Reliable Stelter? I Don’t Decry Trump’s Madness (Yes I Do); We’re Not Anti-Trump (We Are)

Posted on Sat 02/17/2018 by


By Tim Graham ~

Earlier this week, CNN Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter oddly denied in a Clintonian way that he had ever spoken of Trump as “mentally ill.” Conservative Twitter responded by lining up many examples of Stelter questioning the president’s “mental fitness.” In a largely sympathetic interview with Andrew Chang on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation posted on February 5, they discussed Stelter proclaiming Trump’s “madness.” So why deny it on Twitter?

ANDREW CHANG: I’m curious about your own work, because on air, you have referred to Trump as being, or suggesting, that he’s unfit, perhaps, for office. You’re referred to this presidency as madness. Does that cross a line?

BRIAN STELTER: The night that he tweeted about his nuclear button, and then 12 minutes later, announced he was going to give out Fake News awards, you know, what do you call that, other than madness? I thought on a night like that, when he’s using Twitter to talk about a nuclear taunt, and then criticizing the press, I think journalists need to have the space and the freedom to talk openly about what’s going on about his reckless use of Twitter.

CHANG: But I guess I wonder, is that a judgment for a journalist to make? Right, that’s the question, to make that judgment call?

STELTER: I think there’s a healthy tradition in America of aggressive, sometimes adversarial journalism, of journalists being on the side of the audience at home. And we’re seeing more of that now, we definitely are.

But Stelter spoke out of both sides of his mouth, and not just about the idea of it being “healthy” to be adversarial on behalf of an “audience at home.” That’s not the way he would summarize Fox News reporting on Obama or the Clintons.

Just a minute earlier, Stelter denied anyone was “anti-Trump,” they are just pro-“truth and decency.” They only brought “context,” not opinion. (I hear echoes of Dan Rather in confusing “context” and editorializing.)

ANDREW CHANG: Do you accept any of the criticism? The extremes aside, there is a critical look at CNN, and the way it operates, and that it has gone beyond simply reporting the facts, and that in fact it has chosen sides?

STELTER: (pictured) I don’t think CNN, or any other channel right now, is anti-Trump. What we are seeing are journalists trying to stand up for truth and decency. And when President Trump gives an inspiring speech, we should and we do say so. [Really?] When he makes up false stats, when he makes up fake facts, when he spews lies on Twitter, then we say that as well. I don’t think that’s opinion. That’s much needed context in a really confusing world.

Stelter traveled to Toronto to be interviewed on stage by the Canadian Journalism Foundation. He did the same shtick there. In his media taxonomy, there’s an “explicitly pro-Trump booster media” (most of Fox, Hannity, Limbaugh, Breitbart),  a “smaller bubble of truly anti-Trump media” (The Nation,, Maddow) and then “in between you have a lot of other stuff…It’s my program, it’s CNN, it’s all those big news outlets” that are “not explicitly pro- or anti-Trump.” They’re “trying to be in the middle.”

How can anyone that watches CNN think it’s “not explicitly anti-Trump”? Even his interviewer, former NBC correspondent Dawna Friesen, said of CNN “I don’t see a lot of pro-Trump stuff on there.”

Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters. He is Director of Media Analysis at the Media Research Center.

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