The news that two opinionizers, Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews, will be co-anchoring MSNBC’s “hard news” coverage of the inauguration along with a diminished Brian Williams seems to have been greeted by media watchers as it always is: with a yawn. Like the increasing use of opinion people in reportorial roles it’s all but ignored as “media reporters” write eyewash about MSNBC’s newfound commitment to hard news and straight reporting.
Similarly, writers like Gabriel Sherman call Tucker Carlson’s ascension to FNC prime time “Trump TV.” Silly to anyone who actually follows Carlson’s career and libertarian instincts, even sillier when it’s used to characterize the entire channel. But when was the last time you heard Gabriel Sherman refer to MSNBC as “DNC TV?” Your Cable Gamer took a closer look at MSNBC prime time, using the last day where full posted transcripts were available: January 16. Who were the hosts, who were the guests, and how did they align? How many were left? Right? Pro- or anti-Trump? Let’s go to the transcripts:
- Ted Lieu (D)
- Hakeem Jeffries (D)
- Debbie Stabenow (D)
- Jonathan Chait: Pro-Obama
- Ilan Goldenberg: Anti-Trump
- Cedric Richmond (D)
- April Ryan: Ostensibly impartial but praises Obama
- Jonathan Capehart: Anti-Trump
- Mark Thompson: Anti-Trump
- Wesley Clark (D)
- Richard Stengel: Obama appointee
- Howard Dean (D)
- Steven Brill: Pro Obamacare, anti-repeal/replace
In three hours of prime time there was quite a spectrum of opinion: from pro-Obama to anti-Trump. But if you hoped to hear even one person with a viewpoint in favor of Trump or his proposals, you were watching the wrong channel, because there were none at all. Zero. It was as close to DNC-TV as you could get without just putting Donna Brazile in charge of leaking the questions.
In contrast, that night’s opinion programs on Fox News, while reflecting a right-of-center perspective, included people from the left like Mary Anne Marsh (D) and Jehmu Greene (D). Bill O’Reilly goes out of his way to include opposing views on his top-rated hour. Tucker Carlson Tonight, the show that so alarmed Sherman, has made its bones with the lively, often-riveting exchanges between Carlson and people who vehemently disagree with him. Only Hannity had no dissenting voices on January 16 (though usually he has at least one Democrat on).
Your Cable Gamer just made up the moniker “DNC-TV” for MSNBC prime time. Yet it’s far more truthful and on-point than the “Trump-TV” taunts from anti-Fox partisans like Gabe. Meanwhile, tomorrow MSNBC will reduce the discredited Brian Williams to the role of sidekick for two partisan co-anchors: a political hack, and a far-left talk show host. And call it “news coverage.”
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?
The Cable Gamer didn’t see it coming, but was pleased that one of the great names of cable news found an outlet for her work. Greta van Susteren has a reputation for being scrupulously fair, and her independence (“NO ONE tells me what to say”) is legendary. For its part, MSNBC knew it had a sales job on its hands: a fair and balanced program host was to be part of the lead-in for what isn’t far removed from a prime time block of DNC infomercials. Rachel Maddow was enlisted to pretend she respected Greta (unconvincingly according to some analysts) and starred in promos for the new hire. But there were people who weren’t so happy to see the former CNN and Fox host on MSNBC’s air: the viewers.
From Monday through Thursday For the Record with Greta finished in third place (25-54) behind FNC and CNN. Viewership crept up for a few days only to crater on January 12–her worst number yet, and MSNBC’s lowest-rated hour from 5pm to midnight. Greta’s 157,000 demo viewers represents a pale fraction of the 329,000 who tuned in on January 12, 2016–when she was still on Fox.
Her MSNBC program is almost a carbon copy of the hour she did on FNC. Aside from the opening preposition, they are identically named. And Greta’s non-partisan modus operandi is the same on MSNBC as it was on CNN and Fox:
New channel, same Greta—in her first show since departing Fox News for MSNBC, Van Susteren brought back her patented ideology-free approach…
So what’s different? The audience. MSNBC viewers just aren’t that interested in fair and balanced reporting. In the top 20 cable news programs of 2016 there are five Fox News newscasts–not opinion hours or chat shows, but news programs with journalists at the anchor desk. MSNBC has one: a half-hour show at 11pm (when Fox is airing a repeat), with a discredited anchor whose journalistic bona fides are in tatters. You have to scroll all the way down to #39 to find a second example, and both are far below the lefty prime time block that’s MSNBC’s bread and butter. Simply put the MS viewership is far less interested in news than in party line agit-prop.
For that matter, even the Brian Williams experiment isn’t working out as planned. The show has gradually become less news and more a late-night edition of “The Place for Politics,” where multi-headed panels chew over click-bait topics in a low-rent attempt to imitate the CNN style of news analysis. In fact when BriWi isn’t there, they don’t even bother to keep up the “news” pretense. They just let one of their opinionizers sit in his chair and anchor the “newscast,” pretty much positioning the whole show as a continuation of the previous four hours of political talk. (Dissenting opinions are a little more welcome on The 11th Hour, so there is some differentiation from the string of partisan hosts that precedes it.)
On a network where even the “hard news” is compromised to hang on to every possible viewer in their niche audience, how can Greta van Susteren possibly succeed? One week isn’t enough to answer that question, but at this point one of the most successful hosts in cable news history finds herself in unfamiliar ratings terrain: at the bottom.
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.
There’s a lot of talk about “fake news,” but some fake news rarely if ever gets flagged, because the fact-checkers don’t care. Some hate crime hoaxes fall into this category; they fit an approved meme. And of course the fake news that is spun to smear Fox News rarely gets fact-checked at all.
That’s how a Huffington Post writer can say this and nobody bats an eyelid:
Time and time again, Fox News hosts questioned whether the 44th president was even eligible to hold the office, saying he was born in Kenya and then that he had released a fake birth certificate to lie about his origins.
Who are the Fox News hosts who said “time and time again” that Obama was born in Kenya? HuffPo doesn’t say, because there aren’t any. It’s a lie, a classic of “fake news,” but one that will never rouse the ire of Brian Stelter.
There are few websites with a longer pedigree in fake news than News Hounds. Whether it’s Karl Rove indicted, George Bush’s cocaine arrest, or Sandy Berger being cleared of all charges, they have fabricated farcical prevarications for years. And as spectacular as those may be, they save their most creative falsehoods for their obsession with Fox News. Did you know Oliver North is a “convicted traitor?” Somehow The Cable Gamer missed that trial. And there’s the little matter of their ugly smears of Megyn Kelly.
The above examples just scratch the surface. Writer “Priscilla,” who your Cable Gamer knows from one of her O’Reilly lies, has a long record in the fake news game. And her Christmas offering proves to be a one-paragraph tour de force of dishonest fakery, not just wrong but fake in multiple respects.
Fox & Friends Has “Merry Christmas” Message – But No “Happy Hanukkah”
POSTED BY PRISCILLA
While claiming to be “America’s Newsroom,” Fox News sure doesn’t reflect the religious diversity of America. Look no further than today’s Fox & Friends graphic (right) to see that Fox is targeting a very specific audience. There’s obviously no room at the Fox inn for Jewish folks whose holiday began last night.
On the basic facts, this is a lie. Fox & Friends did have a Happy Hanukkah message, and it said “Happy Hanukkah,” the precise wording “Priscilla” said was not used. See for yourself:
But there’s more. Fox & Friends has been airing this message for several days now, not just today. Not only have they been airing this message, they’ve also solicited, received, and showed Hanukkah photos from viewers, like the one you see to the right. It’s no surprise none of these facts are in Priscilla’s post–these multiple lies of omission increase the fakery of their fake news to a higher order of, well, fakery.
And there’s still more. In addition to all of the above, the program’s host Abby Huntsman took to twitter to alert viewers that today’s program would be a celebration of Christmas–and Hanukkah:
Another lie of omission. Is it possible for one paragraph of fake news to be any faker than Priscilla’s: misleading, dishonest, and outright fraudulent in every respect? It’s clearly a deliberate lie, written without even two minutes’ attempt to determine the facts, simply to smear Fox News.
The Cable Gamer feels safe going out on a limb and predicting that News Hounds will post no apology for this. Why should they? Priscilla was just doing her job: fake news. Who’s going to call her out? Google? Facebook? They’re not going to tag this, or any News Hounds smear, as “fake.” Brian Stelter, who himself promotes fake news without fact-checking? He’s more likely to retweet it than call it out.
The News Hounds dishonor Christmas by using it to lie about the Feast of Dedication, yet they’ll continue to be listed as a source of “news” by Google no matter how many times we see them lie. But it’s still fake news, from fake News Hounds.
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.