CNN host Brian Stelter ridiculed after failing to push back against outlandish Trump criticism

Wednesday - 28/08/2019 17:29
As CNN’s chief media correspondent, Brian Stelter is usually the one dishing out criticism to his fellow TV pundits. Today he is on the receiving end.

As CNN’s chief media correspondent, Brian Stelter is America’s go to person to scrutinise and berate the behaviour of his fellow journalists and TV pundits.

Today he’s in an uncomfortable position — he’s the one being berated.

Stelter has been slammed for failing to push back against a guest on his weekend show Reliable Sources.

The guest in question, psychiatrist Allen Frances, went arguably overboard in his criticism of Donald Trump during a discussion of the US President’s mental state, comparing him to Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong.

“Trump is as destructive a person in this century as Hitler, Stalin, Mao were in the last century. He may be responsible for many more million deaths than they were,” Dr Frances said.

Stelter did not object to that assessment, to the disbelief of some viewers.


Reacting to the backlash on Twitter, Stelter agreed he “should have interrupted” Dr Frances, but claimed he had not heard the comment due to technical problems.

“I wish I had heard him say it, but I was distracted by tech difficulties (that’s why the show open didn’t look the way it normally does, I had two computers at the table, etc). Not hearing the comment is my fault,” he said.

His critics, particularly on rival network Fox News, were not satisfied.

“There are producers in your ear. When something like that happens, they could get in your ear and say ‘you might want to cut this short’. Nobody did that, so if he was having technical problems somebody heard him, because he was still on the air. Why was nobody stopping him short? The reason is, Stelter’s lying,” said Fox pundit Dan Bongino.

“I’d believe (Stelter’s excuse) if the network hadn’t spent three years priming their guests for this kind of hysteria,” said Greg Gutfeld, a host on Fox’s show The Five.

“There’s got to be a new phrase to replace jumping the shark for CNN. Maybe it’s called losing viewers by the buttload, because the problem with the shrink’s opinion about Trump’s murderous footprint isn’t that it stood out from this pack of braying hyenas, but that it didn’t stand out at all.”

Fox News, of course, does have a horse in this race. A more neutral source, the media news website Mediaite, named Stelter its “media loser” of the day.

And as you might have expected, the President’s son Donald Trump Jr chimed in.

“The only thing ‘reliable’ about Stelter is that he is reliably a left wing hack,” Trump Jr said.

CNN host Brian Stelter (middle) claimed he didn’t hear the controversial comment. Picture: CNN
CNN host Brian Stelter (middle) claimed he didn’t hear the controversial comment. Picture: CNNSource:Supplied


For what it’s worth, Dr Frances’ claim that Mr Trump was responsible for more deaths than Hitler, Stalin and Mao was outlandish enough to be awarded a “pants on fire” rating by the fact-checking service Politifact.

“Frances’s statement is shockingly stupid and uninformed for someone with a respectable and responsible position,” said Benjamin Hett, a historian and the author of a book on Hitler.

Estimates of the number of people killed by Hitler, Stalin and Mao vary wildly, but each man’s death toll is undoubtedly horrific.

Hitler and Stalin are both believed to have caused the deaths of more than 10 million people.

Mao killed up to 42 million through his Great Leap Forward policy and the preventable famine it caused.

Responding to the furore surrounding his comment, Dr Frances later claimed he had been referring to the death toll that would result from Mr Trump’s inaction on climate change.

The World Health Organisation once predicted climate change would cause “approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year” between 2030 and 2050.

If you accept that number, it would take decades for the toll from climate change to approach a level comparable to that of Hitler or Stalin, let alone Mao.

And while you can certainly accuse Mr Trump of inaction on climate change, he is not solely responsible.

“It seems silly to find a single embodiment to the problem of climate change,” historian Peter Fritzshe told Politifact.

“Trump is a poster boy of ignorance, but the problem is much larger, more serious, more difficult.”


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