Brian Stelter made an important point on CNN, warning journalists of the necessity to fact check and contextualize, “We can’t just let it seep into the discourse like it’s normal, we have to stop and fact check and contextualize.”
“Here’s how not to interview a candidate…” CNN’s Brian Stelter said, as producers rolled tape of Hannity letting Donald Trump say that the election was going to be rigged.
“Trump: “Election is going to be rigged.” Hannity: “Alright, thanks for being with us.” No followup questions?!” Stelter tweeted.
Trump: "Election is going to be rigged."
Hannity: "Alright, thanks for being with us."
No followup questions?! https://t.co/d2sm2PY7F3
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) August 8, 2016
Stelter saw this as the serious problem it is, “Don’t feed me baloney about Hannity’s show being an hour long. That he might have run out of time. This interview was on tape. The producers should have kept it going. Hannity should have asked more questions.”
He made the point that I’ve been making about fact checking the people you support and agree with, “Interviewers, even the ones that support the person they’re interviewing, have an obligation to probe further and push back when a candidate says something dangerous.”
Stelter said the most sobering thing when he pointed out that what Trump is suggesting is dangerous, “And this is dangerous. Suggesting an election is going to be stolen, this is third world dictatorship stuff.”
“Now maybe Trump’s just making excuses for an eventual loss,” the CNN anchor said. “But here’s where the media’s role comes in. Journalists cannot just play these sound bites, quote these claims, and then move on to the next subject.”
What started off as a critique of Hannity’s failure to follow up turned into a broader discussion about how to handle a candidate like Donald Trump.
And the money quote, “We can’t just let it seep into the discourse like it’s normal, we have to stop and fact check and contextualize.”
This is exactly what needs to happen more often. Journalists have to find a way, and it can be tricky during a live interview but during a taped interview there really isn’t an excuse, to do a live fact check. There also isn’t an excuse because Trump has been saying this for a week at least.
Journalists have to find a way to impart that these claims aren’t normal political discourse, they are dangerous.
Journalists must always push for democracy. They must not be so blinded by bias that they allow egregious things like Trump’s rigged election comment to stand or let personal support get in the way of the job. So yes, even Fox News is expected to do better than this.
Trump’s comments about the election being rigged are a serious threat to the underpinnings of democracy, to the public’s faith in democracy. As Stelter pointed out in a separate tweet, “Specifically, when a candidate is trying to delegitimize our democratic process, it’s unpatriotic to help him do it.”
For more on how wrong these claims are read the tweetstorm by Ryan Godfrey starting here:
1. I'm an inspector of elections for a Philly voting division. Independent but was a Republican as recently as June. https://t.co/pd82mOkEKh
— Ryan Godfrey (@rgodfrey) August 7, 2016
Hannity is desperately trying to legitimize and excuse his failure to play at even the most robotic journalist, but the facts remain the same – this is tinfoil conspiracy stuff of the highest order.
We need more journalists like Brian Stelter who can handle the epic job of putting Trump’s abhorrent comments into context, because this isn’t about ideology. It’s about temperament and what we allow to “seep into our discourse” when Trump is allowed to repeatedly make dangerous claims.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.