On Sunday morning, Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro appeared on CNN’s "Reliable Sources" with host Brian Stelter to discuss media credibility. Shapiro slammed CNN’s coverage of the gun control debate in the country as egregiously one-sided, pointed out that the media had amped up various issues in order to get ratings, and noted that CNN anchors had remained silent when conservatives were viciously attacked on CNN, opting not to challenge the incendiary statements from members of the Left.
The segment started with Stelter commenting, “Let’s talk about media credibility in this unique moment in time with Ben Shapiro. He’s the editor-in-chief of The Daily Wire. Ben, great to see you.” The exchange that followed went like this:
Shapiro: Good to see you, too.
Stelter: You’ve argued in the past the media should not go around pointing out how abnormal these circumstances are. Why is that?
Shapiro: It sort of depends. This stuff, over this weekend, was not particularly normal. It’s hard for me to argue the media shouldn’t be saying that the president is acting in non-normal fashion with regard to the Russia investigation. That said, I think that because the media have been saying, “not normal” so often for so long for over a year, for two years at this point, at a certain point it becomes the boy who cried wolf. Even when something is not normal as it has been this weekend, I think there are a lot of folks who go, “That’s just the media spouting off; how are we supposed to trust them after two years of them saying that everything the man does isn’t normal?”
Stelter: Isn’t that because there’s been a decade-long movement on the Right to discredit the media, well before President Trump came along?
Shapiro: I would be surprised if it’s just a decade; I think—
Stelter: Decades long.
Shapiro: On the Right for as I’ve been alive, there’s been a lot of questions about media objectivity, and I don’t think those questions are ill-founded. I think this is why, as I’ve been saying, it’s really incumbent on the media to do as much reporting of the facts as possible and leave a lot of the hyperbole out of it. I know that’s really difficult in a time when the hyperbole seems to not only get ratings, but also to jog people’s kind of amygdalas, but the fact is the more the media underplays, I think the better they will do in terms of people trusting them because, at this time, what’s happening right now is everything’s breaking down into tribal affinity.
President Trump says “fake news”; a lot of his people say, “Okay, well, if the president says it, the media are fake on a lot of topics, or least they are biased on a lot of topics, so why wouldn’t they be biased here as well?” The media sort of need to bend over backwards to prove that they aren’t biased, especially in cases like the Russia investigation, Again, I think that what the president’s done this weekend, is not normal. I think that if the president were to fire Robert Mueller, it would precipitate some really devastating politics in the country for sure, and it should.
But I think that it’s important that the media hold their fire up to the point where something really terrible has happened. I’m sorry, but the firing of Andy McCabe, for example, on Friday, that was recommended by the OPR. That’s not something that is wildly out of bounds. What is out of bounds obviously is the president talking about firing Mueller or if he would actually fire Mueller.
Stelter: Where do you see the most egregious media bias right now?
Shapiro: Well, over the last three weeks, obviously, the coverage of the gun debate has been absolutely egregious. I don't want to single out your network, but CNN has been pretty bad on this, from a conservative perspective. The idea that, when there is a mass shooting, that the media feel the necessity to put on TV not only survivors, but specific survivors, that there is a certain subset of survivors who make it on TV a lot, a lot, and there are certain other survivors who don't. And that they decide to single out certain events and not other events in order to make a particular case, or they allow certain people to go on TV and suggest that folks like Dana Loesch or people at the NRA are evil, don't care, they are terrorists, and there's no pushback from the anchors? This sort of thing makes a lot of people on the Right feel that the media are really using this as an opportunity to push gun control, rather than objectively covering the legislative efforts that are going on in Washington, D.C.
Stelter: So, your view is it should be 50/50? Even if most of the students are urging gun control measures, you want it to be 50/50 or—
Shapiro: No, I think 80/20 would be fine. Anything but 95/5 would probably be a good thing, and I think that it's also pretty obvious that — listen, everybody — this is my opinion about journalism— everybody in journalism has their own political views. We all vote, obviously, or at least most of us do. And it's not a pleasant thing when people in the media pretend their political views are not influencing their coverage, when it's so obvious that those political views clearly are influencing their coverage.
Stelter: But is it political just to want fewer gun deaths? That's not political.
Shapiro: Well, obviously, it's not political to want fewer gun deaths. Nobody wants more gun deaths. I think that what is political is allowing certain people to go on TV, and without any sort of follow-up question say things like their political enemies don't care about human lives. Like, I remember CNN got very upset when Dana Loesch said at CPAC that people in the media didn't care enough.
Stelter: CNN doesn't get upset. Certain anchors or reporters may challenge something. That's not a network-wide thing.
Shapiro: Okay, but reporters need to challenge. Again, the reporters are the representatives of the network. When I tune in and there’s a reporter on CNN and the CNN insignia is on the bottom corner of the crawl, there’s nothing I can do as an observer but say, "okay, well, CNN may have a bias here," especially if that bias all runs in one direction. It’s not like some of the members of CNN are pushing a particular agenda and some are pushing another agenda; if there a bias, it is universally to one side and that’s what people on the Right are seeing.
Stelter: So you think the agenda that’s being pushed is gun control by interviewing students who are scared to go back to school? Is that how you perceive it?
Shapiro: No, I think the agenda being pushed is gun control, if there, again, is no pushback on questions that would be asked to any other guest, I think the tragedy is obviously a terrible thing, but it doesn’t necessarily confer expertise (Shapiro’s phone starts ringing) and that’s one of the big problems here.
Stelter: You’re very popular, Ben, you want to grab that?
Shapiro: Yeah, exactly, goodness gracious. (laughing)
Stelter: It happens to all of us (laughing).
Shapiro: Sorry about that.
Stelter: Your website, The Daily Wire, a lot of other conservative media sites that have criticism of the press; I sometimes worry you’re all trying to tear things down as opposed to make them better. It’s one thing to critique and want journalism to be better, but sometimes I feel that you’re just trying to get rid of journalism altogether.
Shapiro: Questioning the motive I don’t think is a useful thing. If you can point out to me where the critique is wrong, that’s one thing. If the suggestion is that the critique is invalid because the motive is invalid, that’s another. So, again, if you don’t like the motive, then ignore the motive and take the critique insofar as it’s effective. Right, we all have motives, but the fact is, listen, I don’t want CNN to disappear,
I don’t want The New York Times to disappear. I don’t want The Washington Post to disappear. I want them to do what they say they are supposed to be doing. I want them to perform objective journalism, if that’s what they say they’re going to do, and opinion journalism if they want to say that they are opinion journalists. That’s fine.
My problem is when — this is why my critique of, for example, The New York Times op-ed page is far less than my critique of The New York Times objective journalism. There’s a difference between op-ed and journalism.
It’s why my critique of MSNBC sometimes is a lot less strident, I think, than my critique of CNN, because CNN purports to be objective. MSNBC really does not purport to be objective in the same way.
Stelter: Part of me thinks that you and your colleagues at The Daily Wire should try to get jobs at The New York Times. If you don’t like the coverage, try to be part of the solution as opposed to complaining about it.
Shapiro: I don’t know; would you hire me? I really doubt that, and not only that,
Stelter: I wanted you as a guest for many months—
Shapiro: I’m not sure you guys could pay me. I’ll be frank with you; I make a lot of money.