CNN’s Brian Stelter says too many Americans fail to grasp why President Trump’s contempt for “fake news” erodes a “shared sense of reality.”
The host of “Reliable Sources” penned “Why Trump’s constant attacks on an independent press are so dangerous,” which excoriated the president’s opinions on “an institution enshrined in the Constitution to keep government honest.”
“President Donald Trump and his allies tell the public almost daily not to believe real reporting,” Mr. Stelter wrote Monday. “But the frequency and predictability of the attacks don’t make them any less damaging. To the contrary: The falsehood-filled tweets and televised tirades are gradually eroding Americans’ shared sense of reality.”
The CNN host then bemoaned Mr. Trump’s “legitimate criticism” as being bound to a false premise.
“Some of what Trump posts about the media is legitimate criticism, but much of it is misleading,” Mr. Stelter wrote. “At the root of it all is a lie: That legitimate news outlets are ‘fake.’ … The president sometimes seizes on ethical lapses to bolster his case — a form of argument by anecdote that is certainly persuasive to his fans but isn’t factually sound.”
Mr. Stelter then cited the White House’s recent response to reporting by MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, which required an apology and a retraction.
Mr. O’Donnell made a single-anonymous-source claim linking Mr. Trump’s loans with Deutsche Bank to Russian oligarchs.
“[I made] an error in judgment by reporting an item about the president’s finances that didn’t go through our rigorous verification and standards process,” the MSNBC host said Aug. 29. “I shouldn’t have reported it and I was wrong to discuss it on the air.”
Mr. Stelter framed the incident with MSNBC as an episodic problem rather than a serial problem.
“O’Donnell cited a single unnamed source and didn’t go through the network’s proper vetting process — and he was widely criticized for the misstep,” Mr. Stelter said. “After a legal threat from one of Trump’s lawyers, O’Donnell apologized for making the claim and retracted it. The episode was embarrassing for MSNBC.”
Randy Hall of the media watchdog NewsBusters rejected Mr. Stelter’s read of the journalistic landscape.
The NewsBusters writer called the “shared sense of reality” position “coded language” for “everyone believes the liberal media’s analysis.”
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