It was just last Wednesday that Shepard Smith of Fox News delivered a searingly honest monologue about Donald Trump’s relentless lies concerning the special counsel’s probe of his collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice. It was a timely effort to set the record straight as Trump gets more anxious and threatening toward Robert Mueller’s investigation.
However, the surprising spectacle of a senior Fox News reporter being openly disparaging of the President may be getting more acceptable to the Fox brass. On Friday’s edition of Outnumbered, Fox’s politics editor, Chris Stirewalt, laid into the White House’s “useless” daily press briefings, which are hardly daily affairs anymore. There were five in June, and only three in July. And during a discussion on the subject, Stirewalt was unusually critical of Team Trump:
“I think we’re at a point where the White House briefs very rarely, and when they do it’s useless. We should stop the televised briefings. It’s counterproductive. It’s turned into showboat theater. No questions get answered. Well, not no questions. Substantive issues are not addressed. It has become a forum for personal achievement and political utility for the administration.”
Actually, Stirewalt was right the first time. Questions are not answered by this press secretary, Sarah Sanders. She routinely dodges and lies for half an hour, and then slips out of the room. But he was right about the administration using the briefings as a political tool to disseminate disinformation. He continued:
“I submit, we should stop having reporters at those Trump rallies. Everybody should stop having reporters penned up like veal in the back of those things for the President to use as a prop. And then some of the reporters exploit that for their own personal benefit. This is not helping anybody. Get out of the hall. Leave the cameras. Get the reporters out of the hall. Quit letting him use you as a foil.”
Exactly. Trump spends much of his time at his self-exalting rallies insulting the press. He points at them with a hostile glare and accuses them of lying and worse, treason. He encourages his glassy-eyed disciples to blast them with the sort of animus that can easily escalate to violence. He is inciting them to act in ever more dangerous ways that are almost certain to result in tragedy.
But Stirewalt does have a good idea, one that has been proposed before by media experts like Jay Rosen. The obvious futility of getting anything newsworthy from these briefings was apparent long ago. There is no journalistic need to cover them live because nothing urgent ever happens. The press can send interns and camera operators to record the snooze-fest and alert senior reporters if something important happens to shake loose. The result would be reporters would be freed up to do real journalism, and the White House communications office would have to find another platform for their propaganda.
Following Stirewalt’s righteous tirade on the uselessness of Trump’s press briefings, host Harris Faulkner ignored every point that he made in order to pivot into a tribute to the Trump administration. Because you can’t go for more than a minute or two on Fox News without lavishing the White House with undo praise. Faulkner applauded Trump for scheduling a press conference with members of his national security team. That event was pure photo-op with partisan insiders bragging about what a great job they were doing on preventing any new cyber attacks on the upcoming election. And they managed to do that without providing any details whatsoever on the activities they were allegedly engaged in.
Harris went further to demean CNN’s Jim Acosta for asking Sanders if she thinks that the media is the enemy of the people. She implied that maligning the media in Stalinist language was hardly worth paying attention to and that Acosta’s question was, therefore, a trivial waste of time. Shortly thereafter, co-host Trish Regan chimed in with her opinion that “the majority of Americans” look at CNN and MSNBC and “realize that they have a very extreme bias.” And yes, she was saying this on a Fox News program where four out of five panelists were overtly conservative supporters of Donald Trump.
It would be interesting to see what would happen if the press actually failed to show up for these briefings. Would the White House learn a lesson and begin to make them more substantive? Well, let’s not get ridiculous. This White House would just whine that the media was being mean to them and book some more rallies where Trump could clown around for his cult followers. But at least Trump’s ability to funnel lies to a captive audience would be gone, and reporters could go back to doing what they became reporters for.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.