Media

We Watch CNN’s ‘Reliable Sources’ So You Don’t Have To (10-15-17)

ON A SOFA SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDWEST–This is CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” a weekly look at Brian Stelter’s biases no matter how much he claims that this is a show is about “the story behind the story.”

Right off the bat, this week Brian looks like he has no neck.

I’m sure he does, but it’s obscured by his white button-down shirt which brushes right under his chin and large bald noggin.

First up, the gross story about pervy Harvey Weinstein rages on. The Academy has booted Harvey and his greedy rat of a brother, Bob Weinstein, is trying to salvage the family movie biz and TV studio.

Brian immediately gets lectur-y, which is a real turnoff. He says entertainers, media execs and journalists ALL have some “soul-searching” to do. Why did it take so many years for these stories to be published?

Janice Min, who I will forever associate with US Weekly, is on the show. She’s part-owner of The Hollywood Reporter and former editor of the pub.

She talks about Hollywood Reporter writer Kim Masters. One of the first things Masters ever told Min concerned an off-the-record convo she had with Pervy Harvey. They were at lunch. “So what do you know about me?” the potted plant fuckface asked. She said, “I’ve heard you’ve raped women before.” But lunch was off-the-record, so Min can’t say what he said.

Min says The Hollywood Reporter came close to breaking the story last year.

But…no cigar.

“You can see how powerful it is to get someone on the record,” she said. “We didn’t have it.”

What went wrong with NBC? As we’ve all known for days, NBC had the story by way of Ronan Farrow, but totally fucked it all up by being too chickenshit, refusing to run it and handing it over to The New Yorker for the phenomenal break.

Brian planted a scowl on his face and in his high-pitched, highly dramatic voice conveyed that he really wants to know how NBC screwed this up so badly.

Min says attorneys are a powerful, menacing group.

“Is this actually a success story after many disappointing years?” he says in typical Brian Stelter question-ese, which is to say he leads his guests to answer questions in the way he wants them to respond. Which, I must note, is mildly irritating.

“I think it’s hard to call it a success story,” says Min, laughing. “…In this case, it was a level of intimidation and fear. …Publishing is not a financial vibrant business right now.”

“This has really unpeeled” — UNPEELED? WTF? – “kind of pulled back the curtain on how people prevent stories from coming out via lawyers,” Brian says, sort of bungling his metaphors.

Min is now talking about the gender problem, how the most powerful women in Hollywood report to men. “Look at our House, Senate and White House,” she says.

“A big story, there,” agrees Brian, whose political media team at CNN is comprised of all men. Hmmm…wonder why that is. An anti-President Trump, quasi-manly feminist like Brian seems like he’d recruit more women onto his media team while desperately purporting to be a champion of women. (Chloe Melas writes CNN’s entertainment media. So she counts, but she’s not part of Stelter’s political media crew.)

Next up…Brian talks to NYT reporter who broke the Weinstein is a fat, sick, ugly, jerk story. That would be Jodi Kantor.

But first – surprise surprise — Brian’s guest is a Trump hater.

He’s talking about Trump tweeting that revoking the licenses of network news is a great idea.

For his we have Jessica Rosenworcol, a Democratic Commissioner for the FCC and a Huma Abedin lookalike.

“I know you don’t see eye to eye with President Trump,” Brian says.

She responds, “I think it’s essential that the FCC is careful to abide by the first amendment when it engages in any policies involving licensees.”

Do Trump’s threats worry her?

“It’s essential we support the first amendment in everything the FCC does,” she says. “I do think history won’t be kind to silence.”

Rosenworcol wants the other commissioners to back the first amendment and assures that licenses won’t be altered just because Trump doesn’t like the coverage.

Now it’s time for two crusty white guys: one balding, the other a silver fox. Both wear glasses.

They are former FCC officials. And they will also be commenting on the president’s idiotic hatred for the media that he has been directing toward the networks.

Tom Wheeler, former chairman, FCC: “Well, Brian I wish I knew why. I know what the affect is – it’s the silence of the lambs. He is making himself complicit in the coercion when he was trying to send a message to broadcasters.”

Brian, whose favorite punching bag is Trump, says he tried to book Republican commissioners but could not. The host even tips his computer screen toward the camera to nonsensically prove that he is really trying to land Republican commissioners for the show.

Fine, we believe him. But showing viewers messages they can’t decipher is absurd and pointless.

Michael Copps, another former FCC commissioner, says Trump doesn’t understand the licensing process. “You can’t take a license away from NBC,” he says.

Brian says Trump is “grasping for levers of power.” He’s trying to figure out ways to “poke at the media.” Um, no shit Sherlock Stelter?

Copps also makes a really obvious point: “The media helped make this guy president of the United States. [They gave him] millions of dollars of free air time.”

Now it’s time for ex-CBS “Face the Nation” newsman Bob Schieffer. He’ll be discussing his book, Overload: Finding the Truth in Today’s Deluge of News. Yes, if you couldn’t guess, it’s about consuming too much goddamn information. Which we’ve all been doing a lot of in the past year and a half.

Longtime newsman Schieffer is one of those journalists everyone adores. So I won’t be quibbling about anything he says because he is truly a gem.

“We’re going through this technology revolution …we’re just bombarded with news 24 hours a day, seven days a week so much that there’s no way any human being could process it let alone what’s true or false or somewhere in between,” he says.

Brian wants to know if we really have more news or just more access to news?

“Now everybody is a publisher,” Schieffer says. “It used to be you had to have at least a barrel of ink and a printing press to be a publisher. If you have a phone now, you are a publisher. But are you following the same guidelines that the legacy media is following? …Are you checking it out to make sure it’s true? And in many, many cases, that is simply not true. That’s what’s making it so hard right now.”

Schieffer is so delightfully old school.

“Well, I think we should follow the old rules,” he says. “Don’t publish until you’ve done some investigation to make sure it’s true….I think we have to have a responsibility for what we put out there on the web. …News travels so fast now.”

Schieffer brings up the Comet Ping Pong incident – the D.C. restaurant that was swirling in a conspiracy theory that child-sex-trafficking was transpiring in the basement and that the whole thing was somehow related to Hillary Clinton. In late 2016, a gunman showed up to the pizzeria an fired an assault weapon.

“That poor man that owns the pizza parlor, and supposedly runs a porn ring,” says Schieffer. “Totally false. He still has private security he has to pay for because he’s still getting death threats.”

Brian asks the newsman about Trump’s incessant attacks on the media. This is when things get a little hairy.

“Look, at my age I have been called everything from a nattering nabob of negativity… [to a] female hygiene product these days.”

Wait a freaking second here. WHAT?!

Brian’s eyebrows raise a hair and he lets out an awkward noise that is nervous laughter. Brian thought bubble: Is this man saying that people have called him a douche?

“I don’t pay attention to that kind of stuff,” Schieffer rants on. “I’ve been called all kinds of names.”

He says he does take it seriously when Trump tries to destroy the credibility of the media. He says it undermines the fabric of our democracy.

“It’s frankly disgusting that the press is able to write whatever they want to write. People should look into it.” Brian has now played this clip twice.

Brian looks glaringly unattractive next to the attractive blue-eyed Trevor Timm, who has a stylish head of brown hair with layered bangs. He’s executive director, of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. He’s talking about Trump violating the first amendment.

“He is already violating the first amendment just by making these threats,” he says with the San Francisco Bay Bridge as a faux backdrop.

Also on this panel: WaPo conservative writer and Trump hater Jennifer Rubin. Her lemon custard-hued yellow sweater is perfect for TV. Her black chin-length hair is smoothly blown dry.

“I guess I’m getting used to being horrified with this administration,” she says.

…In his denunciation, him saying this is disgusting, He really is renouncing his oath of office.”

She says the Senate should conduct hearings about whether Trump is unfit to hold office. “They really are in danger of not holding up their oaths,” she says of lawmakers like Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.). “For them simply to shrug their shoulders or roll their eyes or send a tweet, I think really does not hold them in good stead.”

Brian wants to know if the 25th amendment should be taken seriously. (Another Brian thought bubble: DUMP TRUMP. In other words, people should take the 25th amendment seriously and remove Trump because he’s unfit, not rational and probably completely out of his gourd.)

The host closes the show by interviewing Kantor about her Harvey Weinstein story.

It’s a taped interview.

“How could woman after woman tell the same story for 30 years and basically nothing happened and nothing changed?” she asks.

Brian gets in a dig at Fox News (Ding! Ding! Maybe CNN Prez Jeff Zucker will give him brownie points!): Was her reporting in the wake of the Roger Ailes ouster?

I think it was more a recognition here that we had to try to tell these stories,” Kantor says, noting that she was “certainly informed from the Fox reporting but it wasn’t like we were ticking off a list. It was more us asking the question of, what else do women working for powerful men have to say?”

Kantor comes through for Stelter in his anti-FNC crusade. “There’s a strong parallel with Ailes because he’s the boss,” she said. “The Weinstein story had a similar quality.”

Did she know about Ronan Farrow’s Weinstein story?

“I had a dim awareness that kept changing,” she says. “It was a little confusing. We’d heard that he was doing work for NBC and then The New Yorker. I congratulate him on his reporting and his story.”

This is actually genuinely interesting: Kantor says there was almost no overlap between our journalism, she says, referring to The New Yorker and NYT pieces. “I’m sorry to say this but there are more than enough allegations to go around,” she says. “They said they approached us because we were the first female reporters to ask them.”

Now Brian wants to know what Kantor would say to her 11-year-old daughter.

And the obvious answer: “You really can confront someone powerful and ask the hard questions,” Kantor says, adding insightfully that “It seems to me that the world has treated the woman who have come forward respectfully.”