During an interview with former Fox News host Eric Bolling on Sunday, CNN's Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter posed a number of leading questions to the former co-host of The Five, asking him if he thought "Fox is now a propaganda machine," if he was "ever embarrassed" to work there, and attempting to justify White House leaks against an "erratic" and "dangerous" Donald Trump.
Bolling, a vocal supporter of the Trump Administration, said that the leaks coming out of the administration have to stop, calling the leaks “very damaging to his presidency and, in fact, the country.” Stelter attempted to justify the leaks, asking Bolling, “What if you have a boss who’s erratic, who’s behaving in ways that are dangerous? You don’t think they should leak to warn the country?”
Eventually, the conversation turned to a statement made by Lt. Colonel Ralph Peters, a former Fox News Contributor who stepped down last week, arguing that the network has degenerated into a “mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration.” Stelter asked Bolling if he agreed that “Fox is now a propaganda machine.”
Bolling responded to Stelter’s question by pointing out that he used to book Peters when guest-hosting The O’Reilly Factor and Hannity, emphasizing that “there were only a handful of us” at Fox News who were on the Trump train from the very beginning. Stelter seemed surprised by Bolling’s statement: “Wait, not a lot of pro-Trump people at Fox?”
Stelter then mentioned that Lt. Colonel Peters said he was “embarrassed” to work at Fox News and asked Bolling: “Were you ever embarrassed?” Bolling said that he never felt embarrassed to work at Fox and mentioned that Peters has always made provocative statements.
Towards the end of the interview, Stelter brought up a statement made by Shepard Smith, one of the “straight news” personalities on the Fox News Channel. Smith argued that the prime-time hosts on the network’s “are entertainers, not journalists” and Stelter asked Bolling whether or not he agreed with that statement. During Bolling’s response, he mentioned that “Shep has a lot of opinion on his ‘journalism’ show.” Smith has become a target of criticism by many Fox News viewers, who see him as no better as the liberal media personalities on the other cable news networks. Stelter disagreed with Bolling’s claim that Shepard Smith dabbles in opinion, arguing that “Standing up for the facts though isn’t opinion. Isn’t that what you’re seeing on cable news is people are trying to stand up for facts and decency?”
Throughout the interview, Stelter repeatedly tried to get Bolling to say that he had his eyes on a position in the Trump White House, citing a recent dinner with the President as proof that the former Fox News host may have his eyes on a position in the Trump administration, possibly Communications Director. Bolling denied that he had any interest working in the Trump administration, saying that he merely wanted to share his ideas on opioids and infrastructure with the President. Dealing with opioid abuse has become an area of passion for Bolling, who lost his son to an accidental opioid overdose in September.
Stelter would have loved for nothing more than for Bolling to rip Fox News to shreds, as Bolling lost his job at the network last year after the Huffington Post reported that he sent lewd photographs to coworkers, a claim which Bolling denies. Bolling refused to take the bait; saying nothing but kind words about Fox, where he worked for ten years.
Stelter's show may have the title Reliable Sources, but his entire interview used "reliable tactics" that the American people expect from the liberal media. He justified leaking as an act of heroism due to our "erratic" President and tried to undermine Fox News, the one major news network that does not share the liberal bias of its competitors. While Bolling may have no interest in joining the current administration, it looks like Stelter would fit in perfectly as an employee of the next Democratic administration.
ERIC BOLLING: I was so infuriated when I saw that big, $1.3 trillion omnibus bill, this massive bill, you know, Donald Trump has wanted funding for the wall. There was very little, there was a drop in the bucket funding for the wall and get pushed and that was thrown on him and I got really upset, I said, you know, they really need to do a couple of things. Number one, stop the leaks. These leaks are ridiculous. He can’t have a conversation without five minutes later, the press getting his reaction to a conversation he had with a world leader, the press is already printing, talking about it, we’re talking about it on TV. So I said, stop the leaks, plug the leaks, get rid of the people who are leaking in a very, very public way. Now, McMaster was, was, I don’t know. I guess he resigned. For me, it would be a little bit more tough; if he was in fact, I’m not saying he was, but if he was a leaker, go public with him. Do a, do a perp walk out of the White House, have the cameras follow him out so that they don’t end up going to another network or going somewhere else and say, Yeah, I worked for the President for a year or a year and a half, but I leaked which is very damaging to his Presidency and, in fact, the country, and then end up with a, with a better gig later.
BRIAN STELTER: But Eric, what if you have a boss who’s erratic, who’s behaving in ways that are dangerous? You don’t think they should leak to warn the country?
BOLLING: I don’t think a private conversation with a world leader...I don’t think anything should be leaked out of the White House. I think that all should be plugged. You know, your father, your father-in-law believes...
STELTER: It sounds like Communications Director is the right job. Communications director?
BOLLING: Your father-in-law believes that these are whistle blowers, not leakers. I would beg to differ. I mean, you can’t run any organization if everything you say is going to be on the front page of the blog by the time you leave your office.
STELTER: I respect what you are saying. Are you trying to be White House Communications Director?
BOLLING: No. No. You asked me that. I would never lie to you. I have no conversations with the White House regarding jobs.
STELTER: Why do you think the President’s so inclined to hire TV personalities? You know, Larry Kudlow last week, John Bolton this week.
BOLLING: I’m, I think it’s because as a President, you want like-minded people around you. I think what Trump had going against him when he entered the White House was, he wasn’t a Democrat so, but a normal Republican going into a White House has an infrastructure of Republican followers, a group. What Trump had against him was he had half the Republican Party who didn’t like him, the Never-Trumpers were as damaging as the liberal left was to President Trump. So he enters and clearly, you have to put seat fillers, and that’s, honestly, that’s probably what he did. He put some people in, probably who weren’t on the pro-Trump agenda until he figured out who was and who wasn’t, and you move those people out and you move people who are, who see it the way he sees it, sees the country the way he sees it.
STELTER: Do you expect to see any other Fox Newsers joining the White House? Pete Hegseth’s been mentioned as a possibility.
BOLLING: You know, I don’t. And I don’t know, I don’t stay in contact with the Fox Newsers, but when, when I, you know, when I did sit down with the President, I had some great ideas on opioids, I had some ideas on infrastructure that I, that I presented to him. And I’m not doing it because I want to go there. I’m just doing it because I think the country could be better off with, with more pro-Trump ideological people surrounding him and advising him. Gary Cohn, I used to work on a Board of Directors, New York Mercantile Exchange, I was with Gary Cohn. We saw completely different views of the world. Smart guy but he was not the right guy to put in as a national economic advisor, senior level to President Trump. It just wasn’t. He was a Goldman Sachs globalist. President Trump is America first, economic nationalist.
STELTER: I, you know, I mentioned Fox. Do you, do you miss working at Fox?
BOLLING: I had a great ten years there. Fox and I separated about eight months ago amicably. And look, I spent ten years, and, you know, in that montage you put up at the beginning, I interviewed John Bolton, I interviewed President Trump, Presidential candidates, I had, I have nothing bad to say about my ten years at Fox.
STELTER: What happened at the end? You were accused of sending inappropriate messages to your colleagues. Were you scapegoated or were those stories true?
BOLLING: Well, here’s the deal, and when I left Fox, we went through a long, extensive period and what Fox and my lawyers decided to come up with in their comments and Fox’s statement was we, we separated amicably. I agree with them completely. They wished me well.
STELTER: But you can’t tell me if you did it or not?
BOLLING: I am not supposed to be talking about the lawsuits at all because they’re still pending, things are still pending.
STELTER: What about what one of your former colleagues, Colonel Ralph Peters said...
BOLLING: How’s this? My wife of 20 years and I are completely on board, on the same page and that I’ve never done anything like that.
STELTER: There was this story this week, I had never seen before. This cable news contributor lighting a fire on the way out the door. You saw what Ralph Peters said about Fox. He called the network a propaganda machine. He worked there for years with you but he wrote this. He said, “In my view, Fox has degenerated from providing a legitimate and much-needed outlet for conservative voices to a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration. When prime-time hosts – who have never served our country in any capacity – dismiss facts and empirical reality to launch profoundly dishonest assaults on the FBI, the DOJ, the Courts, the intel community (in which I served) and, not least, a model public servant and genuine war hero such as Robert Mueller – all the while scaremongering with lurid warnings of ‘deep-state’ machinations – I cannot be a part of the same organization. I’ve never seen anybody on cable news do that on the way out the door. Did you agree that Fox is now a propaganda machine?
BOLLING: Well, you know, I haven’t been at Fox for a very long time. Ralph Peters, I used to book Ralph Peters when I’d sit in for Hannity or O’Reilly, and he would come on, and he was always a firebrand. He’d always have something extremely provocative to say. That’s, that’s, you know Ralph Peters is entired, entitled to his opinion. Again, seven months ago, when I left, eight months ago when I left Fox, there were not a lot of pro-Trump people at Fox. There was only a handful of us.
STELTER: Wait, not a lot of pro-Trump people at Fox?
BOLLING: Go back, look, seven or eight months ago, and you’ll see. It was, there was Hannity, myself, maybe Jeanine Pirro, and beyond that, there was not a very...You know, look, here’s the thing about any network. I’m sure it’s certainly true for Fox or my experience with Fox and likely CNN. No one calls you and says you have to be on board with Trump or against Trump or pro-Obama or against Obama or have this political leaning or ideology. We are free to have our own opinions. I’m sure you are. I always was, I was never told which way to go with anything, and I never did. So, the beauty of capitalism in the marketplace, free speech, is that there is a Fox which leans one way, CNN may lean another way. Another group, MS, may lean in yet another direction, you have choices and that’s the beauty of the American capitalist system.
STELTER: But Peters is going further. He’s saying Fox is assaulting our rule of law by trying to tear down Robert Mueller’s probe, by trying to discredit Mueller’s probe. He says he’s embarrassed to work there. Were you ever embarrassed?
BOLLING: No, no. I was never embarrassed and that’s, Ralph, Ralph Peters has always made very provocative statements. I mean, he would come on, and, for the record, Ralph Peters never liked Trump from the very beginning, he was, he never thought Trump would win the Presidency, and he certainly wasn’t a pro-Trump advocate afterwards. He is, he’s entitled to his opinion but Brian, honestly, as I’m sure everyone here, Don and Anderson and Wolf...
STELTER: But the difference is you’re naming...
BOLLING: No one tells them what ideology
STELTER: Correct but you’re naming journalists. Hannity, as Shep Smith recently said, some of these guys are entertainers, not journalists. I wondered if you agreed with Shep, that some of the prime time hosts are entertainers at this point.
BOLLING: No. I think Shep has his role, he gets...By the way, Shep has a lot of opinion on his “journalism” show. Look, he has his role and the opinion people have their role as well.
STELTER: Standing up for the facts though isn’t opinion. Isn’t that what you’re seeing on cable news is people are trying to stand up for facts and decency?
BOLLING: Yeah but what’s the point? I mean, you can’t, you can still have a strong opinion and stay within the boundaries of fact and I think that’s generally what happens. Like Sean Hannity is a very good friend of mine, Laura Ingraham, a very good friend of mine. They’re very opinionated but they’re always within the boundaries of, of fact. I mean, as opposed to a different type of news show, a straight news, a 6:00 news show here, at Fox, or anywhere, you’re going to get straight news. This is what happened today. When you go into the prime time at every network as well, when you get into prime time, the prime time hosts on cable are delving further and further into opinion but staying within the realms of fact.