN: But at some point, being a writer or a journalist requires one to simply say what one is seeing in front of one’s eyes.

SULLIVAN: If you continually do that and you never recognize reality…it is, to put it frankly, a little bonkers.

SULLIVAN: We have to relate it to reality at some point, our interpretation of reality.

STELTER: Andrew Sullivan, thank you so much for being here this morning.

SULLIVAN: You’re so welcome, Brian.

There are grade-school newsletters whose interns could conduct a better interview than this.  The Cable Gamer sees two possible explanations. Either Brian Stelter is a partisan hack, as far left as his twitter feed suggests, who has ceased being a media reporter to function as a propagandist. Or he really is the worst interviewer in the world.