Politico reported Friday that more than a week prior, the wife of conservative Washington Post columnist George Will took a messaging position with the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry. Politico noted that Will had since discussed the GOP primary and disparaged Perry's primary opponents in two Post columns and on ABC's This Week, all without disclosing his wife's position. The article also indicated that while Will had told his Post editors that his wife's role was unpaid, it is in fact a paid position.
This morning, Will finally disclosed his wife's position during ABC's This Week. When given the opportunity by host Christiane Amanpour to do some "personal housekeeping," Will did not apologize for his failure to reveal this information, nor did he pledge to continue to make such disclosures in the future. In fact, Will's only "housekeeping" was mentioning that "some of the more excitable and perhaps less mature members of the Romney campaign have tried to make this personal."
As part of an Easter edition of This Week that explored religion's influence on government, Christiane Amanpour hosted right-wing evangelist Rev. Franklin Graham, who took used the opportunity to promote the conspiracy theory that President Obama hasn't produced his birth certificate. He also cast doubt on Obama's religion and declared that "secularism is anti-Christ."
It's stunning that ABC would lead its Easter edition of This Week by hosting Graham. He was, after all, uninvited from a National Prayer Day ceremony at the Pentagon last year after calling Islam "evil" and counseling Muslims that "they don't have to die in a car bomb."
Amanpour seemed to make a brief reference to this during the interview, telling Graham: "You've made some very controversial comments about Islam, about Muslims, including on our program, when we had our town hall that you joined us on a few months ago. Do you still feel that there is a real divide between Islam and Christianity in this country?"
But that was it. Amanpour didn't press him any further on his history of anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Amanpour's most egregious error during the interview was failing to make clear the facts about Obama's birth certificate:
From the April 24 edition of ABC's This Week with Christiane Amanpour:
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From the February 20 edition of ABC's This Week with Christiane Amanpour:
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From the January 23 edition of ABC News' This Week:
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From the December 12 edition of ABC's This Week:
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Media figures are falsely claiming that Obama is "backtracking" on his comments regarding a planned Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero. But the president's statements on the issue have consistently emphasized, as Obama put it, a "commitment to religious freedom" and the legal right to build an Islamic center on a privately-owned site.
As much as novelty fact-checking (news outlets creating fact-check gimmicks when it should be a normal part of reporting) may be trivializing an important issue, it's good to see Christiane Amanpour continuing the practice on ABC's This Week which she helmed for the first time as its new host this weekend.
Back in April, This Week guest-host Jack Tapper partnered with PolitiFact.com to offer fact-checks each week of ABC's important Sunday show.
PolitiFact editor Bill Adair told Media Matters, "I met with This Week's executive producer Ian Cameron a few weeks ago and we decided that we really liked how it was going and that it was a valuable service for This Week's viewers and PolitiFact readers." Adding, "so, we decided to keep it going."
Thus far, This Week remains the only Sunday morning network political talk show to offer an independent fact-check. Media Matters' partner organization Political Correction has been providing fact-checks of the Sunday shows for seven months.
From the August 2 edition of MSNBC's Countdown:
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Sunday morning is still serious real estate in American television, a place where serious news still is discussed. It's one of the last bastions of serious news... so for me the real motivating factor was to be able to translate, and to be able to take all that I've learned and done and take it to another level.
She's right. The all-important Sunday morning network political talk shows still have tremendous sway over our media and politics. In a very real sense, these broadcasts define conventional wisdom.
The real question is what Amanpour will do with This Week when she takes the helm. More than simply discussing "serious news" of the day, Sunday shows should be a place viewers can turn to for accurate information.
For several weeks now Jake Tapper has been interim-host This Week. In that role he has partnered with PolitiFact.com to offer a weekly fact-check of the program -- something other Sunday shows have declined to do thus far.
If Amanpour is serious about taking what she's done to "another level" with This Week, and I have every reason to believe she is serious, it is incumbent upon her to follow Tapper's lead and continue with the weekly fact-checks. Doing so will allow her to make a positive mark on the Sunday morning line-up right out of the gate.
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.
For a while now Media Matters Action Network, our partner organization, has been offering up fact-checks of the vaunted Sunday morning network political talk shows. Media Matters president Eric Burns announced the endeavor in January:
Every Sunday morning, some of the country's most powerful and influential legislators, government officials, journalists, and newsmakers appear as guests on network talk shows. The programs -- ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, NBC's Meet the Press, and Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday -- occupy a unique place in our media landscape. As the agenda-setters for the next week's worth of political news, they shape conventional wisdom and determine the terms of debate on crucial issues.
These shows also present a critical opportunity to educate the public and correct damaging misinformation -- a responsibility that too often fails to be met. As New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen has explained, the Sunday show format is broken. Shows like Meet the Press and Face the Nation routinely serve largely as hyper-partisan forums that provide little in the way of fact-checking.
To begin addressing these problems, Rosen offered a simple and valuable suggestion: in order to hold politicians and media figures accountable, the networks should produce mid-week fact-checks of the statements made on their Sunday shows. It was an idea that quickly received the support of CNN's Howard Kurtz.
We're not holding our breath while the network heads decide whether or not to act. Instead, we're announcing the creation of a new Media Matters product. Every Monday morning, the Media Matters Action Network will publish a memo correcting the conservative misinformation that was left unchallenged the day before. Over time, we hope that our work will help contribute to a culture of accountability that is currently lacking on Sunday morning.
Good thing we didn't hold our breath because it took nearly four months for one of the shows to move on the idea.
ABC's This Week, which announced last month that CNN's Christiane Amanpour will be taking over as host, is set to make another major change. Writing about Rosen's suggested fact-checking of the Sunday shows, PolitiFact.com's Bill Adair makes 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.
It's great to see Tapper -- who regularly seeks input for the show on Twitter as well -- take this great advice, even if it is only on a "trial basis" thus far. Perhaps Amanpour will follow Tapper's lead and make the partnership permanent when she takes over hosting duties.
So, to the other Sunday shows -- NBC's Meet the Press, CBS' Face the Nation, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday (and the cable/syndicated ones too, you know who you are) -- the ball is officially in your court.
Lack of diversity on the all important Sunday morning political talk shows is nothing new. As Media Matters noted back in a 2007 report on the subject, "Not only are the Sunday morning talk shows on the broadcast networks dominated by conservative opinion and commentary, the four programs -- NBC's Meet the Press, ABC's This Week, CBS' Face the Nation, and Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday -- feature guest lists that are overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male."
At the time of the report's release, not one of the Sunday shows was helmed by a woman or ethnic minority. How did the guests stack up? Not well at all.
Keep in mind, these programs help shape beltway conventional wisdom for the week to come and wield a disproportionate amount of influence over the political chattering class. The lack of a seat at the table for women and ethnic minorities spoke directly to the old boys club that has long dominated Washington politics and media.
The 2007 report didn't take into account the less influential Sunday morning political talk shows on cable networks like CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC but the results -- at least when it comes to hosts -- would have been much the same. All white. All men.
This year things have changed a bit.
In February when it was announced that long-time senior political correspondent Candy Crowley would be taking over as host for John King on CNN's State of the Union it was hard to find a story that didn't make prominent mention of her recent post-campaign weight loss.
It is one thing to be critical of Crowley's past work, just as we have been from time to time. It is quite another to fixate on her physical appearance. Asked about the subject, Crowley was quoted as saying, "Would I have gotten the job without having lost the weight? I don't know. That's an X factor... Does the refrigerator light stay on when you close the door? We'll never know." She went on to say, "I readily admit I'm not the most obvious pick, from a purely cosmetic point of view... I'm not going to argue that when you turn on the TV, you basically get young, blonde, thin women. This is changing."
I certainly hope it is changing but only time will tell.
Similarly, earlier this month word came down that CNN's Christiane Amanpour would be leaving the cable network to helm ABC's This Week - the first woman ever with full-time hosting duties on a broadcast network Sunday show.
Cue the back-biting and second guessing, much of it anonymous.
As Mediaite's Steve Krakauer noted:
Then there's CNN's John King who felt the need to throw out some questions about Amanpour's selection during a recent interview stating, "There are a lot of questions. Christiane does not have a lot of experience covering American politics and so how does she fit in on ABC on Sunday morning? I'll leave that to them to figure out. It is an interesting pick, it is an unorthodox choice, I think that's just self-evident...I'll watch how it plays out with everyone else."
Get that? There are lots of questions. She's not experienced covering American politics. But I'll leave ABC News to answer these questions...questions I've just thrown out to you like red meat to the media circus lions in my best impersonation of a Fox News chyron.
Regardless of what you think of these recent hirings, they are a long overdue step in the right-direction. Women and ethnic minorities bring a different world of experience to the table. They need not be booked solely for the purpose of discussing issues important to women and ethnic minorities as is far too often the case.
The Washington press corps is change averse. It's a stodgy, self-perpetuating, conventional wisdom driven world. It could use a little more, dare I say a great deal more, change.