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Walter Cronkite was So Right

Walter Cronkite was one of the last of a dying breed – a teevee journalist who was a journalist in truth rather than just name:

Americans of all ages and the journalist community are remembering the life and career of Walter Cronkite, famously revered as “the most trusted man in America.”

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald notes that the media is largely glossing over Cronkite’s “most celebrated and significant moment” — “when he stood up and announced that Americans shouldn’t trust the statements being made about the war by the U.S. Government and military, and that the specific claims they were making were almost certainly false.”

Of course they’re glossing it over. They hate admitting their abject failings. And you probably won’t see too many of them highlighting his all-too-true assessment of their pathetic state:

The Nation’s John Nichols reports that as the war in Iraq went horribly awry, he asked Cronkite whether a network anchorman would speak out in the same way that he had. “I think it could happen, yes. I don’t think it’s likely to happen,” he said with an audible sigh. “I think the three networks are still hewing pretty much to that theory. They don’t even do analysis anymore, which I think is a shame. They don’t even do background. They just seem to do headlines, and the less important it seems the more likely they are to get on the air.”

David Gregory, he could’ve been looking at you:

I can only echo what Vernie Gay said about the new Meet The Press:

But he also seems more intent on covering the waterfront than digging for news, or in pushing the talking heads off their talking points. Recent interviews with Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) felt like a waterfront that went on for miles – an endless vista of chatter and spin.

BOTTOM LINE “Meet the Press” is now the de facto safe show on Sunday morning – “safe,” that is, for those being interviewed.

And here we have good ol’ David assuring Mark Sanford that MTP would be very safe indeed:

When the stories about South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s love of hiking and the ensuing revelations about line crossing and soul mates were first revealed, I think it’s safe to say that most people never saw it coming. But what hasn’t been a surprise is the resulting confirmation of how many in the media are willing to sell their journalistic souls for political access.

And leading that list has to be David Gregory, who went out of his way to continue the proud tradition of Meet the Press kissing the ass of shamed elected officials.

From his emails to Sanford’s office, where he begs for an interview:

Left you a message. Wanted you to hear directly from me that I want to have the Gov on Sunday on Meet The Press. I think it’s exactly the right forum to answer the questions about his trip as well as giving him a platform to discuss the economy/stimulus and the future of the party. You know he will get a fair shake from me and coming on MTP puts all of this to rest.

… So coming on Meet The Press allows you to frame the conversation how you really want to…and then move on. You can see (sic) you have done your interview and then move on. Consider it.

In the middle of the breaking scandal, Gregory not only offered to let Sanford guide the story, he was willing to give him a platform to change the subject. And then Gregory would “move on.”

Just like everybody else. David Gregory had plenty of company in his Buy My Show Bazaar:

CNN’s John King told Sawyer he had always appreciated Sanford’s “kindness, candor, and hospitality,” and added, in a transparent attempt to bond, “I’m all for anonymous escapes myself.” George Stephanopoulos offered his show, ABC’s This Week, as a “civil forum to address this week’s events.” And producers for CBS’s Face the Nation, ABC’s Good Morning America, several Fox shows, and many others gave Sanford’s office the hard sell too.

And that’s not all!

• Ann Edelberg, a producer at MSNBC, wrote to Sanford press secretary Joel Sawyer to say: “Of course the Gov has an open invite to a friendly place here at MJ, if he would like to speak out.” MJ refers to Morning Joe, the MSNBC show hosted by former GOP congressman Joe Scarborough, and also frequently featuring hardcore right-winger Pat Buchanan.

Politico‘s Jonathan Martin, after making a few inquiries to Sawyer, wrote sycophantically: “Jakie causing you guys problem?” That’s a reference to state Sen. Jake Knotts, who had first raised questions about the governor’s whereabouts.

• A woman named Jessica Gibadlo — this seems like her — wrote in an email to Sawyer that MSNBC anchor Contessa Brewer was suggesting Sanford could come on her network to spin the story favorably. Wrote Gibadlo:

As you know I’m close to Contessa who has been in my ear on this. She said that the tone in the news room is that Mark could spin this fav
orably if he talks it up as the outdoors man in the woods etc. For all we know he’s contemplating the last year of his term and thinking through his priorities before he goes on his family vacation.

As you know, she’s close to Contessa.

• A barely literate Fox News producer and Sanford fan wrote: “Where is he…we LOVE to governor he is okay right?” Hey, who doesn’t love to governor?

• The Wall Street Journal‘s Brendan Miniter — who we already told you had dissed his own paper’s reporting on the saga in an effort to suck up to the governor’s office — doubled down on that effort, writing to Sawyer that that he “wanted verification that the WSJ story was BS.” Now there’s some team spirit!

• Stewart Moore, the anchor for local South Carolina news station WIS-TV, showed great news judgment, writing:

Off the record, I think this whole thing is ridiculous. Sounds like slow news day stuff.

On the record; for the sake of good journalism, is there any way we can get the governor on for a phoner @ 6:30am? I think that will end the crazy situation we both find ourselves, more so you, in.

Thanks dude.

But wait! There’s more!

The State has written up a few more of the emails, and look what they found:

ABC News White House reporter Jake Tapper e-mailed Sawyer twice on June 23, both to note coverage of competitor NBC.

With a subject line of “NBC spot was slimy,” Tapper e-mailed Sawyer a “Today” show transcript of Sanford coverage, calling it “insulting.” Later, Tapper forwarded Sawyer a Twitter post [this one -- TPMmuckraker] by “Meet The Press” host David Gregory.

Jeff Schneider, a vice president at ABC News, said Tapper was “carrying some water for producers who knew he had a relationship with the governor’s office.”

Oh, just carrying some water for producers, you say? Well, never mind then.

[snip]

One prominent conservative blogger also offered his help. Erick Erickson of Red State emailed to say:

If he wants something more personal for the blog to push back, I’m happy to help.

That turned out well, of course.

And all of that’s disgusting enough, but rather pales in comparison to Chuck Todd’s little Q & A with Glenn Greenwald:

Audio from Salon Radio, where the full transcript is also available.


Glenn Greenwald: So what do you think happens – I think what has destroyed our reputation is announcing to the world that we tolerate torture, and telling the world we don’t –

Chuck Todd: We have elections, we also had an election where this was an issue. A new president, who came in there, and has said, we’re not going to torture, we’re going to do this, and we’re going to do this–

GG: What do you think should happen when presidents–

CT: Is that not enough? Isn’t that enough?


GG: When, generally, if I go out and rob a bank tomorrow, what happens to me is not that I lose an election. What happens is to me is that I go to prison. So, what do you think should happen when presidents get caught committing crimes in office? What do you think ought to happen?

CT: You see, this is where, this is not – you cannot sit here and say this is as legally black and white as a bank robbery because this was an ideological, legal –

GG: A hundred people died in detention. A hundred people. The United States Government admits that there are homicides that took place during interrogations. Waterboarding and these other techniques are things that the United States has always prosecuted as torture.

Until John Yoo wrote that memo, where was the lack of clarity about whether or not these things were illegal? Where did that lack of clarity or debate exist? They found some right-wing ideologues in the Justice Department to say that this was okay, that’s what you’re endorsing. As long the president can do that, he’s above the law. And I don’t see how you can say that you’re doing anything other than endorsing a system of lawlessness where the president is free to break the law?

CT: Well, look, I don’t believe I’m endorsing a system of lawlessness; I’m trying to put in the reality that as much that there is a legal black and white here, there is a political reality that clouds this, and you know it does too.

Hilzoy, in one of her last posts, absolutely destroyed him (well, the bits Glenn left intact, anyway), and then pointed out something absolutely terrifying:

We should expect more of our journalists. They need to get the facts right. They need to figure out the legal issues at stake in a case like this, not just listen to flacks from both sides, throw up their hands, and say “it’s not black and white!” If he did a better job, he wouldn’t have to worry so much about politicizing the justice system, and he might take pride in the fact that he helped shed light on complicated issues, when he might have just gotten lazy.

Of course, it’s not just Chuck Todd, who is, alas, one of the better TV journalists out there. He’s just the one who cited the incompetence of his profession as a reason to abandon the rule of law.

That’s absolutely fucking appalling.

I could go on – after all, we have teevee “journalists” fucking up the facts on health care reform, and the supposedly “liberal” MSNBC giving a platform to a lying white supremacist fucktard like Pat Buchanan, among a thousand other examples of their endless idiocy – but we’d be here for the next century. I just want to close this Smack-o-Matic marathon with what BarbinMD said:

In the hours following the death of Walter Cronkite, the accolades began pouring in; “legendary,” “iconic,” “set the standard,” a “voice of certainty in an uncertain world,” reminders that he was once known as “the most trusted man in America,” and perhaps the most telling, a lament that “we’ll never see his like again.”

And with that in mind, perhaps members of the media could pause and consider why a journalist who instilled trust in his viewers by simply reporting the news is “someone whose like we will never see again.” And maybe they’ll even take a moment to think about what it says about them.

If they were worth anything, they would. But we all know they’re too shallow for such deep thoughts.

I just hope they go to bed tonight knowing that Walter Cronkite was ashamed of them.

Comments

  1. says

    "Set the standard"? It's more like Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley, and their contemporaries set an example their modern-day counterparts will do anything but follow. Even in their praise for a standout in their profession they manage to remind me how useless they are as journalists.MTP and the other news shows came to bore me a long time ago exactly because they had become places where each party in a debate makes its points largely unchallenged. I stopped watching long before I started reading blogs. Why spend all that time being lied to?

  2. Chris says

    I've always believed the reason why conservative pundits generally fare better than liberals on passive media like radio and TV is because of the kind of audience they attract. Conservatives are generally more inclined than liberals to accept information at face value from those they agree with ideologically. Liberals tend to use the net, which allows for constant, proactive fact checking. For example, anyone with a decent computer and an afternoon to spare can find, then double, then triple check all the facts necessary to make an informed decision on everything from global warming to "intelligent design". Working at a location where most of my friends are conservative, I get a butt load of conservative chain mails forwarded to me – and they are pathetic. At one time I quickly fact checked the mails and sent the results back to the sender. That is, until I found they weren't interested in facts.