Accuracy in Media

Two stories about  MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show have been getting a lot of attention the last couple of days. First was the incident with Time magazine’s Mark Halperin, on June 30th, calling President Obama a slang word that means male genitalia, “a d***.” But he did it after being assured by hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski that he could speak his mind and if he chose to, or happened to say anything unacceptable, there was a seven-second delay and the obvious implication was that his word(s) would then not be broadcast. The New York Times gave a good account of the tick-tock of the event, including a call from the White House “to network executives that the comment was inappropriate.”

But Halperin, who is also a political analyst for MSNBC, was suspended, raising several issues. If he had instead called George W. Bush a fascist or a war criminal, no problem there at MSNBC, as Media Research Center has pointed out. There have been numerous examples of that. Is there possibly a double standard applied here?

Should there not have been consideration given to the fact that he was led to believe that the word wouldn’t be broadcast? And finally, his point was that if Obama was really interested in a deal with Republicans to raise the debt ceiling limit, he certainly didn’t make that deal any easier on the basis of his comments. Here were Halperin’s comments, just prior to using the “d” word:

HALPERIN:  “The President was posturing.  What Republicans have on their side now is they think that if the deadline doesn’t get met, that the President’s gonna get the blame.  The economy will be in chaos, perhaps, the president will get the blame.  He went out yesterday and I don’t think did anything to encourage a deal.  He might think, by having more leverage, making his case for why the shutdown, default should be blamed on the Republicans, maybe he thinks in the long term that will get him more leverage.”

Charles Lane, who is on the editorial board of The Washington Post, said on Fox News’ “Special Report” that Obama was feeding “red meat” to his base. Rush Limbaugh said that Halperin said exactly what many people were thinking.

Then, on Friday, July 1st, there was further discussion about President Obama. Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, a left-wing economist who acknowledged that he voted for and generally supports the President, was very critical of his economic policy, including the original stimulus bill passed in February of 2009. At that point Mika Brzezinski had had enough of people at their table who were not praising Obama enough. She said, “we’re getting hit a lot lately for not bringing on people who speak on behalf of the White House and really stick up for the President.”

Scarborough cited research they had done on their guest list, and he acknowledged a ratio of 10 to one, Democrats to Republicans, who they have had on as guests. But apparently that isn’t good enough. In the past, Brzezinski has openly acknowledged receiving “talking points” from the White House on her BlackBerry while sitting on the set of Morning Joe.

It’s not that people are not aware that MSNBC is in the tank for Obama. That doesn’t mean he never receives criticism on the network. But these were just the latest examples of evidence supporting that assumption.

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