MSNBC: When will media "honeymoon" with possibly "overrated" Obama end?

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

On MSNBC News Live, Amy Robach asked if the purported "honeymoon" Sen. Barack Obama is enjoying with the media would "officially [be] over when he officially enters the [2008 presidential] race." While Robach did not comment on MSNBC's coverage of Obama during this purported "honeymoon" period, MSNBC hosts and guests have highlighted Obama's middle name and mocked his purported sensitivity to comments about his ears.

During the December 18 edition of MSNBC News Live, anchor Amy Robach hosted several segments discussing "[h]ow long" Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) "honeymoon with the public and the media will last." During an interview with U.S. News & World Report chief White House correspondent Kenneth T. Walsh, Robach asked whether "some of this Obama buzz" is "unwarranted" and whether Obama "[c]ould ... be overrated." She then asked if the purported "honeymoon" Obama is enjoying with the media would "officially [be] over when he officially enters the race." While Robach did not comment on MSNBC's own coverage of Obama during this purported "honeymoon" period, as Media Matters for America has previously noted (here, here, and here), MSNBC hosts and guests have highlighted Obama's middle name and mocked his purported sensitivity to comments about his ears.

For instance:

  • Barack Hussein Obama: As Media Matters previously noted, during MSNBC's special election coverage on November 7, co-anchor Chris Matthews remarked that Obama's "middle name is Hussein" and suggested that it would "be interesting down the road." On November 27, MSNBC host Tucker Carlson referred to radio host Bill Press as "a true member of the Barack Hussein Obama fan club" and, during the November 28 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, Republican strategist Ed Rogers referred to "Barack Hussein Obama." On December 13, Matthews teased another interview with Rogers by describing the strategist as "the one who just loves Barack Obama's middle name Hussein," though Matthews then criticized Rogers for insisting on referring to Obama as "Barack Hussein Obama," saying, "[T]he only time we start using three names for a person is when they're an assassin."
  • Obama's "big ears": On December 10, according to a December 11 weblog entry by Chicago Sun-Times Washington bureau chief Lynn Sweet, Obama "chided" New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd "in a kidding way" for writing in her October 21 New York Times column (subscription required) that Obama's "ears stick out." Obama said to Dowd, "I just want to put you on notice. I'm very sensitive," adding, "I was teased relentlessly when I was a kid about my big ears." As Media Matters noted, on December 15, echoing conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, Carlson took Obama's exchange with Dowd seriously, stating that Obama "apparently was annoyed with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd after she commented upon the size of his ears." He then asked guest Rosa Brooks, a Los Angeles Times columnist: "[I]s he ready to take on the presidency?" and called Obama a "sensitive little man." Brooks replied: "Oh, I think you've got this totally wrong. He was teasing her."

Additionally, after Walsh compared Obama's "sort of feel-good rhetoric" and his "politics of hope" with Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign because they both involve "a Democrat trying to find a new way, a new politics of the future," Robach chimed in, "Let's hope there's no Donna Rice."

From the 9 a.m. ET hour of the December 18 edition of MSNBC News Live:

ROBACH: Obama-Mania, or Obama-fever, or even Obama-rama. Whatever you call it, it's sweeping the Democratic Party. And even though Barack Obama hasn't even officially entered the presidential race, many are wondering how long his honeymoon with the public and the media will last. Let's talk about that with Ken Walsh from U.S. News & World Report. He recently interviewed the senator and writes about him in the current issue. Ken, thanks for being with us.

WALSH: Nice to be back, Amy.

ROBACH: Well, is the honeymoon officially over when he officially enters the race?

WALSH: Oh, sure. Well, it's already -- the criticism is already starting. There have been a couple of stories in recent days about his property dealings with a man in Chicago who is now under federal charges. There's nothing indicating that Barack Obama did anything wrong here, but his association is being examined, and he has said now that it was "boneheaded," in his word, to be involved in this -- with this fellow in a property deal. Now, as I say, this does not appear to be a big issue, but it's just the beginning of what Barack Obama can expect now, if he does run for president.

[...]

ROBACH: And, yet, Ken, last week's NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that Democrats ranked Obama third in terms of electability -- Hillary Clinton, number one; John Edwards, second. That said, is some of this Obama buzz unwarranted? Could he be overrated?

WALSH: Oh, sure. Absolutely. I think that there is a sort of underwhelming quality when you look beyond the rhetoric, and he has a lot of sort of feel-good rhetoric and the politics of hope and so on, which is uplifting to people. But, what's below that? What's the details? That's really, you know -- where's the beef, as they said with Gary Hart in his 1984 campaign for president, and it reminds me a lot of that campaign, by the way, which I covered a long -- you know, a long time ago now -- but, it was sort of a new ideas --

ROBACH: Let's hope there's no Donna Rice.

WALSH: Right, that's right. It's the character issue that did Gary Hart in, now -- and on the personal side, we have no indication there's anything like that with Barack Obama. But the same pattern is there as far as a Democrat trying to find a new way, a new politics of the future, but we have to see if there's any substance beneath it, and we really don't know that yet.

ROBACH: All right, Ken Walsh. We appreciate it. Thank you.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Amy Robach
Show/Publication
MSNBC Live
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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