CNN personality Brian Stelter was called out by a college freshman for a laundry list of major hoaxes the left-wing cable news network has pushed in recent years.
College freshman Christopher Phillips called out Stelter's employer, who has accused its right-wing competitor Fox News of being a "purveyor of disinformation." Phillips said CNN is "right up there with them," during a question-and-answer segment while the Reliable Sources host was part of The Atlantic's conference on "Disinformation and the Erosion of Democracy."
"They pushed the Russian collusion hoax. They pushed the Jussie Smollett 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 said of CNN.
Phillips accused mainstream corporate journalists of becoming "little more than apologists and cheerleaders for the regime," questioning: "Is it time to finally declare that the canon of journalistic ethics is dead or no longer operative?"
The first-year college student concluded the exchange by stating that "all the mistakes of the mainstream media and CNN in particular seem to magically all go in one direction." Phillips asked Stelter: "Are we expected to believe this is all just some sort of random coincidence or is there something else behind it?"
"Too bad. It's time for lunch," Stelter deflected, drawing a few awkward laughs. To which, Stelter is reminded he has 30 seconds to respond to the questions.
"I think you're describing a different channel than the one I watch," Stelter replied, casting off the characterization as a "popular right-wing narrative about CNN."
Stelter pivoted to talking about "shared reality and democracy," noting that every news outlet "has to defend democracy" and "when they screw up, admit it."
He cited American media reporting on and aided the rescue of Fox News correspondent Benjamin Hall who was injured by incoming fire outside war-torn Kyiv while in the field covering Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
"And with regards to the regime, I think you mean President Biden, the last time I spoke to a Biden aide, we yelled at either. So that's the reality of the news business. The people don't see. The people don't hear. They imagine that it's a situation that it's simply is not. I think your question: It speaks to the failure of journalism to show our work and show the reality of how our profession operates," Stelter said.
Stelter declared: "We have a lot of work to do, I think."
The University of Chicago Institute of Politics and The Atlantic hosted the three-day conference starting Wednesday and ending Friday, exploring via multiple events the "organized spread of disinformation and strategies to respond to it."
Stelter spoke on a multi-person "How Media Platforms Shape Consumer Realities" panel answering "How do mainstream news organizations discern disinformation from distortions, spin from propaganda, and liberties with language from outright lies?" as well as "How can media companies establish trust and defend journalism against attacks of partisanship when engaged in calling balls and fouls—seeded decades ago and renewed with vigor in the modern era—and what role do those presenting the news play in preventing perceptions of bias and unfairness?"
Stelter started trending on Twitter after video of the roast went viral.