On the June 28 edition of New York Public Radio station WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show, PBS host Tavis Smiley, who was scheduled to moderate a Democratic presidential forum later that day, confirmed that Republican pollster Frank Luntz will be PBS' and the Tavis Smiley program's sole provider of focus group analysis for the forum coverage. Asked by host Brian Lehrer, "Just Luntz or do you have a Democratic pollster there too?" Smiley responded: "[J]ust Luntz."
Media Matters has called on PBS and the Tavis Smiley program to reconsider their decision to use Luntz in their post-forum analysis. As Media Matters has noted, polling organizations have censured and reprimanded Luntz, a longtime Republican strategist who worked in several political campaigns for Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani. In September 2004, MSNBC dropped its plans to include Luntz in coverage of that year's presidential forum following a letter from Media Matters that outlined Luntz's GOP ties and criticism from his peers for misrepresenting and withholding results of his research.
Referring to Media Matters' description of the plan to use Luntz in post-forum coverage, Smiley said, "The facts are wrong, and I don't have any more time to waste responding to people who don't know what they're talking about." But in its original and subsequent items describing Luntz's announced role with respect to post-forum coverage, Media Matters quoted directly from the April 4 PBS press release and published nothing inaccurate.
Smiley also mistakenly asserted that Media Matters did not post to its website a June 27 statement issued by Neal Kendall, executive producer of Tavis Smiley, clarifying Luntz's role in post-forum coverage. In fact, Media Matters posted the full Kendall statement in a release at the top of its home page on June 27 at 3:56 p.m.
From the June 28 edition of WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show:
LEHRER: You know, I've been getting emails from the liberal media watch group Media Matters, and they don't like some role that Republican pollster Frank Luntz has tonight. Is Luntz involved in some way?
SMILEY: Luntz is not involved tonight, and the person behind that Media Matters website, David Brock. I -- I always say where persons like him are concerned -- and I don't mean to cast aspersions on him, but his history is well documented of flipping back and forth between being a liberal and a conservative -- I always say, one, consider the source. That's true of anything. He's the guy behind Media Matters. So one, consider the source. Number two, his facts are wrong. Number three, PBS put out a statement two days ago, checking him on his facts, which to my knowledge, as yet he has not posted that response on his website. The bottom line is Frank Luntz, like any number of other pollsters, is people-metering 30 African-Americans who are all Democrats in a separate room adjacent to the main stage.
Tomorrow night, on my television show, I'll be joined by those 30 persons with the data that Mr. Luntz and company have collected about what they thought of the debate while it was going on. So how anyone, Republican, Democrat, black or white, could spin what 30 persons who are black and Democratic voters said, is nonsensical. So we will have, on our regular PBS program tomorrow night, a recap with the 30 persons who are, again, all African-American, all registered Democrats, and we'll do the same thing in the Republican conversation later in September. But that drama, that nonsense at Media Matters is just that. The facts are wrong, and I don't have any more time to waste responding to people who don't know what they're talking about.
LEHRER: Just Luntz or do you have a Democratic pollster there too?
SMILEY: We have a -- just -- just Luntz. We have one pollster for each process, and I might add right quick, that there are any number of media organizations, I believe, including The New York Times, who want to cover all aspects of the story, so there will be media people in the room where the people-metering is taking place so they can cover the story, and I'll be talking about it tomorrow morning on [ABC's] Good Morning America as their lead guest just after 7 o'clock, and again on Meet the Press with Tim Russert on NBC this Sunday.
LEHRER: All right.