It's weird that a good portion of CNN’s prime-time programming is dedicated solely to attacking its right-wing competitor.
What Fox News hosts say and do on their respective programs is not really a matter of national import, especially when there are so many other stories of greater value readily available.
But CNN just can’t quit Fox News. It especially can’t stop obsessing over establishment-bro-turned-MAGA-guy Tucker Carlson. CNN is positively infatuated with the man.
This obsession with Carlson hit weird, new lows this week when CNN analyst Jonathan Reiner demanded on-air that the Fox host, a vocal and sometimes reckless COVID-19 vaccine skeptic, reveal publicly whether he has been vaccinated.
The moment occurred after CNN’s Jim Acosta played a clip of Carlson saying that unless people “resist,” they will be forced to take the vaccine.
Carlson also claimed it’s a form of discrimination for colleges to require COVID-19 shots for all returning students, including the against vaccine-hesitant ones. The CDC hasn’t mandated that colleges do this. It has only recommended it. The Fox host took it a step further, arguing that what is happening at campuses could portend darker things to come from the federal government.
“No one should be forced to take this or any other medicine against their will,” Carlson said, “and unless they speak up now, unless they resist this, they’ll be getting this shot whether they like it or not, and many more shots.”
CNN personalities are very upset about this.
“Tucker Carlson received blowback, and rightly so, over this anti-vaccine rhetoric he’s been engaging in,” Acosta said. “I honestly don’t know what the hell he’s talking about, but is this part of the problem, in terms of getting people vaccinated?”
“Yeah, so I think he’s really a saboteur,” Reiner responded. “That’s what I think of Tucker Carlson.”
The analyst continued, taking issue with the Fox host’s weaselly “I’m just asking questions” routine, which he uses to justify his vaccine skepticism.
“Every night, he has a million questions about this vaccine," Reiner said. "Somehow, magically, he has no one on his show that can answer these questions. I’m willing to answer these questions."
He added, “I have two questions for Tucker Carlson. No. 1, have you been vaccinated? No. 2, why won’t you tell your audience whether you have been vaccinated? I am tired of his nonsense.”
Yes, I am sure you all are very tired of criticizing your competitor and the host whose ratings you’d love to siphon.
If you think Reiner’s demands are weird, don’t forget CNN’s Brian Stelter dedicated an entire segment in April to scolding Fox News personalities for not sharing more vaccine selfies.
"It’s really important to see all these TV anchors, personalities, showing themselves getting the shot,” Stelter said. “We’ve seen a lot of vaccine selfies from lots of folks at lots of different networks, it’s been really inspiring to see.”
The CNN host continued, praising MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow for sharing a vaccine selfie despite being "really fearful of the needle.”
"So, I say all of that to make the following point," Stelter said. "Where are the biggest stars on Fox getting vaccinated?"
He added, "Everybody else is doing it."
As he spoke, CNN’s on-air headline read, "FOX’S BIGGEST STARS HAVE NOT SHARED VACCINE SELFIES."
CNN's obsession with Fox News, and Carlson in particular, makes sense. After all, with the end of the Trump administration, the left-wing cable network needs a new right-wing bogeyman to juice its ratings. And few on the Right generate as much chatter, interest, and outrage as Carlson. But there’s more. CNN has also, perhaps unwittingly, fashioned itself after professional wrestling. It’s not in the news business anymore so much as it’s in the business of hyping meaningless, clickbait feuds between so-called heels and faces, the latter of which naturally includes CNN’s entire roster of anchors and reporters. In Trump, CNN had the ultimate heel, the bag guy whose presidency produced no small amount of contrived grudge matches and face-offs between himself and the media “heroes” who “battled” him with performative acts of “resistance.”
However, now that the former president has shuffled off to Mar-a-Lago, CNN needs a new boss heel. This is where Carlson comes in. It will have to do.
This cynical, theatrical approach to “reporting” the news is certainly one way to explain why CNN staffers are so consumed with the Fox News host, hanging on his every word and breathlessly repeating whatever he says on his show.
He is the bad guy, and they are the good guys. Tune in tonight to see who wins!