News and Analysis

Brian Stelter Claims CNN Would ‘Never’ Air An ‘Incendiary’ Phrase That Anderson Cooper Used Thursday

   DailyWire.com
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 12: Brian Stelter attends The 15th Annual CNN Heroes: All-Star Tribute at American Museum of Natural History on December 12, 2021 in New York City.
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN. A Warner Media Company. All Rights Reserved.

CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter excoriated Fox News for broadcasting an allegedly “incendiary” phrase that he said CNN would “never” repeat on the air. Unfortunately, Anderson Cooper had used that exact terminology last Thursday, and a review of network transcripts shows that CNN hosts have repeated it at least half a dozen times in precisely the way Stelter called unacceptable.

Stelter dedicated part of the January 23 episode of “Reliable Sources” to reading banners Fox News had posted on the screen during the past week, including one that read, “The Biden administration is a clown car driving off a cliff.” An outraged Stelter said, “That’s the great example of the incendiary rhetoric that you would have never seen, let’s say from another channel during the Trump years or now during the Biden years.” Such language illustrates “the imagined drama that Fox presents every day” in the “Fox-uverse,” he added.

But his colleagues at CNN have used that exact phrase — and many worse ones — about former President Donald Trump, Trump administration officials, and Republican congressional leaders as recently as three days earlier:

Anderson Cooper (“Anderson Cooper 360” on January 20, 2022): Anderson Cooper, who replaced Chris Cuomo as CNN’s top-rated host, likened a report about the 2020 Trump campaign to a clown car last Thursday. “It’s like a clown car on fire,” Cooper said in exasperation. ‘Yeah,” agreed a giggly Pamela Brown, CNN’s senior Washington correspondent, who then apologized for being unable to respond to Cooper’s next question. “Sorry, I was thinking about the clown car on fire analogy,” she explained.

John King (“Inside Politics” on December 16, 2021): John King used the analogy to make the first year of the Trump administration seem worse than Joe Biden’s first year in office. King noted that Republicans faltered on their “central promise” to “repeal and replace Obamacare” in 2017, while Biden failed to pass the  “Build Back Better” act in 2021. But at least last year, “we have not had the clown car routine that that was that debate” over Obamacare, King said. Still, he considered Biden’s inability to pass his signature social spending legislation as “a major failure.”

Don Lemon (“Don Lemon Tonight” on November 29, 2021): “The GOP is just a circus right now. That’s just the honest truth. It’s a clown show,” Lemon declared last November. “The GOP is just loading up the clown car of their never-ending circus.”

Anderson Cooper (“Anderson Cooper 360” on September 16, 2021): Last fall, Anderson Cooper cited anti-Trump biographies such as “Peril” by Bob Woodward as evidence the former president became mentally unhinged in his last days in office. “I mean, we knew it was, you know, a clown car going on and possibly going off the cliff,” Cooper said. “But I mean, it’s extraordinary to see this reporting … Woodward and Costa also report on the former President’s mental faculties.” Cooper use the exact analogy which Stelter condemned Fox News for making. Stelter did not condemn Anderson Cooper for “exaggerating” or “inventing” concerns about President Trump’s mental health, a frequent topic of CNN speculation since 2015.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (“Don Lemon Tonight” on July 19, 2021): Not every use of this “incendiary” phrase came from one of CNN’s anchors, but it sometimes came with their approval. During an interview with Don Lemon about the congressional committee investigating the January 6 riot, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said, “I think Kevin McCarthy has decided his role as the minority leader in the House of Representative is to essentially be chauffeur of the clown car.” Not only did Lemon not push back, but Brianna Keilar decided to reair that soundbite on CNN’s “New Day” the next morning.

Van Jones (“The Van Jones Show” on November 10, 2018): Former Obama administration Green Jobs Czar Van Jones opened a 2018 episode of his eponymous CNN show by applying the “incendiary” phrase to Donald Trump. “We had an insane clown car of a presidential press conference, after which Trump just up and fired Jeff Sessions,” Jones told CNN’s viewers. “Now, that’s a decision that could derail Bob Mueller’s Russia investigation, which could lead to a full-blown constitutional crisis.” In reality, the Mueller report would conclude that its “investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.”

Brianna Keilar (“Wolf” on July 19, 2017): While guest-hosting Wolf Blitzer’s afternoon show in the early days of the Trump presidency, Brianna Keilar used a familiar phrase while discussing the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia with CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash. “Dana, when you look at Republicans on Capitol Hill, how are they reacting to what – it’s almost like a clown car, right?” Keilar asked Bash, who did not rebuke her colleague’s choice of words.

Of course, “clown car” is far from the most offensive or polarizing phrase uttered on CNN. The Lincoln Project’s co-founder Rick Wilson called then-candidate Donald Trump a “douche canoe” who lacks “gravitas” in 2015, while anchor Jim Acosta has earned CNN a reputation as a home of rampant profanity for repeatedly using the phrase “bulls**t” on the air.

Stelter’s comments came during a segment in which Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell insisted that stories about illegal immigration, Joe Biden’s mental fitness, and public schools teaching ideologically polarizing concepts like Critical Race Theory had been “exaggerated” or “invented out of whole cloth” by Fox News and others.

This is not the first time Brian Stelter has condemned other media outlets for sins committed by his own network. Last September, Stelter bashed other news outlets for spreading a “faulty media narrative” about Border Patrol agents allegedly whipping Haitians attempting to enter the United States illegally in Del Rio, Texas — an error CNN network had repeatedly reported for much of the previous week.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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