Water Man Spouts

Saturday, February 09, 2008

A Troubling Pattern

"Newscaster Chet Huntley wrote a piece in LIFE magazine, containing what were considered unfavorable remarks. The suggestion for retaliation against Huntly, in a White House memo by Mr. Higley, contained a statement of broad philosophy: ‘What we are trying to do here is tear down the institution.’ …

"The broader tactics used against the press included meetings between Mr. Charles Colson and media representatives. In a summary of his meetings with the three network chief executives, he observed that they were terribly nervous about the Federal Communications Commission. He stated that, ‘although they tried to disguise this, it was obvious. The harder I pressed them (CBS and NBC) the more accommodating, cordial, and almost apologetic they became.’ He concluded by observing that ‘I think we can dampen their ardor for putting on "loyalty oppositions" type programs.’ …."
--The Senate Watergate Report; page 685

Older DUers will remember how the Nixon administration attempted to "control" the news media with heavy-handed tactics. There was everything from the pressure on network executives, to having the FBI "investigate" Daniel Schorr. These types of activities posed a threat to the First Amendment.

Michael Isikoff and David Corn report in their book "Hubris" about the way VP Dick Cheney focused on MSNBC’s Chris Matthews for his reporting on the Plame scandal. Cheney and Scooter Libby attempted to apply pressure on MSNBC executives to silence Matthews. Paul Wolfowitz complained to MSNBC that Matthews was anti-Semitic. Cheney had Libby call executives to say he was angry Matthews’ reporting. The book notes that the executives felt that pressure.

The Scooter Libby trial revealed further evidence of how the Office of the Vice President was monitoring MSNBC programming. These types of activities pose a threat to the First Amendment.

The comment by MSNBC’s David Shuster about Chelsea Clinton was clearly wrong, and there should be a consequence. However, the Washington Post is reporting that at a press conference, Senator Hillary Clinton "part of a ‘troubling pattern of demeaning treatment’ by MSNBC. ‘There has been a troubling pattern of comments and behaviors that has to be held accountable’, " Clinton told reporters. (Clinton Calls Shuster Comment ‘Part of Troubling Pattern’; Perry Bacon, Jr; Washington Post; Feb 9, 2008)

I am troubled by this attempt to "control" the media in a manner that clearly is going beyond simply addressing Shuster’s specific comment It is, I believe, part of a troubling pattern that poses a risk to the First Amendment.


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