Cable opinion networks = CONs; Fauci unleashed; time for flood of Trump-trashing stories, books

By Gary Abernathy

They’re not news, they’re cable opinion networks – CONs

For many years, we’ve been mislabeling CNN, MSNBC and Fox News as “cable news networks.” But it’s been a long time since any of the three focused on news. It’s time that we began calling them what they really are, cable opinion networks – CON jobs, for short.

Much was made recently over Fox News deciding to turn its 7 p.m. slot into an “opinion” show instead of the “news” program that previously existed there. Or so they said. In fact, whether it’s Fox or CNN or MSNBC – we’re not even getting into some of the lesser but emerging cable stations today – let’s be honest, it’s impossible to separate news from opinion programming. Is anyone really unable to discern Chris Wallace’s political leanings these days? His declaration that President Joe Biden’s inaugural address was the best he has ever – ever – heard was the final piece of a puzzle he has been visibly assembling for viewers for the last several months.

At CNN, Jake Tapper and Wolf Blitzer – maybe even Anderson Cooper – would probably insist they are news, not opinion. Wrong. They wear their leftwing viewpoints on their sleeves as much as Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon.

At MSNBC – well, scrolling through that lineup, it’s tough to make a straight-faced argument that any of it is more news than far-left opinion. And the regular panelists on both CNN and MSNBC who are labeled conservatives or Republicans are, generally, about as much so as Al Gore. Please.

And Fox News… In fairness, I’d make the case that Bret Baier comes as close as anyone on cable television to delivering news down the middle and keeping his cards close to his vest, even when he guests on admitted opinion shows. Bill Hemmer is pretty close to straight news, too. Harris Faulkner is good, but her point of view breaks through rather often.

When Shepard Smith was at Fox, he pompously insisted he was strictly on the news side, but his eye rolls and pregnant pauses, along with occasional lecturing of his own colleagues, left his left-leaning philosophy in little doubt. Can you imagine Walter Cronkite rolling his eyes or smirking at the camera? Otherwise, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, the co-hosts of “The Five” (except Juan Williams, of course) pretty much set the conservative-libertarian political tone for Fox across all programming, whether labeled news or not.

Not that I don’t like some of them and find their shows entertaining and even informative. At Fox, Brian Kilmeade is hilarious and sharp, and I hope he is chosen from among the rotating hosts trying out during the first few weeks to anchor the 7 p.m. show, although I’ll miss him in the mornings if he leaves “Fox & Friends” with Steve Doocy and Ainsley Earhardt.

Speaking of “Fox & Friends” and every other multi-host or panel show on the cable networks, it’s good to see some of them, at least occasionally, dropping the whole “we can’t be in the same studio together because of covid” façade. Everyone’s tired of watching boxed-in talking heads beamed in from different locations, with frequent awkward pauses because of audio delays and other mix-ups inherent with everyone being isolated. Stools or chairs can be placed six feet apart, making it safe not to wear masks and still be captured in the same camera shot. (Shoot, the “Fox & Friends” curvy couch is probably long enough for three people to sit six feet apart.) As Biden would say, c’mon man!

Ok, back to the subject at hand. I like a lot of the Fox hosts, and even a couple on MSNBC like Rachel Maddow and… well, Rachel Maddow, and that’s when I’m properly zoned out and too mentally exhausted to get upset. She’s clever, no doubt, but her constant digressions are frustrating in the way Hank Kimball drove Oliver Douglas crazy on “Green Acres.” Get to the point! On CNN, I can watch Erin Burnett once in a while, but that’s about it. Cuomo and Lemon are drenched in smugness and condescension. But whether I like them or not, I don’t think of any of these networks as news. They’re opinion, pretty much 24 hours a day.

So, for anyone concerned with accuracy, let’s call them what they are. They’re not cable news networks, they’re cable opinion networks – CONs.

Do we believe Fauci then, or now?

It’s not surprising that Anthony Fauci, guru of immunology, is trashing former president Donald Trump at his first opportunity. You could see that coming a mile away. Fauci said this week, according to CNN, it’s a “liberating feeling” to speak openly now, and he agreed – prompted by CNN, of course –  that Trump’s actions on covid-19 “very likely” cost lives.

This is the same Fauci who previously claimed that Trump had followed his advice on the coronavirus, and he had contradicted claims made in Bob Woodward’s book about Trump’s handling of the virus. Was he telling the truth then, or now? This is why a lot of us have never been fans of Fauci, who could be a prolific recording artist for how often he changes his tune.  

People will say, “Oh, Fauci was just trying not to upset Trump and get fired, because it was in the best interests of the nation for Fauci to stay in his position.” Again, when was he telling the truth, then or now?

Get ready for post-presidency, Trump-bashing stories

One thing we can count on from the mainstream media and the big publishing houses in the coming weeks and months are a torrent of interviews and books along the lines of, “You knew Trump was bad, but now we can tell you how terrible he really was.” I’ve been clear in my disappointment over how Trump behaved following the election by refusing to concede, and how his actions on Jan. 6 disqualify him, in my opinion, from holding office again (although I would not hold an unconstitutional impeachment trial to make him legally ineligible to run). But I’ve also been clear I’m glad Trump was president.

I’m also eagerly anticipating the “Trump: The Final Days” trashing, which will detail him bouncing off the walls while making rambling phone calls to people far and wide, and recount how we were “saved” from him by brave staffers in the White House and other agencies who refused to carry out his crazy orders. You know it’s coming. Can’t wait.