The Mirror

We Watch CNN’s ‘Reliable Sources’ So You Don’t Have To (8/27)


Betsy Rothstein Gossip blogger
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MY LIVING ROOM–– The shades are partially drawn and it’s time to sit back and endure another irritating episode of CNN’s “Reliable Sources” with host Brian Stelter. I have zero excitement about having to spend an hour of my Sunday watching this guy bloviate about how much he hates President Trump or how mentally unstable he thinks POTUS is. I would sooner watch a John King marathon of political news — which should tell you something about my enthusiasm for this program. As one of my readers has been putting it on Twitter, The Mirror “watches the whale-like, well-fed windbag so you don’t have to.”

So let’s get started.

Stelter’s partially on storm duty today — namely Tropical Storm Harvey, which is largely in Houston and the surrounding areas.

Don’t worry. Stelter is safely stuffed into his dark suit, blue shirt and red polka dot tie in New York.

He rolled footage of a Houston TV station, KHOU, which he says has been evacuated due to flooding.

For awhile, he showed film of a man and woman in black shorts walking down the street with water up to their thighs. She wore a white trash bag over her head.

Alarms blare. Stelter asks, ingeniously, “Are those car alarms?”

CNN correspondent Rosa Flores explains that they are actually alarms from a nearby building.


Okay, I’m still awake.

On the phone is Vernon Loeb, managing editor of the Houston Chronicle.

“We have the entire editorial staff activated,” he says, explaining that most people are editing from home or from wherever they are — one editor is leading her team from a Starbucks in Taos, New Mexico. “It’s raining really hard and the skies are dark. They are forecasting for four more days of rain. Where this goes I have no idea.”

Good chat.

Now we move on to Allison Chinchar, a seemingly over-caffeinated CNN meteorologist.

She’s not saying anything terribly exciting. The rain will continue to fall hard all day long. She says don’t be fooled if the rain looks like it’s lightening up. “You have to keep in mind this is not over,” she says, explaining that it won’t really be over for another three or four days.

Despite the fact that Harvey was decreased from a hurricane to a tropical storm, Stelter wants Chinchar to compare and contrast the situation with Hurricane Katrina.

It’s 11:15 a.m. which means he’s had enough of the storm and it’s time for a far meatier subject like some good old-fashioned Trump bashing. Stelter teases the next segment, which will address Trump’s idiotic claim from last week that journalists don’t like the United States.

Stelter falls  right into Trump’s lap by giving the whole thing oxygen.

“We’ve seen the President, I don’t know, almost hijacking the news cycle,” he says.

He runs down Trump’s shitshow from the past week and asks, “How should the press balance all these news stories?”

For THIS we have a panel of experts. They include HuffPost‘s  Editor-in-Chief Lydia Polgreen, USA TODAY‘s Editor-in-Chief Jeanne Lipman and Political Analyst Jeff Greenfield.

Polgreen says Trump is tweeting about the storm like it’s a reality show. “It seems to me that the President isn’t defining the news cycle, he’s outside of it,” she says.

Interestingly, Greenfield insults cable news.

“One of the things I would fault, particularly the cable networks with, is that every time Trump makes news — and it is news —  it’s another way of not focusing on what is going on in the country and the kinds of changes this administration is making from the courts to consumer protection to the environment,” he says. “Those stories presistently undercovered because it’s so much more interesting to cover the really bizarre way that Trump is handling the presidency.”

Greenfield has effectively insulted cable news.

But Stelter seems like he won’t let his prickly words touch his heart. “Hmmm,” he says, quickly  launching into a teaser about Trump’s “biggest media attacks” yet.


Stelter is talking about Trump’s Phoenix rally last week in which Trump used “poisonous words” to talk about the media. Trump called the media “sick” and “bad” and said he thinks reporters don’t like the country.

Stelter really likes the “poison” metaphor. He says Trump’s words are like a “slow-acting poison,”  gradually hurting the country by getting the country to distrust the media.

“Do you agree with me that it’s a kind of poison when the President talks this way?” he asks Greenfield.

“You can say the press is elitist, you can say we make a lot of mistakes, you can say we are biased, but the idea that we are sick people who don’t love our country is at a level that exceeds anything I can remember,” he says sensibly.

Now Stelter is questioning Polgreen, but he says something wildly insulting — he calls her site “lefty.” Which is apparently not OK with her. She’s talking about HuffPost‘s nationwide bus tour. She says the sight is “progressive” and not left or right, terms she doesn’t find useful.

Stelter doesn’t push back on that absurd point. He goes along to get along.

Stelter brings up Trump’s “mental fitness” and asks Greenfield what he thinks.

“Be honest with me, have we gone too far?” Stelter asks.

Again, Greenfield has a smart reply, which is essentially ‘hell yes.’ “I would be very hesitant as a journalist to weigh in on the mental state of anybody,” he replies. “…This is a President whose relationship to reality is casual at best.”

Stelter doesn’t really seem like he’s ingesting anything Greenfield has to say. But he should because Greenfield is actually making sense. In other words, his advice is this: base your reporting on facts and not your ridiculously loose understanding of armchair psychology, which Stelter did throughout last week’s show.

Next up: How much does Breitbart News matter?

Stelter will not talk to anyone who works there. Instead, he’ll speak to Kurt Bardella, a former Breitbart News spokesman, who routinely trashes the site. Trump’s former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon has been back at the site for a week.

“How important is Breitbart really?” he asks the ether.

And now… the panel. There was absolutely no warning that Baltimore Sun‘s media writer Jeff Zurawik was coming on the show and this greatly disturbs me. As those who’ve read my recaps know, Zurawik has no volume control over his voice and is the most annoying panelist among Stelter’s regulars.

I wish I had a few minutes to emotionally gather strength to cope with Zurawik.

“We don’t spend time obsessing about what Marty Baron [WaPo] is thinking or Dean Baquet [NYT] — maybe because we assume they are doing journalism’s work,” Z says. “…Sometimes we create these scary media and political figures on the right — we did it with Karl Rove. …and I really think we are overstating Bannon’s importance.”

Like a tropical storm, Zurawik’s thoughts are all over the place. Maybe Stelter should mentally assess him with his phony psychiatry expertise. “And it’s not that he’s not important,” Z is saying, completely contradicting his previous thought. “…He has influence. But this whole thing…here’s somebody who’s saying we’re weaponizing our platform. ..That goes against everything I believe about journalism. …We overestimate his influence to some extent.”


Bardella pulls a shred of sense out of the ass of this chaotic segment. He says Breitbart News is important in the sense that it shapes Trump’s thinking, rhetoric and agenda.

Stelter closes the show by returning to storm coverage and the Houston TV station, KHOU, that has now gone off air due to flooding. Members of the staff are taking cover.

Looks like “Reliable Sources” is wrapping up early today.

I’m not complaining.