By now you’ve heard of the back-and-forth between David Corn of Mother Jones and Bill O’Reilly. Corn claims O’Reilly lied about his war reporting. O’Reilly rebuts in his trademark pugnacious style, but in doing so a bystander gets hit as well. Somehow O’Reilly has seen Brian Stelter’s eagerness to cover Corn’s allegations, online and on CNN, as a bit more than simple journalism.
Maybe it’s how CNN made it their top story on Thursday night. Or maybe it was Stelter’s stunt of publicly announcing he asked Bill for an interview, which was declined. I call it a stunt because people who’ve worked in The Cable Game know O’Reilly is under contract to Fox News. The whole purpose of contracts is to prevent the employee from appearing on competitors’ air. So Mr. Stelter knew when he made the request it would be denied. But it gave him material for a few nice tweets, and a talking point that may impress those who don’t know better.
But O’Reilly went further by calling Brian Stelter a “far-left zealot”. Where did that come from? Let’s check the record.
Back in 2008, when he was still running TV Newser, the New York Times ran a very favorable profile of The Kid with All the News About TV News. There’s this tidbit:
In April Mr. Stelter attended the White House Correspondents’ Dinner as a guest of MSNBC. “He was quite a celebrity,” said Jeremy Gaines, a spokesman for MSNBC. “Literally two tables over was George Clooney, and at our table was TVNewser, and people were waiting in line to see him.”
The article goes on to speculate about Stelter’s impending graduation and employment possibilities. Oddly it never mentions the one that actually transpired: the selfsame New York Times hiring him as a media reporter. Meanwhile an article in the American Journalism Review about an undisputed far-left zealot, Keith Olbermann, quotes Brian Stelter speculating that Olbermann’s ratings are deceptively low because “many more viewers are going uncounted by Nielsen.” Mr. Stelter, described as an Olbermann “fan,” enthusiastically endorses the zealous Olbermann approach:
I’m excited that there’s someone out there not following the cues from the government the media usually follows.
OK, we may not be at “far-left zealot” yet, but we’re definitely heading into left field. Stelter has insisted he’s not a left-wing activist; even so, a look at his Facebook page from The College Years reveals such affiliations as “Don’t Blame Me…I Voted for Kerry” and “What’s Wrong with the World? George W Bush!”
There were all sorts of issues raised at Olbermann Watch (who uncovered this screen grab) about his dealings with Keith Olbermann, and in the archives of Inside Cable News is a veiled suggestion that Olbermann may have been feeding stories to him. But there’s enough we know for sure to draw a few conclusions. “Brian Stelter: far left zealot?” Hyperbole. “Brian Stelter: left of center advocacy journalist?” Consistent with available evidence.