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Brian Stelter Calls Out Fox News for Inspiring Trump’s Rant About Elijah Cummings

Saturday’s biggest news wasn’t the violent protests in Hong Kong but instead, and again, a Tweet thread from Donald Trump. In this case, his attack on Rep. Elijah Cummings, tweeted on the heels of a Fox & Friends report that was essentially the template for his rant.

CNN’s media correspondent and critic Brian Stelter, both on air and on Twitter, called out the Fox segment and Trump’s reliance on it.

This morning, speaking with anchor Fredricka Whitfield, Stelter explained.

“There are factual inaccuracies with this tweets, and then there are the moral and ethical problems. But this did clearly come from a Fox News segment earlier today,” he said. “An hour after there was a Fox News segment on their pro-Trump talk show talking about the conditions in West Baltimore, which is a poverty-stricken neighborhood with severe property and really troubling conditions. The segment really focused only on that part of Cummings district and showed pictures from that area. And it’s very clear the president saw that segment and tweeted as a direct result.”

Stelter said the district is large, and has been gerrymandered, so includes a variety of suburban, rural, and urban areas, not just the areas shown in the clips. “So there were factual mistakes to the president’s attack, and then there are the moral issues, the ethical issues, when he tries to target an African-American congressman, and describe the man’s district as crime-infested. The word infested of course has deeply disturbing connotations in history.”

“So there are issues here I think on multiple levels factually, morally, and it’s more of the same from the president,” he said. “He hears things on Fox, he reacts with racially–with racist tweets, and, you know, it’s unfortunately more of the same.”

Whitfield, for her part, said that Trump has a pattern of using the word “infested” when speaking about minorities, but added that even if he is inspired by Fox News it’s still on him.

“While the president may be inspired by, you know, programming on another network, I mean, at the core it’s still the president willing to be on full display, you know, and kind of let it all hang out and… be hateful, I mean there isn’t another way to put it,” she said. “Why does the president continue to believe that this is beneficial to him?”

Stelter answered that part of the reason is that his “greatest fans” basically don’t know anything.

“I think it’s because a lot of people that they read his tweets, some of his greatest fans, don’t have the full context. They see what he posts, they take it as gospel, they move on his day in some cases his words back up existing prejudices,” he said. “If you only know Baltimore from the riots in 2016, which were partly in Cummings neighborhood, if you only know Baltimore from that then you might have a very warped view of what the city of Baltimore actually is.”

“But the president only hearing these snapshots on Fox News that are really designed to make him angry and resentful,” said Stelter.

Before the end of the segment, clipped above from CNN, Stelter added that “And the folks who are there who are in desperate conditions, they deserve help. They deserve support from the federal government. They don’t deserve hateful tweets from the president.”

“Nobody does,” said Whitfield.

The topic of crossover and interdependence between President Trump and the Fox News Channel is nothing new to the CNN media reporter. Stelter has covered the relationship, at various times describing it as symbiotic or a revolving door, between the white House and Avenue of the Americas.

Stelter also called out the Fox News link in tweeting an op-ed from The Baltimore Sun‘s editorial board.

And then again, later in the day on CNN, speaking to CNN’s Ana Cabrera.

It’s a bit of missing the point to focus on the fact that Cummings district is larger than the afflicted areas covered in the Fox News segment. Not every square foot of the border is covered with detention centers, but Cummings and CNN hosts frequently describe the crisis at the border without caveats like “at some of the border.” It should be a given when discussing the particular horrors of a particular part of the world, it’s not to be surmised that it’s an indictment of all areas of all of the world.

Nitpicking about all the times there weren’t rats somewhere doesn’t disprove the times there were. It’s a rather insignificant point to dedicate so much screen time to. No doubt Stelter will expand on the topic on Sunday. Perhaps instead of the “what about all the parts of the street that don’t have piles of used needles,” argument, it would be more illuminating if Stelter focused on how Trump’s particular phrasing and distillation of the Fox News segment demeaned even the intent of the reporter and host who were covering the topic.

Even given intent by Fox & Friends to denigrate Cummings and his district out of outrage over his rhetoric regarding border conditions, Trump’s tweets were a lowering of the subject. Stelter touched on that in his first appearance on Saturday, with Whitfield above, when he noted that Trump took only a portion of the story and turned it into a rant.

National Review’s Dan McLaughlin made a point on Twitter that is particularly salient to the complicated topic of Baltimore, and the very uncomplicated topic of Trump raving about things.

It’s hardly a devastating point that Cummings’ district has lots areas that aren’t marked by urban blight. What is relevant, particularly in the discussion of the influence Fox News has on his tweeting, is the way he takes snippets of information, twists them around, and outputs something worse, uglier, meaner, and more certain to distract from the genuine issue than to ever help it.

Would love to see that part covered.

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