CNN's war on Fox News goes nuclear — with a twist
CNN's on again-on again war (that's not a typo — it never ends) against Fox News is getting hotter, most likely because CNN is once again seriously trailing Fox News in the ratings. Brian Stelter, his network's leading attack dog, was at it again yesterday on his weekly program CNN Reliable (sic) Sources.
The program led with a full-frontal attack on Fox News's most highly rated show, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and its host, veteran reporter, editor, and television talk show host Tucker Carlson. CNN's online transcript of the program offers this headline:
Tucker Carlson of Fox News Has Taken Trump's Place in the Media Ecosystem
Biran Stelter — Mediaite video screen grab (cropped).
Addressing the diminishing viewing audience live from CNN's studios in New York, Stelter opened the show by saying (transcript via CNN):
All right. Are you ready for it?
Here is my conclusion: Tucker Carlson is the new Donald Trump. Tucker has taken Trump's place as a right wing leader, as an outraged generator, as a fire starter and it's all happening on Fox just like Trump's campaign did, which means Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch are ultimately responsible.
I mean, think about all of the ways these two men are similar. Every day, Carlson is throwing bombs, making online memes, offending millions of people, also delighting millions of other, tapping into white mail (sic) rage and resentment, stoking distrust of big tech and the media, generally coarsening the discourse, never apologizing for anything and setting the GOP's agenda. Sounds like a recently retired president, right?
Even before the 2020 election, there was informed speculation about Carlson as a 2024 candidate. Of course, some of Carlson's detractors say he's just a troll. He's just really good at ticking people off.
But isn't that what they said about Trump for years? Yes, Tucker is known to critique Trump and the Republican Party from time to time. This time last year, he was at Mar-a-Lago trying to convince Trump to take COVID more seriously.
But Tucker tells the same conspiratorial "us versus them" story that Trump told. The same they're out to get you story that Trump told for years.
It is the paranoid style in American politics all over again and Tucker soaks up some of the same social media fury that Trump did. He stokes the same debates that Trump did, and it raises the same predicament that Trump raised five or six years ago, whether and how to cover his claims.
You have to hand it to Tucker Carlson. Such an attack provides more proof — as if any is needed — that he is right over the target of the insane left wing's lies and hypocrisy that get more outrageous every day.
Stelter was joined in his attack by S.E. Cupp, a former Republican who migrated to CNN as a "political commentator" after failing stints at Fox News and Glenn Beck's Blaze TV; "Erik Wemple, a long-time Tucker watcher, media critic for 'The Washington Post'; and April Ryan, the White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief for 'The Grio'; and the one and only David Zurawik, the media critic for 'The Baltimore Sun.'"
All four talking heads continued to dump on Carlson and to expand their focus to include Fox News and its corporate leadership. Stelter led the charge:
What Tucker wants is attention. What Rupert Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch want for him is attention. As this headline put it, Tucker is the post Trump MAGA champion, firmly supplanting Sean Hannity at this point as the number one star on Fox News, with ratings far ahead of anyone else on Fox. And, by the way, other shows re-air comments all days long.
Fox News is increasingly the Tucker Carlson channel and the Murdochs recently cut a deal to expand his profile on Fox's streaming service, too.
It's ultimately all about the Murdochs and what they want. How they're going to keep the profits flowing by giving the viewers more and more radicalized content led by Tucker Carlson.
CNN is rightly worried about headlines like this one on A.J. Katz's article at TVNewser about the cable news ratings from last Monday. Notice: no mention of CNN:
Monday, March 8 Scoreboard: Fox News Begins Week with Total Day, Prime Time Wins
Tucker Carlson drew 578,000 adults 25-54 and nearly 3.4 million total viewers, easily No. 1 on cable news. Rachel Maddow [MSNBC] finished No. 2 in total viewers, while Hannity was No. 2 in the demo.
Last Monday was emblematic of a trend that began several weeks ago. After a precipitous ratings slump following the election — which many conservatives, rushing to judgment, attributed to a perception that Fox News had "gone left" — Fox News in recent weeks has recaptured its formidable ratings lead against CNN and MSNBC that it had held for the previous 18 years.
Last week, Rupert Murdoch, Fox News's founder and the executive chairman and co-chairman of the companies that control Fox News, turned 90. In a virtual speech recently while receiving an award from the Australia Day Foundation, Murdoch said:
For those of us in media, there's a real challenge to confront: a wave of censorship that seeks to silence conversation, to stifle debate, to ultimately stop individuals and societies from realizing their potential. This rigidly enforced conformity, aided and abetted by so-called social media, is a straitjacket on sensibility. Too many people have fought too hard in too many places for freedom of speech to be suppressed by this awful woke orthodoxy.
It was CNN, and Stelter's program in particular, that assisted in promoting the effort that has now reached the halls of Congress to censor and de-platform Fox News from the country's cable, satellite, and streaming television providers.
Rather than take up additional space quoting more from CNN Reliable Sources, interested readers can peruse the program's transcript (which it should be noted is inaccurate and missing sections of what was actually said).
In an unexpected twist later in Stelter's program yesterday, the Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple, a CNN contributor, said this (comments transcribed by author from the video at the link):
I would be remiss if I didn't mention CNN's own huge media story here with Chris Cuomo, the anchor at the 9 o'clock hour who covered Andrew Cuomo and had all of these wonderful love-a-thon interviews with him, more than ten of them. And they suspended the conflict of interest rule with Chris Cuomo for those interviews — yet now they've enforced it again now that Andrew Cuomo is in the midst of an historic scandal in the Albany statehouse.
So I think that is a major black eye for CNN. [emphasis added.]
Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who writes about politics, media, popular culture, and health care for American Thinker and other publications. He also appears in the media, including recently as a contributor to OANN, BBC World News, The Glazov Gang, and Fox News. Peter's website is http://peter.media. His YouTube channel is here. For updates on his work, follow Peter on Twitter at @pchowka.