CNN’s Brian Stelter used what he described as an “in-depth interview” with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki to liken Fox News and Newsmax to “Chinese and Russian state TV.” But media critics say it’s Stelter’s interview which more closely resembles the propaganda served up by authoritarian regimes.
Stelter spent nearly the entire segment asking Psaki what the media can do to see issues from the administration’s perspective, presenting her as a latter-day Jen of Arc taking on the allied forces of Russian disinformation.
Stelter’s first question to Psaki was: “What does the press get wrong when covering Biden’s agenda? When you watch the news, when you read the news, what do you think we get wrong?”
“Well, look, I think some of our muscles have atrophied a little bit over the last few years,” Psaki said, undoubtedly unable to believe her luck. She said only that people have forgotten how long and “messy the process of negotiating, and the process of getting legislation across the finish line, can be.”
Psaki seemed surprised by the nature of Stelter’s question, saying, “I don’t know if that’s the press getting it wrong. I’ll leave you to the critique of that, Brian.”
Brian Stelter asks White House press secretary Jen Psaki about the media's coverage of Joe Biden:
"What does the press get wrong when covering Biden's agenda?" pic.twitter.com/LPPt0m20ww
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) June 6, 2021
Stelter followed up by asking Psaki what made her feel “comfortable” and what made her feel “frustrated.” Psaki said when “the premise of a question is based in inaccurate information, misleading information, that can be frustrating. I try not to show it too much, try not to let people see me sweat too much — but occasionally, I have a moment of humanity.”
Stelter made clear that when he worried how “we” get things wrong, he mostly means his more conservative, more successful competitors. “Those questions that are based on falsehoods, they come from brands like Newsmax,” he said. “Why do you call on Fox News and Newsmax?”
Psaki went on to say that, while she doesn’t hype her ability to shut down reporters (which her adoring fans call a “Psaki bomb”), she has “a responsibility not to allow the briefing room to become a forum for propaganda, or … falsehoods or inaccurate information.”
“My best preparation from that was actually serving as the State Department spokesperson when there were representatives of the Russian and Chinese media in the briefing room, asking me questions that were directed by their government. We see that from time to time in the briefing room,” she said, “although, not every single day.”
Stelter continued by casting Psaki, who is a former CNN colleague, as a David fighting off a Goliath of disinformation. “Five months in, do you feel you’ve made any progress with that, defeating the lies?” he asked the official spokesperson for the highest office in the government.
“I try every day to,” Psaki responded.
Stelter then seemingly equated PR flacks and journalists, asking Psaki to give “PR professionals who watch what you do [and] journalists who watch what you do” advice “about trying to stay close to the truth in this world of lies.”
Stelter closed by trying to get Psaki to take the bait about the existential threat posed to the world by the Republican Party. “You have a daughter going into kindergarten; I have a daughter going into pre-K,” Stelter said to Psaki. “Do you fear [for them], given the craziness we’re seeing from the GOP? Do you fear that for our kids, your kids and mine?”
Viewers immediately noted the submissive nature of Stelter’s interview.
Trump White House spokesman Sean Spicer, who currently hosts Newsmax TV’s “Spicer & Co.,” responded by tweeting, “Alex, I’ll take questions I wish I’d gotten asked for $1,000.”
Alex, I”ll take questions I wish I’d gotten asked for $1000 https://t.co/ByisZ6qnLG
— Sean Spicer (@seanspicer) June 6, 2021
Spicer summarized Stelter’s entire interview by writing, “Are we doing a good enough job of pushing the White House’s talking points … can we do better at it?” Similarly, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) paraphrased Stelter by writing, “How can we better serve you, Master?”
Spicer’s fellow former White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News’ “Outnumbered” on Monday that terms like “bootlicking, subservient, obsequious” are “just some of the words critics are using to describe the questions CNN’s Brian Stelter lobbed at White House press secretary Jen Psaki in an interview that aired yesterday.”
Others said the interview had ominous undertones in a society that tasks the media with holding politicians accountable. “I’m not using hyperbole when I say the ‘interview’ that [Brian Stelter] did with Jen Psaki yesterday should be studied in journalism school. It’s one of the most sycophantic interviews of a state official you’ll ever see,” tweeted Glenn Greenwald, founder of The Intercept.
“This is how state TV functions,” Greenwald said.
The blogger Sister Toldjah at RedState.com agreed, “Pravda would be seriously impressed.”
It’s not the first time a news anchor has shown complete and utter subservience to a Democratic administration. Just after Barack Obama won the 2008 election, then-MSNBC host Chris Matthews told Joe Scarborough on “Morning Joe” that his job is to assure that Obama has “a successful presidency”:
Matthews: You know what? I want to do everything I can to make this thing work, this new presidency work.
Scarborough: Is that your job?
Matthews: Yeah, that’s my job. My job is to help this country.
Scarborough: So, your job as a journalist is to make this presidency work?
Matthews: To make this work successfully, because this country needs a successful presidency, more than anything right now.
The Clinton administration enjoyed similarly adulatory media coverage. In 1993, then-CBS News anchor Dan Rather told President Bill Clinton that he aspired to do as good a job as co-host of the “CBS Evening News” with Connie Chung as the Clintons had done in their five months as co-presidents: “If we could be one-hundredth as great as you and Hillary Rodham Clinton have been in the White House, we’d take it right now and walk away winners. … Thank you very much, and tell Mrs. Clinton we respect her, and we’re pulling for her.”
Chung and Rather’s partnership lasted less than two years.
Twenty-eight years later, CNN has also pitched into a ratings collapse under the Biden administration. “Stelter has continued to lose viewers in 2021, new statistics show. He averaged only 836,000 viewers during the month of May, a 9% drop from April viewership and a 53% fall from January, when Biden entered the White House,” Fox News reported.
Media outlets that act as cheerleaders for any administration — of any party — lose their audience for the same reason that most incumbents lose elections: They deserve to, because they have stopped serving their constituents. Journalists are tasked with cutting through lies and spin to present its readers with accurate information. That can’t happen when reporters blindly defer to political appointees or other “experts” instead of doing the hard work of presenting facts, even if they conflict with the preconceived narrative laid down each morning by Jeffrey Zucker.
Stelter’s interview is the latest in a three-decade-long set of admissions that the legacy media openly seek to promote the talking points of the Democratic Party, and every story they produce should be read with all the skepticism their lockstep commentary demands.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.