White House

CNN, 'Today' star turn Trump dinner with Putin into a feeding frenzy and other memorable media misses from this week

Dan Gainor

Editor’s note: Every week the Media Research Center’s Dan Gainor looks at the worst media bias moments of the week.

Was President Trump’s surprise dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin “too cozy for comfort?” Only if you work for one of America’s clueless news outlets that forgot both leaders attended a huge dinner together -- filled with other world leaders.

"Today" show co-host Savannah Guthrie embarrassed herself by declaring: “Let us start with yet another Russia controversy for President Trump.” Today gave more than seven minutes to the non-story. Contrary to media reports, the president talking in public with another world leader is not a “controversy.”

That G20 dinner has panicked reporters who have called it a “crisis” or “startling.” It’s almost like journalists have never been to a major event where humans talk to one another. (The NBC lunch room must be a fun place.)

CNN did its part to push the alleged controversy. The news broke at 5:35 p.m. EST and CNN gavve it 75 minutes of coverage by the time midnight arrived. Now recall Obama’s own Russian revelation where he admitted on a hot mic that he would have “more flexibility” to deal with Russia after the election. It got only 25 minutes on CNN in a similar time frame. In other words, Trump having a public dinner with another head of state was three times worse than promising “flexibility” to a nation journalists tell us is our enemy.

CNN staffers even pretended it was “secret” and then CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large Chris Cillizza (D-Hack) claimed they didn’t. Cillizza tweeted: “Again, NO ONE is saying the meeting was private or secret. NO ONE.” And was proven wrong by his own network.

It’s not hard to find where journalists do their worst work. Just look at the coverage of Russia each week. The odds are something they write or broadcast will be wrong, agenda-filled or both.

Russia was the worst this week, but, as always, it had lots of competition.

2. ‘When Is Speech Violence?’: The New York Times asked this crazy question in a July 14 by way of an opinion piece written by Lisa Feldman Barrett, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University.

Barrett tried to rationalize restricting speech -- an unusual position to find promoted by a news organization that claims to support free speech.

Her argument was simple: “that discussions of certain topics will trigger, or reproduce, past trauma.” She used this rationale to defend blocking speakers but hid behind science to do it. “That’s why it’s reasonable, scientifically speaking, not to allow a provocateur and hatemonger like Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at your school.”

The paper went after free speech back in April as well, publishing a similarly insane piece advocating for limits on free speech. The article, “What ‘Snowflakes’ Get Right About Free Speech.” had this killer quote: “When those views invalidate the humanity of some people, they restrict speech as a public good.” In other words, we can ban anything we don’t like. 

Just as a reminder, the Times was a co-sponsor of the Shakespeare in the Park series this year. When an actor dressed up as Trump was assassinated in a production of Julius Caesar, the Times rallied behind the show. “We have sponsored Shakespeare in the Park for 20 years. As an institution that believes in free speech for the arts as well as the media, we support the right of the Public Theater to stage the production as they chose." the paper argued.

Do Times PR staffers actually read the paper they defend?

3. Postal Service Corruption Aided Hillary, But Networks Skip It: “The U.S. Postal Service engaged in widespread violations of federal law by pressuring managers to approve letter carriers’ taking time off last fall to campaign for Hillary Clinton and other union-backed Democrats, investigators said Wednesday.” That’s the lede to a Washington Post story on corruption in one of the most famous areas of government.

That Wednesday hearing would have set airwaves on fire if it had been the Trump-led Postal Service. But this was Obama era corruption, so ABC, CBS, and NBC didn’t care enough to tell their viewers. Gosh, I wonder why.

4. Katie Couric, The Queen Of Fake News?: Long-time newswoman Katie Couric recently had to defend herself in court because her guns documentary phonied up an interview. Now she’s whining about the dangers of fake news without any irony.

Her "Under the Gun" documentary included an interview with members of the run-rights group Virginia Citizens Defense League. When she asked them a question, the video inserted silence that wasn’t there, implying the gun rights people were stunned into silence.

Katie won her gun-rights case and now has the audacity to claim fake news is “tearing [America] apart at the seams.” And faith in the traditional press continues decline. Maybe that will be the subject of Katie’s next documentary.

5. Why Have News Outlets Promoted Accused Sex Criminal R. Kelly?: Buzzfeed broke a big story claiming R&B pop star R. Kelly is “Is Holding Women Against Their Will.” Typically allegations about a “cult” make big news. Only "Good Morning America," "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" and "The Tonight Show" have helped promote Kelly for years. Oops!

Kelly’s rap sheet (ahem) is long, though he hasn’t been convincted. He has been charged with child pornography and various other sex crimes, and even had a reported “marriage in 1994 to his then-15-year-old protégé, Aaliyah,” wrote Buzzfeed.

Those allegations date back at least 15 years, but major TV shows continue to book Kelly for interviews and even performances. Fallon described Kelly as “the reigning king of R&B.” And he gave "Good Morning America" “a very special performance.” The worst might be Kimmel who told Kelly, “There is so much I could learn from you” during a Dec. 4, 2013, interview. Hopefully, it wasn’t dating advice.

Dan Gainor is the Media Research Center's Vice President for Business and Culture. He writes frequently about media for Fox News Opinion. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.