During the “Disinformation and the Erosion of Democracy” conference hosted by the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics (IOP), Chicago Thinker staff writer Christopher Phillips blindsided CNN’s Brian Stelter with a question about the network’s journalistic ethics and its history of spreading disinformation. Phillip’s takedown comes one day after the Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum infamously dismissed the Hunter Biden laptop scandal as “totally irrelevant” in response to a question posed by his Thinker colleague, Daniel Schmidt.
The conference event, “How Media Platforms Shape Consumer Realities,” was moderated by the New York Times’s Jim Rutenberg and featured Stelter, Stephen Hayes of the Dispatch, and Lauren Williams of Capital B.
Phillips opened by highlighting several of CNN’s most notable fabrications:
[…] You’ve all spoken extensively about Fox News being a purveyor of disinformation, but CNN is right up there with them. They pushed the Russian collusion hoax, they pushed the Jussie Smollet hoax. They smeared Justice Kavanaugh as a rapist and they also smeared Nick Sandmann as a white supremacist. And yes, they dismissed the Hunter Biden laptop affair as pure “Russian disinformation.”
Phillips then slammed corporate media outlets, implying that the one-sided nature of these “mistakes” reflects their abandonment of journalistic ethics:
With mainstream corporate journalists becoming little more than apologists and cheerleaders for the regime, is it time to finally declare that the canon of journalistic ethics is dead, or no longer operative? All the mistakes of the mainstream media – and CNN in particular – seem to magically all go in one direction. Are we expected to believe that this is all just some sort of random coincidence? Or is there something else behind it?
Stelter quickly quipped, “It’s too bad – it’s time for lunch.”
He then offered a more lengthy reply, dismissing CNN’s history of questionable reporting as “a popular right-wing narrative.” “I think my honest answer to you […] is that I think you’re describing a different channel than the one that I watch. But I understand that that is a popular right-wing narrative about CNN,” said Stelter.
“I think it’s important, when we talk about shared reality and democracy, all these networks, all these news outlets have to defend democracy, and when they screw up, admit it,” he continued.
The exchange quickly made the rounds on social media, causing “Stelter” to begin trending on Twitter.
The Daily Wire and The Blaze applauded Phillips, a college freshman, for his pointed questions:
Independent journalist Glenn Greenwald also highlighted the condescension of Stelter’s response, while Mike Cernovich celebrated Phillips’ takedown of “regime media”:
Several other notable conservatives likewise expressed support for Phillips, including Jack Posobiec, Christina Pushaw, Mollie Hemingway, Dan Bongino, Benny Johnson, and Clay Travis.
When asked for comment, Phillips expressed his frustration at Stelter’s response. He told the Thinker, “Even after speaking with Mr. Stelter after the event, I am still left without an answer to my question. Why am I – or anyone else – to believe that CNN is an impartial news outlet when its journalistic ‘mistakes’ systematically favor Democrats? I challenge Stelter to identify an error CNN has made that favored Republicans.”