LOUNGING ON MY GRAY CLOTH SOFA–His brows are furrowed and his eyes are intense. Brian Stelter is trying out a pop of color this week. He’s in a black suit, white shirt with a bright yellow jacket bee-style black and yellow striped tie.
As his tie might suggest, he’s ready to sting President Trump.
We’re not even a breath into the show and Stelter is already butchering President Trump and “what is really his alternate reality regarding Hurricane Maria.”
In his signature helium voice, Stelter says, “This is a slow motion crisis and all the evidence suggests that both federal and local government responses were flawed and inadequate. But Trump and his media allies are swearing that the responses have been great and they are blaming the San Juan mayor – and the Puerto Ricans who want everything to be done for them.”
Stelter says the “fake news slur” is back and Trump used it eight times so far this weekend. “At one point he explicitly said don’t believe the fake news,” he said. “Don’t believe your eyes. That’s what the U.S. president is saying.”
The host says pro-Trump media outlets are “echoing” this reality, but news outlets on the ground are telling “a more nuanced” story.
If you didn’t already realize this, Trump is going to be Stelter’s trough today and — slurp, slurp, slurp — he can’t get enough of it.
Up first to talk about what’s happening in Puerto Rico is CNN correspondent Leyla Santiago, who is a native of Puerto Rico. With a personal connection and family there, Santiago is the perfect correspondent to discuss this story.
She says people haven’t seen Trump’s tweets because their cell phones are not working.
Stelter welcomes Politico‘s Tara Palmeri to the show. He announces that she’s “formerly” of Politico and hints that she’s “reportedly” about to join ABC but nothing is official yet.” Which seems utterly absurd. There she is on the air — why not commit an act of journalism and just ask her? A quick look at her Instagram shows that it is official because she tweeted news of the move herself. Just seems like a dumb thing to be cagey about on a media show.
Palmeri chats about Trump’s media diet.
“The president consumes television all day long,” she says. “He hates being criticized. …When someone criticizes him, he punches back twice as hard, regardless of if that person criticizing him is a victim. There’s nothing humane about going after someone who’s struggling with a humanitarian process in a crisis. …To his base, Puerto Rican feels very far away. It’s a largely Democratic island. It’s really a no loss situation for Trump who is feeding red meat to his base on Twitter.”
Stelter plays a snippet from SNL. It’s the one where Alec Baldwin‘s Trump doesn’t seem to know that Puerto Rico belongs to the United States. “You do know we’re a U.S. territory don’t you?” a woman asks SNL’s Trump, who replies, “Maybe I do, but not many people know that.”
Hunter College Prof Edwin Melendez says, “Sometimes a joke is the best way to approach reality and to come across with a reality check for the media and everybody else.”
Melendez talks about media coverage of Hurricane Maria.
“It was a little bit slow prior, ” he says. “When it became clear, very few outlets were able to send crews. …No cell phones…The whole thing was difficult to catch up.”
Palmeri jumps in.
“His mood, his whims. ..He hasn’t shown that he is putting his political will behind Puerto Rico as he did behind Florida and Houston,” she says. “…Now he’s facing the real situation and accountability journalism is how it came to light.”
Palmeri says the optics of Trump golfing in New Jersey this weekend are bad. She pointed out that Trump bashed former President Obama for golfing during a crisis.
Santiago, who is losing her voice, says there is no hospital in her hometown and people with cancer, HIV, Diabetes, are living in classrooms. “Moving forward…how do we move forward?” she asks. “The president may think we’re doing a terrific job…but help is not arriving. They haven’t seen or felt any of this help that is supposedly being done or is a terrific job.”
Stelter spends the bulk of the show stepping on Trump’s neck.
CNN’s chyron blares, “TRUMP’S EMBARRRASSING WEEK.”
Stelter reels off three ways in which Trump embarrassed himself in the past week.
1. He points out Trump’s preferred U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama, Luther Strange, lost a GOP primary last week against Roy Moore, the pol supported by Trump’s ex chief strategist, Breitbart News‘ Executive Chairman Steve Bannon.
2. He talks about Trump inventing that a senator — this would be Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) — was hospitalized and couldn’t vote for the health care bill moving through the Senate. Cochran wasn’t in the hospital. “I’m not hospitalized,” he tweeted.
3. He discusses Friday’s resignation of HHS Secretary Tom Price, who quit amid Politico reports that he flew on private jets during business travel — a no-no, even in the Trump administration.
“So how’s that for a refresher on the week?” Stelter asks.
The host likes guests who thrash Trump as much as he does.
For this, he has invited on the husband and wife journo team of New York Post‘s op-ed editor Seth Mandel and The Federalist‘s senior contributor Bethany Mandel.
Stelter says he has “bonded” with the couple because they have small children and he recently spawned a daughter that he often posts about on social media. The host posted a picture of his daughter in a onesie that bears the quote by the Washington Post that says, “Democracy Dies In Darkness.” After his daughter was born, he tweeted pictures of his wife and newborn from her hospital bed.
Bethany speaks about Trump’s affect on the news cycle. “He wants it to be so hard to follow that people stop following,” she says. “People are tuning out. It’s too much to process.”
Seth is also anti-Trump: “He doesn’t take weekends off. He doesn’t like to not be the focus of the news cycle. …Trump abhors a vacuum.”
Bethany adds, “Everything is threatening when you have a madman,” she says referring to North Korean Prez Kim Jong Un. “And I’m not just talking about Trump. I don’t believe a lot of what comes out of the White House. I think we don’t know a lot of what’s going on.”
Bethany suggests that the State Department may be lying.
Next up: Stelter flashes Trump’s tweets that Sec. of State Rex Tillerson is wasting his time trying to negotiate with North Korea.
Drama Queen Stelter asks, “Are we at the point where folks on TV should be questioning the president’s stability?”
We are 24 minutes into the program and Brian is questioning Trump’s mental health, which he has done on previous shows. Did Stelter get a psych Ph.D. since last week? What qualifies him to assess Trump’s mental health?
“Is your home a Trump free zone?” Stelter asks the Mandels.
“We use euphemisms,” Bethany replies.
This is the absolutely weirdest part of today’s show. The Mandels are in Fantasyland.
The only reason Stelter has this couple on the program is because they back up his Trump narrative. Instead of having an alternative point of view, he has yes-people. (This isn’t always the case, but it is for this week.)
“I don’t think they know he’s the president,” Bethany says of her children. “There’s no tension in the house about it.”
Seth says his children are “mad at Trump” because of the mail. “My almost 4-year-old daughter said we don’t like President Trump because he sends us a lot of mail.”
This is so completely bizarre that two journalists would willfully want their children to be ignorant about the basic current world affairs. Shouldn’t a 4-year-old be allowed to know who the President of the United States is?
It’s the halfway mark. And it’s approaching my bedtime and I really hope that seeing Stelter’s giant balding head isn’t going to give me nightmares. (I’m obviously not watching the show in real time.)
CNN contributor, WaPo reporter and Mirror BFF Wesley Lowery is on the next panel. He’s here to discuss football players kneeling during the national anthem as an act of protest.
He is no longer wearing a priest collar button-down that he wore for his last appearance. Today he has dressed himself in open collar, windowpane style shirt that he has paired with a gray blue sport jacket that is actually a nice color.
“It’s incumbent on us to continue to do stories on racial disparity and policing,” Wesley says.
And then he takes a giant dig at Stelter.
“Unfortunately we’re having a segment about the President’s tweets,” he says, mentioning a “great piece” in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about racial disparity and policing.
But never fear. He quickly sucks up to Stelter, saying, “That’s no fault of yours. We have to cover that.”
Stelter asks, “Do we give him too much power Wes?”
Wesley actually makes a decent point. “He’s the President of the United States,” he tells Stelter. “I’d love to say we should ignore what he’s tweeting…but I think we need to take him seriously. Because history is going to.”
Wesley makes up for telling Stelter that his show is dumb. He moves to bashing Trump as he talks about how the president attacked the mayor of Puerto Rico. “This is real,” he says. “And history is going to remember this.”
Stelter looks gleeful.
The next panel covers “Facebook, Russia and Fake News.”
The guests are CNN media writer Dylan Byers and Julia Angwin, an investigative journalists for ProPublica who is going to suck up to Stelter so hard that I can’t believe I have to report the ridiculous thing she said about him.
Minus Stelter, it appears to be a no tie sort of day.
Byers is wearing a white shirt, no tie and a blue-gray blazer. “How do we teach Americans to recognize real news versus fake news, not what the president says is fake news, but what is actually fake news?” he asks.
Brian’s internal heat seeking missile system goes off. He says, “You brought up fake news. Let’s define it.”
ProPublica‘s Angwin says Facebook is a platform that is “perfectly desgined” for information warfare.. “We’re all subject to be manipulated. …We’re at a point where people don’t trust anything,” she says.
Byers says the media needs authority figures. But who would that possibly be? “The media needs people who can establish a common narrative,” he says. “Figures in the media who are so authoritiative that they cross partisan lines.”
Byers brings up “Reliable Sources” — the name of Brian’s show. But to his credit, he doesn’t name Stelter as someone who could fill this role.
As if on cue, Stelter asks, “Julia are there any of those figures left?”
Julia flat out lies to him. That, or her brain is filled with marshmallows. “Brian, you are certainly a candidate for that,” she says.
She can’t be serious. …WHAT??!! Thankfully he doesn’t thank her. His response is a vague “hmmm.”
Now it’s time for ANOTHER segment on Trump’s tweets on Rex Tillerson.
This time his guest is Steve Warren, a military analyst, a former spokesperson for Defense Sec. Jim Mattis and a retired U.S. Army colonel. A variety of descriptions for him flash on the screen.
“Well, Brian, what a way to run foreign policy,” he says, criticizing Trump. “What a way to run foreign affairs. …I think maybe pick up the telephone and call your Secretary of State.”
Warren says the situation with North Korea is a “nuclear crisis” that requires “high levels of diplomacy” and “extraordinary patience” and “sophisticated operations” to get the U.S. through a nuclear crisis.
Stelter explains that Warren was originally booked him on program to talk about Pentagon press access. But hey, let’s have him dress down Trump for his tweets while we’re at it.
Stelter wants to know about so-called “new restrictions” on members of the media who cover the Pentagon.
“It’s difficult to really call them restrictions,” says Warren, correcting him.
“Reporters complain that they haven’t been able to get the Sec. of Defense to stand behind podiums and give press conferences. Fewer reporters invited on trips. …I think it needs to shake out a little bit more. The Secretary of Defense is walking a tight rope. His boss has declared that the press is the enemy of the people.”
Warren explains that if Mattis talks to the press, Trump may construe that he’s “colluding” with the enemy. (Interesting choice of words.)
Stelter closes out the show with a drive-by mention of the deaths of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and Vogue Publisher S.I. Newhouse.
Why would they possibly deserve more coverage when Stelter needs to spend 99 percent of show sliming Trump?
Correction and clarification: I screwed up the Mandel’s titles a bit. Everyone knows how important titles are in media. So I apologize for that. Fragile egos are seriously at stake here. Bethany freaked out on Twitter about it. So they’ve been changed above. She also flipped out over what I said about their children being able to know who the president of the United States is. That’s her problem. To be clear, I didn’t go after her children, as she claims. I also didn’t question their parenting. I simply said I thought the children should be able to know who occupies the White House. She said on air that they don’t allow that in their household.