April 2, 2017

CBS’S SCOTT PELLEY LOSES A FIGHT RIGGED IN HIS FAVOR: Ever since it was created by Don Hewitt in 1968, CBS’s Sixty Minutes has functioned as a sort of ritual kabuki for its audiences: it made stars of its left-leaning investigative journalists, who would grill the offending conservative politician or businessman of the week. By the mid-’80s, the show’s formula was summed up brilliantly in the classic parodies by Martin Short’s Nathan Thurm character on Saturday Night Live, who would be drenched in sweat and chain-smoking Marlboro 100s by the time he was done attempting to survive the hammering from the crusading journalist on the other side of the desk.

But CBS made its bones during the days when, as Rob Long wrote of NBC’s Johnny Carson, “There were three big channels—and maybe an old movie on one of those fuzzy UHF stations—so if you didn’t like what was on, you were out of luck. Network television didn’t compete with cable channels or Hulu or Amazon Prime. It competed with silence.”

And such lack of competition allowed the networks’ news divisions to create self-contained worlds where they could absolutely control the dialogue, as Walter Cronkite did throughout his career at CBS, while signing off each night “And that’s the way it is.” His successor’s career at CBS ended there with a Sixty Minutes segment…well, we all know how it ended there, right?

Which brings us to CBS’s Scott Pelley and his recent interview with Mike Cernovich, whom Breitbart.com’s Ezra Dulis describes as “a lawyer, independent blogger/author/filmmaker, and a dominant voice on Twitter,” and whom BuzzFeed describes as “a troll.” The latter Website of course is home of the infamous Trump golden showers with Russian hookers story and an editor who believes covering Trump “sometimes…means publishing unverified information in a transparent way that informs our users of its provenance, its impact and why we trust or distrust it.”

Whatever Cernovich’s excesses, assuming this transcript of the full unedited interview is accurate, it’s fascinating much more for what it reveals about Pelley, watched by six and a half million viewers on the CBS Evening News, than for Cernovich. Here’s how the transcript begins:

Scott Pelley: How would you describe what you do?

Mike Cernovich: I’m a lawyer, author, documenter, filmmaker, and journalist.

Scott Pelley: And how would you describe your website?

Mike Cernovich: Edgy, controversial content that goes against the dominant narrative.

Scott Pelley: What’s the dominant narrative?

Mike Cernovich: The dominant narrative is that there are good guys and there are bad guys. The good guys are liberals. Everybody on the right is a bad guy. Let’s find a way to make everybody look bad. Let’s tie marginal figures who have no actual influence to anybody we cannot overwrite. That’s the narrative.

Scott Pelley: That’s not a narrative I’m familiar with. Who’s narrative is that?

In 2008, Pelley compared global warming skeptics to Holocaust deniers. Ben Rhodes, who until January was Obama’s deputy national security advisor, is the brother of CBS News president David Rhodes. John Dickerson, the host of Face the Nation and the “political director” for CBS, wrote an article for Slate in 2013 charmingly titled “Go for the Throat! Why if he wants to transform American politics, Obama must declare war on the Republican Party.” Katie Couric, whom Pelley succeeded as Evening News host, read a poem on her broadcast to shill for the passing of Obamacare, and after leaving CBS had a Rathergate-like moment of her own, attempting to marginalize gun owners.

But back to the transcript of Pelley and Cernovich, where eventually, the hunter is captured by his prey:  

Scott Pelley: You wrote in August a story about Hillary Clinton’s medical condition the headlines said, “Hillary Clinton has Parkinson’s disease. Position confirms.” That’s quite a headline.

Mike Cernovich: Yeah, Dr. Ted Noel had se-sent a story to me anonymously, that I checked out, analyzing her medical condition. And –

Scott Pelley: It isn’t true.

Mike Cernovich: How do you know?

Scott Pelley: Well, she doesn’t seem to have any signs of Parkinson’s disease.

Mike Cernovich: She had a seizure and froze up walking into her motorcade that day caught by a citizen journalist.

Scott Pelley: Did you, well, she had pneumonia. I mean –

Mike Cernovich: How do you know?

Scott Pelley: Well, because that’s what was reported.

Mike Cernovich: By whom? Who told you that?

Scott Pelley: Well, the campaign told us that.

Mike Cernovich: Why would you trust a campaign?

To ask the question is to answer it. In a post headlined “‘Shamefully Stupid’: CBS’s Scott Pelley Loses a Fight Rigged in His Favor,” Breitbart.com’s Ezra Dulis adds in response, “Pelley has no answer for those six words — ‘Why would you trust the campaign’ — as his entire profession goes berserk with literal-minded fact checks for every tweet from President Trump. Pelley also seems to forget the fakery that Clinton World attempted hours before its pneumonia statement — with the candidate smiling and waving outside her daughter’s apartment, greeting a little girl, and assuring reporters everything was a-okay.”

More:

Mike Cernovich: So let’s be, let’s be honest with one another, which is that you are reporting that the Hillary Clinton campaign-

Scott Pelley: I didn’t report that she had Parkinson’s disease.

Mike Cernovich: You just told me she’s healthy though. Based on what was told to you by the campaign. See? That’s what I’m saying about the double standards which is I don’t take anything Hillary Clinton’s going to say at all as true. I’m not going to take her on her word. The media says we’re not going to take Donald Trump on his word. And that’ why we are on these different universes.

Scott Pelley: Why should anyone take you on your word?

Mike Cernovich: Oh, you should always double-check. You should always fact check. And if people don’t agree with me, people express that disagreement, and I’m completely, completely open to criticism.

Insert Glenn Reynolds’ Rathergate-era comments about the positive nature of the Internet being a low-trust environment here. Not to mention Michael Crichton’s Gell-Man Amnesia Effect.

Let’s give Pelley the exit quote: “Well, the benefit of intermediaries is having experienced editors check things out and research people. Check the facts before it goes out to the public. You don’t do any of that.”

Mary Mapes could not be reached for comment.

UPDATE: “Was Pelley not around in 2004?” John Hinderaker asks at Power Line. “Has he forgotten how stupid that refrain sounded then? (‘Layers and layers of fact-checkers’) Does he not realize how false it rings today? We have been here before: the liberal media are in a panic because their authority is being challenged. It must be worse now, though, than it was in 2004. Then, Time’s refrain was a relatively benign ‘Who owns the truth?’ Now, they ask, ‘Is truth dead?’ We can translate: ‘Is the liberal news media monopoly dead?’”