As Monday's tragedy at the Washington Navy Yard unfolded, law enforcement officers repeatedly had to tell civilians to not trust information coming from unofficial sources, meaning cable news and the Wolf Blitzers of the world. When the FBI tells you you're doing your job wrong it might be time to reflect, but luckily cable news has Jon Stewart to do that for them.
"For sheer accumulation of breathless wrongness, there's only one place that matters," Stewart said, cutting to a clip of a CNN anchor "reporting" from somewhere near the Navy Yard. And by reporting, we mean naming everything in sight: police officers running towards... something, helicopters possibly of the rescue variety, flashing lights flashing, etc. "Those aren't interesting developments. You're just standing in front of a camera naming s*** you see," Stewart said. "It's like walking down the street with a 5-year-old. 'Police car. Fire hydrant.'"
Another CNN anchor talked to three different sources to find out how large the Navy Yard is, including one source who was busy talking to her sources. Google might have been faster. And then there was Wolf, who asked if we could begin to draw any "initial conclusions" based on the fact that the shooter was wearing a black shirt and black pants. "What does a black top and black pants say about possible motive? I don't know, why don't you ask your best colleague?" Stewart responded.
To get at the heart of CNN's problem, Stewart sent The Best F#@king News Team Ever down to CNN studios to break some news (really, they were literally outside CNN's New York office). Here's what they gathered:
- John Oliver estimated that the CNN building is 30,000 feet tall, but "the situation here, on the streets, is fluid."
- Samantha Bee found a completely unrelated building. "This could be the wrong building, it is far too early to speculate."
- Jason Jones saw "a yellow car, a grey car, a bicycle car, all heading in the same direction. We don't know where they're going. They could be fleeing, possibly a fire, maybe a Godzilla. We can't confirm anything at this time."
In a way, CNN is low hanging fruit for The Daily Show, but the chaotic environment — that breeds misinformation — isn't an accident. After their disastrous Boston bombing coverage, Jeff Zucker noted that the coverage netted them their biggest audience in ten years. "Oh my god. The lesson they take from this is that it doesn't matter how much they betray our trust, because we'll keep coming back," Stewart said. "We're in an abusive relationship with CNN, and it's time we kicked those bastards to the curb."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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