CNN's Brian Stelter on Mueller Coverage: "The Press Is Just Following A Trail That Trump Created"


CNN’s Brian Stelter opened Sunday's edition of "Reliable Sources" with a monologue defending the media's coverage of Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation as the country waits for the first details to be released.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN: News headlines are ubiquitous these days. Our phones alert us to the news. Cable is more like a rolling talk show, letting people be a part of the daily debate about how our country should be governed and how our world should work. I think that's a good thing. Some of the talk shows are really smart. The bad thing is when folks mix up the talk with the news.

Sometimes we let it get too blurry. Let me take this on. Partisans on the right are already claiming the end of the Mueller probe vindicates all of their prior positions. They are saying the media, the evil media, was wrong all along.

Donald Trump Jr. is tweeting out messages like this: "#CollusionTruthers." Accusing the press of pushing a narrative against his dad. Junior is making a rookie mistake. Mueller's assignment was to get to the truth about Russian interference.

Now, did many commentators and Democratic politicians allege collusion? Yes.

Did many journalists ask about it? Yes.

There is a giant difference between asking and telling. The job of the nation's news media is to ask, to question all sides to scrutinize and report on opposing points of view and only take the side of truth and decency. Someone should tell Jesse Watters that.

JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS: I feel like this delivers a knockout blow to the press and Democrats who have been saying collusion, collusion, collusion for the last two years.

STELTER: Watters should take his blinders off. Obviously, some opinion columnists and point-of-view news outlets have invested in an anti-Trump narrative. Others, like Watters, have promoted a pro-Trump narrative. That is our wild media world. But the president's kids and friends on Fox should be able to tell the difference between agenda-driven columnists and journalists trying to report. There is a big difference. There is difference between news and opinion.

I realize it can be hard to tune out all of the noise and just tune in to the news these days. If I had to pick speculation or solid reporting, I would pick solid reporting in a second. I bet you would too. Reporting is what adds the most value. Finding out something new, putting out new information into the world is the best feeling in journalism. It is the greatest value add. Hundreds of journalists have been trying to solve pieces of this Trump-Russia puzzle.

But here's the thing -- Speculation actually has value too. It helps open our eyes and our minds to what's possible.

I know people like to mock cable news in moments like this. It's an easy punch line, right? We are standing by to find out what the news is going to be. Waiting for AG Barr to tell us something. But that does have value too.

It gives us a place to go, a place to turn to. A recognition that you're not the only one who wants to know. I rearranged my plan so I can be close to a TV all day today with the hope that we are going to get some news from Barr by the end of the day.

This country needs to know what Mueller found and needs to know what he didn't find.

I think all of us as news citizens, news consumers, need to make sure our tuners work so we can distinguish what is true and news versus what is wishful thinking, speculation, opinion. We need to distinguish between what has actually happened and what might happen.

So don't be fooled by the partisans who cherry-pick the worst mistakes over individual journalists or the craziest ideas from commentators and claim that's the entire media. It's not.

We are waiting for the facts.

Here is what I know. You're going to hear it from the right for the next days and weeks to come. That the press has made all of this up to take down President Trump. The press is just following a trail that Trump created. He has proven time and time again he cannot be trusted. He is so dishonest that even America's allies don't know what to believe. He is so unpredictable that his aides sometimes don't know what to say or how to respond. That's the crucial context for whatever comes next.

Maybe every time he said, "no collusion," more than 231 times so far, maybe every time he said no collusion he was telling the truth. Maybe that's what Mueller found. If so, it would be a relief of the country. Trump's daily deceptions have given this country ample reasons to be suspicious. That's why there's so much noise. News coverage doesn't happen in a vacuum, speculation doesn't happen in a vacuum. Reporters don't ask questions for no good reason. Let's hope real research and real reporting can lead us out of this. The name Mueller has come to mean a lot of things. Hopefully it means truth. And hopefully soon.

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