CNN’s Brian Stelter: Media Needs To Address Trump’s Embrace Of Conspiracy Theories Head On

The CNN media critic stated that journalists need to step up to the unique challenge Trump's campaign has presented and not just stick their heads in the sand.
brian stelter

During Sunday’s broadcast of Reliable Sources, host Brian Stelter addressed presumptive GOP nominee and raging ball of cat hair Donald Trump’s penchant for tossing out conspiracy theories. In doing so, Stelter also pressed the media to not normalize Trump’s behavior and to continuously debunk his tall tales. However, at the same time, he expressed a certain amount of doubt that any of it will work, as Trump appeals to a segment of the population that believes in these things and thinks the National Enquirer is a solid source.

Stelter started the segment by saying that he is taken aback anytime he hears Trump recite a conspiracy theory.

“We are all only as good as our sources of information. We make decisions about how to vote and who to believe based on the information we consume. That’s why we need, pardon the use of the title here, reliable sources. And that’s why I cringe when I hear Donald Trump reciting conspiracy theories.

This is harmful, no matter how well journalists debunk what he says. Case in point, this week, the National Enquirer story alleging a link between Ted Cruz’s father and JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. This is unproven. Just to be clear, there’s no evidence to believe it’s true and there’s lots of evidence to believe it’s not true.

But the conspiracy theory showed up first on fringe right-wing websites this time last month. Then it made its way to the Enquirer and then made its way to Donald Trump’s mouth.”

After playing a clip of Trump accusing Rafael Cruz on Fox & Friends of being involved in the JFK assassination, Stelter said the most troubling part of all was that Trump then lambasted the media for covering it up. Basically, that the press isn’t telling the truth about Ted Cruz’s president-killing dad.

Later on in the segment, Stelter highlighted how Trump claims he was only “counterpunching” because Rafael Cruz had been nasty to him. However, as the media critic noted, Trump has been embracing conspiracy theories for a while now, whether it is birtherism, 9/11, crime stats, or the story about pigs blood being used on bullets to kill Muslims.

Finally, he brought up the time where Trump claimed a protester had ties to ISIS. This was all a big hoax, something Chuck Todd tried to point out to The Donald. This gave us one of Trump’s most infamous lines — “All I know is what’s on the internet.”

According to Stelter, this is the key to understanding why Trump is connecting with large swaths of voters.

“‘All I know is what’s on the Internet.’ I think that sentence is key to understanding Trump’s campaign.

It doesn’t seem like he distinguishes between “Meet the Press” and “The National Enquirer.” And I think it’s important to recognize here that many voters don’t either. We can’t put our heads in the proverbial sand and pretend like this misinformation is out there.

We have to address it head on as journalists. And I think a lot of us see a lot to like about Trump, a lot to admire about his campaign, but not his tendency to believe this misinformation and these hoaxes and these conspiracy theories.

But here’s the thing. This is the important part. I could sit here and tell you about how some news outlets have higher standards than others. Some people will believe me and some people won’t. But mistakes and self-inflicted wounds and the lowering of standards across the board have lowered trust in media overall and made it tougher for us to hold all candidates accountable.

Now, I hope that forceful rebuttals, like the ones we saw here from Tapper and Stephanopoulos and Todd, are part of the solution, because, as Seth Meyers predicted this week, we’re going to be hearing more conspiracy theories this fall.”

Stelter, in the nicest way possible, is saying that because media outlets saw ratings and traffic increase with Trump, they lowered their standards and let him get away with throwing unsubstantiated shit at the wall without much pushback. In doing so, they created the self-fulfilling prophecy that Big Media can’t be trusted, which is a cornerstone of Trumps’ campaign…all while he uses them like a $2 whore.

Will Stelter’s words be heeded? Probably not. But you knew that already.

Video of segment, courtesy of CNN:


Justin Baragona is the editor and publisher of Contemptor. Prior to starting the site, he worked on the editorial staff of PoliticusUSA. During that time, he had his work quoted by USA Today and BBC News, among others. Justin began his published career as a political writer for 411Mania. He currently resides in St. Louis, MO with his wife and pets.
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