Brian Stelter is on a book tour for his book Hoax which is about Trump and Fox News. Yesterday Stelter went on the View and explained, “I had to write this book because these guys are hypocrites. Sean Hannity is a hypocrite.” He was referring to Hannity’s distrust of anonymous sources in news stories even as he himself relies on an anonymous sources for his show (specifically President Trump according to Stelter). “Fox is misinforming the president about everything from North Korea, you know, to the weather and that’s fundamentally the problem,” he added.
The book and the appearance are basically about bashing Fox News. That’s fair game. Plenty of people have made careers attacking Fox News. It’s not like Stelter is plowing any new ground with an anti-Fox News book.
Things got interesting when Meghan McCain decided to ask Stelter about ethics at CNN. “There’s a 2016 audio of your president Jeff Zucker offering debate advice to President Trump that was released,” she said. She was likely referring to this clip. She continued, “Jake Tapper was recently caught trying to allegedly influence a congressional election. And I had serious problems with the way Chris Cuomo had a recurring primetime, sort of comic routine with his brother instead of asking about policies that were literally sending my friend Janice Dean’s older relatives to die in nursing homes.
“So with the criticism of CNN do you believe that this is acceptable and don’t you think that there’s enough fair criticism to go all the way around right now in just how news networks are run?”
In short, do you have any criticism to spare for problems at CNN? Stelter’s answer is not surprising but it is revealing.
“Well first I think that you should write a book,” Stelter said. That’s interesting because he’s sort of acknowledging that criticizing CNN is someone else’s job. It’s not part of his book or why he’s there.
He continued, “I think you’ve listed off all of these story lines. A lot of them though are cherry-picked, you know, coming from these audio tapes that Tucker Carlson has been airing. And I do have a question about this that relates to my book.” Stelter then suggested that maybe the tapes were leaked by Trump to Fox News.
Stelter doesn’t seem to see it this way but what he’s doing is questioning the sourcing of the story rather than dealing with the content. Didn’t he just criticize Sean Hannity for something similar? And then he offered an excuse for his non-responsive answer.
“But look I’m not a spokesperson for CNN or Fox. I’m not a spokesperson for CNN. It’s not for me to comment on these tapes,” he said.
Wait, didn’t he just write an entire book commenting on Fox News even though you’re he’s not a spokesperson for them? Why can’t you comment on the tapes and CNN? Obviously it’s because he doesn’t cover CNN the way he covers Fox News, which is evident to anyone who has ever watched his show. But after saying it wasn’t his job to comment on stories about CNN, he went ahead and commented on it anyway.
“Here’s what I do think is sad though. I think it’s sad that private conversations get leaked out, get distorted and then they become polarized and weaponized. That’s the environment we’re in and that’s sad.” He goes on to say that he hopes we can all learn to be friends again.
The crocodile tears were a bit much for the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple. Wemple is no fan of Fox News, but he’s still willing to call out BS when he hears it:
But when Stelter says it's "sad" that conversations and text messages get leaked and "weaponized" — what line of work is he in, anyway? Did he lament this dynamic when the Manafort-@seanhannity texts got released? (real question, not snark). https://t.co/IpblgRUIau
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) September 16, 2020
Here’s the clip that Wemple linked in that tweet. It’s literally Brian Stelter commenting on leaked texts between Manafort and Hannity on his CNN show. Shockingly, he’s not expressing any sadness about the leak.
I appreciate that Wemple is giving Stelter a possible out by asking if he felt any lament about this. That’s a generous thing to do, but let’s face it, Stelter is actually chuckling in this clip. He’s wasn’t sad about this, he was excited.
Bottom line, the same guy who started his View segment calling Sean Hannity a hypocrite is himself a hypocrite. He’s giddy when he can talk about a leak involving Hannity on CNN but he’s sad and deeply hurt about the state of the world when there’s a leak involving his boss being talked about on Fox News.
The real question is this: Why does anyone take Stelter seriously as a commentator on the media? He’s clearly a partisan, sometimes hilariously so, who refuses to hold his own network, and more importantly himself, to the standards he expects other networks to uphold. That’s been obvious for a while now to anyone who cared to look.
Here’s Stelter’s appearance on the View. I have this cued up to Meghan McCain’s question but you can scroll back if you want to see the whole thing.