CNN Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter organized a panel on Sunday to address a letter posted on CNN.com by 13 former press secretaries -- nine of them with Clinton or Obama, and three of them paid CNN analysts -- demanding regular briefings at the White House, State Department, and Pentagon. It felt like another CNN ploy to get some Jim Acosta screaming on the air.
The idealistic headline was "Why America needs to hear from its government." But Stelter really hated the White House response, urging former Obama spokesman Adm. John Kirby to denounce it as hate speech:
STELTER: The White House responded to your letter by saying these were just a bunch of D.C. establishment swamp creatures. How offended were you by that hateful speech?
KIRBY: Nah, I wasn't. It was pretty sophomoric --
STELTER: But it's irresponsible! It's irresponsible! Hogan [Gidley, deputy press secretary] knows better than to say that kind of crap!
KIRBY: It was sophomoric. But I mean, I have a thick skin. You can't be at two podiums like me without thick skin.
STELTER, smiling: That's true.
KIRBY: I do think it was important for us to lay this marker down. They talk about how accessible the president is, Brian. But the difference --
STELTER: But it's not an either/or. That's the thing.The president should be accessible and there should be briefings, all of the above.
KIRBY: And the briefings give you accountability. It's not just about access, it's about accountability. That's what's lacking.
Kirby tried to make this sound like reporters add a beautiful polish of coherence to public policy -- instead of screaming and yelling and throwing tantrums. "The American people have a right to know that the kind of decisions made by their elected leaders have been informed by context and deeper understanding."
Stelter yelled at Gidley instead of considering the argument that the press can sound more like hecklers than the forces of "context and deeper understanding."
“To be honest, the briefings had become a lot of theater, and I think that a lot of reporters were doing it to get famous. They’re writing books now. They’re all getting famous off of this presidency,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told Fox News. CNN correspondent Jim Acosta and CNN analyst April Ryan have both written briefing-room memoirs.
As Stelter and Kirby admitted, the Trump administration is accessible to reporters and TV interviewers. They're just avoiding the "traditional" briefing. Stelter didn't admit that CNN tends to take both sides of the briefing debate. It demands briefings, and then insists they're too full of lies to put on the air.
This isn't about transparency. After all, Stelter only devoted 30 seconds on Sunday's show to CNN settling the Nick Sandmann lawsuit. Would Stelter like to face a briefing full of conservative reporters demanding answers about CNN's bad reporting on the Covington kids? We'd love to add "context and deeper understanding" to that mess.
This came AFTER Brian devoted almost three minutes to the media and "Megxit" (Royal Family fluff) https://t.co/lKs2zimO0S— Tim Graham (@TimJGraham) January 12, 2020