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?
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:
Sunday 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.
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 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.
Bob 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.
Mike 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.
Today 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:
- Fox News Anchor Shepard Smith: Donald Trump ‘Trades in Racism’
- “Spewing” Gregg Jarrett: No Trump Fan
- Fox News Host SHUTS DOWN Lying Trump Spokesperson
- Chris Wallace Grills Trump Over ‘Huge Conflict of Interest’ in Sunday Interview
- Fox Anchor to Trump Spox: Can’t He Just Do the ‘Polite Thing’ and Apologize?
- Fox’s Jenna Lee Smacks Down Trump Spox Attempts To Blame Birtherism On Hillary Clinton
- ‘You won’t TELL US anything about the Trump Foundation!’ – Fox News anchor GRILLS Trump spox
- How Fox News’s Chris Wallace set a ‘bear trap’ for Donald Trump
And just today, as we were preparing this post:
- Shep Smith scorches Trump for betraying US spies: ‘Is it a thank you to Russia for all their help?’
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.
When it rains, it pours. Brian Stelter, outspoken critic of “fake news,” has been taking criticism himself for not-quite-honest reporting of a Trump-bashing restaurant review. And hard on the heels of that mess comes another controversy for the CNN commentator–and his competitors have been quick to capitalize on it.
Here are The Hill’s Joe Concha and FNC’s Tucker Carlson pummeling Mr. Stelter for carelessly forwarding a hate crime hoax to his 400,000+ twitter followers:
They aren’t alone on this. Stelter has taken heat on twitter, where exchanges go something like this:
Brian Stelter: I wrote about in the tweet you just replied to. you can read what I wrote here: http://eepurl.com/cuGgBj
PK: you wrote it in a article that nobody will ever read ? Lol you’re being a hypocrite and can’t even admit you were wrong!
Wrecker: Is it responsible to RT unverified allegations simply because they’re going viral? Isn’t that the problem?
As Tucker and Joe Concha discuss in the video, just a few weeks ago Mr. Stelter was sanctimoniously declaring a New Rule for social media:
Essentially, Stelter wanted to make the point that social media users should “triple check before you share” any article to make sure that what is getting sent out is factual.
But apparently Mr. Stelter forgot to mention that this rule is only for the rabble who aren’t members of the elite media. Professional journalists, like Brian Stelter, don’t need to triple-check, double-check, or check at all:
Brian Stelter: I’m noting the virality of the video.
World King Swag: You don’t see the irony of spreading this during the “fake news” craze?
Brian Stelter: I’m not “spreading fake news.” I’m noting that a video is going viral to a degree that rarely happens.
Cecelia Mc: Thereby accelerating that process. I call bs, Brian.
Benjamin Martin: Did you “triple check” this? You are the king of fake news.
The Cable Gamer notes PK’s comment to Stelter that he “can’t even admit you were wrong!” Apologizing comes more easily to some than to others for whom “Sorry” really is the hardest word. Flashback to 2014, when Mr. Stelter lobbed a gratuitous taunt at Fox News, claiming they “tend not to come out and apologize” when their people say something offensive or off-base. Even Erik Wemple, hardly an FNC apologist, had no trouble finding a string of apologies that countered Stelter’s wisecrack. And the indefatigable Johnny Dollar made a graphic that he used to hector Brian on twitter:
johnny dollar: Fox people ‘tend not to apologize’? Where was that data collected, on Bizarro Planet?
Brian Stelter: I’ve been covering Fox for 10 years. Objectively speaking, it reacts to criticism differently than other nets do
johnny dollar: Three relatively recent apologies from F&F alone so suggests to me that ‘tend not to apologize’ = dubious claim.
Brian Stelter: you might be cherry-picking. i think it’s better to take a broader view, not possible thru Google searches.
johnny dollar: I like facts. Counting and stuff. Helpful before claiming something is infrequent or rare.
Two years later The Cable Gamer gets why Fox has been covering this particular Stelter gaffe. It kind of supports the notion that it’s Brian Stelter who tends not to apologize. Even when he’s caught spreading fake news.
Brian Stelter’s nightly media newsletter has become a daily read for those who want to keep up with the left-of-center establishment view of the press. (His twitter feed is a more immediate, relentless travel down the same anti-Trump boulevards.) So The Cable Gamer wasn’t surprised to see Mr. Stelter promoting a restaurant review, because it was a Trump restaurant and the review pretty much trashed the place:
How Vanity Fair sought to protect its… restaurant reviewer
Many journalists have been singled out and harassed by people who call themselves Trump supporters, so Vanity Fair’s Tina Nguyen was “worried I would be doxxed” when her scathing restaurant review of Trump Grill made national news last week. (Trump, it seemed, tweeted his dislike of VF shortly after Nguyen’s review was published.)
So here’s what VF did to help her. CJR’s Pete Vernon is right that other news outlets should pay attention to this: When Trump tweeted, “the Vanity Fair public relations team quickly contacted Nguyen. ‘They kept an eye out for anyone who tried to release my address or my phone number or even tried to call me through the Condé [Nast] switchboard,’ she says. ‘They were on top of their game, so big credit to them.'”
Note Mr. Stelter’s bold-type headline, alerting readers that Trump supporters are such neanderthals that they even endanger innocent food critics. Only that’s not really true. Tina Nguyen is not Vanity Fair‘s “restaurant reviewer.” At least Vanity Fair doesn’t I.D. her that way:
Tina Nguyen is a reporter for The Hive, covering politics and the media.
And all it takes is a scroll through the last six months of her articles (well over 250 of them) to see the focus is politics and the media, just like Vanity Fair says, with a distinct anti-Trump flavor:
- Disgraced Ex-General David Petraeus Auditions for Trump
- Steve Bannon May Take Down All of the G.O.P.’s Rising Stars
- Is Donald Trump Turning the U.S. into a Banana Republic?
- Amid all the Horror, There Were Some Slivers of Good News Last Night (post-election report)
- Trump’s New Hampshire Hail Mary: Claim Tom Brady Voted for Him, After All
- A Man Donald Trump Has “Never Heard of” Could Cost Him the Election
- Huge Surge in Early Voting Could Be Good News for Clinton
- Will Reince Priebus Lose His Job Over Donald Trump?
- For G.O.P., Trump Derangement Syndrome Could Prove Fatal
- Report: Trump Prepares for Crucial Debate by Staying at Home, Watching Cable News, and Being Mad
- Trump Accuses Hillary of Cheating on Bill in Bizarre Sexist Rant
- Even Fox News Thinks Sean Hannity Went Too Far This Time
- Giuliani Makes Bizarre Birther Claim, Admits He Has No Evidence Clinton Is Sick
- Trump’s Hispanic Advisers Are Reportedly Prepared to Flee
- Clinton Is Clobbering Trump in Swing States He Thought He Was Winning
- Life-Size Cast Reveals Donald Trump’s Hands Are, in Fact, Short-Fingered
- Donald Trump Whiffs Golden Opportunity to Destroy Clinton
But wait, where are the restaurant reviews from the writer Brian Stelter tells us is Vanity Fair‘s restaurant reviewer? Well, there aren’t any. Except for one. And just by chance, it happens to be about a Donald Trump restaurant:
Trump Grill Could Be the Worst Restaurant in America
The writer of those other 250+ articles sounds like the ideal “restaurant reviewer” to pen a fair and balanced review of a Trump restaurant, right? Brian Stelter thinks so. And he thought so highly of the steps Vanity Fair took to protect her from unspecified dangers posed by treacherous fans of Trump or his restaurant that he asked “other news outlets” to “pay attention” to them. But Brian Stelter forgot to mention a point about this controversy that was reported by CJR‘s Pete Vernon:
Nguyen says the threats she feared have not materialized, and she has received congratulations from around the industry.
Translation: The threats were imagined, or concocted for publicity purposes, but in any case proved to be nonexistent. For some reason this didn’t make it into Brian Stelter’s newsletter. Perhaps for reasons of space. Or perhaps because that might spoil the purpose of the entry: to paint another harum-scarum portrait of those dangerous, menacing Trump supporters.
Note this tweet:
Yes, the Vanity Fair PR team did achieve their purpose. And Jason Kint fretted that a poor innocent restaurant critic needed all this protection “simply for reviewing PEOTUS’s restaurant.” As your Cable Gamer has demonstrated, it wasn’t needed at all, because the nightmare scenario was wholly imaginary. There were no threats whatsoever. Yet Kint was convinced otherwise, because that’s how Stelter worded it. And if you have any doubt that Stelter intended readers to draw that conclusion, consider that he RT’d Kint’s tweet, complete with its erroneous, non-fact-based conclusion:
So even more people got the same fallacious impression that a mild-mannered, apolitical “restaurant reviewer” was placed in danger for just writing another bad review of another eatery. Just as Stelter intended.
A few lines below Stelter’s mendacious entry on Vanity Fair‘s “restaurant reviewer,” CNN’s media critic made sure to update readers on another problem: fake news. In the words of Commissioner Gordon: “The mind reels.”
CNN prides itself on their “all-in” coverage of big breaking news stories. So why is it that when the Oakland authorities updated the country on the devastating fire that killed dozens over the weekend, CNN didn’t break in with live coverage? What did CNN consider literally more important than life and death? This:
While news channels covered the news, CNN was calling Donald Trump a “demagogue.” It was a special edition of Reliable Sources where one anti-Trump discussion was followed by another, and another:
Brian “I am not a media critic” Stelter spent this hour delivering journalistic impartialities such as these:
- …presidential lying and how President-elect Trump does it very differently.
- Yes, his permanent campaign is against the press.
- Are we at the point where we have to talk about what it means to have an authoritarian as opposed to a democratic president tweeting the press this way?
- This is what strong men do. This is what happens in authoritarian regimes.
- Let’s get to the point about whether this is a new civil war or whether we’re heading toward a new civil war. Do you feel like that’s where we are? Because there are days where I feel like we’re in a cold civil war.
- Let’s tell some truths about lying, because the way Donald Trump lies has people rethinking some of the basic premises of journalism…
- When president-elect Trump lies so casually, so cynically, the news isn’t so much the false thing he said. It’s that he felt like he could just go ahead and say it, go ahead and lie to you.
- Trump lies again, embracing a far-right wing conspiracy theory.
But remember, Brian Stelter’s not a critic, or an analyst, or a far-left zealot. He’s just a “reporter.” Even though he’s been spouting off about Trump for months:
- Donald Trump’s biggest lie is about the election itself, the integrity of the election.
- Why do you think this kind of claim, which has no basis in reality, actually does stick with some of his supporters? Why are they inclined to believe a lie like this?
- Donald Trump sounded unhinged at that rally
- It’s not Lester Holt’s fault when Donald Trump lies more than Clinton
- People are inclined to believe some of these lies.
Today’s edition of Reliable Sources devoted an entire segment to another of Stelter’s “essays,” this one all about the lying lies that liar Donald Trump tells. Add a little organ music and you’ve got the makings of a Brian Stelter “Special Comment.” Now in some circles where political coverage tends to be a bit more even-handed, Hillary Clinton has been criticized over falsehoods about Benghazi, sniper fire, talking points, emails, servers, phones, and various other topics. But your Cable Gamer came up short looking for Reliable Sources segments dedicated to condemning her lies, let alone any full-fledged Steltermann Special Comments on the subject.
But remember, Brian Stelter is not a critic, and certainly not a partisan political hack. He’s a reporter.
One final note: The Cable Gamer has noted in the past that Stelter is a company man. In that regard, guess what major media story didn’t even get a mention on today’s Reliable Sources? If you guessed this one, go to the head of the class.
A little while ago your Cable Gamer suggested that CNN’s “media reporter,” Brian Stelter, was not a media reporter at all, but a crypto-opinionator posing as an unbiased journalist. Our suggestion was to take a look at his twitter feed. Sometimes twitter is like truth serum, as journalists’ personal opinions come tumbling out.
Lately Mr. Stelter’s twitter feed has been so lopsided (toward the left, of course) it could have come from Brian Fallon. And when a reporter’s spontaneous remarks so obviously betray his partisanship, it’s going to come out on the air too. Which brings us to this morning’s Reliable Sources. It was one of those three-against-one segments (the sort of thing usually restricted to opinion programming, which CNN insists they don’t do). And Mollie Hemingway was doing her best to battle two left-of-center pundits (three, if you count the host). When she said people don’t trust the media, Stelter immediately jumped in:
BRIAN STELTER: You said people don’t trust the media. I would say some people do not. There’s a divide in this country and it mirrors the electoral divide. This was a 50-50 election.
MOLLIE HEMINGWAY: No, liberals do definitely trust the media and why shouldn’t they? They get everything they want to hear from liberals.
That was a sharp comeback but there was more to come:
HEMINGWAY: Just because we may like President Obama, we might forget he spent much of his presidency attacking FOX News. Bill Clinton attacked right wing media —
STELTER: He did not spend much of his presidency attacking FOX News. He occasionally pointed out what he believed was unfair coverage from FOX.
There it is. Stelter’s been tweeting up a storm about how awful it is when Trump makes fun of journalists or doesn’t let them ride in his plane, but his instinctual reflexes will not allow a Democratic President to be criticized. So not only does he immediately jump to defend Obama, he preposterously minimizes what the administration has done:
- Used the Espionage Act to label Fox News reporter a criminal co-conspirator in a court filing.
- Used that filing to snoop on his telephone calls and those of his parents.
- Excluded Fox News from high-profile round robin guests.
- Held State Department press briefings that excluded Fox News.
- Edited Fox News reporter’s question from government video.
Despite all that and more, CNN’s unbiased “media reporter” dismisses it as Obama “occasionally pointed out what he believed was unfair coverage.” David Brock couldn’t have spun it better. Ms. Hemingway saw right through that and called out Brian Stelter for his obvious partisanship:
HEMINGWAY: OK. I guess what maybe you need to realize is that for a lot of people who don’t share your political opinions, that’s what it feels like. What you’re going through right now is what it felt like for the last eight years.
Ouch. Stelter didn’t even try to deny it. In fact Newsbusters makes a good case that Mr. Stelter’s earlier 50-50 interjection also minimized and misstated facts, further exposing his liberal perspective:
Stelter didn’t buy it, saying only “some” did because the popular vote was almost 50-50. He simply ignored a September Gallup poll showing that two thirds of Americas distrust the media. Two thirds is not “SOME,” it’s MOST.
Brian Stelter keeps shoehorning himself into more and more segments that bear only tangentially, if at all, on media issues. This afternoon, when the Trump camp made some personnel announcements, up pops Stelter arguing with a Republican about the evils of the “alt-right.” That doesn’t make sense for a media reporter. But it would be all in a day’s work for a far-left opinionator who just can’t bring himself to come out.