I have to admit, on a professional level it is very hard to respect Brian Stelter when his entire job seems to be to watch Fox News all day and then report what they said and how awful they are. That is not journalism, and to call yourself a “media correspondent” and focus entirely on a network you don’t like is petty and beneath what a journalist in his position should be doing.
Yesterday, Stelter’s petty attack of the day was a shot at Fox News that requires the reader to be completely unaware of CNN’s own hiring practices.
One way to think about Fox News in 2021 is as the Trump White House in exile. Today Kayleigh McEnany joined as a contributor to the network pic.twitter.com/ngrbbhgS1m
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) March 2, 2021
Let’s be clear here: Stelter wants you to think that Fox News is little more than a safe space for Trump administration officials to get hired. If you were reading it in a vacuum, or perhaps as someone who hasn’t watched CNN since 2016, then you might find it odd that Fox News was hiring former Trump administration officials to contribute on their network.
Except that CNN currently has in their employ Van Jones, David Axelrod, and Jim Sciutto — all three of whom previously worked in the Obama administration. There are, in fact, several former political appointees and employees who are now working throughout the journalism industry. Stelter wants you to pay no attention to that and focus solely on Fox News.
Funny enough, if you reached way back into the Internet time machine, you would find that a previous host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” the show now run by Stelter, was honest enough to ask the question of MSNBC in 2013, shortly after the network hired Axelrod and Robert Gibbs.
Gibbs tells me he sees his job “as a political analyst and as someone who has been in the room during important meetings and when big decisions are made who can convey what that’s like to viewers. I don’t see it either as being a cheerleader for the president or as a spokesman for the administration’s point of view.”
“I will be honest with my opinions and when I believe the White House has made a mistake I will say so. I’m sure no one in the White House thought my comments on Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearing were necessarily pro-Obama.”
Axelrod also sees himself taking a different approach: “My role is not that of a surrogate, but an analyst and commentator. I’m proud of my work for and with the president. But in this role, I will offer observations, based on my experience over 35 years in journalism and politics, and will call them as I see them.” He added: “I’d also note that NBC and MSNBC have, on their roster of analysts, both Republicans and Democrats.”
And I want to note: I find Axelrod entertaining. I like the perspective he brings to the table on CNN panel discussions, as I do when Van Jones is speaking. Axelrod brings a lot of political savvy and experience, while Jones brings the kind of true passion you don’t get from a lot of contributors who often seem like they’re just going through the motions to fill their role and get the check.
CNN hiring Obama administration officials as contributors is well within their rights, as it was for MSNBC back when Howard Kurtz was writing about them, and Kurtz wasn’t offering criticism. He was simply reporting it and posing the question.
It is also just fine when Fox News hires Trump officials as contributors, and for the same reason it was fine when MSNBC and CNN did it for Obama officials: They are newsmakers, they provide perspective, and they provide experience. Do I trust everything Jones, Axelrod, or McEnany say? No. Their job is to spin. There will be kernels of truth and a lot of nice fluff to round it out. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to be there.
And Stelter knows that. Deep down, he is fully aware that his own network has done the exact same thing. But, Trump is a bad human being, a terrible president, and his administration was the worst thing to happen to America (Stelter believes). So, those officials getting a job in media is appalling to him and he must attack it. He can’t help it.
He’s being dishonest, though, and he knows it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Stelter has to have the most miserable job in existence. He has to watch and report on a network he hates. All day, every day. It’s no wonder he seems so bitter on TV and on social media.