On July 25, Face the Nation will host Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, who has pushed phony allegations that the Justice Department engaged in racially charged corruption in the New Black Panther Party case. Fund has a long history of pushing trumped up and made up charges against Democrats and progressives.
Over the years, we've done a variety of reports documenting the lack of progressive voices as well as gender and ethnic diversity on the all-important Sunday morning network political chat shows. As Media Matters' Jamison Foser noted earlier this week:
Politico reported a finding by American University's Women & Politics Institute that "female lawmakers have composed 13.5 percent of the total Sunday show appearances by all representatives and senators this year." (That finding was consistent with a 2007 Media Matters study that examined all Sunday show guests -- not just lawmakers -- in 2005 and 2006, finding that about 80 percent of guests were men and roughly 90 percent were white.)
The reason for this disparity is simple: the Sunday shows do not prioritize the diversity of their guest lists. This is true of gender diversity, racial and ethnic diversity, and, too often, diversity of viewpoints and policy positions. (In the run-up to the Iraq war, for example, Meet the Press hosted nearly three times as many Democrats who supported the Congressional measure authorizing the use of force as Democrats who opposed it -- despite the fact that a majority of Congressional Democrats opposed the measure.)
He goes on to note that the network's responsible for the disparity are offering nothing but excuses saying, it is "quite revealing that a Sunday show producer defends her team's efforts to book women by saying they've tried 25 times to book one woman, rather than saying they've tried to book 25 women." He continues:
If you were trying to increase the number of women who appear on your Sunday show, would you A) keep inviting the same woman over and over again, despite the fact that she has declined 25 invitations and despite the fact that you think she is "just unwilling" to be your guest, or B) Find other women to invite?
It's not the first time the networks' have offered up hollow excuses for their lack of diversity.
When Media Matters released its first Sunday show report looking at "nearly 7,000 guest appearances during President Bill Clinton's second term, President George W. Bush's first term, and the year 2005," there were several startling findings:
The networks responded with, you guessed it, excuses. Representatives from the CBS and NBC Sunday shows said that the party in the White House would undoubtedly hold a booking edge because they have so many more newsmakers. This particular excuse ignored the many advantages Republicans and conservatives had during President Clinton's second term. The shows then argued that it was because Republicans controlled Congress. Okay, so how would the right's booking advantage be affected when Democrats won the House and Senate in 2006?
Media Matters' follow-up report found that although control of Congress had switched hands, network practices remained largely unchanged with conservatives and Republicans holding many of the same advantages they had for so many years.
The dreadful Sunday show excuse parade doesn't only march surrounding questions of diversity.
After Jake Tapper -- interim host of ABC's This Week -- began working with PolitiFact.com on a trial basis to provide a weekly fact-check of the network's Sunday show, two of his rivals swatted away suggestions that they too take up the practice.
David Gregory -- host of NBC's Meet the Press -- said of fact-checking his program, "people can fact-check Meet the Press every Sunday on their own terms."
Bob Schieffer -- host of CBS' Face the Nation -- struck the same chord saying, "everybody's welcome to fact-check us all they want" adding "I kind of think that by the time we get around to fact-checking, we'd already be fact-checked."
Yep, people upset with the lack of accountability (and journalism) dolled out on Sunday are free to do their own fact-checking. Talk about avoiding responsibility.
I guess, If It's Sunday, It's Excuses.
CBS host Bob Schieffer falsely claimed that Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan would not allow military recruiters on campus when she was the dean of Harvard Law School. In fact, Harvard students had access to military recruiters during Kagan's entire tenure as dean, and Harvard's data show that her actions did not hurt military recruitment.
On Friday, Christiane Amanpour left CNN after 27 years at the network. As we noted in March, the cable news mainstay is set to pick up hosting duties for ABC's This Week later this summer taking over for ABC News' Jake Tapper who will continue to fill-in as host until Amanpour's transition is complete in August.
For his part, Tapper has partnered with PolitiFact.com to offer a weekly fact-check of This Week -- something other Sunday show hosts like NBC's David Gregory and CBS' Bob Schieffer have declined to do thus far instead leaving it up to their viewers.
Amanpour will be the only woman hosting one of the all-important Sunday morning network political talk shows -- an accomplishment to be sure. It remains to be seen however, if she will continue Tapper's trial partnership with PolitiFact.com. Should she continue such a partnership, and I'm hoping that she does, it will further distinguish This Week from its more reticent rivals.
More news in the continuing saga of fact-checking the Sunday shows. A brief recap:
Now, CBS' Bob Schieffer -- host of Face the Nation -- has weighed in with his thoughts. Yahoo! News media writer (formerly of Politico) Michael Calderone reports:
Bob Schieffer, host of CBS' "Face the Nation," similarly described his role as "the front line on fact-checking," when a guest makes a dubious claim, he's there to ask follow-up questions.
And if an inaccurate statement slips by, Schieffer said he expects that viewers and media-monitoring groups on the left and right will call attention to it quickly, noting that "everybody's welcome to fact-check us all they want."
"I kind of think that by the time we get around to fact-checking," he added, "we'd already be fact-checked."
Last week, we noted that ABC's This Week would begin working with PolitiFact.com to provide a weekly fact-check of the Sunday show. Said PolitiFact.com's Bill Adair in making the announcement:
Jake Tapper, the interim host of This Week, liked the suggestion and asked us to fact-check the show on a trial basis. So starting this Sunday, we'll be fact-checking the newsmakers who appear on the program. We'll post the items on our home page and on the show's Web site. The items will also be archived on PolitiFact's This Week page, so you'll be able to check back periodically and see how the newsmakers are doing.
Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central's Colbert Report, isn't pleased. As he puts it:
I don't care about facts. I gut-check my show. I say, "gut, does that feel true to you," and gut says, "yes it does Stephen, let's get a grilled cheese sandwich."
Colbert also ribbed David Gregory, host of NBC's Meet the Press, for this disappointing statement:
People can fact-check Meet the Press every Sunday on their own terms.
I hope Gregory will come to his senses. It would do all Sunday show viewers a great deal of good if Meet the Press, CBS' Face the Nation, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday (and the cable/syndicated ones too) followed This Week's lead rather than Colbert's, which is how they seem to do it now.
In a triumph of synergy, Bob Schieffer hosted NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on yesterday's Super Bowl Sunday edition of CBS' Face the Nation. Goodell's solo interview lasted about ten minutes; he was followed by a panel of CBS' NFL analysts.
Look, I love the NFL (Go Giants!). If Schieffer had contained his interview with Goodell to the amazing season the league just finished, whether he thinks Brett Favre is going to retire again (and whether it will stick this time), the NFL's next generation of stars, whether he thought the Colts made a mistake by not going for a perfect season and football immortality, and his prediction as to whether we'd see the triumphant return of the Manning Face before the day was over (answer: yes), the show would have been the perfect start to a great day of football.
But that's not what happened. Instead, Schieffer opened the interview by basically giving Goodell five minutes to spout the NFL owners' talking points about negotiations for their next contract with the NFL Players' Association:
Goodell used that time to play down the NFLPA's concern that the owners will lock them out for the 2011 season (thus making management seem more reasonable) while simultaneously suggesting that the players are receiving too high a percentage of revenues and will need to give some of that up in their next contract, because the owners need to be better recompensed for their investments in new stadiums. According to Goodell, if that happens, "everyone benefits."
Somehow, I don't think NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith would agree with that. Smith might have pointed out that the owners make their own decisions about whether to build massive monuments to their egos, and should suffer if they make poor investments. He could have noted that most NFL players have short careers, high risk of life-altering injury, and can be fired virtually at-will, unlike athletes in the other major American sports.
But Schieffer didn't give equal time to labor and management, he just let management give its side unanswered.
From the January 31 edition of CBS' Face the Nation:
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From the January 17 edition of CBS' Face the Nation:
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From the September 4th edition of CBS' CBS Evening News:
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CBS Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer allowed Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) to criticize Democrats for reportedly considering using the budget reconciliation process to pass health-care reform with a simple majority of 51 votes in the Senate by claiming that "reconciliation was put in place to get deficits down." Schieffer did not note that Grassley has previously voted to use reconciliation for the Bush administration tax cuts, which the Congressional Budget Office indicated at the time would not "get deficits down."
Bob Schieffer did not challenge Sen. Jeff Sessions' assertion that "there was no evidence that the higher-ups participated in any way" in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. In fact, a Senate committee report found culpability among "senior" U.S. officials.
From the July 12th edition of CBS' Face The Nation:
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Bob Schieffer allowed John McCain to criticize President Obama's response to recent events in Iran but did not note any of the questionable comments McCain has made regarding Iran.
Numerous media figures advanced the argument that national security issues discussed by President Obama and Dick Cheney in May 21 speeches weren't debated during the 2008 presidential election campaign. In fact, the issues were vigorously debated during the Republican primary campaign.