By bringing Anthony Weiner on as a “Reliable Sources” commentator Sunday, CNN’s left-wing media reporter Brian Stelter seemed to want to pull off a two-fer. First off, it is no secret that Stelter is struggling in the ratings — so the thinking was probably that this kind of stunt-casting couldn’t hurt. Secondly, any attempt to rehabilitate the disgraced former-Congressman is a boon for Hillary Clinton.
Throughout the 1990s, CNN didn’t earn its “Clinton News Network” moniker accidentally. The left-wing cable news network was infamous for working overtime to protect then-President Bill Clinton, and it looks as though that will not change now that Hillary is running for president. Although he is a proven serial-liar and all around creep, Weiner is still married to Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s top aide; and what’s good for Weiner is obviously good for the Clintons.
Unfortunately for all involved, Weiner’s appearance was a catastrophe for all involved, especially Weiner and Stelter.
First off, Stelter made no mention of how many times Weiner was caught lying to the media, especially during the twin sexting scandals that brought down both his congressional career and his failed attempt to become a New York City mayor. Moreover, on-the-air, Weiner told Stelter that his wife had no idea he was appearing on CNN. “I don’t think she even knows I’m here today,” Weiner said. Incredibly, Stelter never challenged this preposterous statement. In fact, Stelter never once challenged Weiner, even on the more partisan aspects of his guest’s analysis.
What was so incredible about the segment is that Stelter apparently booked the political husband of the person closest to Hillary on the campaign trail just so Weiner could spin and parse as though he was just another partisan Democrat, and not someone with unique insight and access. Stelter hardly pressed for more information. He didn’t even try to make news. He served as nothing more than an enabler.
The fallout was immediate for Stelter and CNN. This embarrassing partisan fiasco is now just another self-inflicted wound to Stelter’s already blackened reputation.
In February, Stelter’s disastrous attempt to single-handedly rescue Brian Williams blew up in his face when it was discovered that the CNN reporter had not properly vetted a source telling an untrue story favorable to Williams. This resulted in a humiliating retraction. Just a month earlier, Stelter was caught red-handed by no less than the Washington Post covering up a vital piece of context. Stelter had spent days gleefully excoriating Fox News and GOP politicians as racists for discussing Muslim no-go zones in Europe. What Stelter didn’t tell his audience is that CNN had already reported on the “no-go” phenomenon more than a half-dozen times.
If Stelter’s rolling reputation-implosion hasn’t affected his ratings, then it is a heckuva coincidence:
According to Nielsen ratings, “Reliable Sources” has seen its monthly viewership steadily drop since February of this year. In the last month alone, “Reliable Sources” is down 18 percent in total viewers and 8 percent in the demo (ages 25-54).
463,000 total viewers tuned into last Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” — 166,000 of those were in the key demo. (By comparison, FNC’s “Media Buzz” had 210,000 demo viewers and over 1 million total viewers.)
Stelter’s pre-occupation with attacking Fox News probably isn’t helping ratings-wise, either. Watching “Reliable Sources,” you would come to believe that Fox News is the only other media entity in the world, when it is really Stelter’s White Whale.
It is also worth noting that CNN chooses not to re-air “Reliable Sources.” Fox News give “Media Buzz” a second 5pm airing on Sundays. CNN even re-airs Fared Zakaria’s Sunday morning show in the afternoon. “Reliable Sources” doesn’t appear to have the following to justify a second run.
After 23 years on the air, “Reliable Sources” is in more trouble today than it was even 6 months ago.
Ratings can make a comeback.
What Stelter can never regain is his tarnished reputation, which is less a product of his bias than it is his incompetence.
In the middle of his partisan marches, Brian Stelter just can’t stop stepping on a rake.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC