New York Times Rips 'Name Calling,' 'Gratuitous Gossip' in Brian Stelter's Book About Fox News

August 24, 2020

Brian Stelter, CNN's resident expert on Donald Trump's Twitter habits, has written a book about his second-greatest passion: Fox News, the rival network that consistently dominates CNN in the ratings.

The New York Times—Stelter's former employer—reviewed Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth, and was underwhelmed by the unnuanced, salacious nature of Stelter's reporting. The Times bemoans the fact that Stelter's "emotions sometimes seem to get the better of him."

Stelter, whose wife recently congratulated him on receiving a 10/10 rating from a Twitter account that evaluates home décor, is a notoriously emotional man—even by the modern journalistic standards that encourage public displays of Trump-induced anguish. Stelter suffered an emotional breakdown back in April, when he acknowledged having "crawled in bed and cried for our pre-pandemic lives" with "tears that had been waiting a month to escape."

Stelter is also prone to having his feelings hurt by more successful media personalities. Vanity Fair published an early excerpt from Hoax that focused on Trump's relationship with Fox News host Sean Hannity, who typically addresses Stelter by the nickname "Humpty Dumpty." During a brief confrontation between the two men at a party, Stelter reportedly asked Hannity "if he ever felt bad about the name-calling." (He didn't, obviously.)

According to Times business editor David Enrich, who wrote the paper's review, Stelter is guilty of some of the very tactics he bemoans throughout the book: "He resorts to name-calling and spreads gratuitous gossip about Fox personalities." At one point in the book, for example, Stelter quotes an unnamed source who commits sexism against a female anchor by alleging she "knew how to use sex to get ahead." For someone who constantly complains that he is a bullying victim of the successful news network, Stelter's nasty smears feel a bit "retributive," per the Times.

The Times review further laments Stelter's anti-journalistic indifference to the millions of Americans who tune into Fox News on a regular basis. "Fox is an identity. Almost a way of life," the CNN anchor asserts. Yet, said the review, "there is no sign that Stelter spoke to any" Fox viewers or made any attempt to "better understand those viewers."

Enrich closes with a kicker so brutal it's guaranteed to have Stelter wailing in tears: "Readers are left to look down on Fox’s millions of loyalists as gullible members of an extremist cult. It is just the sort of easy-to-digest but unnuanced conclusion that would play well on cable news."