We Watch CNN’s ‘Reliable Sources’ So You Don’t Have To (1-7-18)
On A Gray Sofa In Washington–The balding head is back this week to discuss one of his favorite topics — President’s Trump‘s mental health. This week, host Brian Stelter seems to contradict stances he has taken in the past concerning his feverish questioning about the President’s mental stability. They’ve positioned Brian’s head among a collage of Trump photographs, creating an odd visual for this Sunday morning.
Brian says journalists need to cover the President’s mental health.
“Let’s be honest here,” he says, referring to Michael Wolff‘s blockbuster Fire and Fury: Inside Donald Trump‘s White House that’s flying off bookshelves like hotcakes. “It’s not just the book that is forcing this fitness issue to the forefront. When a president of the United States threatens North Korea by invoking the size of his nuclear button [or Button as Trump puts it], it is fair to ask about his fitness. If a leader of another country were to do the same thing, I think many commentators, many reporters would conclude he is not well.”
Brian then reels off reasons why Trump needs therapy.
— President Trump promotes conspiracy therapy.
— He shares racist videos on social media.
— He live tweets Fox News shows that mislead him while he derides real reporting as fake news.
— He insults people for fun. (I heard a little Pee Wee Herman in Brian at this moment and I’m not going to be able to get Pee Wee out of my head for the rest of the show. I suspect I’m going to need therapy by the end of his show.)
We are just a few minutes into what is supposed to be CNN’s Sunday morning “media” program and Brian is waist-deep into his lecture. “Journalists are not judges or doctors,” he says. “This is not a court or a hospital. What this needs from reporters is more reporting … more reporting of what is going on.”
So basically Brian is basically lecturing himself to stop playing psychiatrist?
Up first is CNN political analyst Carl Bernstein from the bookshelves of The Hamptons. His white hair is slicked back. He’s got a nice summer blue tie on and his signature tortoise-shell glasses. There is something 100 certain here — Carl is going to ramble. He’s also going to order reporters to report — specifically he’s going to put pressure on Fox News to send its “real” reporters out (who don’t include the likes of Sean Hannity) and get Republicans in the House and Senate to talk about Trump’s mental fitness.
Brace yourselves. He’ll make this point repeatedly throughout the show. Annoying, he’s given a loose leash and plenty of airtime to say the same thing over and over again. Should someone not question’s Carl’s mental fitness for repeating his points in a such a short period of time? Should Brian be reprimanded for not reigning in his mentally questionable guest?
Carl says Fox News needs to send 20 reporters to interview every Republican congressman and senator. This is now the second or third time he has made the point and I’m about to lose my mental fitness.
I’ll give Brian credit. He maintains his “reporter’s” scowl throughout Carl’s entire Thanksgiving dinner speech.
Once again, Carl repeats himself. He wants reporters to ask Republican senators and congressman about the President’s mental fitness. Wait — didn’t he already say this twice? “We are not psychiatrists. We are reporters. And now we almost have to invent a new kind of reporting,” he says, mentioning the “great reporters” over at Fox News.
He says these reporters need to be “flooding the hill.” And yes, Carl needs an off switch. He may, however, have a future in a Sunday morning cartoon show.
Carl ultimately suggests Republicans should consider persuading Trump to resign.
It’s time to hear rom the rest of the panel — thank God.
Indira Lockshmanan, chair of ethics at Poynter: “It is a problem ethically for journalists to write about something that a) we’re not experts … but also the whole question of how do we write about it in a a way that doesn’t make you, a journalist, get politicized.”
Brian Karem, a White House correspondent for Sentinel Newspapers, seems anxious to talk and looks annoyed in his little TV box that Indira is getting so much airtime.
Brian throws a complete softball at Karem, asking him if it’s uncomfortable for him to ask White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders a question about Trump’s mental health.
“It’s very uncomfortable,” he says. He pointedly switches gears: “We don’t need any new type of reporting. We need to follow the story. …There’s not an ethical problem, I don’t believe, in asking the question … no one in that press room wants to be a part of the story, unfortunately he has made us part of the story.”
He defended Fox News John Roberts, saying he asks some of the most “astringent” questions in the White House press briefings.
Karem says Republicans are a lost cause in talking about Trump’s noggin. He says they want to push their agenda and will do whatever they need to get Trump to slide their measures through — whether the guy is a nutbag or not.
Brian has breaking news: Breitbart News Executive Editor Steve Bannon has issued a formal apology to Trump, as reported by Axios.
Speaking of mental health, Trump most recently said that when he fired Bannon, he “lost his mind.”
Blah blah blah blah blah. Carl Bernstein is talking. But he’s making longwinded points and he’s killing my capacity to listen to him.
Karem says questions about whether Trump is cuckoo aren’t going away just because Bannon has apologized.
We were about to take a commercial break, but first we must endure more blather from Carl. (Deep breaths, viewers). “Steve Bannon has a very complicated view of Donald Trump,” he says. “Indeed in the [Michael] Wolff book is a rather nuanced view of Donald Trump ….it shows that he believes Trump is likely to do things that are dangerous…but also very much believes in what the President has done.”
We have officially reached the show’s halfway mark and I am patting myself on the back for making it here without needing a professional Shiatsu massage.
Surprisingly, Brian looks back on Wolff’s appearance on his own show, but only to make the point of how smart he is and what a suckup Wolff is. During that appearance, Wolff said Brian was approaching becoming a “ridiculous figure.” Brian says he “highly suspected” that Wolff was “sucking up to the White House” at the time to get access.
Wolff doesn’t dispute this. “I certainly said whatever was necessary to get the story,” he told NBC “TODAY” Show host Savannah Guthrie.
Now the lens zooms in on Wolff. How ethical is he?
The Atlantic‘s Contributing Editor Michelle Cottle explains how Wolff would bend the truth, have a table at Michael’s in Manhattan and introduce narratives such as NYT‘s Maureen Dowd being “bitter about not having a man.”
WaPo‘s Karoun Demirjian, who was previously stationed in the Post’s Moscow bureau, questions if all reporters really have to answer for the bendy way Wolff conducts his “journalism.”
Weirdly the temperature Sunday is in single digits, but both women have gone with short sleeves or no sleeves. (Since we’re questioning everyone’s mental stability, have these women lost their minds?)
All in all, Cottle makes intriguing points. Demirjian talks too fast and babbles. Like Carl Bernstein, she also needs an off switch.
Brian is now talking about how in demand Wolff’s book is.
The entire panel is back.
Has there been an unfair scrutiny of Wolff?
“There’s been great amount of inquiry into the methodology” of our books, Carl says, explaining that “The Final Days” with Bob Woodward was challenged and the “scrutiny was intense.”
Carl goes on to explain that “most great reporting” relies on “anonymous sourcing.” He explains that most people won’t talk on the record about what they really believe.
He torturously says Fox News reporters need to go to the Hill and do the reporting he has suggested a thousand times on today’s show.
WaPo‘s Karoun babbles some more. (I’m boycotting her soundbites at this point and cannot will myself to care.)
In the context of a tell-all book that calls President Trump crazy, it’s now time for Brian to whine about how scarce access has been. Brian complains that Trump’s last TV interview was more than two months ago with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham. He says he gave an interview to NYT‘s Michael Schmidt in Florida last month and there was that “odd appearance” by video that recently blasted into the briefing room.
Karem says Trump has had one solo news conference in the last year. He called the video an “Orwellian display” considering the President was just feet away from them.
“As far as anonymous sources go, I’m always going to support them, I went to jail for one,” Karem brags, laughing.
Brian concludes the show by wondering whether Trump will give an interview on Super Bowl Sunday.
“I’m not going to speculate on what he’s gonna do,” says Carl, whose ready to return to sun, sand and oatmeal. “…This is a story that has many corners that we need to keep our heads down and just keep going after the story and stay calm about it.”
In the great words of Carl Bernstein: Keep calm and carry on.