Forever earnest Brian Stelter tweeted out his late-night appearance on CNN with Abby Phillip.

“MSNBC’s Maddow is right to be thinking aloud about the possible repercussions of a second Trump term,” he typed. “Other media types and political veterans are doing the same thing. What might “retribution” look like? What are the pressure points that Trump could target?”

In a softball email interview with Maddow, CNN’s Oliver Darcy warned about the MAGA crowd: “… Some of his extremist allies even talking about jailing their fellow Americans. You’re one of his most notable critics on television. Are you worried that you could be a target?” It’s like he doesn’t know Peter Navarro is in jail, and Steve Bannon is scheduled for jail over refusing to testify to the Pelosi-Picked Panel on January 6.

Maddow implied something about Trump’s campaign promise of mass deportations: “For that matter, what convinces you that these massive camps he’s planning are only for migrants? I’m worried about me — but only as much as I’m worried about all of us.”

Trump and his closest lieutenants have openly talked a big game about taking revenge on anti-Trump media outlets, so that concern is legitimate. It’s the crazy talk about prison camps for cable-news hosts that sounds cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. But Stelter thinks it’s right to “be thinking aloud.”

That’s the pattern of the anti-Trump media. Since 2015, they have constantly “thought aloud” about the wildest conspiracy theories. Trump is a Russian agent. Trump paid Moscow hookers to urinate on a bed the Obamas used. Trump is Hitler, or Mussolini, or whatever autocrat you can find. Trump will kill millions more people than Hitler, Stalin and Mao combined. (Stelter rolled out the red carpet for that last insanity on his CNN show. Even PolitiFact couldn’t avoid flagging that.)

Right now, the anti-Trump, pro-Biden media is projecting panic about a second term, and imagining nothing about what a second Biden term would look like — especially whether Biden’s mental decline will reach a crisis point.

But wait — consider the first half of Stelter’s interview with Phillip. She played a series of clips of conservatives complaining about top Justice Department official Matthew Colangelo joining the Manhattan district attorney’s prosecution of Trump. How hard is it to connect dots here? Easier than the nonexistent “pee tapes” CNN promoted.

Stelter said this amazing thing: “I think they’re trying to make sense of a complex world. Conspiracy theories help simplify complexity. But they do so by taking shortcuts. And in the real world, in real life, with real-world thinking, there are no shortcuts. These guys are trying to take shortcuts, trying to use code words and buzzwords and propaganda in order to satisfy an audience by taking shortcuts. And there are no shortcuts in this real, complex world.”

This is coming from Stelter, who also touted on X his fanciful New Republic article imagining everyone but Fox and Newsmax is banished from the White House. That article was a nut pie of conspiracy theories.

Finally, the irony of Stelter imagining IRS audits or White House media access bans under Trump ignores the fact that Stelter and his pal Darcy have openly campaigned for Fox News and other conservative outlets to be deplatformed from television. It’s not about “freedom of speech, but freedom of reach.” It’s not frightening that Stelter has written two books attacking Fox News as a poisonous presence on TV. Because the conservative media is never “news.” CNN and MSNBC are “news.”

Their crazy conspiracy theories are treated as facts, and conservative facts like Colangelo’s connections become crazy conspiracy theories.

Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org. To find out more about Tim Graham and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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