Obama's 'Extraordinary Media Blitz' Begins Friday Night with Focus on Racism Charge

Television network journalists on Friday night marveled at President Barack Obama's planned “media blitz” for health care reform even as they, the enablers, reveled in it as they made the very “blitz” and clips from the interviews (conducted Friday afternoon for airing on Sunday morning) their top story of the day. Based on those excerpts, the Sunday hosts were most interested in getting Obama's take on the “tone” of the health care debate (Obama blamed cable TV and blogs) and whether opposition is driven by racism. The teases:
♦ ABC's Charles Gibson at the top of World News: “Tonight, mass media. The President launches another media blitz on health care, and addresses whether race might be behind some of the criticisms of his plan.” (Gibson led by admiring: “On five, count them, five Sunday morning talk shows the guest will be Obama, Obama, Obama, Obama and Obama. That's never been done before...”)

♦ CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric: “Tonight, from Sunday morning to Monday night, the President's TV blitz for health care reform.”

♦ Brian Williams at the start of the NBC Nightly News: “On our broadcast tonight, an extraordinary media blitz by the President and now the First Lady steps in and tonight our own David Gregory asks the President directly about race and President Carter's charges.”
CBS's Chip Reid acknowledged that “even some objective political analysts say so much Obama may be too much Obama,” but “the White House says it's full speed ahead. The President is by far their best salesman, they say, and they learned a lesson in August: When the President goes silent, angry critics fill the void.” In a clip CBS played, Obama blamed that anger on “the 24-hour news cycle and cable television and blogs and all this, they focus on the most extreme elements on both sides.”

In addition to the interviews with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, CBS's Bob Schieffer and NBC's David Gregory, Obama sat down with CNN's John King for his State of the Union show. King popped up at the beginning of the 6 PM EDT hour of The Situation Room to relay how he raised the same topic as the other hosts: “Sir, do you see this as racism?” (On Monday, Obama will appear on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman.)

Highlights from the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts on Friday, September 18:
CHARLES GIBSON: Good evening. On five, count them, five Sunday morning talk shows, the guest will be Obama, Obama, Obama, Obama and Obama. That's never been done before, five shows, the President on every one. But Mr. Obama is using every forum he can to push for his health care reform plan. There's been a lot of discussion this week about whether some of the criticisms of the President's plan might be based on race. George Stephanopoulos asked him about that when his interview was taped this afternoon...

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I asked him if it frustrated him that his allies, like President Carter, see racism in places he doesn't think it's in play.
CBS Evening News:
KATIE COURIC: Good evening, everyone. Turn on your television Sunday morning and he'll be there. Change the channel, he'll still be there. President Obama will be blanketing the airwaves to push for health care reform...

CHIP REID: Even some objective political analysts say so much Obama may be too much Obama.

UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA'S LARRY SABATO: When the President becomes video wallpaper, when he's always on on all the channels, people naturally tend to tune out.

REID: But the White House says it's full speed ahead. The President is by far their best salesman, they say, and they learned a lesson in August: When the President goes silent, angry critics fill the void...

BOB SCHIEFFER: As for the angry tone of the debate, he said he believes it grows out of a worry that government is just getting too large....

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...I do think part of what's different today is that the 24-hour news cycle and cable television and blogs and all this, they focus on the most extreme elements on both sides, they can't get enough of conflict. It's catnip to the media right now. And so the easiest way to get 15 minutes of fame is to be rude to somebody.
NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Good evening. It's been said the Obama White House lost control of its own message on health care. They spent a few weeks in late summer getting pummeled on it by the opposition. They started fighting back with that speech before joint session and now the President starts his air assault. Between now and Monday, he is doing the Sunday morning political shows on NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and Univision. Five political shows and entertainment: The Late Show Monday night. It is a presidential media blitz. Today it was joined by the First Lady and as part of this media strategy, the President was interviewed by moderator of Meet the Press, David Gregory, for this Sunday's broadcast. David asked him about the much-talked about topic this past week.
That would be Jimmy Carter's allegation protesters are motivated by racism.

Two posts about how NBC and Williams have showcased Carter this week:
- NBC Trumpets Carter's Racism Charges

- NBC: 'Blunt' Carter 'Prompted Us to Reexamine Our Assumptions About Race'
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center