In an industry where the sum total of testosterone would fail to equal that found in a single 19-year-old paratrooper, CNN’s Brian “Tater” Stelter stands out as an example of how a fat, balding guy can try to pull off an androgynous look and fail miserably. Ostensibly a “media analyst” with a show named, hilariously, “Reliable Sources,” Stelter was arguably saved from anonymity by political satirist Mark Dice. This is a must-watch.
For the past four years, Stelter has had two fetishes: he pushed every hare-brained Russia Hoax allegation that appeared anywhere, and he hates Fox News, in particular, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, with the heat of a thousand lumps of burning soy product.
Stelter has a new book out, HOAX: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth, in which he undertakes the role of a one-man Truth Commission to attempt to discover why Fox continually kicks CNN’s ass in ratings. As you can see from his Amazon blurb, the answer is Sean Hannity:
In Hoax, CNN anchor and chief media correspondent Brian Stelter tells the twisted story of the relationship between Donald Trump and Fox News. From the moment Trump glided down the golden escalator to announce his candidacy in the 2016 presidential election to his acquittal on two articles of impeachment in early 2020, Fox hosts spread his lies and smeared his enemies. Over the course of two years, Stelter spoke with over 250 current and former Fox insiders in an effort to understand the inner workings of Rupert Murdoch’s multibillion-dollar media empire. Some of the confessions are alarming. “We don’t really believe all this stuff,” a producer says. “We just tell other people to believe it.”
At the center of the story lies Sean Hannity, a college dropout who, following the death of Fox News mastermind Roger Ailes, reigns supreme at the network that pays him $30 million a year. Stelter describes the raging tensions inside Fox between the Trump loyalists and the few remaining journalists. He reveals why former chief news anchor Shep Smith resigned in disgust in 2019; why a former anchor said “if I stay here I’ll get cancer;” and how Trump has exploited the leadership vacuum at the top to effectively seize control of the network.
To promote his book, Stelter writes a preview of the book in Vanity Fair. It includes this bit about Stelter’s sole encounter with his bête noire:
I believed him. But I struggled to square Hannity’s reputation with the man I saw on TV and occasionally in person. While deep into the research for this book in December 2019, I ran into Hannity at a holiday party hosted by the TV-news tracking website Mediaite. We were upstairs at the Lambs Club, a stately Manhattan restaurant wrapped with red leather banquettes on 44th Street. Hannity greeted me by putting both his hands on my shoulders and exclaiming: “Humpty!” His nickname for me was Humpty Dumpty. I asked if he ever felt bad about the name-calling. “No,” he said. He took his hands off my shoulders and moved toward the bar.
Be sure to read this passage aloud, using Mark Dice’s imitation of Stelter’s voice for full effect.
Self-deprecating humor is one thing, but there are stories men just don’t tell about themselves. I know we’re living in an age where masculinity is out of fashion, but this seems to be taking it a bit too far. It would be humiliating enough to be publicly ridiculed and demeaned in that fashion in front of friends and colleagues. But to write a whiny, sniveling…adjectives fail me at this point…plea for sympathy, a transparent attempt to try to get all the cool kids to tell him that they all think he was the bigger, more rotund, person than Hannity by being publicly crapped on and dismissed is just sickening.
But this is quintessential Stelter. This is just who he is.