LOUNGING ON A GRAY SOFA IN WASHINGTON –– CNN host Brian Stelter started out his Sunday show this week saying we wouldn’t be discussing the press, but rather, what it’s like for a consumer to watch the news.
Whoa! A show that’s supposed to be about the press is not about the press?
He treated viewers like idiots, complete with a definition of “chyron.” You know, those words at the bottom of the screen. “Do you feel like you’re drowning in news?” CNN’s chyron asks during Brian’s program. He says he’s exhausted. And no, I don’t care. Do you?
On Brian’s agenda today: “A White House in crisis,” he says.
Can CNN at least finally admit that this program is not about covering the media?
This is Brian’s agenda. He starts his show by saying that President Trump is described as unglued. Which means he isn’t saying it, but others are. Which kind of (in his mind) lets him off the hook of operating under the premise that he can’t stand Trump and the purpose of his program is to back that agenda. (As always, it’s a great way for him to smooch CNN Prez Jeff Zucker….so there’s that embarrassing reality.)
First up: Jeff Greenfield, a crusty old newsman and political analyst who could benefit from some Bliss undereye Baggage Handler eye gel. But I like him. He appears to make sense and has a long view of the media. Maybe he’ll help us understand something?
He says networks like CNN and other networks like NBC are making it seem like the feds are one step away from coming arrest Trump for something. It’s hard to tell if Greenfield thinks this is good or bad.
“This is not normal. This is not normal, almost like out of a horror movie,” he says the networks insist about Trump’s presidency.
Greenfield says that the news coverage has become like Tinder – not that he uses it. “Uh, that’s what I’ve heard about Tinder,” Brian jokes back. (Brian has no discernable sense of humor, but we can save a full breakdown of that mammoth topic for another day.)
WaPo’s White House reporter Josh Dawsey is making his virgin appearance on the show. And I couldn’t be more thrilled. He’s the least telegenic D.C. reporter on TV outside of maybe his colleague Philip Rucker. Dawsey wears no tie. He has a scruffy look and cherubic face that makes him look like John Candy’s cousin. He talks like a mob boss from Jersey. He’s fucking great TV.
New York Mag’s Olivia Nuzzi offers a sobering contrast to Dawsey. She’s all dolled up in an olive frock twith black trim that has an oversized black collar. She’s the only person on the program, so far, who is wearing lipstick
How does she cope with the flood of news? “I’m not coping well, but I’m trying,” she says.
She says if we want to understand this president’s decision-making process, we need to cover all the chaos coming out of the White House.
Brian asks Dawsey a dumb question about who his sources are. These are sources who are saying that Trump is losing it over reports about him on cable news. They are “whispering about this well-being,” a story by Dawsey reports.
Of course Dawsey is no dummy. He’s not going to reveal his sources.
Nuzzi makes the case for Trump Communications Director Hope Hicks’ importance in the White House. She says the outgoing aide who has been dating alleged wife abuser Rob Porter is the closest confidant Trump has in a place where he’s largely unhappy and uncomfortable.
Dawsey’s gray blazer is messy and wrinkled and rides up over his shoulders. I love it. In a town that is persistently polished, Dawsey unkemptness is breath of fresh air.
Brian wants to know if Olivia gets worried about her position as a citizen.
She basically says no, that’s not her job. If only Brian could adopt her attitude that being a journalist requires you to not personally flip out and instead do your job.
“My job is to figure out what’s happening,” Dawsey says when Brian asks him if he’s personally worried about the state of the country with Trump at the helm.
Right, Brian, they are not babies. Take a hint. Stop acting like anyone gives a shit about reporters’ feelings. Or like anyone cares about yours. Perhaps there is a shrink who can address your emotional breakdowns when attempting to do your job. Whatever happens, please don’t cut yourself or eat your feelings. No one wants to see that mess. Well, maybe we do want to see you inhale a few banana cream pies on live TV, but definitely not the former.
Comedy Central’s Jordan Klepper, who hosts “The Opposition,” comes on the program to say absolutely nothing new. Brian says he finds appearing on his show intimidating. All funniness aside, Klepper is concerned about gun control and the latest tragic school shooting. He thinks the voices of the students are incredibly not cynical.
The two men shake hands. And Zzzzzzzz.
Brian is still hung up on CNN Vs. Fox News. He rags on Tucker Carlson’s claim that there is no proof of White House-Russia collusion and that viewers don’t’ care despite CNN’s poll that says otherwise. If only Fox News took its cues from CNN polls.
On the program to discuss Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller are The Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand and Steven Brill, founder of Court TV. Nastasha startlingly has the same voice and pundit style as Betsy Woodruff of The Daily Beast.
“It’s astonishing that they are still saying that after 19 people have been charged with crimes,” she says to Brian’s question about Fox News host Greg Gutfeld saying Mueller’s case is “paper thin.”
Bertrand adds, “It’s very clear that this is not just a witch hunt.”
“Every reporter worth his salt – me include — -loves to get leaks, especially leaks of grand jury proceedings,” says Brill. “It is illegal for prosecutors to leak that.”
He says we have to admire Mueller’s office for not partaking in leaks.
Brill closes out the program by introducing a new venture: NewsGuard.
“We are going to solve the problem by employing – guess what – human beings,” he says, explaining that he’s going to hire dozens of journalists to rate news sites.
“Basically what we are doing is telling people the difference between The Denver Post and the Denver Guardian, a hoax site,” he says.
Brill sucks up to Brian, saying the host of “Reliable Sources” doesn’t need to be rated on a watchdog site like NewsGuard.