Brian Stelter calls out mainstream media for giving little scrutiny to Donald Trump’s fascism

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Citation From the November 14, 2023, edition of MSNBC's The Beat with Ari Melber

ARI MELBER (HOST): Big picture, when you look at those headlines, you look at the authoritarian language, what is the best way from what we've learned to deal with Donald Trump in the press now? 

BRIAN STELTER (GUEST): I think we're past the realm of fact checking now. You know, you, I, lots of us talked during the 2016 campaign and through the Trump presidency about fact checking. It was very important and it remains important. But we're beyond that now. What we heard from Trump over the weekend was isolationist, fascist rhetoric. Isolationist, because often times fascism is associated with Hitler. Expansion is power, war time power. Trump, of course, isolationist, but it was fascist rhetoric. 

MELBER: When you wrote for The New York Times, do you ever remember calling any American politician fascist? 

STELTER: No, because none of them were at the time. And thankfully, many guests on this network have been calling it out. And that's what we have to do, we have to call it like it is. But I think fact checking is not enough at this point, Ari. We need reality checking, we need narrative checking, most of all, we need history checking. We need a whole lot more historians on television right now, and not just on cable. We also need them on channels where viewers might not be news junkies or they're just casual about this. But people desperately need to learn the lessons from the past. 

MELBER: What about the issue of overreaction and amplification? 

STELTER: I don't know if it's possible. And I understand the counterargument that coverage of Trump helped him in 2016. 

MELBER: Let me define our terms. He does "x" to get a reaction, and "x" becomes playing on a loop -- which, again, we're not seeing that as much right now I would argue on most of TV, quite frankly.

STELTER: No, we're not. 

MELBER: But that issue. 

STELTER: That is an issue, but I think right now we're seeing the opposite. We're actually seeing an absence of coverage, an absence of scrutiny. You mentioned those original headlines not taking this seriously enough. And I'm not sure that what Trump is saying on a daily basis is actually getting through at all.

Recently, I wrote a piece for Times today about how the lies are the story. We are used to in journalism focusing on what is true, that's what is comfortable for us. But now, it's the lies that are a story, the smears that are a story. So, it's going to be a challenge for the next 11 months -- because he's likely to be the nominee -- how do we tell that story without turning people off, without making it sound like we are choosing a candidate? All we're trying to do is choose the side of reality, the truth.