We Watch CNN’s ‘Reliable Sources’ So You Don’t Have To (11-12-17)


Betsy Rothstein Gossip blogger
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In A Pretty Sunlit Living Room In Washington–Brace yourselves. It’s time for another episode of “We Watch CNN’s Reliable Sources” with your President Trump-hating host Brian Stelter so you don’t have to destroy your Sunday.

An avid reader calls Brian “Jeff Zucker’s strapping, stuffed stooge.”

So let’s get right to it. But first, some prayers. Please God. Please don’t let The Baltimore Sun’s media critic David Zurawik be a panelist this week. Same for CNN analyst Carl Bernstein. I’ve had it with these two. I never check the guest list beforehand because I don’t want to pre-dread my cable news watching. Zurawik is maddening because he has the volume control of grandpa’s flatulence and no discernible sense of humor. He laughs at any trace of humor that Brian displays.

Which is never.

Bernstein, dispatched in from The Hamptons, has the feel of a  Thanksgiving table relative who eats with his mouth open and won’t shut up about politics. What he says could be edited down to two succinct lines, but Brian gives him free rein to relive his Watergate glory days – and yeah, sure, that deserves some glory — in between bowls of pudding.

Brian starts off this week’s show by highlighting the “Democratic sweep” this week and Trump’s “dangerous disregard” for Russian election meddling.

But first a Brianism: “No story exemplifies our broken media environment more than Moore [DRAMATIC PAUSE]….Roy Moore.”

Moore is the 70-year-old Senate candidate from Alabama who was accused of molesting a 14-year-old 30 years ago. In a Washington Post story published Thursday, Leigh Corfman claims that Moore liquored her up, kissed her, sort of unrobed her and made her touch him through his underwear.

Oh fuck. The first panel’s up and it’s the aforementioned ZURAWIK, political analyst Jeff Greenfield, Alabama Political Reporter columnist Josh Moon, and  The Federalist’s Bethany Mandel, whose young children don’t know who the president of the United States is because she and her husband don’t believe in giving their children that kind of knowledge. (And yes, that’s super weird parenting any way you cut it.)

Greenfield says the fake news allegation on Moore comes straight from Trump’s playbook – which is to say, if it comes from a mainstream news outlet like The Washington Post, it’s likely not true.

Mandel was abused by her rabbi. She explains that when you Google her name, Barry Freundel, the creepola Washington rabbi who secretly filmed women in the nude, always pops up. When she was 24 and trying to convert to Judaism, the sleaze ball rabbi taped her “practice mikvah dunk.” (Loosely, this is a spiritual bath that completes the conversion process.) “That’s not something that someone wants to sign up for,” she says.

(I am going to go ahead and agree with her on this.)

Bethany shudders about having to someday explain to her kids what happened to her – of course, by that point, she may also consider letting them in on which public official sits in the Oval. But who knows?

Zurawik has something to say. It concerns a Breitbart News piece discussing an ABC-affiliate in Alabama. “IT’S A SINCLAIR-OWNED STATION,” he says. “THERE’S A [RIGHT-WING] ECHO CHAMBER BEING CREATED HERE. AND BECAUSE IT’S A SINCLAIR STATION IT HAS THE CREDIBILITY OF BEING LOCAL.”

He calls all the sexual harassment coverage a “CULTURAL TIDAL WAVE” that can’t be stopped.

Brian says the news cycle this week was “weirdly calm” because Trump stayed on script during his Asia adventure.

The Daily Beast’s Editor-in-Chief John Avlon is here, joined by Greenfield.

For some reason Greenfield looks like he spent a little too much time in a tanning bed with goggles. His eyelids are far paler than the rest of his face. He is being patched in from Santa Barbara, Calif., so maybe he got too many rays.

“Donald Trump sees himself as a tough guy truth teller in every circumstance except when it comes to Vladimir Putin, and then he will contort himself just to avoid any confrontation,” Avlon says.

Brian floats the rumor that reporters constantly dish about Russia having dirt on Trump.

“Look, Trump will criticize anyone about anything except Vladimir Putin,” Avlon reiterates. “…So it doesn’t make logical sense.”

Greenfield says Trump utters lots of shockers – things that no other U.S. president would ever say. Which all in all isn’t that shocking at this point is it?

Next up: The AT&T Time Warner merger.

Is the Trump administration trying to block AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner? The deal still awaits approval from the Justice Department.

Trump once said his administration wouldn’t approve the deal.

Brian mentions this might really be about Trump’s dislike of CNN.

“These are all the ingredients of a media mystery,” Brian says.

CNN has no proof that Trump is interfering in the sale. Brian certainly doesn’t have it. “As soon as I know, I’ll share it with you,” he says, after totally insinuating it.

Good reporting, Brian!

Moving on. We’re beyond the half-way mark and my day is looking brighter with every minute that inches closer to the end of this show. We’ve got 20 minutes left. WE CAN DO THIS!

Another week, another mass shooting. This past week was the Texas church shooting in which 25 people died.

“It all feels so repetitive now,” Brian says. “The media goes through predictive stages of coverage.”

His guest is Chris Hurst, the former anchor whose girlfriend was gunned down on live TV. He won a state seat in the 12th District of Virginia.

How does he feel about the media now?

HAHAHAHAHA — Hurst apparently thinks this question is laugh out loud funny.

“Well, I didn’t think it would take me this long to not enjoy answering the same kinds of questions all the time from reporters,” he says.

Good thing he’s a politician right?

Hurst has another compliant about the media, aside from it apparently being populated with big unoriginal bores who can’t come up with unique questions for him. He says it’s only when mass shootings occur that the media pays attention to gun violence in America.

With 10 minutes left of the show, Brian is going to talk about negative partisanship in America. YAAAAAWWWWN.

“Is there anything journalists can do to help bridge this divide?” Brian asks as if it’s a journalist’s job to politically influence a nation as opposed to cover it.

Back on air is Avlon and ZURAWIK – grrrrrr.

Avlon is highly animated today.

He says people focus on what they hate and what they oppose. “The only glue holding the coalition together is opposition not proposition,” he says.

Brian likes that word glue. So does Avlon who has used the word three times.

“That’s a really helpful way to think about it, the negative partisanship is the glue that holds these things together,” Brian says, complimenting Avlon’s Elmer’s analogy.

“Yeah,” Avlon replies, awkwardly agreeing that he came up with a great way to glue the topic and the analysis together.

So which side is worse…the left or the right?

Naturally Zurawik picks: “I THINK IT’S ABSOLUTELY MORE OF A PROBLEM ON THE RIGHT,” he says.

He raises the issue of Fox News’ Laura Ingraham bringing up former President Bill Clinton’s marital atrocities during the Roy Moore coverage.

He spoke of former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who he said held a lame 2,000-person rally in Baltimore last month in which O’Reilly said you can’t trust outlets like The Washington Post, the New York Times CNN and The Baltimore Sun.


(Zurawik’s decibel level: High.)