MY LIVING ROOM–The candles are lit. My DVR is on. It’s time to settle in for another episode of “We Watch Reliable Sources So You Don’t Have To.”
Host Brian Stelter looks all cleaned up for Sunday’s show. And although his mushroom-hued suit looks like it’s a few sizes too big, he looks comfy and ready for an old-fashioned beatdown of President Trump.
Since the campaign, CNN has become one of Trump’s prime foes. It ebbs and flows. But CNN appears to be in first place for the network that the President currently loathes most. You could blame White House correspondent Jim Acosta, who attacks the President any chance he gets.
Or KFILE’s Andrew Kaczynski, who didn’t curry favor with viewers last week.
But Stelter also runs freezing on Trump.
On Sunday, the host spent nearly his entire hour bitching about how bad the media’s reputation has become with Trump in the White House.
He touched on the whole KFILE debacle, but unfortunately he couldn’t get the cat lover to appear on his own network. Kaczynski certainly made the biggest splash in media news last week when he ran a story containing a line that appeared to blackmail a story subject, a Reddit user, on the 4th of July.
So why not have him on?
Instead, Stelter’s big get is The Daily Beast‘s Executive Editor John Avlon, a CNN political analyst. Because why get the best source on the matter — ie. straight from the horse’s mouth — when you can have someone who had absolutely nothing to do with the story?
It’s a safe bet that Stelter wouldn’t have been hard on Kaczynski, considering all the violent threats the poor guy and his family have received ever since he was doxxed. Oh riiiiight. It’s all making sense now. Kaczynski’s story threatened to dox the Reddit user, HanAssholeSolo, unless ‘Asshole’ ceased posting violent wrestling memes against the network.
At least that’s what the line in KFILE’s story says. There has been heavy dispute on how the line was inserted into his piece. Bottom line: Kaczynski never fought to leave it out.
Stelter starts and ends his program with an annoying lecture-y rant.
As long as he’s bashing Trump, what else matters?
“One BIG question hovering over all of it is who should we believe?” he asks dramatically.
He’s referring to Trump’s meeting with Russian PM Vladimir Putin and the discrepancies of what was really said in the meeting in Hamburg.
Stelter mocked Trump for saying he is going to hook up with Vlad on cybersecurity.
Which, of course, is fucking crazy on Trump’s part.
But Stelter’s assessment is that Trump may be trying to lure the Russian Prez into his lion’s den.
“Now is this a case of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer? Perhaps, but it’s being ridiculed by both Democrats and some dominant Republicans,” he says.
But then he adds, “He’s been harder on Megyn Kelly than he’s been on Vladimir Putin.”
True. Trump has never told Putin that he has “blood coming out of his wherever.”
It’s time for the first panel.
There’s smiley John Avlon — who is not smiling as much as usual. This is actually the least smiley I’ve ever seen Avlon.
Stelter asks, “Who benefits from the confusion” of Trump’s hazy interview with Vlad?
Avlon replies, “Not the American people. Not the historical record.”
Time to spice things up. Also on the panel is longtime White House correspondent Lynn Sweet from the Chicago Sun Times. She’s dressed in a sleeveless orange sherbet number — could be a dress or a top. It’s hard to know on TV as we can only see a portion of her torso and arms.
“What’s remarkable here between the Secretary of State and the President of the United States. The two people on our side can’t even agree on what happened and that is profound,” she says.
Something to appreciate about Sweet: she’s old school journalism through and through. “You never take anyone at their word unless you have something to back it up,” she says. “A press conference helps you sort that out.”
She urged viewers to want more on-camera briefings. Avlon gives Sweet an assist by flapping his head yes while she’s speaking.
It’s time for Newsmax‘s White House correspondent John Gizzi to blow Stelter’s mind out of the fucking water. Gizzi looks all dolled up in a dark suit, dark red tie and bright red pocketsquare. His glasses are perched high on the bridge of his nose — they sometimes slip down during ordinary on-camera White House briefings.
He comes to the show bearing a gift for Stelter: FACTS.
What. In. The. Hell. Is. Happening.
Stelter can barely take all this in.
Not only does Gizzi come bearing facts, he is like fucking Nostradamus.
“He has now gone the longest of any president without more than one news conference since the present format was established by Franklin Roosevelt and his press secretary Steve Early in 1933,” Gizzi says matter-of-factly.
The scribe has been doing his job since 1979. So of course he knows stuff like this.
But Stelter looks like he just got ears.
“I did not know that,” Stelter says. “Where’s that stat from?”
Stat? What the hell is a stat? Is this millennial slang for something dirty?
Gizzi could use a lifeline. “Pardon me?” he asks.
Stelter quickly gets that he needs to provide Gizzi with a translation for the slang word “stat.”
“Where is that statistic from?” Stelter asks. “I didn’t know that!”
Stelter looks absolutely giddy — like big, giant lollipops are raining down for all to enjoy.
Gizzi essentially says: no shit. Everyone should know this.
“The statistic is well-known because if you read any account of presidents at that time, there is usually a press conference in the first week…and then there is usually one a month later,” he explains to the child host.
Avlon jumps in to voice Trump’s communications problem.
“The President is an erratic messenger,” he says. “The President doesn’t want a society with a free press.”
And now it’s time to blow Stelter’s mind again with a prediction from Gizzi.
“I will predict here and now that within a month it’ll change back to televised day briefings,” Gizzi says.
I hope Stelter is bracing himself. Gizzi has an explanation that involves more facts:
“This is a president who likes ratings. Here’s a factoid for you,” Gizzi says, building up to greatness. “After going for a long period of off camera, there was a day when cabinet secretaries came on with Sarah Huckabee Sanders. And on each of theose days, the camera went on, the ratings when up and guess what? Networks besides C-SPAN and Fox began to interrupt and cover live.”
LISTEN UP TRUMP because the Gizz-meister is going to give you free advice: “If the administration wants its voice heard, it would be wise to go back to on camera everyday.”
Avlon does not smile until the end of the first segment. Stelter announces that Sweet and Gizzi will be gone, but he will remain. Now he smiles.
Next up is Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), whose hairdo sits in a strange helmet on his head that does not move. It looks like he went to the barber and said, ‘Give me the worst politician hairdo you can muster.’ And the barber obliged.
Swalwell, whose name is a mouthful and induces choking, is here to shit on Donald Trump Jr., who tweeted a video of a pilot shooting down a plane with a CNN logo superimposed on it. Like father like son, Don Jr. also despises CNN.
Swalwell makes the painfully obvious point that Trump and his administration distract the media by promoting anti-CNN memes.
“Oh, you think that’s what he was trying to do, distract?” Stelter asks (seriously).
I’m done with the congressman.
Especially since I know who is about to come on. It’s none other than BEN JACOBS, the Guardian reporter who was body slammed by a now sitting member of Congress, GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte (Montana).
The next segment will focus on how reporters handle online harassment. Which has reportedly worsened under Trump’s reign.
Jacobs looks intact with his new dark glasses. But he looks about as comfortable as Chris Christie in a Speedo. He’s stern, serious and understandably not on the show to goof around.
Stelter wants to know how that interview request is going with the congressman who clocked him.
“I’m still talking to his office,” Jacobs says. “He’s new in Congress. …This is something that was a pledge he made to me in the courtroom in Montana so I’m fully confident we’ll work out the logistics soon.”
Really? Do we have any bets on how long Gianforte will punt that interview request into the ether?
Stelter announces that Jacobs crushed glasses are now on display at the Newseum.
Both Avlon and CNN Political Analyst Kirsten Powers laugh.
But Jacobs will not crack open his lips to form any shape that even resembles it might be contemplating jocularity.
Jacobs is like journo-crack for Stelter. He says exactly what Stelter is hoping he’ll say. I’m not dissing Jacobs for it. He seems to say what he thinks. Stelter hasn’t looked this happy since his wife snapped selfies next to his CNN portrait in a hallway as CNN staffers who were laid off packed up their shit.
“There’s a growing atmosphere of hate and disdain toward journalists,” Jacobs says. “My situation was certainly an aberration, but when you think about the threats that journalists are facing everyday just for doing their jobs in the United States of America, that’s what raises the real concern.”
So is he saying the bodyslam he endured was no big deal?
Stelter brings Powers in to profoundly agree with Jacobs.
She says there has been a “noticeable uptick” in hate towards journalists since Trump came into office.
Stelter quickly saves his own ass by remembering to mention the lawmakers who have also suffered in the Trump era — like Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who is still in the hospital in serious condition after a crazed lefty shot and nearly killed him during baseball practice last month.
Politicians are also in danger, Stelter is quick to add. But since this is a show about the media, he allows Powers to bolster Jacobs’ point that the media gets shit on way more than it used to.
Powers says in all her time as a journalist she has never had anyone threaten to post or post her home address until now. She says “haters” said they were going to find her parents and harass them too.
“Something is definitely very different,” she says.
Powers goes off on HanAssholeSolo and says he has no right to remain anonymous considering the anti-Semitic crap he posted on Reddit.
Jacobs literally looks like the building is on fire. He can’t wait to get off the show. Which rings true since he has always maintained he doesn’t like the spotlight and never wanted to be the story.
Stelter concluded his program much the way he began.
With an anti-Trump lecture.
He teases an “essay” about threats journalists have faced.
Oh God…his essay? Please God help us all survive this.
“The solution to poor journalism is more journalism,” Stelter says.
Hey, that rhymes.
Did he think that line up in the bathtub?
Stelter says the “anti-journalism voices” are getting louder.
(Is he hallucinating?)
“Constructive criticism makes newsrooms better,” he says. “We need it. But it’s not pro-journalism to promote resentment and hatred of journalists.”
Flash to GOP Main Gov. Paul LePage, who said earlier in the week that the sooner the press goes away the better society will be. Sure, he’s a dick. But Stelter has the most obvious reaction in the history of the world.
“That is an anti-journalism mentality,” he says.
With that, Stelter reels off high drama words and phrases: “Smears, lies, death threats against journalists…equating reporters to ISIS terrorists.”
Stelter has a non-apology that he’s going to try to whip into an apology:
“I’m sorry to say these people, these trolls are media illiterate…they really do not know how newsrooms work,” he says. “That’s all the more reason why newsrooms and media companies need to take media literacy seriously. …But at the same time, newsroom bosses and media company owners need to mount a defense of the work that journalists do day in day out.”
Again he voices an ominous thought: “Anti-journalism voices are insidious…and they’re getting louder.” Cue up the haunted house music.
Stelter brings in one last guest for a sober thought.
Why are you guys focusing on Trump’s every tweet?
Maybe you’re the problem, fool.
Honestly, brownie points for Stelter for bringing on the Pope, as in CJR‘s Editor and Publisher Kyle Pope, to tell him to cut it out.
“It’s time for us to think about recalibrating how we think about this,” Pope says. “These threats are real, but I’m not sure that the response is getting that message across effectively.”
And then Pope says something noble: “The one thing I’ve learned in journalism is that it’s not about us. It’s very rarely abut us. In this case, I think it’s about President Trump. And what is his mindset, what is his mentality. We have to ask ourselves…we need to think about..what is most effective in conveying this important message?”
Pope has fears. “What I fear is that the way we’re covering and the volume with which we are covering it is turning people off. That is something I think we need to be worried about.”
Listen closely, Stelter.
“What I’m not saying is that the attacks on the press aren’t a story,” he says. “I’m saying that every presidential tweet need not be a story at the volume that we’re giving it.”
Stelter seems to understand as he parrots Pope’s words.
“Not the story over and over and over again,” he says.
With that, Stelter fucks up the name of Pope’s organization.
“Read the full column at CHR,” he says.
He quickly catches himself. “Sorry, wait, what am I saying?”
“CJR..CJR.org” he shouts in Oprah‘s football field voice.
And that’s a wrap.