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.
“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.”
It wasn’t so long ago that The Cable Gamer ruminated a bit about the rules of journalism: the open, public rules, as well as the rules (the sub-rosa “way things are” that are rarely spoken of outside the innerest of inner circles). A Donald Trump controversy was the catalyst then, and in an amazing coincidence it is now as well.
The rules, as TCG explained back then, are those areas where impartial, non-partisan journalists get to play pundit—taking positions, calling out politicians, slanting stories—as media critics and journalism professors look the other way. We’ve seen it a lot with same-sex marriage and immigration, and now the emergence of Donald Trump and his ill-considered comments about John McCain have created an instant codicil to the rules. Green lights to “fire at will.”
We saw it with Luke Russert, supposedly a correspondent for NBC News who also slums on MSNBC, even occasionally hosting news programs and opinion shows there. Appearing with Andrea Mitchell he got personal about Mr. Trump, calling his hair “fake,” opining that he’s “really out there” with his “out of bounds comments.”
But that was nothing compared to CNN’s morning journalist Chris Cuomo (brother of a sitting Democratic governor). His attack on Trump didn’t require special glasses but it was in 3-D, as he ridiculed the candidate’s “disposition, dyspepsia, and demagoguery.” You know, just like an opinion host would do. No shocked eyebrows raised among the journalistic intelligentsia. See? The new rule is already in effect.
So let’s take it a step further. How about targeting journalists who are not attacking Trump? That sounds like a job for Media Matters:
Fox Host Blames John McCain For Trump’s Inflammatory Comments
This smear of Harris Faulkner is apparently based on two statements: one is a question (she asked if John McCain started the war of words by calling Trump supporters “crazies”), and one a report of a fact (that Donald Trump said McCain should apologize for that comment).
Did Harris Faulkner actually blame McCain for Trump’s attacks? No. Yet a Media Matters headline insists she did, while they conveniently neglect to provide any sort of a transcript beyond one meticulously edited sentence fragment. Ms. Faulkner’s real crime was she didn’t attack Donald Trump. Well that, and working for Fox News.