NPR On the Media co-host Bob Garfield lit into the cozy relationship between the press and the politicians they're supposed to be covering on this Sunday's Reliable Sources on CNN. CNN generally does a really terrible job of navel-gazing when it comes to critiquing the problems with their own network, but no one was spared during this segment, including them.
After discussing Larry Wilmore's appearance, and showing a montage of some of his criticism of the media and the so-called "journalists" who were sitting in the room, and the fact that the press attending these events hasn't improved their access to the Obama administration, or made them any better on FOIA requests, or stopped them from prosecuting actual journalists, Garfield responded to Stelter's question about whether there is any potential benefit down the line to members of the press attending these sort of events.
STELTER: What about the argument that when you're at these events, when you're maybe seeing sources, that it will pay off down the line, that those relationships may actually improve access and improve reporting, not that night, but weeks or months later?
GARFIELD: Oh, because I have a social relationship with...
STELTER: That's the idea. Yes.
GARFIELD: But -- except that presumes that there really is any benefit down the line.
I see no evidence that the administration -- now this is its eighth Correspondents Dinner. I see no evidence that it's become more accessible, more transparent at all. It's a disgrace. It's a sham. It's a sham of a mockery of a travesty of a two mockeries of a sham.
STELTER: Tell me how you really feel.
STELTER: But I -- the reason I kind of...
GARFIELD: And you're part of the problem.
STELTER: Well, tell me more.
GARFIELD: Well, you were there. CNN was there in force. How is CNN's access to the president? It's...
STELTER: I'm sure we would like more interviews and more access. In fact, Michelle Kosinski said to me last night, one of our White House correspondents, she said that she barely has had any access to the president.
She's not sure that he knows who she is, even though she covers the beat for CNN, one of the biggest news outlets in the world. That does speak to this lack of access. But I wonder...
GARFIELD: One of America's business news-like outlets in the world. I got to throw in with Larry Wilmore on that.
STELTER: You can say that if you wish. You can say that.
But let me try this argument out on you, the idea that, at this time when it seems like everything is polarized, when republicans and Democrats can't get along, that maybe at least for one night it's good to have everybody in the same room to see that kind of mixing, to be reminded that everybody, you know, at the end of the day, they are humans, and they are -- that the administration and everybody there, right, does have something to relate to.
GARFIELD: Let's hold hands. Kumbaya.
STELTER: I'm just trying it out on you.
GARFIELD: Yes. But, clearly, the proof is in the pudding. And the pudding is no access to the president, criminal investigations against reporters, lagging on FOIA requests, and the president doing -- fulfilling George W. Bush's greatest dream of doing a total end-run around the press.
STELTER: Now, the White House would say that they gave lots of interviews. They grant lots of access. Reporters would disagree.
But how would boycotting the dinner help with that?
GARFIELD: Well, I'm not telling anybody to boycott the dinner.
I don't go to the dinner, and there's a very good reason for that. I'm seldom invited.
But -- and I don't -- you know, I'm not going to tell you not to go. I just think that the event is sort of the...
STELTER: This may be a symbol of what you think is the problem.
GARFIELD: It's the apotheosis of everything that's wrong with journalism and government in this city.
GARFIELD: Everybody's too cozy. And it's hard for the press to fulfill its watchdog function if you're palling around with people who you can't even ask a journalistic question of.
STELTER: I think we think about what one of the themes this campaign season has been, especially with Donald Trump's rise.
It's that the media has been out of touch, especially D.C., New York media has been out of touch. And you do wonder if this is an example of that. On the other hand, I saw Katrina Pierson and Scottie Nell Hughes and Jeffrey Lord and some of Trump's supporters at the event this weekend as well.
So, maybe you see some of the anti-establishment mixing with the establishment at this point at an event like this.
GARFIELD: Well, I guess you do. And if democracy is the better for it, I surrender, but I just don't see any evidence that that's happening.