Scarborough's Chrysalis

Has Bill O'Reilly been right all along?

Recently Bill O'Reilly has been critical of NBC News for what he calls a turn to the "hard left". He hasn't always been clear whether he's talking about the network or MSNBC, but Joe Scarborough has come out swinging in defense of his employers. On Monday, Joe brought on Bob Waldman from Media Matters, described by Joe as "an outfit that Bill would say obviously leans left", MSNBC's Craig Crawford, and Bob Kohn. A few tidbits from the discussion:

SCARBOROUGH: Why is he obsessed with NBC?...
KOHN: I think it's very clear that NBC News has become--has been leaning to the left very sharply over the--particularly over the past six months. So he's just a media watchdog. And, by the way, Bill O'Reilly--
SCARBOROUGH: Hold it....
KOHN: No, look, I watched NBC News tonight, and Brian Williams this evening had a story about Bush's proposal to increase troops in Iraq. He had three experts on the air discussing that proposal; not one of those experts supported Bush's plan.... Tell me that NBC News couldn't find one person in Washington, one expert who could have supported the Bush administration. Give me a break. 
SCARBOROUGH: Well, I guess the more important question is: Should they? 
KOHN: Come on. 
SCARBOROUGH: When you're talking about a surge where all five Joint Chiefs are opposed to it, and only 12 percent of Americans support it...
KOHN: Three of--no, that's not fair and balanced. You have three experts on. You can have one of them that supports it....
CRAWFORD: Not every story has two equal and opposite sides. And that's what you're arguing.

On Tuesday, the contretemps continued, with John Fund and Crawford:

FUND: Look at your last segment, Joe. You started out by saying that 61 percent of the American people oppose the president's plan to increase troops. Then you went to a multiple-choice poll, and you said that showed 88 percent oppose the president's plan.... Regardless of whether it's 61 or 88, you had three guests, they all oppose the president's plan. You oppose the president's plan. I count that as four to nothing....
CRAWFORD: You know, the truth is not always neutral. I mean, many times there is a consensus view, and that's what objective journalism is about, finding the truth. And you don't have equal, opposite sides on every single argument. And in this particular case, the troop surge--it's very difficult in this town to find somebody who's going to come and actually argue in favor of the surge of troops....
FUND: I can give you 30 names off the top of my head!
CRAWFORD: But I mean, this is the kind of argument that--you know, I mean, you say that every time we talk about evolution, we have to talk about intelligent design. This is what's been pushed upon the media now. They've been bullying the media for so long on this idea that neutrality is the same as objectivity.
FUND: What you're describing is bias!

Craig Crawford's comments are particularly illuminating. He cites evolution: a scientific inquiry regarding past events. This is his template for proper coverage of a policy dispute among people who disagree about its outcome. To Crawford--and apparently to Joe Scarborough--it is possible to "find the truth" in a debate about what will happen in the future. Differences over policy are therefore not opposing viewpoints but matters of fact, like whether two plus two equals four. And freezing out opinions that do not comport with the "facts" determined to be "correct" is not bias. It's "objective journalism".

Is this the course that Joe Scarborough is now defending? After the President's speech, Joe anchored two hours of analysis. He hosted a four-person panel, with rotating membership, for a total of seven participants. How closely did he adhere to the Craig Crawford school of objective journalism? Here is the rundown of the panelists and the positions they took:
  • Arianna Huffington (Huffington Post): The president is a fanatic, and this speech proves that yet again.
  • Craig Crawford (MSNBC): I began to think of the image of the man in the boat that's sinking, filling up with water, a hole in there. And he puts another hole in the boat to let the water out. I mean, that's what this speech struck me as.
  • Michael Crowley (The New Republic): He has bad cards, he keeps playing them to get out of this hole he's dug some of I'm not inclined to give him credit for that.
  • Lawrence O'Donnell (MSNBC): I think Dick Durbin won tonight, Joe.... And I think the president's position is a real losing position and will be a losing position very quickly.
  • Joan Walsh ( If I came on your show night after night, and I lied to you, or I said things that just turned out to be demonstrably false, you would not have me back, I'm sure. And the idea that we're supposed to listen to this president just talk in such a crazy, deluded way, again and again...
  • Judd Legum (Center for American Progress): The very minor changes, things like changing the restrictions on troop activities in Baghdad, really doesn't cut it and, frankly, is kind of pathetic.... In six months nobody is going to remember this speech.
  • Pat Buchanan (MSNBC): I think we're headed for a potential disaster. And I think there's a long-shot chance it will work.... Everybody in the White House and everybody in the country knows this is a gathering disaster. We will be lucky to get out of this without an utter collapse of our policy in the Middle East.

The above is hardly a surprise, given the pedigrees of the outside "experts": Huffington Post, The New Republic,, and CAP, all left-leaning outfits to say the least. Even token "conservative" Buchanan, the only panelist to make an argument against withdrawal, has long opposed the war.

The Cable Game has written of the "Olbermannification" of Joe Scarborough. To be fair, Joe hasn't emerged from his chrysalis as a Keith Klone just yet--there is no way Keith would allow John Fund or Bob Kohn on Countdown to refute Olbermann's lies about Fox News. But on the major stories that matter most, Scarborough's show increasingly follows Olbermann's formula: only the "correct" viewpoints are presented. And Joe defends it! He can continue to fulminate against Bill O'Reilly, but Joe Scarborough's actions speak louder than his words. He is making O'Reilly's case for him.

posted: Thu - January 11, 2007 at 01:51 PM       j$p  send 

Fox Fan
I watched part of that segment with Joan Walsh et al. Every time they'd talk about Bush or his decision on Iraq she'd get this grotesque scowl on her face. She had it the entire time, except for when she'd interrupt one of the other democrats on the panel with oh-so-important anti-Bushisms that couldn't wait for her turn. Her ego and venomous hate for Bush were almost jumping out of my screen with her enthusiasm to spit poison at Bush or his ideas. This is the true MSNBC.
MSNBC is a complete joke and it shows in their numbers. "Objective journalism" is "journalism" from MSNBC's hard-left objective.
January 11, 2007, 4:06:08 PM EST – Like – Reply

Okay, so if only 12% of the population OPPOSED the troop surge (flip the numbers in other words), would NBC/MSNBC be obligated not to have a surge opponent on?
Craig Crawford is uncommonly silly. Which makes him the perfect guest for the pretend news show with the pretend news anchor otherwise known as Countdown with Keith Olbermann.
It's pretty clear that MSNBC is deliberately trying to become the anti-Fox cable network. Niche marketing. Smart move, I think but they're disingenuous when they deny it.
January 11, 2007, 6:48:36 PM EST – Like – Reply

Gary Krasner
I saw the first one where Kohn was outnumbered 3 to one. 
MSNBC has showed it's in the corned of the Dems since ONeal from the swiftvets came on Hardball. where has OReilly been?!
Crawford made the most idiotic statement:
"CRAWFORD: You know, the truth is not always neutral. I mean, many times there is a consensus view, and that's what objective journalism is about, finding the truth. And you don't have equal, opposite sides on every single argument. And in this particular case, the troop surge--it's very difficult in this town to find somebody who's going to come and actually argue in favor of the surge of troops...."
FIRST, finding the truth comes from debate. SECOND, if 80% of the population believes x, and 20% believes y, it doesn't mean you can have only advocates of x on your show arguing in favor of x. Perhaps the reason WHY so many people believe x is because advocates of y are rarely invited on the show. and THIRD, it's bullshit to claim that in washington DC, a major network cannot find a supporter of the war. if that's the case, then why does Mathews always complain that the admin and thinktanks all over DC are infested with neocons?
for that matter, doesnt it seem incredible that MSNBC could not find a conservative as a regular pundit who supports the war? Scarborough, Buchannan, and bow tie boy all opposed Iraq from the gitgo.
January 11, 2007, 7:51:08 PM EST – Like – Reply

Whats the deal with Crawford's 'boat' analagy....I heard someone on Fox the night of the speech say the identical thing (I think it might have been Tom Vilsack.) Is that some memo or talking point that the DNC sent out? At least he could be a bit original.
Interestingly Fox was able to find folks both for and against the proposal. Objective Journalism I thought was about being fair or impartial, something MSNBC is obviously quite incapable of.
January 13, 2007, 3:27:25 PM EST – Like – Reply