CNN's Frank Sesno: Fox covering Obama pseudo-scandals instead of Rob Porter may have been to "muddy the waters"

CNN's Frank Sesno: Fox covering Obama pseudo-scandals instead of Rob Porter may have been to "muddy the waters"

Oliver Darcy: "I think that Infowars, Alex Jones over at Infowars, is probably looking at Fox News and a little worried that they're infringing on his territory"

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From the February 11 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:

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FRANK SESNO (GUEST HOST): Here's what Fox News chose to cover instead of the [Rob] Porter story.

[...]

SESNO: Fox barely mentioned Porter, so it leads to the question, were the types of stories they reported deliberately meant to muddy the waters? Obama hasn't been president for quite some time, yet it’s not what Fox is putting into this narrative. Now, Fox isn't the only one -- one of Breitbart's top stories yesterday had nothing to do with this White House at all. "Poll," the story said, "Americans overwhelmingly believe Obama improperly surveilled Trump campaign." My reaction is one thing, but what effect is any of this having on people consuming this kind of information? According to the most recent Gallup poll, while 44 percent of Americans see news media as important to our democracy, 43 percent think the news media did a very poor job accomplishing that goal. And when it's broken down along partisan lines, we see just how far apart we are: 50 percent of Democrats think the news media is doing very well supporting or democracy, while only 10 percent of Republicans believe the same. News should serve to inform, to seek truth, to hold the powerful, whoever they may be, to account. Instead what we're seeing is news is just another disputed battleground in a polarized America, a filter on what people see and believe. So joining me now, Bethany Mandel, she's a conservative columnist at The Forward and editor at Ricochet, a conservative website, and Oliver Darcy, senior media reporter for CNN. Oliver, let me start with you. Fascinating dual universes here. How do you read that?

OLIVER DARCY: It's really remarkable. I was watching [Fox News’] Jeanine Pirro's show last night, and the amount of conspiracy theories that were being floated to protect Rob Porter -- or not Rob Porter, sorry, General [John] Kelly and his handling of the Rob Porter scandal, was remarkable. I said I think that Infowars, Alex Jones over at Infowars, is probably looking at Fox News and a little worried that they're infringing on his territory. It's insane. And some of those stories you were showing on air earlier, where they were saying that these text messages instead of the Rob Porter scandal was the big story of the day. Well, that ended up really not being true, we've kind of debunked the story here at CNN. The Wall Street Journal, Murdoch owned paper, effectively debunked it as well, and then Fox sort of moved on to the new thing without even correcting their initial story online. So not only are they muddying the waters with stories that are not related to the big story of the day, but the stuff is not even true.

SESNO: Bethany, conservative media have a very important audience and a very important mission. And credibility matters no matter where you're coming from, it would seem to me. How harmful is this to virtually ignore a huge story at the White House?

BETHANY MANDEL: So I think that what is, to me as a conservative journalist, most troubling about the fact that they don't want to talk about the Porter story, is that, it's not just the fact that there is a wife beater in the White House that is susceptible to blackmail. It's that he was walking around without security clearance. And there are a lot of people in the White House that are walking around without security clearance, and if we want to talk about national security and the importance of the FBI and the importance of keeping our country safe, that's a major story.

SESNO: And at what point does that actually harm the brand of any conservative or any other media, to ignore a story that doesn't fit your narrative? Isn't this actually dangerous business for a Breitbart or a Fox or anybody else? You're a conservative columnist, but you're a legitimate journalist working for legitimate news organizations.

MANDEL: Yeah, but I think the problem and why we're seeing this polarization is that it's not going to harm their credibility because these folks that are consuming Fox News are only consuming Fox News. So a lot of the examples that you used were opinion columns. They were opinion shows like Fox & Friends --

SESNO: Hannity.

MANDEL: And Hannity. Those are -- the folks who watch those are devoted partisans, and they're not necessarily going to hear the other story.

SESNO: So Oliver, is there any indication that this is hurting their ratings or circulation or anything like that? The contrary?

DARCY: No, they're doing great. They're living in another universe is what it is, and they're being told that CNN and The New York Times and The Washington Post, that these guys are the ones not telling you the truth, when in fact it's quite the contrary.

Previously:

Fox & Friends didn't discuss Trump aide Rob Porter's history of reported domestic abuse but mentioned Obama 18 times

Fox News downplays report that White House knew about domestic abuse allegations against top Trump aide Rob Porter

Fox News turns to Corey Lewandowski, who was charged with battery of a female reporter, for his take on Rob Porter

Posted In
Gender, The Presidency & White House
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel, CNN
Person
Oliver Darcy, Frank Sesno
Show/Publication
Reliable Sources
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