When the press plays dumb

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

It can tell whatever story it wants to tell. (It helps if everyone agrees to play dumb.) And that's what we're witnessing in Washington now regarding the Blago/Obama story. The press has made it perfectly clear that a collective decision has been made to make all kinds of dark inferences regarding Obama's involvement even though reporters and pundits know, and will occasionally state publicly, that nothing suggests Obama or his aides did anything wrong. It's really quite amazing, and gruesome, to watch.

Matt Yglesias captures the phenomena:

But this morning on MSNBC there was a lengthy discussion of Obama's involvement in Blagojevich's corruption. Of course, there was no evidence of any involvement on Obama's part. Nor, despite this being a news channel, was there any original reporting of any kind whatsoever. There was, however, a ton of time spent criticizing the Obama campaign's PR strategy with regard to this issue - the suggestion being that had Obama adopted a better PR strategy, then people wouldn't be on television making evidence-free guilt-by-association accusations against him.

This strong me as odd. The people making the accusations kept acknowledging that they had no evidence. One might think that communicating to television personalities the fact that there was no evidence of wrongdoing on Obama's part would constitute a good PR strategy. Given that they knew there was no evidence of wrongdoing, they should have ceased implying that there was wrongdoing. But they didn't do that at all. Not, I would submit, because of any failings on Obama's part, but because Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, John Heileman, Mark Halperin, and Pat Buchanan don't care at all about the accuracy of the impression their coverage gives.

We do disagree with Yglesias in one regard, though. The headline to his post reads, "The New Rules." We don't think the media rules being applied to the Blago story are new. They're just the Clinton Rules, as defined by Atrios (i.e. anything goes), updated for a new Democratic era.

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