During Sunday’s edition of Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter and his panel spent the first ten minutes of the show trying to paint Fox News as an “unreliable source;” beginning by trashing the network for failing to adequately report on the “big climate change report.”
David Zurawik of The Baltimore Sun argued that the legacy media is “doing their job of journalism, rather than the right-wing media, which is doing the job of public relations or PR for The White House.” Apparently, he failed to see the irony in his statement; considering the fact that the legacy media had done the job of public relations for The White House during the Obama administration and continues to do the job of public relations for the Democratic Party.
Stelter and his panel tried to make the argument that there are “two Americas” with “two different news worlds.” Zurawik suggested that argument suggests a “misleading equivalency” between the views espoused by members of the legacy media and the views expressed by on-air personalities at Fox:
One is journalistic information, it’s the institutions, the journalistic platforms, best sentence of what’s true at that minute and it’s intended to give citizens information they can use to make decisions...The information...on the Fox platform, which was founded as a political platform by Roger Ailes, it was not founded as a journalistic institution, it’s to promulgate a point of view, an ideology.
Zurawik conveniently forgot to mention that CNN was founded by Ted Turner, who also has a point of view. Zurawik concluded by saying that “we are trying to tell them facts and what’s true, they are selling you a political view, which will include lies if it serves their ends.”
When Stelter asked Noah Shachtman of The Daily Beast for his “impression,” Shachtman responded: “What you really see here is not just a ideological supporting of the President. What you really see here is the merging of a TV star and a TV network.” Stelter brought up one of Shachtman’s tweets, where he argued that “it’s not a state-sponsored network, it’s now a TV-sponsored state; like Fox sponsors the government, that’s your view.” Shachtman elaborated on the tweet: “there’s this insane feedback loop that’s happening where Trump tweets something he saw on Fox News, it will get amplified by Fox and it will rile Trump further up and he’ll make government policy on it.”
CNN has every right to argue that Fox News has an ideological tilt. Unfortunately, the network lacks the self-awareness to admit that it too has a “point of view” and has become quite a “propaganda” network itself.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Sunday’s edition of Reliable Sources is below. Click “expand” to read more.
BRIAN STELTER: But first, the biggest story of the weekend. Well, everywhere except the pro-Trump media. It’s that big climate change report with dire new warnings, released by the Trump administration on Friday. Of course, it seemed to be an example of a holiday news dump, sending out this report on a Friday afternoon, when folks are shopping and spending time with family. Even though the report was originally supposed to come out in December, it was moved up to Thanksgiving weekend; seemed like some funny business was going on. Still, most of the major networks covered the report in detail. It’s been a big story on cable news, except for Fox News. I want you to guess how many times Fox News mentioned that blockbuster report on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA PERINO: Fox News alert. The White House releasing a major climate report, concluding that climate change will do significant damage to the U.S. economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER: That was nine of the whole 30 seconds that Fox News spent covering the report on Friday. Let that sink in. Fox only mentioned the report once on television on Friday. Now, obviously, the report countered the President’s ridiculous claims about climate change. Fox decided to avoid all of that, though. The network actually spent more time talking about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s shoes on Friday; more time on her shoes than on the climate change report. Now, to be fair, the network’s newscasts did air several segments about climate change, about the crisis, on Saturday. But on the President’s favorite talk shows, nada. Not a word. Instead of engaging in climate change denialism, they just ignored the problem altogether, which I would argue is another form of denialism. So what is Fox emphasizing instead this weekend? This.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEAN HANNITY: The crisis on our southern border is growing more serious.
LISA BOOTHE: We see these migrant caravans that want to come in, want to exploit our laws.
HARRIS FAULKNER: Hundreds of criminals are traveling with one of the migrant caravans.
MARK STEYN: That migrant caravan looming on the U.S./Mexico border.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
STELTER: Yes, the caravan is back! Those Central American migrants have been walking north for weeks, and now some of them are nearing the U.S. border. President Trump and his friends at Fox exploited the migrants in the run-up to the midterms. You can see here how the caravan was covered a whole lot up until Election Day, and then it dropped off for a while, disappeared for a few days, and now it has made a comeback on Fox. The network’s pro-Trump talk shows are portraying this as an urgent crisis and calling it, look at the banner here, the “battle for the southern border!” It’s a vivid example of how two Americas are living side by side. We’re living in two different realities, supported by two different news worlds. In most of the country’s news media, this climate report is the big story. But over on Fox, and on right-wing websites, it’s the caravan. So let’s talk about bridging this information divide with Washington Post columnist, Karen Tumulty, Baltimore Sun Media Critic David Zurawik and Noah Shachtman, the Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Beast. Back to the caravan in a moment but Noah, did this attempted news dump over the weekend work? Was the Trump administration able to bury news about this dire climate change warning on Friday?
NOAH SHACHTMAN: Well, look, it didn’t get totally buried if you went to the home pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post. You know, it was the top story. We featured it as our top story. But I think it did kind of work. Look, anytime you put out news on a Friday afternoon during Black Friday, it’s just not going to get the same kind of traffic that it does, the same kind of attention it does in the middle of a regular news week.
STELTER: Let me turn from climate change to something that is related. That’s the devastating fires in California. You think about what’s happened the last two and a half weeks since the fire in Paradise, I think we can show on screen, the front page of the Chico Enterprise-Recordfrom this morning, continuing to cover the story there in northern California. The death toll from the Camp fire in and around Paradise stands at 85 and the newest information from the local Sheriff’s Department is that 249 people are still unaccounted for. It has been 17 days since the fire and still 249 people are unaccounted for. David Zurawik, to me this means it’s a bigger story every day. Every day this goes on, as the death toll rises, it’s a bigger story. And yet by the rhythms of cable news, people have mostly moved on, unfortunately, because there’s bigger and hotter stories going on. But there’s nothing more important than this story in California, given the number of missing there.
DAVID ZURAWIK: Brian, I couldn’t agree. It’s a, it’s an enormous story and it’s, it’s shocking in a way, the way it is underplayed. Now, sometimes when a story goes on this long, a kind of entropy sets in and that sometimes limits the coverage. But I think, again, it relates to the larger symptom of what we’re dealing with in news coverage today, which is the way Trump is still able to drive a lot of coverage. Look, even for mainstream media that are doing their job of journalism rather than the right-wing media, which is doing the job of public relations or PR for the White House. Even for these media, we have to cover the things that Trump does. When he calls up the troops on Thanksgiving and when he politicizes that in a way that it’s never been done, you have to cover that. You have to tell people…
STELTER: Let’s look at an example of that. Let’s look at an example of that because the call was covered, I think, really appropriately by most outlets. But look at this montage and notice how one of these things is not like the other.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
ANNOUNCER: President Trump unable to keep politics off the Thanksgiving Day table.
STEVE DOOCY: We know how the President celebrated yesterday. He was on the phone.
KASIE HUNT: Trump unleashed.
PAMELA BROWN: The President goes off-script; way off-script.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
STELTER: Okay, so David Zurawik, that’s exactly what I mean; two Americas, two news worlds. CNN, MSNBC, others were emphasizing the outrageous nature of Trump’s political call, but, you know, on Fox & Friends, it’s always going to be “heroic President doing the right thing for the troops.”
ZURAWIK: “Expresses profound gratitude,” he and the First Lady, that was the headline on foxnews.com. But Brian, really, I think one of the things, when we say just two Americas, it’s correct. It’s absolutely correct. But it suggests an equivalency that is really misleading. There aren’t two Americas. The views that CNN and NBC News and CBS give America and the view that you get on Fox. They’re not equivalent. One is journalistic information. It’s the institutions, the journalistic platform’s best sense of what’s true at that minute, and it’s intended to give citizens information they can use to make decisions about their life. The information on Trump, on the Fox platform, which was founded as a political platform by Roger Ailes, it was not founded as a journalistic institution, it’s to promulgate a point of view, an ideology. And now Fox has found the great prime-time personification of the current ideology that it’s selling in Trump, who is very good on TV, but it will lie to defend that political position. And one of the lies that it tells now, without any facts, is that this caravan is filled with dangerous people and they’re going to storm the border. That lie is okay if you’re a propagandist or a PR person, because you’re selling the brand, which is Donald Trump. We don’t do that. So they’re not equal views. And citizens need to understand, we are trying to tell them facts and what’s true, they are selling you a political view, which will include lies if it serves their ends.
STELTER: And Karen, you spent a long time in The Washington Post newsroom before moving over as a columnist. Do you think newsrooms at The Post kind of fell for the caravan narrative before Election Day? Because, I think, the coverage now, has been much more, has much more, there’s been a lot more scrutiny of what Trump is trying to do with the caravan.
KAREN TUMULTY: Well, I think that newsrooms, and particularly our newsroom, I’m proud of, because they are actually using this as an opportunity to sort of dig deeper into the forces that put people on this treacherous path of migration. For instance, we had a pretty ground-breaking story over the weekend of the degree to which people are sending their children in these caravans, in a way they never did before. So, you know, on the one hand, I think the sort of…the alarmism is pretty much a function of cable news. But I think other media are actually using this as an opportunity to look at, you know, what is driving people to commit these absolutely desperate acts.
STELTER: Noah, what’s your impression?
SHACHTMAN: Well, my impression is, I mean, look, the whole thing is incredible. What you really see here is not just a ideological supporting of the President. What you really see here is the merging of a TV star and a TV network. And I think you saw over the weekend, you know, the other Friday news dump was that, you know, Bill Shine, the former head of…or one of the top guys at Fox News, is still being paid by Fox News, even as he…
STELTER: Let’s put that on screen. Not just being paid, being paid millions of dollars. I think we can show this.
SHACHTMAN: Millions of dollars.
STELTER: First obtained by CNBC. $7 million in bonuses after he was forced out of Fox. $3.5 million being paid to him this year while he works in the White House.
SHACHTMAN: It’s incredible. Look, if someone like that did…if someone on the CNN staff or The Daily Beast staff or The Washington Poststaff, if there was some kind of arrangement like that, there would be howls from the conservative media, how dare you, you know, have this conflict of interest. But in here, it appears to be business as usual and it runs both ways, right? We had both Hannity appearing as a guest at the President’s rallies and you’ve got a former White House Communications Director, Hope Hicks, now working for Fox News. There’s this simbiosis. And so you can’t really talk about it like you would another partisan media outlet. It’s become this kind of weird hybrid, it’s…
STELTER: You said on Twitter, it’s not a state-sponsored network, it’s now a TV-sponsored state; like Fox sponsors the government, that’s your view.
SHACHTMAN: Yeah, it really is. And it feels like…and there’s this insane feedback loop that’s happening where Trump will tweets something he sees on Fox News, it will get amplified by Fox, it will rile Trump further up and then he’ll make government policy out of it. It’s nuts.