CNN’s Brian Stelter baffled media watchdogs on Sunday who now question if the liberal pundit has ever watched his own network.
During his “Reliable Sources” media show, Stelter criticized conservative pundits and talk radio hosts for speculating about presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s mental health and fitness for office, despite his own show having spent years doing the same thing to President Trump.
Stelter called recent criticism of Joe Biden’s mental health “mind boggling,” “offensive” and labeled it “negative partisanship.” (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN)
“At some point, don’t Stelter’s bosses have to recognize what an absolute embarrassment he is to their network?” conservative strategist Chris Barron told Fox News. “Stelter spent weeks wildly spreading baseless conspiracy theories about Trump’s mental health and now he has the audacity to question others asking questions about Biden?”
Stelter called recent criticism of Biden’s mental health “mind-boggling,” “offensive” and labeled it “negative partisanship,” characterized by despising the opposing party more than supporting their own party.
“It is so hateful,” Stelter complained, claiming that “negative partnership” directed at Biden from the right is more extreme than anything the left says about Trump.
Cornell Law School professor and media critic William A. Jacobson said he couldn’t fathom what he was hearing and told Fox News that Stelter’s commentary and show raises a very serious question.
“Has Brian Stelter ever watched CNN, which demeans Trump around the clock as a racist mentally unstable Putin puppet?”
— William A. Jacobson
“Has Brian Stelter ever watched CNN, which demeans Trump around the clock as a racist, mentally unstable Putin puppet? Or any of the other major networks that spread Russia collusion conspiracy theories for years, and whose reporters go to White House press conferences for the sole purpose of trying to bait Trump into a reaction so they can get retweets on Twitter?” Jacobson asked.
“If Brian Stelter wants to improve the quality of dialogue in the nation he should start with his own network,” Jacobson told Fox News.
Everyone from influential podcast host Joe Rogan to satirical website The Babylon Bee has evoked Biden’s mental health in recent weeks after a series of high-profile gaffes by the presumptive Democratic nominee. In March, the far-left Young Turks said “everyone” was questioning Biden’s mental fitness for office.
Stelter warned viewers on Sunday, however, that only far-right conservatives would ask such questions.
Stelter played a clip of conservative radio hosts picking Biden apart and asked a panel of three liberal guests if similar attacks ever come toward Trump.
“Negative partisanship, it kind of explains everything about what’s broken in our media environment… there is all of these media outlets, all these talk radio stars, TV shows, that are just constantly attacking, fueling hatred of the other side” Stelter said. “Am I right to say that’s happening on the left and the right, but it’s more severe on the right?”
Stelter has speculated about Trump’s mental health and fitness for office on a consistent basis. He once noted that Trump’s actions “are provoking some uncomfortable conversations” before listing examples.
“Is the president of the United States a racist? Stelter asked to open an episode of his show in 2017. “Is he suffering from some kind of illness? Is he fit for office? And if he is unfit, then what?”
Brian Stelter has mastered the art of making his point by posing it as a question, allowing him to get away with speculating about Trump’s mental health and fitness for office. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
Media Research Center vice president Dan Gainor mocked the segment as “four liberal journalists sitting around pretending liberal journalism doesn’t exist,” simply to make a point.
“Brian Stelter spends every show like he’s trying to do a remake of the movie ‘Clueless’ but for a much smaller audience,” Gainor told Fox News. “He complains about ‘negative partisanship’ when he runs the most negatively partisan show in the history of television.”
“He runs the most negatively partisan show in the history of television.”
— Dan Gainor
Stelter has also declared we can’t “tiptoe around” the president’s mental health, booked a psychiatry professor to claim Trump is a more lethal leader than former Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong and regularly packs his show with guests who agree with an anti-Trump agenda.
“This is the same Stelter who said Trump’s actions could be described as ‘crazy,” Gainor said. “Now he’s incensed that anyone might question Biden’s diminished mental ability and calls such comments ‘offensive and otherworldly.’ What’s offensive is that Stelter claims his show is about journalism.”
Stelter then said that “entire media companies essentially exist to tear down Joe Biden,” and asked if there is “an equivalent to that on the left to tear down Trump.”
While most media watchdogs could argue that CNN and MSNBC are laser-focused on tearing down Trump, Stelter’s guests declared that there isn’t a liberal media outlet that exists solely to attack the president.
“That’s almost all CNN now does,” Gainor said.
CNN personalities including Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo, Jim Acosta, Brianna Keilar, Jim Sciutto, April Ryan and Daniel Dale have all spent a large part of Trump’s White House tenure attacking and criticizing him as every turn. Some have emerged as household names and heroes of the anti-Trump “resistance,” while others have morphed from straight-news anchor to partisan opinion host.
DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall feels that Stelter is correct that we see negative partisanship in action on conservative talk radio, but said the public knows how those programs are designed and usually labeled as partisan.
“The bigger problem in the media today lies with outlets that posture rhetorically as ‘news’ organizations when they are essentially doing much the same thing in terms of negative partisanship,” McCall said.
“Coverage of Trump has been overwhelmingly negative throughout his term, including on Stelter’s channel. It should be kept in mind, also, that while Stelter is concerned about offensive partisanship during this election season, it was his own show that gave a platform to a foul-mouthed actor to criticize Trump last fall,” McCall said, referring to outspoken anti-Trump actor Robert De Niro who dropped a pair of f-bombs last year in an appearance so over-the-top that even CNN staffers were concerned.
“It is sad that the nation is so polarized, but that polarization is not coming from just one direction. Further, it can’t be surprising that conservative talk radio is going to engage in ‘Biden bashing,” McCall said. “It is a rough and tumble political environment in which the nation lives today and that is not likely to change soon. But for the left-of-center media outlets to protect Biden as a victim after displaying their own negative partisanship for several years comes off as insincere and hollow.”
When Stelter and his panel were finished declaring that the left doesn’t have media outlets designed to take down Trump on Sunday, they pivoted back to talk radio hosts who have recently criticized Biden’s mental health amid a series of high-profile gaffes.
Political satirist Tim Young, who regularly fills in for David Webb’s talk radio show on SiriusXM, joked that it’s a “shame” Stelter didn’t hear his show last week.
“I said a lot worse things about Biden than the radio hosts he quoted — I called him ‘Vegetable Joe,’” Young told Fox News before offering sober analysis.
“CNN pretending that they don’t bash Trump 24/7/365 and claiming that Joe Biden is some sort of victim because Republicans attack him is mind-blowing. If this were a segment from three years ago, I might be willing to believe that they simply live in an echo chamber and it’s tone-deaf, but now, just before the 2020 election, I believe they are intentionally setting up a narrative that Joe Biden is somehow a victim and Republicans are so paranoid that they spend all day criticizing him,” Young said.
“They aren’t this stupid or ignorant,” Young added. “This is being done on purpose as part of their political advocacy for Biden.”
CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.