Category: CNN

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:

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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:

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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.

CNN’s “Breakout” Star Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Rules

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-7-09-19-pmFunny 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

unknownThe 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?

Amber Alert: Missing Persons Update

In The Cable Game people come and people go, but usually the viewers know what’s going on. Sometimes things aren’t so transparent and fans are left wondering:

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-12-07-09-pmSunday Housecall: The weekly half-hour featuring Doctors Marc Siegel and David Samadi has been a staple on Fox News for years, but stopped airing as coverage of the 2016 election intensified. While Dr. Siegel has continued to appear on Fox Dr. Samadi has been little-seen since September. Both are still listed as Fox News contributors (but then so is Kirsten Powers). No response as yet to your Cable Gamer’s inquiries.

 

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The Political Insiders: Another special Sunday segment brought Doug Schoen, Pat Caddell, and John LeBoutillier together for analysis of the week’s political developments with Harris Faulkner, usually seen during the second half of Sunday’s Fox Report. Even though some of their election commentary has proved to have been uniquely on point, the Insiders have not been seen since November 16. Caddell is still listed as a Fox News contributor; LeBoutillier for whatever reason was never so identified. And Doug Schoen? He is not listed on the contributors page. As far as we can tell none of them have appeared on Fox in 2017. The failure to make any on-air mention of their absence, and the lack of substantive replies from parties who have been queried, gives your Cable Gamer a bad feeling about the future of this popular feature. UPDATE: Doug Schoen is scheduled to appear on Hannity tonight and is billed as a Fox News contributor.

 

stacey-foxStacey Dash: The outspoken actress who claims to have been blacklisted for her political views hasn’t been seen much, if at all, on Fox News in the last six months. She is not listed as a Fox News contributor and has not responded to your Cable Gamer’s inquiries. UPDATE 20 January: David Folkenflik reports Stacey Dash’s contributor contract has not been renewed.

 

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-10-55-47-amBob Massi: Like Sunday Housecall, Bob Massi’s Property Man series went on hiatus as the election heated up. But Mr. Massi is still a Fox News contributor, appearing on Fox & Friends just last week where he was introduced as the host of Property Man. A good sign, even though no specifics were mentioned about the show or its return.

 

c0vyxhlxcaah7lu-jpg-mediumMike Rowe: The host of Somebody’s Gotta Do It on CNN for three seasons decided last year to part company with the network due to the exponential increase in political coverage that left little room for a one-hour reality series. On with Tucker Carlson last night Rowe said he has been talking with other channels regarding the as-yet unseen fourth season of Gotta Do It and expects an announcement soon.

The Cable Gamer will keep you updated on these matters as news develops.

Fake News: Straight Frum the Hoser’s Mouth

david-frum-41Today was a day of big announcements in the Cable Game, but what attracted The Cable Gamer’s attention was more the responses to those announcements. The big one was Tucker Carlson taking over Megyn Kelly’s time slot and it spawned this tweet from an MSM hero, Atlantic big-wig David Frum, who was not pleased:

Fox’s only Trump skeptic replaced by Trump enthusiast

Frum followed up by retweeting a fellow mainstreamer, Jonathan Chait:

Fox News is going to be state television, basically.

Just by coincidence a similar notion was put forward by the Washington Post:

“This takes away the one person who at times — not always, but at times — was skeptical” of the president-elect, said the executive, who asked not to be identified, so that he could offer a frank opinion. “Now it’ll just be state-run TV.”

Amazingly this executive (said to be from one of Fox’s competitors) echoed both the points in two tweets by two different writers. Could it be the exec was feeding these talking points not just to the Post but to other writers receptive to anti-Fox propaganda who like to tweet…like David Frum and Jonathan Chait? That might explain why these two are promoting fake news about FNC.

Is Megyn Kelly Fox’s “only Trump skeptic,” the “one person” at Fox News was “at times was skeptical” of the President-elect? No. That’s a lie. And easily shown to be so. A few examples:

And just today, as we were preparing this post:

The above is just a small sample from FNC’s fair and balanced news anchors. Their roster of contributors and opinionizers includes a good number of Trump supporters, but is also rife with Trump critics, skeptics, and opponents. Just the first dozen who come to mind:

  • Juan Williams
  • Gillian Turner
  • Dana Perino
  • Richard Fowler
  • Charles Krauthammer
  • Bernard Goldberg
  • Joe Trippi
  • Eboni K. Williams
  • Julie Roginsky
  • Judge Andrew Napolitano
  • Leslie Marshall
  • Col Ralph Peters

And yet the respected David Frum would have you believe none of the above people exist, and when Megyn Kelly wasn’t on the air Trump was getting a complete pass on Fox News.

A fraudulent claim is fed to willing “journalists” by some exec at CNN or MSNBC. Frum and Chait uncritically parrot the flackery as if it’s gospel, knowing their followers will swallow it up. Clearly Frum didn’t know if it was true or not and in any case didn’t care enough to check (let alone triple-check). Which reminds The Cable Gamer how sometimes the people who hate Fox News most are the ones who never watch it.