CNN's Stelter Lumps 'Far-Right Wing' Breitbart in With 'Made-Up Websites'

Appearing as a guest on Saturday's CNN Newsroom, CNN senior media analyst Brian Stelter fretted that Donald Trump has a history of tweeting articles from "made-up websites," and then seemed to lump in "far-right-wing" Breitbart News with his idea of "made-up websites."

Stelter, who a few weeks ago included images of two NewsBusters articles without explanation in a report about "fake news," began today's segment with a reference to George Orwell as he defined "fake news" as "sites that are trying to trick you." Stelter:

Some of this really calls to mind the George Orwell book 1984, you know, the ministry of truth that was actually producing lies and propaganda. We talk about fake news -- there are so many definitions, Fred, but I would define it as sites that are trying to trick you, sites that are meant to deceive people. And those are the spammy things you see on Facebook and Twitter where the headlines that are just made up.

After recalling that there were some phony stories during the election that were invented by people trying to make money by attracting traffic to their sites, he then turned to complaining about Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway because, in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, she characterized media predictions of a Hillary Clinton victory as "fake news." Stelter:

Well, a lot of reporters, a lot of journalists were relying on polls, they were relying on experts that did turn out to be wrong. And there was a collective failure, that's to be sure. But those journalists were trying to get it right. They were trying to do their best, so there's a big distinction there between, you know, Russian or other kind of foreign entities creating fake news stories trying to trick people, versus journalists trying to get it right.

He then began fretting over "far-right wing" news sites with a "checkered history" as he cited a BuzzFeed study of Trump's tweets and the sources he has used. Stelter:

There's a great analysis by BuzzFeed today of all the tweets Donald Trump posted during the campaign, all of his sources of information, all of the news websites he linked to during the campaign, and some were made-up websites. Most weren't, but some were made-up websites. Once in a while, he'd link to CNN or Fox, but he oftentimes linked to Breitbart -- as Kellyanne Conway and Robbie Mook mentioned there -- a far right-wing website, oftentimes accurate but sometimes very inaccurate. So a checkered history for that website.

Notably, in the last few weeks, CNN has been displaying a recent example of its own "checkered history" as the news network has repeatedly shown limited clips from two of retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn's speeches as various anchors have fretted over whether he was calling all of Islam a "cancer," while omitting parts of those speeches which more clearly referred to "radical Islam" as a problem.

The CNN media analyst concluded:

So what we know about Donald Trump is that he does rely on sources that are sometimes quite dubious, and I think that looking forward at the next four years, it's going to be an issue for journalists to help our audiences understand when something is too good to be true or too bad to be true.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Saturday, December 3, CNN Newsroom with Fredricka Whitfield:

1:57 p.m. ET

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD: Well, let's first discuss this issue of fake news, how big of a problem might it have been in the election, and how the sides see it very differently.

BRIAN STELTER: Yeah, some of this really calls to mind the George Orwell book 1984, you know, the ministry of truth that was actually producing lies and propaganda. We talk about fake news -- there are so many definitions, Fred, but I would define it as sites that are trying to trick you, sites that are meant to deceive people. And those are the spammy things you see on Facebook and Twitter where the headlines that are just made up.

So what happened before the election? Well, we know millions of people saw these fake, made-up stories. What we don't know is exactly where they came from. Some of them came from Russian sources the way that Robbie Mook is saying there. Yes, it seems like some of them did, but others were made up by kids that were just trying to make money by having people see ads. So did these sites actually sway votes? Did they change hundreds of thousands of voters' minds? Well, that's even harder to know. So I'm interested in what Mook said there because it demands more research.

At the same time, Kellyanne Conway in that interview is saying, "Hey, fake news? The biggest piece of fake news was that Trump couldn't win." Well, a lot of reporters, a lot of journalists were relying on polls, they were relying on experts that did turn out to be wrong. And there was a collective failure, that's to be sure. But those journalists were trying to get it right. They were trying to do their best, so there's a big distinction there between, you know, Russian or other kind of foreign entities creating fake news stories trying to trick people, versus journalists trying to get it right. It was a fascinating discussion.  I can't wait to see State of the Union tomorrow.

WHITFIELD: It is, indeed. You know, and a clear distinction these two sides still see it very differently, and one has to wonder, you know, how long will this carry on? Is this going to be that issue or one of the issues that clouds this administration during that four-year term?

STELTER: I think it absolutely will. You know, there's a great analysis by BuzzFeed today of all the tweets Donald Trump posted during the campaign, all of his sources of information, all of the news websites he linked to during the campaign, and some were made-up websites. Most weren't, but some were made-up websites. Once in a while, he'd link to CNN or Fox, but he oftentimes linked to Breitbart -- as Kellyanne Conway and Robbie Mook mentioned there -- a far right-wing website, oftentimes accurate but sometimes very inaccurate. So a checkered history for that website.

So what we know about Donald Trump is that he does rely on sources that are sometimes quite dubious, and I think that looking forward at the next four years, it's going to be an issue for journalists to help our audiences understand when something is too good to be true or too bad to be true.

WHITFIELD: And some wonders whether some of those sources also helped instigate some of his tweets because we know that sometimes his tweets were just blatantly wrong. And then sometimes he was just shooting from the hip. All right.

STELTER: We've got to fact-check more than ever.

WHITFIELD: That's right. All right, Brian Stelter, thank you so much.

NBDaily 2016 Presidential Conservatives & Republicans CNN CNN Newsroom Video Fake News Brian Stelter Fredricka Whitfield Donald Trump


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