Brian Stelter Cannot Grasp the Success of Gutfeld! So He Does Not Even Try

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

When you are so convinced you will be right, but the facts defy your delusion

When Fox News announced in February that popular network personality Greg Gutfeld would be joining the weekday late-night moshpit, CNN’s media Hall Monitor Brian Stelter could not abide the news. He bizarrely declared that Gutfeld moving to an 11 pm slot was somehow evidence of Fox “shifting further to the right.” He also bemoaned the news network supposedly shunting news in favor of a talk show, though Greg would inevitably be discussing news — unlike say, CNN putting actor Stanley Tucci on at 9 pm to discuss Italian food for an hour.

Well, a month has elapsed and Gutfeld! has surprised/confounded/infuriated (circle all that apply) the media experts on the left by performing impressively well. The show had some eye-opening ratings at the start of its run, and now we see that it is holding up remarkably well after a month, actually building on its audience to a degree. This does not sit well, at all, with Stelter so he had to go on the offensive…uh, as best that he could. His Reliable Sources program, where he primarily pontificates, has seen the ratings bleeding out more than an extra in a teen slasher movie. But he still tried to go after Gutfeld.

To do so he had on his longtime ally from the New York Times, Bill Carter. The two media experts weighed in on the performance of Gutfeld!, and it was mirthfully embarrassing to watch.

Brian Stelter
Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Brian began by asking an insipid question “These late night shows — Are they going easy on the new President? Is there less to laugh about now that Donald Trump is out of office?” The first question is an obvious Yes, but the second is pure folly. Stelter cannot see anything risible in Joe Biden for the late-night comics to skewer? The man is a walking gaffe machine, he has embarrassed himself on the regular, and he has been bumbling on a number of issues. Amazon could not deliver more content for them to work with nightly.

After breezing past the established programs, Stelter turned attention to Gutfeld! in a dismissive fashion. Tossing the question to Carter he asked, “Fox News is trying to launch a late-night comedy show, trying to compete with Colbert and Kimmel — how is it going?” (Emphasis added, to show his slant.) For his part, Carter here completely avoids answering Stelter, and instead, he launched into his critique of the program.

The Gutfeld! Show is what I expected, which is that it’s not really about comedy or satire, it’s about revenge. The idea is to tell jokes to get them riled up and they’re not being entertained, they’re being incited. And the idea is for them to say, Yeah – that’ll show ‘em!’ Instead of kind of laughing. It’s all based on we’re going to get back at you for attacking Donald Trump.

The exchange can be summed up this way:

     STELTER – Fox is attempting this new venture — how is it performing?

     CARTER – I don’t like Gutfeld, don’t like his show, don’t like Trump, and I don’t like Fox!

Since Bill Carter did not want to answer the question I will need to do it for him. As Brian asked, Fox is not “trying” to launch the show, and it is not “trying to compete” — Gutfeld! has succeeded on both counts. The show has been a hit for the network and is building its audience, but it has also been more than competitive. Based on the average ratings numbers from April, it has risen to become the second-highest rated nighttime talk show, trailing only Stephen Colbert. 

Consider that for a moment. On a cable channel, he is drawing better than the network offerings from ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel and NBC’s Jimmy Fallon. That is significant, as the household availability is smaller, and the established nature of those shows is obvious. This is what Stelter is hoping you avoid:

  • The Late Show with Stephen Colbert 2.448 million viewers
  • Gutfeld! 1.791 million 
  • Jimmy Kimmel Live! 1.779 million 
  • The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon 1.696 million
  • (left far behind) Conan O’Brian, The Daily Show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

Brian Stelter attempts to gloss over the data in this lame segment and instead position everything as if Gutfeld! is a folly for Fox that is not working out. He, and his sycophant Bill Carter, attempt to frame things as if this were a failed experiment, when the truth is Gutfeld has shocked them with how well he has performed.

This is the kind of media assessment we have come to expect from Stelter, and it is leading to his own show losing over 1.5 million viewers in 2021. He does not want to mention the ratings for Gutfeld! Because he is firmly aware that his own Reliable Sources is pulling in about one-half of those numbers.