Margaret Sullivan: Media Not Pushing Impeachment, ‘Anathema’ to the Business

CNN host and media janitor Brian Stelter set up a pretty easy mess for his cast of liberal media types to clean up during Sunday’s so-called “Reliable Sources”: whether or not the liberal media wanted to see President Trump impeached.

Among his left-wing panel, Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan stepped up to the plate to defend the industry from the most basics of facts. “Well, I mean, it's in the air,” she argued after being confronted with a graph showing the marked increase the media’s discussion of impeachment. “What President Trump has done, the release of the Mueller Report, all of these things add to you know, the political and cultural environment that brings impeachment to the fore.”

According to Sullivan, she had never spoken to or heard a “straight news journalist” push for Trump’s impeachment. “That's just really anathema to the way we do business,” she suggested.

Stelter responded by weakly noting that the “business model” created a financial incentive for them to back Trump’s impeachment. “Don't web sites want those clicks, don’t television networks want those ratings that would come from impeachment hearings,” he wondered.

I have not heard journalists talking that way. So, you know, that may be going on in the background or in corporate offices but I don't think that journalists even really think that way,” she continued to insist. “[Y]ou have to draw a distinction between commentators and news reporters. And there's a big difference there and we ought to honor it.”

 

 

The truth is, the media doesn’t honor that difference. CNN regards all its hosts, even the prime time line up, as part of their straight news team despite the fact that their shows were based on pushing their opinion. The network even had their White House correspondents [Jim Acosta] act as commentators and hired Obama administrations officials [Jim Sciutto] and their relatives [Laura Jarrett] to be reporters.

Anti-Trump talking head Max Boot chimed it after Sullivan and, thinking he was being witty, quipped: “And in a sentence, Brian, I would say it's not the media that’s pushing for impeachment. It's reality that's pushing for impeachment.

Except, there was the data gathered by the Media Research Center that proved otherwise. Following the release of the Special Counsel’s report, which didn’t recommend President Trump be charged or impeached, CNN and MSNBC mentioned impeachment 363 times in one day.

Then, despite the fact Special Counsel Robert Mueller didn’t call for Trump’s impeachment during a press conference discussing their findings, CNN and MSNBC insisted that’s exactly what he did.

Then were was Sullivan’s former employer, The New York Times, which got so fed up with Congressional Democrats dragging their feet that they drafted their own Articles of Impeachment. “But there is no question that by the standards for high crimes and misdemeanors applied to past presidents in living memory, Donald J. Trump has committed impeachable offenses,” the paper angrily declared.

Meanwhile, Stelter began the segment by proclaiming: “[T]here is no such thing as ‘the press’. There are different opinions different views, different kinds of news outlets and media outlets.” Yet, somehow they manage to all sing in tune with each other.

The transcript is below, click "expand" to read:

CNN’s Reliable Sources
June 16, 2019
11:19:13 a.m. Eastern

BRIAN STELTER: I wonder what you all think about— I admit a provocative question here. Is the press rooting for impeachment? Do journalists want to see the President impeached? Now, I always add the caveat, before I go any further, there is no such thing as “the press”. There are different opinions different views, different kinds of news outlets and media outlets. But, is there something to the idea, Sam, that newsrooms, journalists want to see impeachment hearings?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD: I don't think so. I think journalists report the facts. That's what journalists do. And they report what Congress is doing and they report what various political constituencies are thinking. I'm not a journalist. I'm an analyst. I'm paid to provide my opinion on-air, that’s one thing and journalists are doing their jobs and reporting the facts. So, I don't think that putting the press in one basket is helpful in this way. Trump does that, but we shouldn't do that.

STELTER: Right, Trump does do that. But there have been a number of prominent Congressional Democrats including Nancy Pelosi who have said it's the media making all this noise, Max. For example, she says the media really focuses on pro-impeachment Democrats and interviews them quite often. Do you think that’s a real critique that she's making?

MAX BOOT: No. I think that’s, again, blaming the messenger. I mean, the real impetus for impeachment is coming from a lot of liberal members of Congress, especially a lot of Democratic presidential candidates who are appealing to the base and I think there is a split in the media. There's not a monolithic view.

I mean, leaving reporters aside who are supposed to be just reporting the news but even looking at analysts and opinion-mongers like me, I mean, personally, I'm ambivalent about it. I think that on legal and moral grounds, yes, Trump needs to be impeached because he has broken the law, he’s betrayed the constitution.

But, I'm also cognizant of the political reality, which is he is not going to be convicted by a Republican-controlled Senate. He could use that to claim unfair exoneration. So, it’s a very difficult balancing act. And you see even among commentators who are very critical of Trump like me, there is a split. Because some say let's go forward with impeachment. Others are saying, on pragmatic grounds, no we shouldn't. And clearly, Nancy Pelosi is in the “no we shouldn't camp” at least for the moment.

STELTER: Let’s look at the data. Cable news conversations. The number of mentions about impeachment have clearly been on the rise. You can see here. The spring of 2017 versus the spring of 2018 versus this spring. What is that? What do we attribute that too? Margaret.

MARGARET SULLIVAN: Well, I mean, it's in the air. And I don't think the media put it -- what President Trump has done, the release of the Mueller Report, all of these things add to you know, the political and cultural environment that brings impeachment to the fore. But I do not hear talking to straight news journalists that there's a push. That's just really anathema to the way we do business.

STELTER: What about the business model though? Don't web sites want those clicks, don’t television networks want those ratings that would come from impeachment hearings?

SULLIVAN: Well, they may but I don't think that that's a reason that -- I have not heard journalists talking that way. So, you know, that may be going on in the background or in corporate offices but I don't think that journalists even really think that way.

STELTER: But back to Sam's point it's important to separate between commentators—liberal commentators who do want impeachment and are advocating for it, liberal journalists at left-leaning magazines who are advocating for it versus newsrooms-- versus journalists and newsrooms.

SULLIVAN: Right. I do think as Max said, you have to draw a distinction between commentators and news reporters. And there's a big difference there and we ought to honor it.

BOOT: And in a sentence, Brian, I would say it's not the media that’s pushing for impeachment. It's reality that's pushing for impeachment.

STELTER: [Laughter] You know you're going to show up on Fox for that bite. That's going to be a bite they'll use against you now, Max.

BOOT: Help yourself, guys.

NBDaily Events Mueller Report Media Bias Debate Conspiracy Theories Political Scandals Trump-Russia probe Cable Television CNN Reliable Sources Video Margaret Sullivan Brian Stelter Max Boot Donald Trump

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