CNN’s Brian Stelter devoted the opening segment of Reliable Sources to --- doing what he spends most of his life these days doing --- trashing Fox News and right-wing media. Of course, his guests all too happily joined in.
As The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan contrasted the right-wing media with the “reality-based” liberal media, multiple members of the panel accused Fox News and conservative media of pushing a narrative sympathetic to President Trump while turning a blind eye to the liberal agenda endorsed by the legacy media.
To further his narrative, Stelter brought in former Fox News host Juliet Huddy, who talked about her conservative relatives who rely on Breitbart, The Hill, and Fox News as their sources of information. Huddy alleged that “the headlines and the information that they’re getting is curated by a very specific agenda-driven narrative. And that is the right.”
Huh. That’s ironic since that’s pretty much how CNN operates (or at least appears to) with little to no diversity of thought.
CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy complained that the panelists brought in by Fox News to discuss the impeachment hearings included Ken Starr and Andrew McCarthy, people he described as “more sympathetic to the President’s case.”
It’s not like CNN brought on exclusively “objective” people to opine on the impeachment hearings. Those who spoke on air during the network’s coverage of the impeachment hearings included rabid anti-Trumpers former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and former White House Counsel John Dean.
Of course, FNC’s coverage also included Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace, who described the impeachment testimony as “very damaging to Trump,” and outspoken liberal Juan Williams, so the idea that Fox News’s impeachment coverage only included Trump supporters does not hold water.
After Huddy accused Fox News of “lying by omission,” Sullivan dismissed the need to “take it down the middle and sort of say ‘here’s what people on the right are saying, here’s what the people on the left are saying.’”
According to Sullivan, “that does amount to a false equivalency because unfortunately...what’s being viewed as left-wing media is actually what I like to call the reality-based press.” Sullivan is also the person who called Bill Clinton’s accusers attending a 2016 debate as a “twisted version of the Last Supper.”
Sullivan claimed that “you’re not getting reality” on Fox News, suggesting that viewers are instead “getting a very skewed version of things.” Sullivan has suggested that the press shouldn’t have anything to apologize for regarding the collusion delusion, called FNC “an American plague,” and boasted that Jeffrey Toobin is an “authoritative” voice on CNN. Really.
Darcy seconded Sullivan’s analysis, arguing that “the Republican Party and the right-wing press...have really created and constructed an alternate universe” where “they’re not bound by the same laws of physics.”
A transcript of the relevant portion of Sunday’s edition of Reliable Sources is below. Click “expand” to read more.
BRIAN STELTER: Margaret Sullivan is here. She’s a…a media columnist for The Washington Post. Oliver Darcy, CNN…CNN senior media reporter. And Juliet Huddy, who’s a…formerly a Fox News host for many years. She’s now the co-host of “The Curtis and Juliet Show” here in New York, on 77 WABC Radio. Thank you all for coming in. Juliet, I…I know you have a lot of experience with these competing universes of information as someone who spent so many years at Fox News. It was discouraging for me this week to see that no matter how damning the evidence was that was presented at the impeachment hearings, Sean Hannity just presented a completely different set of facts. What…what did you see happening?
JULIET HUDDY: I think what happens on Fox on a daily basis is what happens on…basically, it’s a microcosm of what happens now in the world on a daily basis. Fox is banking on the fact that Americans are going to…Americans who watch them, their viewers, are going to stick with them. I mean, we know that I think it’s like 20 percent of America, very closely followed the impeachment hearings. I was talking to some relatives of mine who were over at my house. I was telling Margaret this. And they’re Trump supporters. And, I said, okay, so what did you think of the impeachment? “We didn’t watch.” How do you get your news? “We watched the…we looked at the headlines.”
HUDDY: Now, the headlines, I mean when I…when I go to their house, it’s on Fox News. When I look at their computer screen, it’s Breitbart or The Hill. So, the headlines and the information that they’re getting is curated by a very specific agenda-driven narrative. And that is the right. So, they’re not getting any of this information. And Fox is banking on the fact, as is Hannity to Tucker Carlson and the rest of the crew, the Fox and Friends folk, they’re banking on the fact that they’ve done a good job at convincing us, the rest of the world and their viewers that the media is lying; that critics of Donald Trump are liars and are the enemy of the, of…enemy of the state, and they’re banking on the fact that everybody’s going to stick with them…
HUDDY: …and not go outside of the lines.
STELTER: Yeah, and I saw this when I watched the nightly newscasts and then watched Sean Hannity’s version of a Republican nightly news. Let’s take a look at…at Lester Holt on one side and Hannity on the other.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
LESTER HOLT: The most explosive testimony yet.
SEAN HANNITY: Everything the…for the President said to Sondland is exculpatory.
HOLT: There was a quid pro quo.
HANNITY: No quid pro quo.
HOLT: Former White House Russia expert.
HANNITY: Today’s witness, a so-called Ukraine expert.
HOLT: Blasting Republicans for spreading a conspiracy theory about Ukraine interfering in the 2016 election.
HANNITY: Ukraine, did, in fact, interfere in the 2016 elections to help Hillary Clinton and hurt Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
STELTER: Now look, it’s really cynical on Hannity’s part but Oliver, it does work.
OLIVER DARCY: Right. I think this week really showed there’s no depths the right-wing media won’t sink to to defend this President. And, you know, we talk a lot about Hannity as well and how he misinforms viewers but I think we should also talk about how Fox on the news side largely does not inform viewers. I think this week we saw, for instance, the website which is supposed to be part of their straight news division that’s run by Hannity’s former producer. It looked more like Breitbart than what you would expect a straight news Fox News website to look like. If you look at the panels…panelists, for instance, that they brought on to talk about the legal impeachment hearings, they were bringing on people like Ken Starr, McCarthy, people who are more sympathetic to the President’s case. And finally, you know, we were using our chyrons throughout most of the week to inform viewers about the damning testimony that was coming from these witnesses…
DARCY: …and if you look at…
STELTER: …chyron is the banner on the bottom of the…
STELTER: …screen. And a lot of the times on Fox News during the day, they weren’t actually putting the breaking news about the hearings in the banner.
DARCY: Right. And this is from Fox’s news division. They go to advertisers and they say, we are fearless in our news coverage, that we are straight down the middle and we have opinion, but this news division is supposed to be “tell it how it is.” And I think this week, it really highlighted how Fox’s supposed… so-called news division is not really doing that on a daily basis and if you add in Hannity...
STELTER: The journalists there do feel squeezed by this situation.
DARCY: Sure, and there are…I mean there… Chris Wallace, Bret Baier, good journalists. There are…they are there. But, largely, this news division and…and the way you see it operate on the websites and the way you see them do things with the chyrons, it just really shows they are really hesitant to be critical of the President and to just put in what the witnesses are saying that…
STELTER: Like what is happening.
DARCY: Yeah. What is happening in the real world.
HUDDY: The lying by omission thing that we…
STELTER: Right. Lying by omission.
HUDDY: talked about previously. It’s, yeah, they leave things out; really important things.
STELTER: Well, look what the President did. He called into Fox and Friends on Friday morning in order to talk for what…53 minutes about his view of how everything’s going. Here’s how The Washington Post described that interview. It said: “Trump continued to make lofty promises of soon-to-come bombshells, he peddled falsehoods, he spread long-debunked conspiracy theories, he attacked his perceived enemies, he dabbled in misogynistic tropes - all while playing the role of persecuted victim.” Now, Margaret, you’re at The Washington Post. That’s why I wanted to share this. We need writing and reporting like that to explain how bonkers this is.
MARGARET SULLIVAN: Right, I mean, we can’t just sort of say, you know, take it down the middle and sort of say “here’s what the people on the right are saying. Here’s what the people on the left are saying.” I mean, that does amount to a false equivalency, because, unfortunately, you know, what’s being viewed as left-wing media is actually what I like to call the reality-based press. And, you know, I don’t think that most of the time and particularly on those evening shows, but as Oliver says, not just on the evening shows, you’re not getting reality. You’re getting a very skewed version of things and that is by design.
STELTER: And there is so much confusion as a result. And…and you wrote a column for The Post this week. Let’s put the headline on screen, addressing this sense that a lot of people have, that I don’t know what to believe. You hear this all the time these days. It’s a…it’s a pretty relevant excuse. I don’t know what to believe. But you say that’s a cop-out?
SULLIVAN: I think it is a cop-out. I think that as American citizens, you know, we like to say news consumers, but really what these people are and all of us are are American citizens. I think we ought to make ourselves informed. And so to say “well, gee, I don’t really know. I’m hearing things on different sides.” You know, read a newspaper. Watch the evening news. Okay. You want to watch Fox, but compare and contrast.
SULLIVAN: And…and get a sense and go beyond the headlines. And I think that when people say “gee, I don’t know what to believe, I’m confused,” I actually think that we should push back on that and say well, you know, it’s…this is actually really important what’s going on. And it’s really…you ought to find out.
STELTER: And seek out the primary source material.
STELTER: …et cetera. So, I also would like to point out what’s not happening; what we’re not seeing and that leads me to GOP lawmakers, the leaders of the Republican Party and how they’re not showing up on this TV screen. They’re not really showing up anywhere but Fox. Mitch McConnell, for example, zero interviews in the past three months. We searched all the transcripts; ABC and CBS, and NBC and Fox, and CNN and MSNBC. He hasn’t done a single interview. In fact, he only did CNBC once randomly. It’s not much better if you look at Steve Scalise, if you look at McCarthy, you know, we can put these…these on screen here. Scalise pretty much all on Fox News, showing up almost nowhere else in the past three months. And this is something that is true for almost all of the leaders of the Republican Party. I know you’re not surprised by this, Oliver, but I do think we should recognize that they’ve mostly stayed in a bubble.
DARCY: Right. Well, they…they have trouble defending the indefensible, right? And so, they’re going to an outlet that’s not going to press them on things that are uncomfortable, that are unfavorable to their…the narrative that they put out. And…and, you know, the Republican Party and…and the right-wing press have really, I mean, we say this a lot, but they’ve totally created and constructed this alternate universe. And…and in that universe…these people are telling the truth and everyone else is telling lies. And it’s easy for them to go in that universe and peddle this misinformation. They’re not really pressed on these things. But if they were come out…to come out in the real world, you see their arguments fall apart. You saw that, for instance, when Jim Jordan went on State of the Union With Jake Tapper. And his argument just fell apart, collapsed under the weight of reality. In the other universe, you know, they’re not bound by the same laws of physics. They’re allowed to, you know, just put stuff out there that make no real sense and the hosts don’t press.