Former New York Times journalist Bari Weiss confronted CNN’s Brian Stelter about his network’s coverage of the COVID-19 lab leak theory when listing examples of why the world has gone mad during Sunday’s edition of “Reliable Sources.”
Weiss has written that many Americans “feel the world has gone mad,” so the left-wing CNN host asked her what she meant by that comment.
“Where can I start? Well, when you have the chief reporter on the beat of COVID for The New York Times talking about how questioning or pursuing the question of the lab leak is racist, the world has gone mad. When you’re not able to say out loud and in public there are differences between men and women, the world has gone mad. When we’re not allowed to acknowledge that rioting is rioting and it is bad and that silence is not violence, but violence is violence, the world has gone mad,” Weiss said. “When you’re not able to say the Hunter Biden laptop is a story worth pursuing, the world has gone mad. When, in the name of progress, young school children, as young as kindergarten, are being separated in public schools because of their race, and that is called progress instead of segregation, the world has gone mad. There are dozens of examples.”
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Stelter then asked, “Who’s the people stopping the conversation?”
Weiss responded with a jab at CNN.
“People who work at networks, frankly, like the one I’m speaking on right now, to say it was racist to investigate the lab leak theory,” Weiss said.
It was unclear who Weiss was referring to with her remark, although the narrative that the coronavirus may have leaked from a Wuhan lab was widely ridiculed by CNN and other media outlets before gaining mainstream credence this year. CNN medical contributor Dr. Leana Wen remarked in June that any investigation of the lab theory shouldn’t lead to anti-Asian discrimination.
Stelter, who typically defends his network at all costs and spent much of 2021 downplaying journalism ethics violations made by embattled colleague Chris Cuomo, wanted to know which of his co-workers Weiss was referring to.
“Who said that at CNN? When you say ‘allowed,’ it’s a provocative thing to say,” Stelter said. “You say we’re not allowed to talk about these things but they’re all over the Internet … I’ve heard about every story that you’ve mentioned. So, I’m just suggesting, of course people are allowed to cover whatever they want to cover.”
Weiss fired back, “But you and I both know that it would be delusional to claim otherwise that touching your finger to an increasing number of subjects that have been deemed third rail by the mainstream institutions and increasingly by some of the tech companies will lead to reputational damage, perhaps you losing your job, your children sometimes being demonized as well, so what happens is a kind of internal self-censorship.”
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Noting his question about who wasn’t allowing conversation, the Washington Free Beacon’s Aaron Sibarium suggested to Stelter he look at Yale Law School administrators who recently implied to a student that his membership in the conservative Federalist Society could threaten his legal career.
Weiss told Stelter that she regularly saw this happen at the Times. She famously quit the paper’s opinion section in 2020 with a scathing resignation letter, where she detailed bullying by left-wing colleagues in an “illiberal environment.” Weiss detailed a toxic work environment in the letter and said “showing up for work as a centrist at an American newspaper should not require bravery.”
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Weiss continued her criticism of Times journalists on Sunday.
“People said to themselves, ‘Why should I die on that hill?’” she said. “’Why should I take the three or four weeks that it takes to smuggle through an op-ed that doesn’t suit the conventional narrative? I might as well commission the 5,000th op-ed saying Donald Trump is a moral monster.'”
Weiss said the news media, publishing houses, Hollywood and universities are all guilty of the same thing.
“They are narrowing, in a radical way, what’s acceptable to say and what isn’t,” Weiss said.
Weiss added she feels “disinformation by omission” is plaguing the journalism industry.
Over the summer, Stelter’s “Reliable Sources” show failed to cover CNN’s awkward return of the network’s disgraced legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, the departure of “The View” co-host Meghan McCain,” the uproar over New York Times editorial board member Mara Gay calling the sight of American flags “disturbing,” and the collapsed media narrative during the 2020 election that President Donald Trump ordered the clearing of peaceful protesters at Lafayette Square for a church photo op.
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Stelter also glossed over the Washington Post’s major correction of its January report that accused Trump of urging Georgia election officials to “find the fraud,” the major MSNBC leadership shakeup, Toobin’s firing from The New Yorker following his Zoom call masturbation scandal, the ousting of MSNBC contributor Jon Meacham after it was revealed that he was moonlighting as a speechwriter for the Joe Biden campaign, and the scandals that plagued 2020 media darlings The Lincoln Project.
Fox News’ David Rutz and Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.