Talk about an awful, no good, very bad day for CNN’s Reliable Sources host and walking Twitter ratio Brian Stelter. On Tuesday, Stelter peddled the arguments in favor of Jussie Smollett during two CNN shows, suggested Smollett will now go down as “the victim” in all this.
And to make matters worse, Stelter took to Twitter and got ratioed into orbit by suggesting those still critical of Smollett should watch themselves because none of us were actually there that night in Chicago when whatever happened took place.
Yes, we’ll get to that infamous tweet, but let’s go first to what this very unreliable journalist said on-air.
First flagged by our buddy David Rutz at the Washington Free Beacon, the most nonsensical set of on-air comments came during Inside Politics when he told fill-in host Nia-Malika Henderson that the “a key part of the story” is that Smollett can “get back to work” as an actor.
It was here that Stelter dropped a thermonuclear take of lunacy that Smollett’s no longer the “villain” but instead the “victim”:
[T]he narrative has once again changed from victim, you know, to villain, back to victim. It's been very confusing...People don't know what to believe and we may never really know what happened on that street that night in Chicago, but for his fans, for his friends, this is a triumphant moment that he can now get back to what he wants to do, which is work.
Rewinding to the previous hour and show At This Hour (before Smollett and his team spoke), Stelter immediately touted what he had heard from Smollett’s team as if it were fact. Legal analyst Joey Jackson was a passenger on this runaway train, placing blame on Chicago Police for having “[p]oisoned the entirety of the jury pool” because it was they who had made the case out to be “the case of the century.”
Moments later, host Kate Bolduan agreed by complaining about the history of tension between Chicagoans and law enforcement, arguing that police “were trying to make an example of him.”
Ah, yes, Joey and Kate, it’s unfair when someone is being “[made] an example of” when there’s evidence and probable cause they broke the law.
Of course, Stelter swooped in and helped them double down (click “expand”):
And there was concern that this was political. There was concern that it was political and the authorities were acting for political reasons and in some ways it has increased distrust in the community....This is a collision, right? It's a collision of celebrity and crime and a controversial police department. It's a race of celebrity and all these factors. And so messy as a result. It's because an anonymous source said to TMZ that Smollett said they were wearing MAGA hats and that this was a Trump supporting attacking against a black. It became political in a few minutes and that's what has made this even harder to get to the truth about because there was pressure on the police probably because it became political, and of course, whenever there is a celebrity involved, it takes on a life of its own.
Oh, so now we’re going to complain about anonymous sources, Brian, and blame TMZ.
That’s despite the fact that other outlets such as MSNBC reported on the MAGA angle. The Nigerian bodybuilders did buy red hats and Smollett told the Chicago Police Department that the alleged attackers said “this is MAGA country.”
During the changeover at the top of the hour, Stelter decided to lecture viewers instead of himself about how “we can go back to four simple words that we probably don't say often enough: Innocent until guilty.” Wonder if you felt the same way about Brett Kavanaugh, Brian. Oh wait, you didn't (see here and here).
“There’s been a rush to judgement about this case in multiple directions and right now the thing we can do is wait and find out what his camp is going to say and what the mayor is going to say. How are they going to explain what happened here,” he concluded.
The great Tiana Lowe at Washington Examiner quote tweeted video of Stelter from Mediaite’s Julio Rosas and called him out: “‘We may never really know what happened’ about a hoax documented with checks and videos is about five inches removed from ‘Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia’ territory.”
Stelter then shot back:
As it turned out, Stelter might have thrown the grenade in the wrong direction. Look closely above at the replies versus the retweets and likes and it’ll show things blew up in Stelter’s face.
Our friends at Twitchy did an indefatigable job pulling together a small sampling of tweets that contributed to the ratio and other quote-tweets throwing Stelter’s spin through the wood chipper. As Lowe’s colleague Jerry Deunleavy tweeted, “[t]he media’s janitor is now doing double duty as Jussie Smollett’s janitor.”
Indeed, Jerry. Indeed.
To see the relevant transcript from CNN’s At This Hour with Kate Bolduan on March 26, click “expand.”
CNN’s At This Hour with Kate Bolduan
March 26, 2019
11:42 p.m. Eastern
KATE BOLDUAN: Brian, you’ve been in touch with someone close to Smollett’s team. What are they saying?
BRIAN STELTER: They are saying the police and prosecutors mishandled this and there was a rush of judgment in this case. And that’s notable because this all started with a conversation about a rush to judgment, that Smollett —
STELTER: — said he was a victim of a hate crime. Then there was an argument that the media rushed to judgment and that everyone rushed to judgement and assumed he was telling the truth. Well, now this is flipped around again. And now the charge from Smollett’s camp is there was a rush of judgment to accuse our client of being guilty. Now, he’s got lawyers and PR people all around him. One of them saying to me: “From the start the case against Jussie didn't make sense. He has always been an upstanding member of the community. That's why those closest to him continue to support him through this ordeal.” So, that’s the view from Smollett's camp. It’s that prosecutors and police mishandled this. Quote here, “their case is falling apart because the evidence was not there.”
11:45 p.m. Eastern
BOLDUAN: So you're telling me that — and look. We’re going to — we’re going to hear a little bit more, but I find this fascinating what you are telling me and I think this is important that the superintendent could have been — the police chief —
JOEY JACKSON: Poisoned the entirety of the jury pool.
BOLDUAN: — but could have been accurate in that he was not a victim of a hate crime but just that this is the better way of handling the false police report.
JACKSON: Just to resolve this. This was made the case of the century and I think — there's a — you know, Chicago there is a long history perhaps of the community there and them not treating people of color appropriately. I think this was a horrific — they went after him with all their might and I think that this would kind of make it right.
STELTER: Right, right.
BOLDUAN: Well, they were trying to make an example of him, right?
JACKSON: Right. Yes. They were.
BOLDUAN: You can’t lie to police and you can’t waste their time.
STELTER: And there was concern that this was political. There was concern that it was political —
STELTER: — and the authorities were acting for political reasons and in some ways it has increased distrust in the community.
JACKSON: And this would sort of strike a balance in going after him like they did and poisoning the jury pool, how do you get a fair trial after you have the superintendent coming out with such strong statements, after you have everybody weighing in that community, talking about diversion of resources, other things the resources could have been applied to. Jussie Smollett — he made up this thing about the noose. It's outrageous and now you have this thing — and again, I’m just parsing the statement that considering his service to the community and he’s forfeiting his bond, we believe that is appropriate. That's not saying we don't have the evidence. We don’t have anything.
BOLDUAN: Right. That’s why that’s — okay.
JACKSON: That's saying we believe it's a just resolution as opposed to all of this overkill. That's what this says right here.
11:54 p.m. Eastern
STELTER: Right, an open question, and we're waiting for Smollett and his attorneys to come and speak. I think we’re going to hear them say Smollett today will still say he was the victim of a hate crime. A source in his camp was saying this was turned around in the last two and a half weeks because he is innocent and he is the victim of a hate crime. So, he is staying with that position and I think what's been happening behind the scenes is his lawyers, his team, has been poking holes in these two brothers and in the evidence that purportedly was provided. I do think we’re going to hear very strong statements from his camp against the police and against the prosecutors in this case.
11:55 p.m. Eastern
STELTER: This is a collision, right? It's a collision of celebrity and crime —
BOLDUAN: It has been from the beginning.
STELTER: — and a controversial police department. It's a race of celebrity and all these factors.
BOLDUAN: And politics.
STELTER: And so messy as a result. It's because an anonymous source said to TMZ that Smollett said they were wearing MAGA hats and that this was a Trump supporting attacking against a black. It became political in a few minutes and that's what has made this even harder to get to the truth about because there was pressure on the police probably because it became political, and of course, whenever there is a celebrity involved, it takes on a life of its own.
11:59 p.m. Eastern
STELTER: Yeah. As we've said, this was political in the beginning, complicated from the beginning, and we can go back to four simple words that we probably don't say often enough. Innocent until guilty. There’s been a rush to judgement about this case in multiple directions and right now the thing we can do is wait and find out what his camp is going to say and what the mayor is going to say. How are they going to explain what happened here?
To see the relevant transcript from CNN’s Inside Politics on March 26, click “expand.”
CNN’s Inside Politics
March 26, 2019
12:22 p.m. Eastern
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: And Brian Stelter, have we heard anything? I mean speaking of this Hollywood factor —
HENDERSON: — from Fox or the team from the show Empire, which is a pretty popular show on Fox.
STELTER: Yes, it is, but, no, so far the network and the studio that make the show are not saying anything. You know, you remember right after Smollett said he was the victim of a hate crime in Chicago that night, the Fox Network, the studio, the Empire casting and crew all had his back, supported him very strongly. That continued as it became a mystery about what happened and whether he had made this up. The network continued to support him. But it started to pull back a little bit in those public statements. Right now, there's no new comment from Fox. But this is a key part of the story, Nia, because I do think he just wants to get back to work. That's what a friend of Smollett's just said to me. He wants to act. He wants to get back to work. He had actually been taken off two of the episodes of Empire. His future as a Hollywood actor has been in limbo for the past few weeks. So his lawyers have been trying to get to this point so that he can return to work. So far no comment from the network, but I do think we will see Smollett get back to work because the narrative has once again changed from victim, you know, to villain, back to victim. It's been very confusing. As Ryan was saying, people don't know what to believe and we may never really know what happened on that street that night in Chicago, but for his fans, for his friends, this is a triumphant moment that he can now get back to what he wants to do, which is work.