Ted Koppel (pictured above left) had a pointed and at times heated exchange with CNN’s senior media correspondent Brian Stelter (above right) over some of the networks’ unrelenting coverage of all things Donald Trump these days — and how those networks have benefited in their ratings as a result.
During a panel discussion on Monday night at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., veteran journalist Koppel began by pointing out that media moguls such as former CBS chief Les Moonves have acknowledged that Donald Trump’s candidacy for the White House and his resulting presidency have been a financial boon to the press.
For his part, Stelter challenged Koppel’s assertion that the media “would be lost” without Trump.
“Donald Trump has been ‘berry, berry good for baseball,’” said Koppel — his words a takeoff of former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Garrett Morris’ portrayal of Chicago Cubs player Chico Escuela back in the late 1970s — and some audience members laughed at the reference.
“He has been wonderful for the industry. Your boss acknowledged as much a number of months ago during the campaign,” added Koppel.
Stelter replied, “But that means … what? If ratings are up, that means what?”
Koppel replied calmly and deliberately, “Oh, the ratings are up — it means you can’t do without Donald Trump. You would be lost without Donald Trump. CNN’s ratings would be in the toilet without Donald Trump.”
“Ted, you know that’s not true,” Stelter pushed back.
After Stelter’s protestations and some more crosstalk, Stelter then said to Koppel, “You’re playing for laughs. You’ve lived through enough presidencies to know — there will be more presidents.”
Koppel responded, “Hold on a second, Brian. What were the ratings before Trump, and what are the ratings now?”
Stelter answered, “I would say we might be up 20 — we might be up 30 percent, we might be up 40 percent; if we go back down 40 percent that’s OK, too.”
Stelter, seeming aggravated, then added, “Well, hold on, I reject the premise that these networks are making so much money off of Trump, and thus we benefit from it.”
“Is there a moment of the day when they’re not focusing on Donald Trump, or some intimately related subject?”
Koppel continued hammering the topic, asking, “Tell me for a moment if you will — let’s get away from CNN; sensitive subject. Let’s go to MSNBC. Is there a moment of the day when they’re not focusing on Donald Trump, or some intimately related subject?”
The back-and-forth on this topic made for fascinating viewing.
See the discussion in the video below.