Conservative Former Congressman Wamp: Fox Sometimes Has 'Too Much Defense ... Of One Viewpoint'

Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

Conservative former Congressman Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., who left office earlier this week after 16 years, said he has pitched an idea for a weekly political commentary slot to CNN and MSNBC, but not Fox.

He said Fox News has said they are not interested, and he added that Fox sometimes has "just too much defense of and protection of one viewpoint."

"I think there are shows on Fox that are very balanced and objective, but there are times when there is just too much defense of and protection of one viewpoint. That is their inherent right. I don't want to contrast what's being done, I want to try to fill this vacuum of what needs to be done out there."

"I have pitched to CNN and MSNBC the notion of this show and potentially some commentary on what's called a contributorship by me as part of my portfolio of work after leaving Congress to just go on and be more of that objective analyst for what is really the truth here."

Wamp said he never got a chance to approach Fox because a network spokesperson told a reporter they were not interested before he could present the idea.

"I made the mistake of speaking out about this, and someone in the media asked Fox if they had talked to me about this and someone at Fox said they were not interested in this."

Fox News declined to comment, while CNN and MSNBC did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wamp's proposal and views.

Wamp, a self-described conservative who lost a race for governor of Tennessee in 2010, said he is seeking to do some kind of political commentary show, citing Morning Joe and Hardball on MSNBC as good models.

"I think my friend Joe Scarborough does about as good a job as anyone in television in the morning slot on Morning Joe," he said, later adding, "I have been on Hardball a half dozen times with Chris Matthews and he and I could not disagree more on policy, but there is this mutual respect between the two of us that comes through clear as a bell.

"You don't need a host that says you are only going to come on my show if I can trash you and talk over you or shut you off when I am ready to."

Wamp's comments followed recent statements he had made criticizing the negative elements of 24-hour cable television.

"What I've seen in the media, what I would call the degradation of accuracy through the media is because 24/7 television talk has created ratings-driven entertainment in the name of journalism," he told Media Matters. "I respect it because it sells advertising dollars, it is a business. New network empires have been created because of entertainers who can drive major advertising dollars. All of that is great and this is the American system and freedom of the airways and that's fine.

"When we're talking about public policy in America and you are very serious about it and you don't want it all dumbed down to the lowest common denominator...many of these issues are incredibly complex and I don't believe there is enough critical analysis."

"I kind of miss the Crossfire approach and I certainly miss the John McLaughlin Group being more prominent."

Asked about his views on Fox News' part in the negative impact, Wamp said: "With the right panel, a weekly one-hour show would be watched far more than Huckabee's was watched or Kasich's was watched because it would be interesting, informative and have an appeal that is refreshingly different than what you see today."

But he said his proposal would likely not make it on Fox given the network's current contracts with other high-profile GOP names, including several of the potential Republican presidential contenders that Media Matters has reported on for months.

"I understand that Fox's contributorships between Newt [Gingrich] and Karl Rove and [Mike] Huckabee and [Sarah] Palin and others, they've paid big money for their contributors and their analysts and I'm way down at another level leaving Congress," Wamp said. "Right now, Fox dominates the ratings, so I think CNN and MSNBC are ripe for new direction."

Asked specifically about Glenn Beck's program, Wamp added: "They can do what they are doing but there is still room for this fresh new approach. There is a lot of books being sold and a lot of money being made and I think there are a lot of people who are still confused out there."

"It drives ratings to be polarizing, but it does little for the Republic. It drives ratings to be divisive, but it does little to solve the problems of our country. I don't see the media as being that objective analyzer of what's going on."

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