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 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:
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.
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?
“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.”
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.
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.