A Plush Gray Sofa In Washington, D.C.– Buckle up. This week, host Brian Stelter gets philosophical. “If this is who President Trump is, who are we? What is the role of the press at a moment like this?”
Of course he’s talking about President Trump‘s “shithole” week and his “shrinking schedule.” (Trump called a bunch of African countries “shithole countries” and wondered why we have people from those countries coming here. Brian is salivating about it.)
Brian plays a clip of his colleague, CNN’s Don Lemon, flatly calling Trump “a racist”, contrasting that with Fox News’s Jesse Watters, who says this is how “forgotten” regular Americans talk in bars.
Baltimore Sun‘s media critic David “No Volume Control” Zurawik is here. Which is incredibly disappointing. It’s probably good I had no warning about it — less time for me to anticipate misery. It’s him or CNN’s Carl Bernstein and I have no idea who is more annoying — probably Zurawik.
Brian loves Z-man because he despises Trump too.
Zurawik spends his cable minutes kissing the asses of CNN, CNBC, NBC and specifically, CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“IT’S VERY HARD FOR ANYONE IN THIS COUNTRY TO DENY WHO HE IS,” Zurawik said in his shouty voice about Trump.
Brian wants to talk about media use of the word “shithole.” He says he thinks about what his 8-month-old daughter is hearing at home when she watches TV. His infant daughter’s TV watching habits aside, it’s basically a fair and interesting topic. Cable networks can use it; others must abide by FCC rules and say things like “S-hole.” He plays a clip of ABC’s George Stephanopoulos lamenting the fact that he can’t say the word. He thinks it is “censoring” and “sugarcoating” the reality.
“I do think it’s important that we don’t sanitize it too much,” said Van Jones, a CNN political commentator who is on the panel today along with Zurawik. “…This is just dumb and racist across the board.”
The advertising for Brian’s show is fartalicious. It’s a cartoon yoga class in which three yogis engage in tree pose and one of them passes gas. Try Charco-Caps — “Put less boom in the room!”
Next up: the WSJ gets labeled “fake news.” On Thursday, the WSJ gets a lengthy sit-down in the Oval. On Friday, a report on a Wall Street Journal story insists that Trump paid a woman, a porn star named Stormy Daniels, to stay quiet about a sexual encounter with Trump. The report says a Trump lawyer had arranged a $130K settlement.
“My heart went out to Melania. Imagine how it felt for her to read the story!” Brian exclaimed. (What kind of media reporter imagines the feelings of a first lady or expresses pity for her?)
On Saturday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders labels WSJ “fake news.” The White House says the WSJ misquoted him about having a good relationship with North Korea’s Kim Jung-un.
Two smart white guys show up to give their views.
There’s Norm Pearlstine, a contributor at TIME: “It’s a short-term problem for the Journal. Trump’s mo is always to be on the attack. This will fade and it’ll be back to business as usual.”
Pearlstine thinks “leaks” are one of the ways in which we learn what our leaders are thinking and doing. Brian says the word “leaks” sounds like something bad.
Steven Brill, founder of Court TV, is also on the show. He’s being patched in from sunny Fort Lauderdale. He points out that Trump says a lot of things that are defamatory. He suggests former President Obama could have a good libel case against Trump.
Overnight, Trump called Michael Wolff “mentally deranged” and his book false. Brian wants to know if Wolff has a libel case against Trump. Brill clearly doesn’t love Wolff and doesn’t really give a strong response in Wolff’s defense.
Pearlstine mentions that he showed up in Wolff’s first book, Burn Rate. In it, Wolff placed him in Laguna Beach giving a speech — a place he says he has never been. “What I said was probably correct, he said, but the location, not so much.
We have to endure more Zurawik. The Chicago Sun Times Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet is also here to cut down on the torture.
She thinks it’s great that Trump is allowing the cameras into his meetings. “We got to see some of the process of making negotiation,” she says.
He gives Zurawik 60 seconds on the optics.
“58-57-56, I’M TALKING FAST HERE, BRIAN,” yells Zurawik.
Brian thinks this is absolutely hysterical.
“WHEN I LOOKED AT THE SCREEN, I THOUGHT EXACTLY WHAT HE WANTED ME TO THINK, THAT HE’S IN CONTROL,” shouted Zurawik.
He says newspapers later dissected the meeting.
Sixty seconds have passed and Zurawik is still SHOUTING.
Sweet adds, “What you saw in this exercise was a president agreeing with the last person he talked to. …That was instructive.”
Sweet listened to the recordings and is firmly on the “I have” a good relationship with Kim Jong-un club.
Brian teases the next topic: Oprah for president.
The host promises that he’ll give Zurawik the first opportunity to deaden our eardrums.
He starts off playing a clip of SNL‘s Leslie Jones playing Oprah.
Brian spends some time bragging about his own reporting in which he reached out to three of Oprah’s close friends, who told him they’re urging her to run and that she’s seriously thinking about it, even though she has pointedly said otherwise.
But please, Brian, keep bragging about your own reporting. Because that adds more buzz to your show.
Zurawik practically gave Oprah a blowjob (if such a thing were possible). “WHEN SHE SPOKE, I ALMOST, SAID YES, MORAL AUTHORITY, SHE TURNED A SUNDAY NIGHT AWARDS SHOW FOR THE GOLDEN GLOBES ALMOST INTO A SUNDAY MORNING RELIGIOUS SERVICE. …SHE IS THE ANTI-TRUMP. …If SHE ENTERS THE RACE SHE’S GONNA WIN IT.”
Sweet is less ass kissy and more interesting in talking about news.
“When her pal, Gail, said the morning after that she’s thinking about it, I take that in a few ways,” says Sweet. “The door could’ve been shut. But there’s a rule in politics that I learned from the late Harold Washington, which is you always keep them guessing. …The question isn’t now whether Oprah runs or whether it gets into the head of Donald Trump.”
Brian winds up his show with an actual media news story, which is a rarity for him. So let’s cherish this moment. Two Reuters reporters are in a Myanmar prison. And he’s actually tearing himself away from hating Trump to cover it. He doesn’t deserve a standing ovation, but this is the kind of story he should be covering.
The journalists could spend 14 years in prison. They were arrested a month ago.
Reuters EIC Stephen Adler is on the show to discuss.
“They have a lawyer and that lawyer has had some contact with them,” he said. “They were out there reporting and they weren’t breaking any rules.”
Adler said he wants to keep “broad public attention” on this story and thanks Brian for his coverage of it. “These are two young journalists with families all doing their jobs. For those people to get arrested and potentially imprisoned for 14 years is a terrible story.”
Adler sys the idea of “fake news” is dangerous and is spreading around the world.
There you have it, an anti-Trump ending to an anti-Trump media program.