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.
Each night the website Mediaite summarizes the previous day’s cable news Nielsen ratings. This is basically just data reporting, but the headlines are something else. The Cable Gamer is not alone in spotting some peculiar contortions being used for reasons unknown. Example:
Maddow Scores in Key Demo Tuesday, Erin Burnett OutFront Lags Behind in Total Viewers
Twitter was quick to pounce:
Not only did Maddow lose to Hannity, she got fewer demo viewers than Tucker Carlson. So she finished third, behind two other people, yet Mediaite’s headline wants you to know she scored! Scored what? 2nd runner up?
With that as background, today Mediaite produced this headline:
MSNBC’s 11th Hour Tops Demo on Thursday, CNN’s The Lead Second in Time Slot
At least this one is semi-accurate: 11th Hour did top the Thursday demo at 11:00 pm. It was not the top show of the night. That was Hannity, who got no mention at all in the headline. We haven’t seen such hyping of Brian Williams’ show since January 29th:
MSNBC’s The 11th Hour Tops Demo in Time Slot Friday, Cuomo Prime Time Third at 9 PM
Why the gap? Because someone else was winning 11:00 pm: Shannon Bream on Fox News. Although this respected attorney-journalist got a late start in the competition with Williams, she worked her way up the ratings ladder and started winning night after night: not just in the key demo but in total viewers too. Look at Mediaite’s ratings headlines covering January 22nd forward and see how they rewarded Ms. Bream for breaking the 11:00 pm glass ceiling:
- Hannity Most-Watched Cable News Show Monday, MSNBC’s Hardball Last In Demo For Time Slot
- Fox News’ Martha MacCallum Posts Strong Demo Ratings on Tuesday, Anderson Cooper 360 Struggles
- Fox News’ Martha MacCallum Posts Strong Demo Ratings on Tuesday, Anderson Cooper 360 Struggles
- The Five Leads Time Slot Across the Board in Thursday Ratings, CNN Tonight Third at 10 PM
- Fox News Led All of TV For State of the Union Ratings — Most-Watched in Cable News History
- MSNBC’s The 11th Hour Tops Demo in Time Slot Friday, Cuomo Prime Time Third at 9 PM
- Fox News’ Special Report Dominates Time Slot on Wednesday, MSNBC’s The Beat Finishes 3rd in Demo
- Fox News’ Hannity Has Huge Ratings Day Thursday, CNN’s Erin Burnett Third in Time Slot
- Fox News’ Outnumbered Posts Big Ratings on Friday, MSNBC’s MTP Daily Third in Demo in Time Slot
- Tucker Carlson Delivers Big on Monday, CNN’s Situation Room Third in Total Viewers in Time Slot
- Maddow Scores in Key Demo Tuesday, Erin Burnett OutFront Lags Behind in Total Viewers
- Hannity Posts Huge Numbers on Wednesday, MSNBC’s Hardball Third in Demo at 7 PM
- MSNBC’s 11th Hour Tops Demo on Thursday, CNN’s The Lead Second in Time Slot
Spot a pattern? The 11:00 pm rating only makes the headline when MSNBC wins it. When Shannon Bream breaks through and starts a winning streak, the 11:00 pm ratings disappear from the headlines–only to reappear on just the two days MSNBC won the hour. That’s not accidental. The news for ratings-watchers is Shannon Bream surpassing Brian Williams and relegating him to 2nd place. But Mediaite has decided to bury the lede night after night, while flacking for Williams when his infrequent wins allow it.
The pattern is unmistakable. The question is: why?
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?
If you want to spot agendas at play, look for the “mash-up.” Propagandists love to assemble these catchy montages of clips, all carefully selected to point to a pre-determined conclusion. The Cable Gamer was not surprised to see CNN’s Brian Stelter promoting a Fox News mash-up from Media Matters–as partisan and biased a source as the internet has to offer. It’s another sign that Stelter has given up on journalism and is now a partisan activist, because he knows as well as anyone that a “mash-up” can be edited to make any point you like. It’s all about what you include, and more importantly, what you omit.
It surprised us that the Washington Post would make a Fox News mash-up in the Media Matters style, yet they did. That a news organization would fashion coverage in the manner of a partisan political operation is disturbing enough, but it’s small potatoes compared to their Erik Wemple’s seemingly endless attack on Fox News, and its morning program in particular. Column after column offers a transcript of some snippet from that day’s Fox & Friends, designed to reinforce his insistence that it’s pure propaganda for Trump.
Clearly, it’s not hard to find two minutes in any three-hour news program where somebody says something nice about Trump. It’s especially easy on Fox & Friends. So Wemple is making as pointless a point as your Cable Gamer can imagine. Basically he’s making a slow-motion print-media mash-up. Instead of putting a dozen clips into a video, he’s just publishing the cherry-picked bits one at a time, each in its own column. As with the mash-ups, he never fails to make his point, because he just omits what doesn’t comport with the pre-selected meme.
On Tuesday Wemple gave us a Q&A with people at a diner near a military base reacting to Trump’s Afghanistan speech. A pretty safe bet there: a live remote on Fox News down the street from a military base. Sure enough, the people in this segment had a positive view of the speech, and that’s what Wemple wrote up. But what did he omit? This:
It’s very hard to imagine how we win a lasting peace in Afghanistan if we couldn’t do it with 100,000 troops. Now we’re gonna have about 13,000. … What does a victory look like in Afghanistan? We’re gonna be in Afghanistan until we take the long dirt nap ourselves. Is that really what the American people thought they were getting? They thought they were getting drain the swamp, not clear the desert.
Why didn’t Erik Wemple include this analysis by Laura Ingraham in his column? Because he says right at the top that Fox & Friends “hews most closely to state-run media,” and this contradicts his point. So he leaves it out. What readers don’t know won’t hurt the meme.
One day later Wemple wants readers to believe that Fox & Friends didn’t dare question Trump’s comments about the media, so he writes:
Considering that “Fox & Friends” is part of a news network, you might suppose that such rhetoric would chill the program’s co-hosts. Or at least prompt some neutral coverage of such a contention. But no way…
And in the exchange he quotes, there is no pushback against Trump’s comments. Yet once again, it’s not so much what Wemple says, it’s what he doesn’t say:
EARHARDT: He pointed to the media up there. He said all those guys, basically on the platform or in the rafters, and the whole crowd, this huge crowd turns around, they look at the media, and they go “Boo!” And one guy in particular was pointing—
DOOCY: They had an anti-CNN chant going for a while.
EARHARDT: He called out specific networks too.
BRIAN KILMEADE: It doesn’t make me comfortable, to be honest. I don’t feel comfortable with 15,000 people turning around, screaming at me. You know, you could have another President, another leader pointing at you. How would you feel if you had to leave that arena then?
Is this outraged alarmism a la Don Lemon or Morning Joe? Hardly. But then, neither was it the slavish “state-run media propaganda” that Wemple was selling. So, it ends up on the cutting room floor. In the best tradition of Media Matters and the other mash-up specialists whose expertise is cherry-picking of the most selective, disingenuous kind.
It’s like that fellow Tom Kennedy said: It’s not what you say that counts, it’s what you don’t say. And with Wemple what he doesn’t say tells us an awful lot.
The Cable Gamer is somewhat sensitive about “dumb blonde” stereotypes. But she really gets hacked off when they come from an ignorant partisan without a glimmer of a clue what she’s talking about. An apt description for Hadley Freeman, a writer for the lefty Brit “news” site The Guardian. Her article is titled:
Why do all the women on Fox News look and dress alike? Republicans prefer blondes.
That’s nonsensical on its face, and underneath appears a graphic showing three blondes: Kellyanne Conway, Ann Coulter and Ivanka Trump. The alert reader may have noticed that none of these women work for Fox News (in fact Ann Coulter was an employee of MSNBC). But Ms. Freeman isn’t picky about such things as accuracy, and plows ahead with enraptured descriptions of “left wing media women” like Andrea Mitchell who looks like “all the Golden Girls at once.” Then comes the good stuff…the attack on Fox News:
But then we turn to rightwing women. Kellyanne Conway, Scottie Nell Hughes, Tomi Lahren, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Ivanka Trump, and pretty much every single woman on Fox News: a uniform vision of girlishly long bottle-blond hair.
Ms. Freeman must have spent all of three minutes researching this piece. She cites five women who have never been employed by Fox News in any capacity, plus Laura Ingraham who is a contributor (though Freeman doesn’t seem to realize that). In fact, as far as the plethora of Fox News blondes is concerned, that’s as far as she goes. One. Hadley Freeman never cites any further examples, even though she’s sure “pretty much every single woman on Fox News” is a blonde and they all look alike:
When I see them all lined up as talking heads on the news, I get a rare insight into what it must be like to gaze upon the bar area of one of those private American tennis clubs that don’t allow anyone whose name is “too urban” or ends in -stein or -berg. Welcome, people, to death by Wasp… How hard it must be having to operate within such a narrow aesthetic palette. I mean, this is a demographic that considers being brunette a physical deformity…
The author’s ignorance of FNC is impressive. In an article ostensibly about “all the women of Fox News” she cites close to a dozen women…and only one works at Fox. And then she claims Ivanka Trump is “rightwing.” Plus there’s her assertion that she has seen them “all lined up as talking heads on the news,” talking about six women, only four of whom are talking heads (i.e. pundits) and only one on Fox. In what alternate universe are they all talking heads on Fox News?
And as for brunette hair being “a physical deformity” because of a “narrow aesthetic palette,” Freeman is full of it. She clearly has no clue who’s on Fox News and who isn’t. Blondes are not “pretty much every single woman on Fox News.” Most likely they are a minority. If the reader doubts that, your Cable Gamer has assembled a selection of Fox News on-air reporters, anchors, correspondents, and contributors who are not of the blonde persuasion:
It’s doubtful Freeman could pick any of these people out of a line-up, let alone identify them. Yet among those pictured above are a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter, a former CBS News correspondent, a winner of an “outstanding newscast” Emmy, a member of the Jesse Jackson family, a former Navy fighter pilot, the first openly gay commentator hired by a cable news channel (Fox), and a six-time Emmy winner who is also America’s most watched female African-American cable news anchor. And there are more than just these 30. To sum it up: Sod off, Freeman. Your incompetent, hair-brained hit job is giving fake news a bad name.
Postscript: The Cable Gamer would be remiss if she did not acknowledge that there are fair-haired females at FNC, and like Megyn Kelly (now with NBC News) they are smart, savvy, and thoroughly professional. They break the blonde of the ordinary.
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.
This appears atop the newsletters page of townhall.com at 3:40 pm ET today:
What appears to be the lead story is actual a link to an external site. Yes, the Megyn Kelly link is an advertisement, though not so mentioned. And it leads to Health-E News where you can read the heretofore secret reason Megyn Kelly left Fox News:
A source close to Megyn revealed that the star was not concerned about making millions of dollars, in fact, Megyn’s main concern was that Fox News was so demanding, it was interfering with her secret side business. “Megyn has been hard at work on her own company for many years but she was finding it harder and harder to devote time to it due to the pressure of her job with Fox News,” her close friend revealed.
Investigations have revealed that Megyn Kelly is in fact the CEO of skincare company LuxAllure which has become a cult favorite over the past year. Their two hero products the LuxAllure Ageless Moisturizer and the LuxAllure Eye Serum have garnered a mass following after receiving rave reviews about their anti-aging properties online.
A series of photos follows, each with a glowing (and dubious) quote about Megyn and her “magic cream,” followed by a special offer: “Claim yours now before they’re all gone!” and a series of faux Facebook comments rhapsodizing about the magic cream. Buried at the bottom of the page, in tiny grey-on-gray type, is a series of disclaimers that the site is an advertisement, completely with a “marketing disclosure” and an “advertising disclosure,” like “Any photographs of persons on this site are models” (clearly that’s not true), “Before/after images used on this site are not real,” and so on.
This sounds suspiciously like how Joy Behar left The View because she was hard at work on her own line of skin care products (more details on how this con operates here). Needless to say your Cable Gamer could find no evidence that Ms. Kelly is a secret skin care CEO, or that the anti-aging cream being hawked in her name is anything more than another internet rip-off. This is not a new scam; it’s been around for years. So why is Townhall.com promoting it?
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.