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The MRC's Lingering Case of Stelter Derangement Syndrome: The Book Tour

After Brian Stelter published a new book critical of Fox News, the Media Research Center lashed out at him anew -- though it made no effort to disprove anything in his book.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 2/2/2024

Brian Stelter

The Media Research Center's ever-lingering case of Stelter Derangement Syndrome flared up anew in the fall -- never mind that Stelter had departed CNN a full year earlier -- and Alex Christy was the sufferer in a Sept. 19 post:
Former chief media correspondent for CNN, Brian Stelter, joined MSNBC’s Ari Melber on Friday’s edition of The Beat to talk about his old employer, the media as a whole, and to proclaim that the industry’s job is to be “louder than the liars” who attack them.

Melber wondered, “So, has CNN, in your view, lost its way? And were they wrong in some of the programming decisions they made, including regarding yours?”

Stelter replied that he didn’t think so because, “there's a big difference between a management regime versus CNN as an institution. And that's true for lots of media companies. When you're reading the newspaper, you’re reading a website, you hate an article, you hate a column, judge that one column. Don't judge the entire institution and that's what I would say about CNN or any other big media brand.”

That would make more sense if you were talking about the op-ed pages or an opinion-based publication, but not for the allegedly straight-news outlets like CNN or MSNBC. When the news section repeatedly makes the same mistakes, blaming individuals covers up systemic problems.

Christy would never make that comment about Fox News, even though the problem he ascribes to CNN and MSNBC is much worse there. He continued to whine:

As for attacks on the media, “This torrent of lies directed at an institution that's trying to get to the truth and, Ari, that's why we need this kind of coverage all the time to try to figure out the best path to being louder than the liars. That's our job. We are supposed to be louder than the liars.”

That also contradicts Stelter’s earlier statement. On one hand, Stelter wants people to criticize individuals, not outlets, but here he is urging the entire industry to adopt certain standards. At the same time that standard of claiming something is true simply because the media said it is, is why the industry is facing a “torrent” of criticism.

Christy himself is a walking contradiction because he refuses to hold Fox News to those same standards.

Tim Graham got angry in a Sept. 21 post that someone lamented the state of CNN after Stelter got fired:

Tom Jones at the Florida-based Poynter Institute -- touted by Johnny Dollar as a "Stelter press agent" -- has penned a deeply disturbed piece headlined "CNN ‘hewing toward the center’ is not necessarily good for our democracy: Pushing for fairness and completeness in journalism is never a bad idea. But presenting 'both sides' sometimes can be."

Jones was attempting to shame the Chicago Tribune for an editorial touting this purported CNN move to the center -- which sorely lacks evidence so far, other than dismissing a few flagrantly opinionated staffers like Stelter and John Harwood. Jones sounds like a press agent upset at Stelter's firing.

At the end of 2020, Jones handed out his "best of media" kudos, suggesting the best media show was Reliable Sources and the best book on media was Stelter's profane, gossipy anti-Fox book Hoax. Sounds like a press agent, indeed. Oh, and Jones hates every word that flows from Greg Gutfeld.

Graham dismissively referred to Jones in his headline as "Florida Man" since that's where Poynter is located, and he offered no reason why Jones' analysis of Stelter is in any way flawed (or his assessment of Gutfeld).

Brad Wilmouth served up a torrent of whataboutism in a Sept. 26 post after Stelter called out Fox News' history of division on the occasion of Rupert Murdoch's retirement:

Is there anything stranger than crusading leftists on CNN and MSNBC blaming Fox News for dividing Americans? Soon after CNN anchor Abby Phillip attacked Fox News for "outrage porn," MSNBC's The Sunday Show offered ex-CNNer Brian Stelter blaming Rupert Murdoch for dividing America, pitting neighbor against neighbor.

Name-dropping the title of his new anti-Fox book, Stelter excoriated the outlet as a "Network of Lies" and laughably claimed that Fox, unlike the pro-Biden media, is "not rooted in reality."

The segment was remarkable, coming on the same fulminating cable network that has a substantial history of trafficking in vitriol against conservative public figures, even in this segment. Host Jonathan Capehart recalled congressional Republicans who are resisting a budget deal as he segued to the issue of Fox's future:
But if you zoom out, you can see the real roots of Republican craziness. One of the key factors, media mogul and architect of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch, who announced he is stepping down as chairman this week. As a column in The New York Times noted, Rupert Murdoch's empire used passion and grievance as fuel and turned it into money and power.
There's no "passion and grievance" in MSNBC and in Capehart's performance?

At no point did Wilmouth make any attempt to actually respond to what Stelter said.

It surely must have pained Nicholas Fondacaro to admit that Stelter actually echoed right-wing talking points in an Oct. 20 post:

“There is no defense here.” Even CNN’s former media janitor Brian Stelter couldn’t find it in him to throw rhetorical sawdust on the liberal media’s regurgitation of Hamas propaganda and misreporting of the blast at a hospital in Gaza. In a Wednesday appearance on NewsNation’s Dan Abrams Live, Stelter ripped into the media for their “atrocious” coverage of the blast and said they lacked “common sense” when they parroted unbelieve death toll numbers Hamas gave them, just minutes after it occurred.

“Hamas is not a credible source for information period. And yet, so many in the media treat them as if their statements just as reliable as any other government statement,” host Dan Abrams emphasized as he was leading into his interview with Stelter.

Stelter noted that he’s usually the one defending the media, but this time “there is no defense here.” “This was an atrocious series of mistakes by many different major newsrooms all around the same time on Tuesday,” he decried. Worse yet, he warned: “I don't think there's been a follow-up or accountability to make sure doesn't happen again.”


He concluded by lecturing his media colleagues on how they should be like doctors and “do no harm” when reporting from disaster areas, both natural and manmade. “Don't make a terrible situation worse. War is already Hell. It should not be made worse by misreporting,” he said. “But I fear that on Tuesday the media made a bad situation worse. They actually did harm as opposed to trying to the opposite.”

It probably helped that Stelter said this on NewsNation, which the MRC loves to pretend isn't biased despite its clear right-leaning slant. But if Stelter had targeted his remarks at Fox News, Fondacaro would be in a rage, since criticism of Fox News is not allowed.

Stelter's new book

Indeed, when Stelter released a new book criticizing Fox News, the MRC once again went into full derangement mode. The MRC's chief Stelter Derangement Syndrome sufferer, Tim Graham, who had a whataboutism-laden meltdown over the book in a Nov. 10 post (though he still had to concede that Stelter's reporting was accurate on how Fox News lied to viewers):

Brian Stelter’s second book raining fire on Fox – Network of Lies – is coming out next week, but he appeared on MSNBC’s Alex Wagner Tonight on Thursday night to promote it. Somehow, in the seven-plus minutes of Fox-bashing, they didn’t discuss Stelter’s old network CNN having its freelancer literally kissed by a Hamas terrorist. That’s an inconvenient truth for Mr. Facts First.

Instead, MSNBC put on screen Stelter’s hot quote that “Fox is the black widow at the center of the web of lies that pervert American politics.” You can’t call CNN “fake news,” but you can compare Fox to a dangerously venomous spider.

Stelter’s book is in part a compilation of all the frantic internal communications over a short period when Fox aired embarrassing segments spreading wild conspiracy theories about Trump winning in a landslide. Some of those texts are explicit acknowledgments that this was fake news.

So let’s fast forward to the part where Stelter and Wagner address the current status of Fox and Trump.

Wagner asked “Does Fox, I mean, is all forgiven? And to what do you feel like Fox feels like it needs to actively curry favor with Trump? I ask that because it's interesting in and of itself. But because there's going to be January 6, 2025?”

This, on the network that hires their program hosts right out of the Biden White House public relations department, from Psaki to Symone. That illustrates a close relationship between a president and a network.


Wagner and Stelter won't discuss all of the misinformation that CNN and MSNBC uncorked in the Trump years, from the years of spreading Russian collusion conspiracy theories to the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop, falsely dismissed as Russian disinformation. "Networks of Lies" could describe that period for them.

Remember that Graham gave a pass to Fox News for telling those lies -- something he would never have done if CNN or MSNBC had done the same thing -- because it wouldn't hurt the channel with its core audience.

The next day, Alex Christy complained that Stelter plugged his book at his old employer and, like his boss, hurled whataboutism rather than respond to what Stelter said:

Brian Stelter returned to CNN on Friday when he joined The Source host Kaitlan Collins to continue his book tour and, just like old times, bash Fox News as the GOP's agenda setter while ignoring how the rest of the media helps set the left's agenda.

Collins noted that Rupert Murdoch is set to step down and wondered “How different does his media empire, not just Fox, but everything, look after that?”

After going on about the future of media more generally, Stelter eventually got to the specifics of Fox, “It's almost as if the energy has moved away from him. Although I think it's important to note, Fox is still the beating heart of the GOP. And that's where, for better and for worse, the narratives are still set.”

As opposed to the rest of the media, where narratives set for the left.


Stelter wasn’t buying the idea that Trump and Fox are distancing themselves from each other, “In a primary, he would argue that. But come general election, they'll be in Trump's corner.”

And CNN, and the rest of the media, will be in Biden’s corner.

Graham returned for an attempted gotcha in a Nov. 16 post on Stelter's appearance on NewsNation, where host Dan Abrams tried to get Stelter to unquestioningly buy into Israeli propaganda:

Ex-CNN host Brian Stelter is ubiquitous on liberal TV networks and podcasts right now, selling his latest Fox-frying book Network of Lies, but one TV interview really stands out. He appeared on Tuesday night's Dan Abrams Live, and instead of delighting in the Fox hatred, Abrams pressed him on a raft of challenging media questions. Stelter stumbled throughout, but the most embarrassing part was claiming no host at CNN was partisan.

Stelter could have pointed at himself. But he thinks he and Jim Acosta were just "truth telling."

Up first? Abrams asked about the petition of Israel-hating journalists insisting news accounts must smear Israel as guilty of "genocide," "apartheid," and "ethnic cleansing." Stelter said these are "progressive writers" who might not be in news rooms, but they should push their "standards and practices" squad to explore it. Abrams shot back that "genocide" is not reality, but Stelter wouldn't commit. I wouldn't sign it, he said, but he wouldn't condemn it as not factual.

"That's a cop-out answer," Abrams said.

Graham continued to portray Stelter as the idiot for not biting on Abrams' gotcha questions:

Then came the one that drew the most attention. Who is the most partisan host on Fox? He said Maria Bartiromo, and Abrams said she's become a "fringe player." What about MSNBC? Stelter noted he was on Joy Reid's show, and she said Trump has an "authoritarian streak," which Stelter agreed on. But he tried to say she has a "point of view," a "perspective," not a bias. What about CNN? Abrams said CNN is the most dishonest network in denying it's biased. "Do you think there are any people on CNN who are overtly biased, whatever word you want to use that isn't offensive?"

"I really truly don't," he said, "and they fired me!" He said feel free to send him comments at his email ( What about Jim Acosta? Stelter said "I think Jim is telling the truth, I really do!"

Graham said absolutely nothing about the content of Stelter's book other than to whine that is "Fox-frying." He whined further in a Nov. 19 post:

Taxpayer-funded PBS and NPR loathe Fox News like all leftists do, and both promoted ex-CNN host Brian Stelter's second Fox-bashing book Network of Lies. On Thursday, PBS NewsHour anchor Amna Nawaz ran Stelter through his usual talking points about Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, but concluded with the Big Picture, as reporters panic about how their coverage of Donald Trump won't prevent his re-election:


Stelter thinks there's someone out there who hasn't heard their incessant Trump warnings: "I would like to see the coverage amped up quite a bit on that front in order to help people who are not news junkies. I feel like I know what's going on, but most people are tuned out right now about the 2024 election. It's time to tune in."

On Tuesday's Fresh Air talk show on NPR, Stelter blabbed for more than a half-hour on the same points. Host Terry Gross mocked Tucker Carlson's exit: "Well, if Lachlan is focused on advertising, I mean, Tucker Carlson's extremism cost the network a lot of money. A lot of the sponsors pulled out. They had to rely on My Pillow (laughter) for - as a primary sponsor."

As opposed to NPR, where we are the involuntary sponsors.

Graham's whataboutism continued: "It's funny sometimes that NPR people ask what Fox News shows are like, as if they have never seen it for a minute in their lives." As if the hate-watching of non-right-wing media the MRC does to cherry-pick clips could be consider real viewing.

When the book's sales numbers came in, that derangement quickly became gleeful schadenfreude, as Graham exhibited in a Nov. 28 post:

Colby Hall, the founding editor of left-leaning, reports that Brian Stelter's new Fox-trashing book Network of Lies is selling well below expectations, like a Disney blockbuster. It's a dud! 
Published on November 14, Stelter’s book sold 3,807 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen BookScan. Those numbers are down 82% from his previous book about Fox (Hoax), which saw first-week sales of 20,832 in August 2020, according to BookScan.

Mediaite has learned that Stelter’s latest will not make the New York Times bestseller list. As of publishing, it is currently ranked 6,638th on Amazon’s Best Sellers list, despite his numerous appearances on cable news and several podcasts, including Mediaite.
Stelter has been on CNN and MSNBC and PBS and NPR and NewsNation and Univision and a plethora of podcasts to plug his "epic saga" -- we're still waiting for the NewsBusters Podcast, come on, pal -- but it's not moving the needle.
Graham didn't mention that despite all his mocking, Stelter's book still had better first-week sales than Chadwick Moore's fawning biography of Tucker Carlson, which sold just 3,227 copies. (You will not be surprised to learn that right-wingers have manufactured a conspiracy theory about this.) Instead, he complained that the New York Times published a positive review of Stelter's book, though he did not question the accuracy of either the review or the book.

That was followed by an even more shadenfreude-filled Nov. 30 post by Bill D'Agostino claiming to note "9 Tiny Things That Still Outnumber Brian Stelter’s Failed Book Sales." He too did not mention that Stelter's book outsold Moore's bio of Carlson.

A Nov. 30 post by Graham whined that Stelter appeared on MSNBC to point out how Trump did try to block the merger of CNN's parent with another company because it aired things critical of Trump and is threatening MSNBC's parent for doing the same thing:

On Wednesday night's All In on MSNBC, host Chris Hayes brought in Brian Stelter to address the latest Trump outburst on his Truth Social account threatening Comcast and MSNBC for their left-wing propaganda: "our so-called government should come down on hard on them and make them pay for the illegal political activity. Much more to come, watch."

There's nothing there defining what is "illegal" in all of MSNBC's propagandizing. But it certainly allows MSNBC to feel good about their "defending democracy" credentials. Hayes warned Trump's "whining" could turn into "real punitive action."

Hayes and Stelter talked up how the Trump Justice Department sought to block AT&T's merger with Time Warner in 2017, which went through in 2018. The top antitrust official at the time said he never spoke to Trump or his aides about AT&T, but the liberals only believe the Justice staff is independent when Democrats are running it. 

You know liberal media outlets are involved when liberals love a merger of mega-corporations. Before long, AT&T dumped Warner's media assets like CNN to Discovery.

Graham then went on a whataboutism tear, whining that Stelter questioned the reach of right-wing influencers "after January 6," but he left out the part where those right-wing influencers helped incite a violent insurrection.

Nicholas Fondacaro added a little Stelter derangement to his own Nov. 30 post as part of his daily hate-watch of "The View":

The sales of Brian Stelter’s latest anti-Fox News book were so low that he made an appearance with the liberal ladies of ABC’s The View on Thursday in an attempt to bump up his numbers. Of course, there were the usual back-slapping conversations for him going after one of their mutual hate objects, but Stelter also had sweet nothings to proclaim the cast: falsely claiming the show was home to truthful conversations.


As they were nearing the end of the second segment with Stelter, Farah Griffin finally got around to admitting “have a handful of very good reporters like Trey Yingst, Jennifer Griffin, people who cover actual news.” Lamenting: “And it's so hard for those journalists that they have to be next to basically people espousing propaganda.”

Stelter called Fox News “a very uncomfortable environment” for them and suggested that that was why The View was better. “[W]e should advocate to have a truthier, healthier environment. That’s why I love this show! Your guys are louder than the liars!” he praised.

The MRC concluded 2023 with one final reminder of how Stelter lives rent-free in their collective heads: For the second year in a row, it gave out "The Brian Stelter Memorial Award for Worst Quote of the Year." Never mind that Stelter isn't dead, or that all he has done is write a book telling the truth about Fox News.

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