Knee Jerk Reactions
Why does Brian Stelter, who presents himself as an unbiased reporter, push out Media Matters propaganda to his twitter followers? Why does Jim Acosta, another “unbiased” CNN journalist, do the same? Both were quick to retweet this Media Matters gem to a million followers:
Why shouldn’t CNN journalists promote Media Matters tweets, you might ask. In fact Mr. Stelter himself seemed to suggest that Media Matters was being quite neutral:
There are good reasons why journalists shouldn’t treat Media Matters as a “reliable source:”
Hardly anyone who follows the Cable Game is unaware of the antipathy of Media Matters, a partisan hit-site, toward Fox News. They did, in fact, famously wage “war” on Fox:
The [Obama] White House may be in a cold war with Fox News. But Media Matters is on the front lines. Benjamin Sarlin on the latest ways David Brock’s group has hit the right’s house network—and aided the White House counterattacks.
And yet people at CNN still treat their propaganda like dispatches from the Shorenstein Center. In fact CNN is recycling DNC agit-prop, without identifying it as such.
The combined punch of Media Matters, and CNN’s willing accomplices, inflated this tale of running the wrong B-roll into a huge story that got picked up all over the mainstream media. An apology was issued (despite nobody ever claiming that any of the pics were of anthem protests) and doubtless CNN and Media Matters went out for drinks afterward to celebrate another good day’s work. And yet…
And yet…there was something else, spotted by a sharp-eyed twitter user, that never made it into all those mainstream media outlets:
Just like the Fox clip, this was not a protest, but a prayer. But no politically motivated player called it propaganda. Your Cable Gamer asked Stelter and Acosta about it. Neither responded. When CNN’s Oliver Darcy tweeted us we asked him about it too. He also went silent and ignored our question. Despite the undeniable equivalence to the scandalous Fox News pic they had all been outraged about. We scoured the Media Matters site for any criticism of the CNN tweet, without success. But that’s to be expected. They declared war on Fox News, not CNN.
So Fox News had a day of bad publicity over a mistake, a mistake that CNN also made but nobody raised a peep about. We know CNN doesn’t like to report on its own faults, but to team with Media Matters only raises their bias level to 11. MMFA goes after Fox, takes it easy on CNN, and pretty much gives MSNBC a perpetual pass. Such selective outrage is a lousy thing for journalists to take their cues from and it cheapens those who embrace it.
Mr. Henry tried to get others aligned with the Media Matters echo chamber to fess up, but they don’t respond well (or at all) when confronted with inconvenient data:
Your Cable Gamer finishes this story where it began, with CNN’s Brian Stelter. In his Tuesday night newsletter he duly reported the journalistic crime perpetrated by Fox News—while making no mention whatsoever of how CNN had done the exact same thing. That’s pretty much how things work in Zuckertown.
The Man Behind the Curtain
The Cable Gamer wonders about Brian Stelter. CNN’s “not a media critic” reporter has a propensity to go after people who displease him or his bosses. You’ll recall how eagerly he promoted the boycott that eventually drove Bill O’Reilly from the airwaves, having his team call more than 20 advertisers demanding to know if they had withdrawn their ads yet. A legitimate story of course, and yet when the boycotters targeted leftist Stephen Colbert, unbiased Stelter suddenly volunteered how opposed he is to boycotts that threaten free speech–a cavil that somehow never got mentioned in connection with O’Reilly or Hannity.
Stelter has of late joined the “never Trump” bandwagon to declare Fox News “state-run” television. Talking to Kellyanne Conway he huffed:
STELTER: I guess you just want everybody to be like Fox News, state-run media.
Just by coincidence, Stelter’s boss Jeff Zucker used the same phrase before Stelter did. It’s almost like it’s part of a campaign to indict an opposing channel, one that regularly trounces CNN in the Nielsens. Needless to say it’s a mindless, ignorant, easily-disproved slur. Just today, for example, this happened to “state run media” Fox News:
The National Press Foundation has selected Fox News anchor Bret Baier as the 2017 honoree of the Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism…Previous recipients of the Taishoff award, which is the NPF’s highest honor for a broadcast journalist, include Martha Raddatz, Tim Russert, Gwen Ifill, George Stephanopolous, and Andrea Mitchell.
Isn’t this media news? TV Newser, the site Brian Stelter founded years ago, considered it such. And yet nine hours after the story broke there was no mention on CNN’s website. CNN’s media reporter, who by 9:00 pm had issued over 70 tweets and retweets, studiously ignored Baier’s award, sounding off instead about Van Jones, the Pocahontas “slur,” and how “shocking” it is that Trump criticizes the press.
You read that right: Brian Stelter is shocked that Trump criticizes the press, after he himself smeared Fox News as “state run media.” Your Cable Gamer couldn’t make this up if she tried. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Stelter would protect his spin by not telling his followers that the chief political anchor of “state run media” has been honored by the National Press Foundation. Stories too favorable to Fox News just don’t get reported. (Meanwhile, stories that serve CNN’s purpose, like the NPF awards to Wolf Blitzer, Dana Bash, and others, get the full treatment. That’s called “journalism” in Zuckertown.)
Will Brian Stelter bury Bret Baier’s award with a one-sentence mention in his nighty newsletter, seen by a tiny fraction of the half-million-plus who follow him on twitter? That way he can claim “I covered it” while giving it as little visibility as possible. The Cable Gamer is not staying up to find out–it really doesn’t matter if Brian grudgingly slips in a newsletter fig leaf or continues to spike the story. Stelter’s cards are on the table, and the game he’s playing is more obvious than ever. Which is just how Jeff, the man behind the curtain, likes it.
When it comes to sharp, incisive, clear-thinking commentary during unscripted interviews, The Cable Gamer thinks of plenty of names before coming up with Brooke Baldwin. CNN’s afternoon chatterbox is known for having her difficulties with the English language, which sometimes lead her into embarrassing predicaments. It was difficult avoiding her today (the downside of air transporation is airports and their slim pickings when it comes to cable news) and what we saw was not what one would expect from the self-proclaimed “most trusted name in news.”
The topic was a Trump volunteer who wanted to take a meeting with Putin in Russia. And Brooke had the breaking news about what really happened:
BROOKE BALDWIN: This was a big deal because we had thought, right, that Trump hadn’t perhaps wanted to have this meeting with Putin, and according to our sources, he in fact did, and it was Sessions that said no.
JIM SCIUTTO: That’s right…
Jim Sciutto was introduced with no disclosure that he was a political appointee in the Obama administration. But he confirmed what Baldwin said: Trump wanted to have the meeting.
Or did he?
SCIUTTO: And in that meeting he suggested this meeting with Putin in Russia, which Trump was present, didn’t immediately knock it down. Sessions did knock it down…
Did Trump say he wanted to have the meeting, or did he simply not knock it down? They are not the same thing. And what is “immediately” intended to convey? That he didn’t knock it down then, but two minutes later he did? Are you clear on what happened? Your Cable Gamer isn’t. Two different versions of the same discussion, and nobody bothers to say which is correct. Maybe they’re both wrong! So much for journalism. Brooke wasn’t interested in straightening it out. She moved on.
Earlier in the hour Baldwin had been excitedly teasing a Paul Rappaport passport scandal:
BALDWIN: Why would Paul Manafort have three passports?
BALDWIN: Why would he have three passports and is that even legal?
Now that Brooke had the chance, she posed the question–only it was in the form of a statement:
BALDWIN: Paul Manafort had three passports. That cannot be legal.
Brooke may not be the most skilled wordsmith in the cable game, but she understands the rhetorical climax: a series of related ideas so arranged that each surpasses the preceding in force or intensity. She moves from three passports, to asking if three passports are legal, to declaring that it “cannot be legal.” All the teases kept the viewer waiting for this big reveal. And then it came:
SCIUTTO: Well it’s not…I don’t know…I have two passports. You can get more than one passport for reasons of convenience…
Sciutto moved from the number of passports to another issue, leaving that whole build-up the televised equivalent of internet click-bait: make the suckers think they are going to hear something big, and when it collapses, disgorge some word salad and move on to the next talking point. And if people should end up with the impression that there just might be something illegal about having three passports–so much the better!
Brooke Baldwin has a good on-air personality and does well with stories that don’t require a surfeit of precision. But she has problems communicating facts without leaving people who are actually listening either befuddled or annoyed. Not something your Cable Gamer wants to be while sitting on an uncomfortable airport chair. Next time: the train.
Unreliable Tweets Make for Unreliable Sources
We begin with a tweet from MSNBC’s Chris Hayes:
It may be “legit amazing” to Hayes, but to The Cable Gamer it looks more like a lie. Here are the stories reported on Bret Baier’s Special Report on Oct 24:
- GOP Senators vs President Trump
- GOP Tax Talks
- Clinton Investigations
- Remembering a Hero
- Economic Recovery
- Muzzling the Consumer Financial Protections Bureau
- Middle East Politics
- China Leadership
- Panel: GOP Civil War
- Panel: Clinton Investigations
In the following hour The Story dealt with these stories:
- Jeff Flake
- Jeff Flake
- Clinton investigations
- Tax Reform
- Niger Ambush
- Catholic “hate group”; Moana controversy
Hillary and uranium were not airing 24/7. They weren’t even the lead story. They were just a fraction of the coverage time. No matter. Hayes’ lie was spread to thousands, and if you look closely you’ll note that Brian Stelter retweeted it. Why would CNN’s media critic promote something so false and misleading? Well, it’s an attack on Fox News that doubles as a defense of Hillary Clinton—to Brian that’s like dangling catnip in front of Garfield. In fact Mr. Stelter liked it so much he’s going to make its fallacious point a centerpiece of this week’s Fox-bashing Reliable Sources:
At one time Mr. Stelter was an ace Cable Gamer keeping an eye on all parties; you’d rarely catch him taking sides, promoting dishonest memes, or engaging in petty campaigns against competitors. But that was then; now he’s working in Zuckertown, where mendacious smears of more successful rivals is coin of the realm, particularly on Sunday mornings. Too bad. Your Cable Gamer liked the original recipe Brian Stelter better.
Epilog: Hayes/Stelter defenders will suggest that Hayes’ “24/7” claim was “hyperbole,” a “literary device.” Exaggeration for impact or comedic effect. They’ll say your Cable Gamer is taking him, and Stelter, too literally. So, consider this:
It could be because players have attributed their kneeling to everything from police brutality to Trump hate to the gender pay gap (that last actually reported on Stelter’s own network, CNN). It led Lahren to say you could get 100 different answers from 100 different players. And Stelter pounced:
How differently CNN’s media critic reacted here. The same Brian Stelter who touted a preposterously inaccurate claim about Fox coverage, and will make it a segment on Sunday, became Mr. Literal with Ms. Lahren. The man who has no problem promoting a spurious allegation from MSNBC went after the Fox commentator for not actually producing 100 literal football players and their 100 literally different answers. Twitter saw through that:
- Just listen to yourself … that is an idiotic stance … in order for her to be right there has to be dif answer for every player … crazy —Tim Bryant
- Kinda silly to “fact check” her when she was using a rhetorical device – Amber Athey
- You do realize that Brian believes anyone who doesn’t share his far left views is wrong, it makes him a good liberal, but a bad reporter —James
- It’s a rhetorical question about how the kneeling has evolved into something different from original purpose. You aren’t this dumb Brian —MAGAland
Are you sure?
CNN: A Simple Twist of Fake
“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.
* 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.”
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:
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:
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.
Brian Stelter: Against Cheap Shots Before He Was For Them
The 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?
There 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.
CNN’s “Breakout” Star Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Rules
Funny thing about red lines, as our former President can attest: if you draw them, you’d better be ready to enforce them. Unless they’re just for show–sham lines, a little-known offshoot of “fake news” that seems to be the latest weapon in CNN’s arsenal against POTUS.
Meet Van Jones. He’s CNN’s “breakout” star:
In the immediate aftermath of the 2016 election, Jones—a political activist, attorney and CNN commentator—made a viral splash for his nuanced reflections on Donald Trump’s rise and surprising victory.
The powers-that-be are so enamored with him that, even though he is nominally just an opinionizer, Van’s been given his own series of news specials to anchor, with the next airing on Wednesday. But does he have the qualifications for the push Zucker is giving him? Let’s go down the list. Communist? Check. Supporter of cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal? Check. 9/11 truther? Check. And check. Plus, he stayed at a Holiday Inn, more than once.
Your Cable Gamer reminds you of all this detail to underscore the sensitivity of such an extreme curriculum vitae for one who is to anchor programs about a hotly contested election. Because CNN clearly does not want its employees going out there and taking part in activist doings. Otherwise why would they have told them so just four days ago?
CNN Reminds Employees They Can’t Participate in Women’s Marches…
At the CNN editorial meeting Wednesday morning, Rick Davis, who heads up CNN Standards & Practices, reminded employees that they are not allowed to participate in the events. CNN tells TVNewser it has a longstanding policy that employees may not participate in political marches or rallies. “Rick was simply re-iterating the policy in advance of the marches this weekend,” a spokesperson says.
That would seem pretty clear on its face, but at CNN rules are like pie crust–made to be broken. Especially if you are a “breakout” star. So who should show up at the women’s march, not just observing or reporting, but as a featured speaker? You guessed it: Van the Man. He don’t need no stinkin’ rules. This clearly didn’t take CNN by surprise; his role was publicized well in advance. Yet there he was, on CNN’s air, doing his opinionizer job–trashing Trump’s speech–just hours before he’d be out there giving one of his own.
The Cable Gamer thinks all this has a certain aroma about it, and it’s not a fragrance any respectable news organization would want to wallow in. Mind you, it’s not like CNN couldn’t see it coming. They do read The Hill’s savvy Joe Concha, don’t they?
A contributor job where one is paid to opine on television may not be able to compete with what said contributor deems as a bigger, more important cause. In Jones’s case, that’s a massive “love army” aided by his own boutique PR firm…CNN’s audience either needs to be informed of this potential conflict of interest or Jones needs to be shown the bench when it comes to any Trump segment.
Even though CNN told its people not to participate in the women’s march, Van went ahead and did it anyway. And CNN took immediate action. They punished Van Jones by publicizing his appearance (and his PR firm) with thousands of dollars worth of free air time, web space, and internet videos. And just in case you don’t read the website, there’s always Facebook. Or twitter:
The Cable Gamer wondered if those media monitors at Reliable Sources would deal with this situation today. After all, their “breakout” star flagrantly violating the rules set down by his employer, and then being rewarded with tons of free, favorable PR…that doesn’t happen every day in the world of cable news. But neither Brian Stelter nor anyone on his cumbersome, Brobdignagian panel even uttered the name of “Van Jones.” Because the first rule of Reliable Sources is followed more strictly than anything Rick Davis may propound: CNN doesn’t talk about its Cable Game. Now get that countdown clock up for the next Van Jones special.
CNN Rallies to Jim Acosta’s Defense…Sort Of
The dispute between our next President and CNN’s Jim Acosta hasn’t exactly died down. On Sunday Trump’s Sean Spicer said Acosta should apologize, and CNN leaped to their reporter’s defense with a statement of support.
At least that’s the accepted storyline, but on closer inspection The Cable Gamer sees some holes in the fabric. Let’s look at what Mr. Spicer said about Jim Acosta in his appearance on Media Buzz:
SEAN SPICER: You do not treat the President elect or any major figure in that way. It’s childish and disrespectful…He went on and he lied about the events of that day. He was 100% false. He said I came up to him and told him if he asked a hard question he’d be removed. That’s 100% not true…I walked over to him, politely said to him Jim, your behavior was not acceptable; that was highly disrespectful the way you spoke to the President-elect…He continued to argue with me, I said Jim, I just want to be clear. If that happens again I will have you removed, the same way that we’d remove a protester that was acting as disrespectful as he did. The idea that he would go on television afterwards and make it that it was about answering tough questions…The idea that he took no responsibility for his behavior was highly unacceptable and inappropriate, and he does owe use and his fellow members of the press core an apology for his behavior.
Interviewer Howard Kurtz went out of his way to clarify with Spicer that the flare-up was over Acosta’s rudeness, not over asking a question. And yet CNN’s own account strangely avoids any explanation of this key disputed point:
Spicer claimed on Fox that Acosta mischaracterized the conversation…What the two men agree on is that Spicer told Acosta, “If that happens again,” at a future press conference, “I will have you removed.”
Brian Stelter reports what “the two men do agree on,” but doesn’t report what the two men did not agree on. That’s some peculiar news judgment right there. What’s more, Spicer’s most stinging accusation–calling Acosta a liar–is also left on the cutting room floor. Whereupon Stelter puts forward a statement from CNN’s PR department. Stripping away the boilerplate ecomiums of Acosta, the defense boils down to:
Just because Sean Spicer says something doesn’t make it true.
Your Cable Gamer has seen many non-denial denials in her time, but this one is a classic. CNN’s reporter is called a liar and their media reporter doesn’t even mention it. Instead he quotes corporate’s mealy-mouthed response that is little more than “that doesn’t make it so.” Mr. Acosta must really be impressed with such a powerful, devastating rebuttal. Not. (Stelter farcically refers to this PR obfuscation as an “unusually strong statement” of support!)
Our spidey-sense starts tingling when we see highly paid public relations people going out of their way to avoid obvious elephants in the room. But what if there’s a way to know for sure who is telling the truth? Sean Spicer says there is:
SPICER: The cameras were on. You can actually view, for people who had kept B-roll.
It was caught on tape? Another thing Brian Stelter left out of his report. Another thing CNN PR artfully avoided responding to. Why would that be? Wouldn’t this prove Mr. Acosta’s version once and for all?
Or would it?
Like Brian Stelter’s report, CNN’s response to Sean Spicer’s charges managed to miss the most salient points. It’s hard to miss the mark so completely unless it’s done on purpose. Now why would they do that?