WaPo media critic roasts Brian Stelter, CNN for avoiding network’s role in hyping Steele dossier


Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple put CNN and its poorly-rated media correspondent Brian Stelter on full blast for failing to address the network’s past coverage hyping the now-discredited Steele dossier. 

Following the Durham probe indictment of Igor Danchenko, a Russian national and primary sub-source for the infamous memo drafted by ex-British spy Christopher Steele that fueled the Trump-Russia collusion narrative, the media has begun reflecting on its past coverage that erroneously confirmed various claims from the dossier. The Washington Post, most notably, offered stunning corrections and editor’s notes on at least a dozen reports published during the Trump administration.  

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However, as Wemple pointed out in his column on Tuesday, Stelter “hasn’t found air time” to mention the Steele dossier on his Sunday program “Reliable Sources,” which allegedly covers the biggest media stories, since the indictment offered a devastating blow to the dossier’s credibility.  

“We asked Stelter to explain the dossier’s omission. ‘No on the record comment,’ replied the stickler for public transparency via DM,” Wemple swiped the left-wing media guru. 

"Reliable Sources" averaged only 738,000 viewers in September. 

“Reliable Sources” averaged only 738,000 viewers in September. 

Wemple accused CNN, the network that first broke the story about the existence of the dossier – which was later published by BuzzFeed News, of “burying” its history with the anti-Trump memo, which he noted CNN had repeatedly claimed to have “corroborated.” 

The media critic then took aim at a CNN report addressing the “reckoning” of the dossier and how it “tease[s] the idea that CNN is now administering a dossier reckoning to CNN itself. Nothing close to that comes to fruition.” While the report acknowledges its bombshell on the dossier’s existence and a February 2017 report on U.S. officials allegedly corroborating certain details from it, it “leaves out how CNN’s top journalists bootstrapped that February 2017 story into sweeping and definitive commentary lending credibility to the entire dossier.”

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Wemple pivoted to an on-air report from last week addressing the dossier where CNN anchor Pamela Brown told viewers, “We decided to take another look at what ultimately became an unreliable partisan-backed political memo that got a lot wrong.”

“Whoa! That assessment has shifted 180 degrees from the one that prevailed during the Trump years, when CNN staffers droned on about all the dossier’s wide-ranging ‘corroboration,'” Wemple reacted. “Yet CNN has pulled off this about-face without so much as a single statement or the slightest mea culpa from management. The Erik Wemple Blog has asked the network, again, about this situation, and hasn’t received a response.”

“For the moment, CNN appears content to allow its sunny, erstwhile commentary about the Steele dossier to sit alongside its grim, new commentary about the Steele dossier. ‘Let the viewers figure it out’ appears to be the animating idea behind this journalistic abdication,” Wemple wrote. 

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The Post columnist concluded the piece by questioning the “strategy” of CNN president Jeff Zucker, who allowed the network to be flooded with “copious airtime with one big story after another,” many of them prioritizing the Trump-Russia collusion narrative, saying such a singular focus “wasn’t healthy.”

“When you stake your network’s identity on a single story, and part of that story starts to fray, it takes a lot of courage to ’fess up. Courage that CNN appears to lack,” Wemple added. 

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