CNN “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter jousted with veteran anchor Ted Koppel over President Donald Trump’s influence on network ratings — rejecting his assertion viewership “would be in the toilet” without Trump.

In remarks at a National Press Club event Monday night, Koppel, the former anchor of ABC’s “Nightline,” and a multi-Emmy award winner who currently serves as a CBS contributor, said Trump “had been wonderful for the industry.”

“But that means what?” Stelter prodded. “If ratings are up, that means what?”

“It means you can’t do without Donald Trump,” Koppel replied. “You would be lost without Donald Trump.”

“Ted, you know that’s not true,” Stelter retorted.

“CNN’s ratings would be in the toilet without Donald Trump,” Koppel insisted.

“You know that’s not true; you’re playing for laughs,” Stelter said. “You’ve lived through enough presidencies to know there will be more presidents.”

For his part, Stelter argued the press is being targeted as part of a “hate movement” spearheaded by Trump, who regularly denounces the mainstream media as “fake news” and “the enemy of the people.”

And he rejected the idea that networks are benefiting from money generated from the additional audience Trump commands.

“I reject the premise that these networks are making so much money off of Trump and thus, we benefit from it,” Stelter said.

Koppel lightly pivoted to MSNBC.

“Tell me for a moment if you will — let’s get away from CNN; sensitive subject,” he said to laughter from the audience. “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?”

On Wednesday after several online publications picked up the Koppel-Stelter exchange, Stelter pushed back on Twitter,  saying it was “important to cover Trump” and “important to cover what’s next.”

But CNN has come under some criticism — including from veteran media analyst Jeff Greenfield during an interview on Stelter’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday.

“I have to say this quite bluntly to a CNN anchor,” Greenfield told Stelter. “When I look at CNN, hour after hour after hour I see panels rather than reporting, exchanging opinions, the overwhelming majority of which on this network I regard as quite critical or hostile to Trump.”

CNN founder Ted Turner also weighed in on CNN’s political bent in an interview that aired on “CBS Sunday Morning.”

“I think they’re sticking with politics a little too much,” he said, adding CNN would be better off with “a more balanced agenda.”

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