MSNBC: 24 Hours of Network Business As Usual
by L. Brent Bozell III
October 1, 1998
The fledgling cable network MSNBC has made itself into the
24-hour Monica Scandal News Broadcasting Company. You can just hear the
liberals: so much obsession with Bill Clinton's wretched affairs proves the
fallacy of a liberal bias in the news media, does it not?
Well, no. Obviously, a channel in complete obedience to the
White House would be a 24-hour change-the-subject channel, showing Clinton
meeting with world leaders and kissing small children who pledge not to smoke.
Surely you can't say that about MSNBC.
But anyone who watches MSNBC quickly learns that while the
subject may not be the liberals' favorite, old-style liberal network business
as usual is the norm. It's not what they report, but how they report it.
Several months ago, MSNBC star Keith Olbermann gave a
guilt-ridden commencement speech at Cornell University, telling graduates how
he felt like vomiting after covering the Monica story every night. But his
hallowed sense of journalistic ethics certainly didn't suffer when comparing
Ken Starr to an infamous Nazi. On August 18, he asked Chicago Tribune
Washington Bureau Chief James Warren: "Can Ken Starr ignore the apparent
breadth of the sympathetic response to the President's speech? Facially, it
finally dawned on me that the person Ken Starr reminded me of facially all
this time was Heinrich Himmler, including the glasses. If he now pursues the
President of the United States, who, however flawed the apology was, came out
and invoked God, family, his daughter, a political conspiracy, and everything
but the kitchen sink - would not there be some sort of comparison to a
persecutor as opposed to a prosecutor for Mr. Starr?"
After a wave of viewer outrage, Olbermann apologized for his
comparison of persecutors: "To those people who were offended I sincerely
and humbly apologize. I meant only what I said. Facially, the two men look
vaguely alike. But I am primarily of German descent, so I carry with me an
inherited shame and guilt about this. So despite the innocence of the intent
of my remark there, I should have been much more sensitive about invoking that
name in this context and for having not been so, I am very sorry." But
ever the smart-aleck, Olbermann couldn't help burying his "humble"
apology in insincerity: "Still ahead for us tonight: Did Olbermann's
apology go far enough? We'll have the latest poll numbers on that."
Every night, Olbermann declares his personal disgust that
this annoying presidential-perjury thing is still going on, and he decries it
all as an overpoliticized spectacle. On September 17, he asked Washington Post
columnist E. J. Dionne: "The phrase Chris Black just used...'partisan
wilding.' What a wonderful description of this. Had politics as a whole ever
been lower in this country, at least since the McCarthy era ended?"
Of course, the "partisan wilding" doesn't apply
when Olbermann compares Starr to a Nazi. Or when Olbermann remarks after a
wire service reported Gingrich called Clinton a "misogynist" -
"Can the Speaker of the House claim any moral high ground when today he
says the President is a man who hates women but he himself divorced his first
wife while she was undergoing treatments for cancer?"
All this media love for bipartisanship would be touching if
they ever practiced it in their journalism.
Or try MSNBC's "The News With Brian Williams."
Williams, Tom Brokaw's heir apparent, began a recent show: "These are
days of almost McCarthyistic charges and countercharges in the nation's
capital. With a President vowing to stay and fight, and others nakedly
embarking on a campaign to get him, the President's poll numbers are
softening, the party lines are hardening."
Now tell me, is this not precisely the kind of language
being used by David Kendall, James Carville, and the rest of the Clinton
Even in the middle of the afternoon, you get a heaping
helping of pro-Clinton damage control from the folks at MSNBC. Afternoon host
Edie Magnus complained just before the release of the Clinton testimony
videotape: "The Republicans of course are coming out and saying this was
serious, bipartisan, collegial, cooperative, respectful conversation, and the
Democrats are coming out and saying 'They rammed it down our throats.' There
was never any discussion. This is a rush to judgment purely to embarrass this
President. My question at the get-go is already it smells. It's the weightiest
thing they do, to remove a President from office, and already it smells."
In a nutshell, MSNBC is just another TV network placing its
politically correct thumb down hard on the scale in favor of Bill Clinton,
even as he staggers and bleeds. The 89-percent pro-Clinton press might hate
MSNBC's focus, but they can't help but like its Clinton-excusing,
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