Opinion: In her own words: CNN’s Campbell Brown on Fox News and Obama
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Every once in a while we come upon a letter, speech, video or commentary that’s simply worth sharing in its entirety without comment. Well, OK, with somewhat less comment.
Wednesday Campbell Brown of CNN did her own commentary on the Obama-Fox News fight.
There are several reasons for the White House, any White House, to have public fights. One of the most useful is to keep your own folks in line on your side against those mean, evil guys over there.
An Obama senior advisor, David Axelrod, used to be in the print media himself. He knows Fox News isn’t going to change because he and others complain. Why should it? Fox News was doing fine before the fight and even better audience-wise since it started.
Brown says she thought the fight was silly. She used to work at NBC. But her new network hasn’t done so well in the recent ratings war. So why not get in on the scrap?
She has some pretty clear thoughts, however, including a revealing and awkward moment during her pointed interview of Valerie Jarrett, another senior Obama aide.
Watch especially when Brown asks Jarrett, well, OK, Fox News is biased, what about MSNBC over there on the left? Why are you only singling out Fox News?
Jarrett squirms slightly and pivots to a different tack, as public figures are coached to do for the quickly-moving spoken word on TV. That way they can avoid a direct answer and resume talking their own message line. She does it twice.
But it’s harder to hide the verbal dodge when words are laid out in print, as below, to be read and re-read if necessary. To be candid, CNN has been the target of bias claims too, for instance, during the Democratic primaries when some party opponents -- gee, now which Illinois candidate would that be? -- suggested that CNN should stand for Clinton News Network. And others such as Andrew Klavan are making fun of the network’s ratings slide with suggested new mottoes.
We also have a complete video of the Brown commentary below, so you can compare how the words change from print to video and vice versa.
-- Andrew Malcolm
The White House war with Fox News has gotten a lot of attention lately. According to the PEW Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, it was among the top 5 most reported stories last week.
Now, I’ve largely ignored it on this show mostly because I thought it was silly. I mean really. The
...White House is only just now figuring out Fox in primetime has a conservative bias? Really?
I think our friends at Fox News have been pretty upfront about it and frankly pretty unapologetic for that matter. What confuses me, is that if the White House is really so concerned about bias in the media, then why are they only targeting Fox?
This week I interviewed Valerie Jarrett, she is one of the President’s closest advisors. I asked her about the White House charges of bias at Fox News, but I also asked her about bias at MSNBC. Listen to what she said:
Videotape: BROWN: OFFICIALS HAVE BEEN VERY PUBLIC ABOUT THEIR FEELINGS ABOUT FOX NEWS AND WHAT THEY BELIEVE FOX NEWS IS AND REPRESENTS AND THEY MADE A POINT OF COMING OUT AND SAYING IT.
JARRETT: THAT’S A DIFFERENT ISSUE. WHAT WE’RE SAYING IS THAT WE WANT THE PUBLIC TO UNDERSTAND WHAT’S GOING ON. WHEN WE SAW THE KIND OF DISTORTIONS THIS SUMMER, PARTICULARLY DIRECTED AT SENIORS, OVER HEALTH CARE REFORM, IT WAS REALLY OUTRAGEOUS.
AND I THINK WHAT THE PRESIDENT SAID IN HIS MESSAGE BEFORE CONGRESS IS WE’RE GOING TO SPEAK DIRECTLY TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE AND MAKE SURE THAT THEY UNDERSTAND THE TRUTH.
AND SO, CERTAINLY, IF WE SEE SOMEBODY DISTORTING THE TRUTH, WE’RE GOING TO CALL THEM ON THE CARPET FOR THAT. BUT WE DON’T WANT TO TAKE OUR FOCUS AWAY FROM THE CORE ISSUES THAT ARE SO IMPORTANT TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. NOW, WHEN THERE’S ALL THAT CHATTER AND DISTORTION AND FALSE INFORMATION, WE HAVE TO DISSEMINATE -- WE HAVE TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN TRUTH AND FICTION.
BROWN: SO DO YOU THINK FOX NEWS IS BIASED?
JARRETT: WELL, OF COURSE THEY’RE BIASED. OF COURSE THEY ARE.
BROWN: DO YOU ALSO THINK THAT MSNBC IS BIASED?
JARRETT: WELL, YOU KNOW WHAT, THIS IS THE THING. I DON’T WANT TO -- ACTUALLY, I DON’T WANT TO JUST GENERALIZE ALL FOX IS BIASED OR ANOTHER STATION IS BIASED. I THINK WHAT WE WANT TO DO IS LOOK AT IT ON A CASE-BY-CASE BASIS. AND WHEN WE SEE A PATTERN OF DISTORTION, WE’RE GOING TO BE HONEST ABOUT THAT PATTERN OF DISTORTION.
BROWN: BUT YOU ONLY SEE THAT AT FOX NEWS. THAT’S ALL -- THAT YOU’VE SPOKEN OUT ABOUT, FOX.
JARRETT: WHAT THE ADMINISTRATION HAS SAID VERY CLEARLY IS THAT WE’RE GOING TO SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER.
WHEN WE SAW ALL THE DISTORTIONS DURING THE COURSE OF THE SUMMER. WHEN PEOPLE WERE COMING DOWN TO TOWN HALL MEETINGS AND PUTTING UP SIGNS THAT WERE SCARING SENIORS TO DEATH. WHEN WE’VE SEEN COMMERCIALS GO UP ON TELEVISION THAT WERE DISTORTING THE TRUTH, WE’RE ACTUALLY CALLING EVERYBODY OUT.
THIS ISN’T SOMETHING THAT’S DIRECTED AT FOX. WE WANT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE TO HAVE A CLEAR UNDERSTANDING, THERE’S SO MUCH AT STAKE RIGHT NOW. WE REALLY DON’T HAVE A LOT OF TIME FOR NONSENSE AND DISTORTIONS.
THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE ALSO SMARTER THAN THAT. LET THEM REACH THEIR OWN JUDGMENTS BASED ON THE FACTS. LET’S JUST TAKE HEALTH CARE, FOR EXAMPLE. REASONABLE PEOPLE COULD DIFFER ABOUT THE RIGHT APPROACH. SO LET’S HAVE A CONVERSATION ABOUT THAT. LET’S NOT SCARE PEOPLE BY TELLING THEM THAT THINGS ARE GOING TO HAPPEN THAT ARE ACTUALLY NOT EVEN ON THE TABLE. LET’S JUST TALK ABOUT THE FACTS. (End Clip)
BROWN: So, I am stating what I think is the obvious here. Jarrett seems loathe to admit that MSNBC has a bias. And that is where I think the White House loses all credibility on this issue.
Just as Fox News leans to the right with their opinionated hosts in primetime, MSNBC leans left. I don’t think anyone at Fox or MSNBC would disagree with that. In fact, both Fox News and MSNBC are....
... doing quite well in the primetime ratings by doing partisan opinion.
Look, if the White House wants to lead us in a conversation about bias in the media, and how we define journalism today, I would love that. Times have changed. It would be great to talk honestly about how we draw important distinctions between the various media outlets.
Some of us like my colleagues here at CNN are still trying to do journalism. I believe that journalists do have a crucial role to play in challenging our leaders no matter what their political persuasion, and in holding them accountable.
Opinionated cable news hosts have a valid but very different role. They either cheerlead or criticize and in doing so they connect with those who agree with them. They validate the opinions of those on the left and on the right. They provoke one another, fight with one another, and yes, they entertain us.
And in a polarized country, that gets big ratings. I’m not critical of what my friends at Fox News and MSNBC do. But it is apples and oranges when compared to what we at CNN do. And we should all just acknowledge that.
And if the White House wants to leap into this debate, as they have, and talk about bias in the media, then great. But White House officials should elevate the conversation, and talk about bias on the right and on the left. Because when you just target one side, you reveal your own bias. That you are only critical of those who are critical of you.