Last week, the biggest media story for at least two days revolved around comedian Roseanne Barr’s racist and anti-Semitic tweets that led to her losing her hit sitcom revival. Meanwhile, as much of cable news was focused on the Roseanne controversy, a Harvard study came out that revealed the death toll from Hurricane Maria was likely close to 5,000 people, way above the official tally of 64 when the analysis was released.
During Sunday’s Reliable Sources, CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter and his panel discussed why the Puerto Rico death toll story got so little coverage right away while the media focused so much energy on Roseanne Barr. Saying “my fault” for not covering the study until midway through his show, Stelter asked the panelists their thoughts on how the study was largely swept under the rug.
“We are addicted to celebrities in a sick way,” media critic David Zurawik noted, adding that one of the other reasons the Roseanne tweets had so much resonance is due to their shocking nature.
“People saw her show and saw the character of Roseanne Connor — who’s likable in some ways,” Zurawik continued. “That show spoke to them in the same way that Trump did. And I’m not denigrating this, I think it was important, I’m from Wisconsin. For people to say in Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania, we hear you, we know how bad things are. She did that. So you like her in that artificially constructed Roseanne character. And then the real Roseanne does something so ugly and so repulsive it shocks you. This was a shocking moment in our culture.”
CNN political commentator Maria Cardona, who grew up in Puerto Rico, wondered aloud if the reason was that it happened in Puerto Rico and not the mainland.
“I wonder if these were 5,000 American citizens stateside and if they weren’t brown and if they didn’t speak Spanish, I think we would be talking more about this,” she noted.
Piggybacking on that, Stelter brought up a couple of headlines he saw on CNN.com related to the study. One story said Americans viewed Maria as if it happened in another country. Another one, however, stated that the hurricane and the response to it will be an “enduring stain” on President Trump’s presidency and legacy.
Watch the clip above, via CNN.