Media

We Watch CNN’s ‘Reliable Sources’ So You Don’t Have To (9-24-17)

MY SUN-DRENCHED LIVING ROOM SOFA––Hey, I’m Brian Stelter. Hey, I’m Brian Stelter. Hey, I’m Brian Stelter. This is the stuff of nightmares already as I launch into my umpteenth review of this Sunday media program.

No, I am not Brian Stelter. But “Hey, I’m Brian Stelter” is how he begins each show, which today sends my stomach lurching into vicious somersaults of existential dread as I try to plow through an hour of his helium voice and smug tone.

Ok, let’s get to Brian’s EXCLUSIVE.

And it just so happens it involves his favorite subject (or the subject CNN Prez Jeff Zucker‘s has instructed him to relentlessly pursue): Dumping on President Trump.

Let’s peel back the curtain, Brian says. Which is translation for let’s talk shit about Trump!

“Is President Trump trying to distract from his own failures by attacking the NFL — and if so, are journalists just playing into his hands? … This distraction question is always with us when it comes to President Trump. You know, stray sentence at one of his rallies, or a angry tweet when he’s watching Fox. That can trigger hours and hours of news coverage.”

I also watched this with the sound off just for fun.

But it wasn’t fun. It was Brian oozing more of his smugness and certainty of his own analysis of the President.

What I really do not understand is why Brian is covering Trump when there are so many wildly colorful, interesting media stories from around the world. He has this incredible platform that he’s totally wasting — all for the sake of ratings. No one wants to hear Brian’s political beliefs and how much he hates Trump. No one wants to hear Brian’s political beliefs period. He’s about the last person I’d turn to for my political news diet. How long do viewers have to endure his torturous commentary?

The topic du jour is Trump getting enflamed that NFL players have been “disrespecting our Flag & country,” as he voiced in an early morning tweet in which Trump instructed coaches to “fire” or suspend” players who don’t respect the American flag. Today in London, the Jaguars and Ravens kneeled during the national anthem.

On Friday, Trump told supporters at a rally in Huntsville, Ala., “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners to say ‘get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s FIRED!”

Sensitive Brian is the KING of wusses. The word “bitch” is so difficult for him? He says “Reliable Sources” considered bleeping the “swear word” but he says you should write the White House — not CNN — if you’re as offended as he is.

But I digress.

Because this is going to get so much worse today.

Brian is as preachy and irritating as I’ve ever heard him.

He says there is a racial component to all of this. Of course there is.

“Who Trump chooses to criticize tells us a lot,” he says. “This story is about patriotism, the right to protest and what it means to be an American.”

Brian asks, “Is President Trump a racist? Is he making racist appeals to his supporters. If he’s not racist, why do so many Americans believe that he is and how is it going to affect the rest of his presidency?”

The chyron blares: “Trump’s NFL Attack Racist?”

Let’s get to the show’s first panel: There’s fellow baldy Coy Wire, a CNN sports correspondent, Dante Stallworth, a former NFL wide receiver, and Christine Brennan, sports writer for USA Today.

“If there’s one group that might have more power in this country than the President it is the NFL,” Brennan says.

Stallworth says players will continue to do more because of Trump’s brazen act.

“I don’t sling that word around lightly,” he says, when Brian tries to lead him to say that Trump is racist. “His own actions speak for themselves.”

Oh no. After the break, Carl Bernstein will be dispatched into the show from The Hamptons between shuffleboard games. And now I am seriously hoping against hope that I won’t have to endure The Baltimore Sun‘s loud head David Zurazik, a RS regular who has no volume control and who laughs like a clown at attempts at humor that are not funny.

We’re back. It’s time to discuss the “Jimmy Kimmel test.”

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said his healthcare bill would need to pass the “Jimmy Kimmel test.”

Not that people should not oppose the bill, but let’s see if Brian is going to remember to say that Kimmel received political talking points from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). He does. He eventually slips in that Schumer was in touch with Kimmel as were a couple of other Democrats.

CNN media analyst Bill Carter comes on. I can’t help but long for him to host the show. You know, someone who actually assesses and analyzes the media in a smart way that does not feel so intensely political.

Sarah Kliff, a senior media correspondent at Vox, says Kimmel is more in line with the experts than the Republicans in charge of the bill. “Kimmel has generally gotten his facts right on this,” he said.

“He put a human face on it,” said Carter. “All these medical organizations came out against it. That didn’t seem to be getting any traction until Kimmel.”

He says Kimmel brought the story forward.

“This isn’t something he’s doing for ratings or attention,” he said. “This isn’t funny. It isn’t comedy.”

(I’d argue that this is good for ratings and all the late-night hosts know that Trump-bashing is a ratings oxygen infusion.)

It’s the halfway mark. Woo hoo! We’re going to survive this.

First of all — teeth and eyebrows.

What is going on with Sen. Mark Warner‘s (D-Va.) crazy ass eyebrows and his teeth, which look like they are straight out of a wax museum. No beauty expert in the world would approve of these eyebrows which are thick and unruly with no shape.

He talked about Russia and Facebook and Trump. It was boring as hell and there’s really no reason to share any of it with you. Sorry, but I refuse to rewind and rewatch this segment.

And now I’m breathlessly awaiting the next guest: CNN Political Analyst Carl Bernstein, whose silky white Washington hair has been on my mind since Brian’s first mention of him earlier in the show.

Brian has announced his next topic: “The drip, drip drip of Russia news.”

“Two things, first that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, is looking at the conduct of President Donald Trump, members of his family, especially Jared Kushner, also his closets campaign ads, uh aides, in terms of their dealings with Russia, ethno-Russians,” says Bernstein. “…The conclusion of the American intelligence community that now is certain that the Russians were effective in undermining the campaign and specifically helping Trump.”

Bernstein, sporting his signature tortoise shell glasses, says the investigation wants to know if Trump knew that the Russians wanted to help him. “Let me tell you something about sources. There are more than 21 lawyers involved in this case, representing people in the White House, his campaign, his family. …He [Mueller] has a sprawling investigation going.”

Bernstein is being beamed in from The Hamptons, but today he’s not in the salty ocean air. He’s in a stuffy library with books. I preferred open air Bernstein with his locks blowing in the wind to cooped up in library graying Bernstein. But fine, whatever.

He says Trump continues to make an enemy of the press. “These investigations are closing in on him, his family and his aides,” he says.

Let’s shift to questionable press freedoms in Turkey, which seems like it deserves far more than an afterthought.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum and said many of the estimated 150 journalists jailed in his country are terrorists, Brian explains.

“Sicking words,” Brian opines. “And we have to keep saying so over and over and over again.”

The show closes on a somber note of Sean Spicer‘s pretty dismal week in media.

His week started off strong at Emmys, but it ended with a thud with a slew of bad press and uncomfortable interviews.

Thankfully Bill Carter is back to boil it all down.

“He has no credibility,” he says of Spicer. “…For him to say he never intentionally lied flies in the face of so many things that he said. I get the impression that Sean is a guy, he doesn’t know how to swim, but every pond he wanders by he wanders into and then he gets over his head.”

Carter brings up the story that really was a big story this week — Spicer threatening legal action against a longtime media friend — AxiosMike Allen — and eventually regretting it.

Other hot topics: Oprah debuts on CBS “60 Minutes” tonight and tomorrow NBC’s Megyn Kelly launches her hour on “TODAY.” Carter is down on the format. He says Kelly is trying to be Oprah. He says she’s “glamorous” and “appealing” but the format will make it hard for her to connect with other women. He says she needs a co-host. The model platform she needs, he says, is that of Diane Sawyer.

The show wraps with a potpourri of media mentions — 1. Los Angeles Times revealed that some U.S. leaders wanted Trump to not insult Kim Jong Un personally. 2. A Politico investigation exposes Tom Price’s affinity for flying on private planes. 3. NYT‘s Ken Vogel‘s story on Trump lawyers loudly discussing the President’s problems.

Honestly, the end of the show was quick-paced and far more entertaining than Brian’s rants against Trump, who he obviously thinks is racist and horrible.

Come on, Brian — how about it?

More actual media coverage. Less of your sappy, opinionated, faux dramatic, crappy soliloquys about politics and the president.

UPDATE: A reader writes in to remind me that Stelter completely forgot to mention the absolutely epic, must-watch rant from MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell who really does not like the sound of a hammer. “STOP THE HAMMERING!” growls O’Donnell. “Call fucking Phil Griffin I don’t know who the fuck you have to call. Stop the hammering. ..This fucking stupid hammering. It fucking sucks.” How on earth could this have slipped Stelter’s thick head? Again, a little less Trump and a little more actual media news would vastly improve this program.

“Why does Brian protect MSNBC so much? The crazy Lawrence O’Donnell video was a HUGE story this week, and Brian purposely omits it despite having 60 minutes to show it,” the Mirror reader writes in. “This is not a media show. It’s pure partisanship from an insufferably pious host.”

Please enjoy this mashup created by Washington Free Beacons David Rutz. If you’re in a bad mood, watch twice.