LOUNGING IN MY LIGHT-FILLED LIVING ROOM – I can’t quite put my finger on it. But right off the bat, CNN “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter seems annoyed. Less chipper than usual at the start of his show. His cadence is clipped and quick.
He is consistent on one front. He’s ready to gong his favorite nemesis: President Trump. By the way, bashing the Prez is great for ratings and it’s sure to put a shit-eating grin on his boss Jeff Zucker’s face.
I’ve already hit rewind six times and by the fourth repeat of Brian’s open, I’m cringing and ready to tear my hair out.
“This wassss…[annoying pause] … Moron Week, right?” he asks rhetorically. “Moron, the word of the week. You see President Trump renewing his war against the media with overuse of his favorite phrase: fake news.”
But what about Brian’s over-bashing of Trump? Not that our president doesn’t deserve severe critique. He does. And gets it on an hourly basis. But on this show, it’s week after week after week. We can’t have one single day of intriguing media stories around the nation and globe that don’t involving coming down on Trump?
The answer: Not on this show. Not yet, anyhow.
Brian goes over Trump’s tweets and retweets.
He touches on the news that Sec. of State Rex Tillerson didn’t deny calling Trump a moron, which is many days old.
“Let’s separate fact from the President’s fiction now,” he says.
Brian welcomes his first panel. In other words, three journalists who are willing to help him bash Trump. Lately he is done bringing on anyone who will sharply disagree with him. He even had to endure WaPo‘s Wesley Lowery calling one of his show segments dumb last week. But Lowery quickly walked it back and said it’s not really Brian’s fault that he has to cover Trump’s antics.
Today’s panel is comprised of American Urban Radio’s April Ryan, Playboy’s Brian Karem, executive editor of Sentinel Newspapers, and Joanne Lipman, editor-in-chief at USA Today.
“April, first to you. Take me through all these fake news critiques this week,” Brian says. “Is it true when the going gets tough for President Trump, the news gets fake in his mind?”
Ryan responds, “You’ve hit the nail squarely on the head, Brian.”
STOP ENCOURAGING HIM, APRIL.
Ryan, who has brawled with Trump aide and TV villain Omarosa Manigault, explains that the President wants to create a positive spin amid chaos. He doesn’t want the nation to know the truth. “So therefore we are fake,” she explains.
Brian wants to know if Trump really wants the Senate Intel Committee to investigate the media.
“I think he’s punking us, I think he’s trolling us,” Karem says. “…They hate everybody that’s not them.”
Brian wants to know who “they” is, despite it being obvious. Karem explains to viewers that it’s “the White House, the entire administration.”
“As a news executive, do you take these comments serious from the president?” he asks USA Today’s Lipman.
Lipman covered Trump when he was a real estate developer. “He did have a singular ability to market himself. …So fake news has become one of the memes,” she says.
Here is an interesting part of the show: She’s talking about her paper’s use of “confidential sources.” She says a confidential source needs to have direct knowledge, not second or third hand. “The bar is very very high,” she says.
Karem is all puffed up — about himself and the issue.“First of all, I don’t like to use confidential sources,” he says valiantly. “Now, I’ve gone to jail for using a confidential source. No one uses them as if you’re chewing bubble gum or candy. This is a very serious thing.”
The metaphor plops down hard with a thud. I guess he’s saying that no one uses “confidential sources” in a whimsical manner. But anonymous sourcing and chewing candy doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
Brian says he attended a White House briefings this week and found it “more tense” in the room than it is on TV. He wants to know if the briefing room is always this
much of a shitshow tense.
Ryan lets out a deeply dramatic sigh. “It depends on the moment and time,” she says, noting it was also pretty tense during the time of former President Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky. “This is a moment where there’s tension. …We want to know the truth and sometimes we don’t’ feel the truth is coming out and there is tension.”
Brian is suddenly from the deep south. He says he wants to bring “ya’all back” after the commercial break.
Ok, so he’s back and complaining that it has been four months since Trump did a real TV news interview. He doesn’t consider White House Press Sec. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ father Mike Huckabee or FNC’s Sean Hannity fair interviewers, especially when Huckabee tells Trump he’s a “rock star.” To be fair, he’s right. These are basically safe, suckup, bullshit interviews.
The host flashes footage of Trump lobbing paper towels into the crowd in Puerto Rico.
“When I stop laughing I’ll give it to you,” says Karem, when asked for reaction to those suckup interviews.
Lipman says it’s the media’s responsibility to get away from the paper towel throwing and address the news of the humanitarian disaster on the island. “The paper towel throwing to me was just a diversion,” she says.
There’s some tension between Karem and Lipman. Karem insists the press needs to cover the diversions. Lippman maintains it’s the media’s job to go beyond them. It doesn’t reach the point of all out nastiness – instead, she smiles broadly, as if to say, ‘alright, dude, you’re so wrong, but fine, whatever, keep talking. You’re still wrong.’
Brian teases the next segment. “Has the right lost its mind?” he asks, introducing Trump hater Charlie Sykes, who wrote a book How The Right Lost Its Mind. What a surprise – Brian has on yet another guest to help him disembowel Trump.
“We’ve developed almost an immunity…we’ve broken down our immunity to false information, hoaxes,” says Sykes.
“An immunity is a really interesting word,” Brian interjects, awkwardly mirroring his guest. “An immunity to false information.”
At this point I’m pretty irritated by this metaphor and feel like I’m watching a children’s horror show in which Brian Stelter translates what the guest is saying.
Sykes says Trump is “immunizing himself” against negative stories and legitimate reporting.
And now it’s time for Brian to question Trump’s mental health, which is something he has done repeatedly on the last several shows despite not having a psychology degree or any real qualifications to psychoanalyze anyone.
“Do you think President Trump is stable?” he asks.
“No,” Sykes replies.
Sykes eventually calls Trump a “an erratic narcissist, a serial liar…thin-skinned, vindictive. …Can we not pretend that the emperor is not naked? Can we not pretend that the emperor is not stable?”
In other words, Trump is unclothed and crazy.
Up next: Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, ex-FNC host Bill O’Reilly and Donald Trump – what all these men have in common, Brian teases.
Weinstein’s behavior is “disgusting,” Brian declares. “One question lingers in the air: How could allegations repeating the same pattern have accumulated for three decades?”
Despite all his judge-y statement, Brian deserves props. He rightfully mocks attorney Lisa Bloom excusing Weinstein as a “dinosaur” who doesn’t know how to use his iPad.
Never one to miss a chance to ding Trump, Brian plays the approximately one-year anniversary of the revelation of Trump’s “grab em by the pussy” tape. Billy Bush’s laughing while Trump says it is as jarring as ever, maybe even more so in the context of the Weinstein story.
“It’s a good thing these stories are finally coming to light,” he says, lecturing viewers that it won’t happen if it’s only women dedicated to the cause. HEAR BRIAN ROAR!
It’s time for the taped interview with The Washington Post’s Executive Editor Marty Baron of Spotlight fame. Baron was the heroic editor of The Boston Globe who worked on the famous story on which the film was based.
“We’re not stenographers,” he tells Brian. “…We’re supposed to find out what really happened.”
There’s no easy way to say this. But Baron is extremely pale. In the taped interview, Brian’s balding head looks as though it has been dunked in some sort of sheen — kind of like a hot paraffin wax at a nail salon. It looks like he has some sort of spray tan going on compared to Baron’s ghostly hue.
On Trump’s attacks on the press, Baron says, “You may think its failed but I’m not sure they think its failed,” he says, noting that Trump’s fake news attacks have become “background music” to the work they do.
Baron says he reads nearly all the stories before they come out – particularly the sensitive ones.
“There is a truth,” he says. “It’s not just a matter of opinion and it’s our obligation to find out what that truth is.”
It’s a good point. I hope the host was actually listening.