Unreliable Tweets Make for Unreliable Sources
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?
How Many Republicans Are Allowed On MSNBC Prime Time?
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
The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell:
- 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 News with Brian Williams, Now With Extra Leaning!
Sunday morning, at the tail end of a Reliable Sources hour devoted to talking about Fox News and Donald Trump, Brian Stelter squeezed in an off-topic question to guest David Zurawik regarding MSNBC’s election coverage:
STELTER: One year ago yesterday, Brian Williams embellished a story about Iraq on “The Nightly News.” It was noticed. Then other questions were raised. He left the chair. And tomorrow he is anchoring Iowa caucus coverage on MSNBC. You have been highly critical of Brian Williams. So, I was just curious. Will you give him a chance one year later?
ZURAWIK: Brian, I will absolutely give him a chance…
The issue here was Williams’ history of lies. But nobody so much as raised an eyebrow about the fact that Williams has been assigned a minder, a co-anchor, and it ain’t an NBC News correspondent. Brian will be co-anchoring with erstwhile Air America talk show host, Rachel Maddow. This would be roughly equivalent Bret Baier dispensing with Chris Wallace, only to make Sean Hannity his co-anchor. But you know as well as we do that Roger Ailes would never pollute his coverage of breaking political news by saddling his superb journalists with partisan co-anchors.
As we looked in at MSNBC’s preview show tonight, there was Maddow (who has her own checkered reportorial history) expounding and intro’ing program blocks on an equal footing with Williams. Cut to opinion host Steve Kornacki who’s now paraded as an impartial political expert. Cut to incisive observations from opinion host Lawrence O’Donnell with pal Gene Robinson (quite a panel). Cut to opinionizer Chris Hayes to talk about Sanders. Cut to our man on the scene, opinion host Chris “two Cuban guys” Matthews. MSNBC’s entire prime time line-up, plus Matthews and Kornacki, had their moment in the sun. The Cable Gamer could tell you what all those opinion hosts have in common, but she thinks you’ve already sussed that out.
Long story short, this is Lean Forward news—with Brian Williams propped up to present a facade of “journalism.” Tonight’s coverage had the same relentlessly leftist tone that’s made MSNBC the failure that it is. It seems unlikely that Brian Stelter will ever get around to addressing this fraud, as his cohort Dylan Byers has already bought into the scam hook, line and sinker.
But The Cable Gamer knows better, and so do you.
Lean Forward Political Coverage: Journalism Optional
Do our media reporters have any idea what’s going on in The Cable Game? We wondered that when we spotted an article in the Bible of Show Business (yes, it used to be called that before Bibles became uncool), Variety. MSNBC announced its coverage plans for the Iowa caucus and “senior tv editor” Brian Steinberg told us all about it:
Brian Williams’ duties at MSNBC will definitely extend beyond daytime hours. Williams and primetime host Rachel Maddow will co-anchor the NBCUniversal-owned cable-news network’s coming coverage of the Iowa caucus.
Steinberg notes that this pairing may raise eyebrows, but not for the reason you—or anyone who knows the first thing about The Cable Game—would think:
Teaming Maddow with Williams may, at first blush, raise some eyebrows. Maddow is largely considered to be a meticulous reporter…
Fact-check: Rachel Maddow is not a reporter, and hardly meticulous. She is an opinionizer and not a particularly good or honest one. She’s MSNBC’s Hannity, without the opposing views and nightly on-air debates. So MSNBC is using a partisan opinion host as a breaking news anchor to cover a political event in which she has taken sides. That’s what raised The Cable Gamer’s eyebrows, but it seemed to fly right past Mr. Steinberg.
Also part of the anchoring plans is Chris Matthews, a lifelong Democrat who this year has more than just an ideological bias. He has a direct personal interest in the Democrats winning the election (and an odd dislike of Cuban males). Steinberg reels off several more names who will be reporting from various Iowa locations, including Chris Hayes. Another MSNBC opinionizer, i.e. not a journalist, meticulous or otherwise.
More insight from Brian Steinberg:
MSNBC is counting on this year’s Presidential race to help it draw attention and further define itself as a place for breaking news – particularly the political kind – as it works to move itself away from being known primarily for analyzing the news through a progressive lens.
Does Mr. Steinberg know who Maddow, Matthews and Hayes are? How is it a move away from progressive news analysis to load up what is supposed to be straight news coverage with a roster of progressive news analysts masquerading as impartial journalists?
But it gets better:
The New Hampshire Union-Leader and MSNBC will hold an unsanctioned Democratic debate in the Granite State in early February that could threaten to put candidates who participate at odds with the Democratic National Committee…The debate, to be moderated by “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, will be held on Feb. 4
Who better to grill the Democrat Presidential candidates than “meticulous reporter” Rachel Maddow? Too bad Fox News, stuffy fuddy-duddies that they are, insist on having journalists moderate their debates. Just think, they could replace Megyn Kelly or Chris Wallace with Sean Hannity, or maybe Jeanine Pirro. The Cable Gamer suspects Donald Trump would approve! Just as Hillary welcomes the choice of Rachel Maddow to pitch softballs. And that choice was handed to her—no threats to boycott the debate required.
This space has wondered how Brian Williams would fit in at MSNBC. With meticulous journalist Maddow bestowing her blessing on him (“What’s past is past.”) it appears he’s amenable to treating radio talk show hosts as if they were actual reporters. The paychecks will keep coming, he can take weekends off, and as long as the industry press remains clueless (or looks the other way) he can get used to leaning forward. It gets easier every day.
That Was the Week That Was
Back when MSNBC Live with Thomas Roberts was announced, I went out on a limb to suggest that this wasn’t a move away from opinion at MSNBC. Rather, it was a new way to package opinion: by disguising it as a straight newscast. The seeds were planted on Monday, and they began to sprout on Tuesday. After a week of Thomas Roberts, I’d say the weeds are in full bloom. Let’s look at the rest of the week:
Wednesday: The big guest of the day was David Brock, who was given a largely follow-up-free soapbox to mislead viewers about Hillary Clinton’s emails. John Ridley appeared later to talk about the meaning of genius. And we got interviews with Ari Melber and Steve Kornacki, both part of the channel’s progressive opinion line-up. I missed parts of this show but the online segments don’t show any right-of-center opinion or analysis guests.
Thursday: A lot of breaking news and yet Roberts found a way to shoe-horn Ed Schultz in the stuck airplane coverage. Is he an aeronautics expert? Here’s a secret about how The Cable Game is played. When a guest has been booked, it’s a lot easier to put him on the air even when his segment has been cancelled than to find an actual expert. So Schultz, who was almost certainly intended to speak on some political issue, possibly the Hillary emails, instead feigned expertise on airplane matters. At least that way they can still plug his failing show. And how many viewers will realize that he was actually booked to inject progressive opinion into the non-opinion Thomas Roberts newscast?
Also on Thursday: MSNBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald to opine on Hillary’s emails. He is a self-described “MSNBC political reporter,” a first-rate bit of camouflage. Alex’s pedigree in journalism includes writing for Salon and Think Progress, where he was one of the site’s editors. But at MSNBC, he’s just another reporter! See, they’re moving away from opinion.
Come Friday, and it’s more of the same. This time we get three MSNBC opinionizers: Chris Hayes, Steve Kornacki, and a return visit from aeronautics expert Ed Schultz. All from the left. Plus a representative of the Urban League (left). And then another “MSNBC reporter:” Michele Richinick, an anti-gun advocate masquerading as a journalist. Are you starting to see a pattern?
Unless there was someone I missed, in an entire week of MSNBC’s non-opinion newscast every commenter and/or analyst was someone from the left. No conservative or Republican viewpoints were represented. When that happens five days in a row, on premiere week no less, that’s not an accident. It’s their blueprint. Just like the Lean Forward slogan that still appears on the screen during MSNBC’s “non-opinion” news hours.
Opposite Thomas Roberts, Fox News managed to find time for two Democratic guests in just a single broadcast hour. That one hour on FNC had more opposing viewpoints than ten hours of Thomas Roberts. And Fox didn’t disguise their opinion guests by calling them “reporters.” Think about that the next time you hear the disingenuous Maddow or other MSNBC flacks deride Fox as a PR arm for a political party. Freud had a term for that.