Matthews, Olbermann, Brokaw Scoff at Palin's Slams on Media

During MSNBC's Wednesday night live coverage of the Republican National Convention Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Tom Brokaw and others scoffed at the idea they had an anti-Sarah Palin agenda. Brokaw depicted the charge of liberal bias as a mere "tactic," by the GOP, Matthews played it off as just "an old, old conflict," and even tried to write off the media's fascination of Obama, as just a mere fondness of "the new."

Brokaw dismissed the contention of any real liberal bias
This is a political tactic on their part. And the shorthand is, "Let's go after the media." And are they sorting out, for example, Fox or conservative blogs or others who have, in fact, been defending all of this? No what they want to do is just raise the specter that everything that America sees is controlled by a tiny band of Eastern liberal elites.

And for her part Norah O'Donnell insisted:

There is one important thing to point out. The media is not attacking Sarah Palin. The media has done investigative pieces, in their job, about the way Sarah Palin was chosen.

The following are just some of the anxious rebuttals from the MSNBC crew to Palin's charge that the media was biased against her, as they occurred on MSNBC’s September 3, coverage of the Republican Convention:

[7:03pm]

CHRIS MATTHEWS:  I have the sense that the Republican image-makers, the ballyhoo boys, know exactly what they're doing. They're setting up a David and Goliath in this sense. Governor Palin as David, us as Goliath. This is showbiz, they know what they're doing. It might work, we'll see. Big night, tonight for the Republicans and their ballyhoo boys.

KEITH OLBERMANN: How long, if it works, can it work? You cannot maintain a permanent protest, you can't file a constant appeal to the refs that never ends. It must have a concluding point, must it not?

MATTHEWS: Richard Nixon did it for many years. It can be done. You can put up, you can create a continual tension between your political party and what you describe as the establishment. You can continue to portray yourself as the underdog in a battle in which you, in fact, carry all the political weight of the government. It's been done before and I think they're gonna try it one more time tonight.

...

[7:10pm]

OLBERMANN: We're getting some of the excerpts now Andrea and I think it's fair to say there don't seem to be any excerpts anyway, any significant attacks on Obama or the Democrats, however guess who has been attacked? That would be probably us, as collective us. Let me read one before we go back to the floor at the Excel Center. "Why She Is Going to Washington D.C." is the headline on this excerpt.

"I'm not a member of the permanent political establishment, she says, and I've learned quickly these past few days that if you're not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, than some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone. But here's a little newsflash for all those reporters and commentators, I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion, I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this country."

Who those reporters and commentators might be she does not say, at least not in the excerpt. It will be interesting to see if they're named in that speech. There's no one I can think of, off the top of my head, who did what she is apparently complaining of tonight, but she will be doing the complaining herself.

...

[7:22pm]

MATTHEWS: Pat I recognize a tactic here. Start a fight with the press. Establish your underdog status. Take them on. Win public approval. Is that what's going on here with the candidacy and nomination of Sarah Palin?

PAT BUCHANAN: No I think it's utterly foolish to say that Sarah Palin has started a fight with the press. The press has been savage on her and feral on her. Ever since she was nominated she's been an obsession of the press. She's been attacked. Her daughter's pregnancy has got two or three stories on the front page of the New York Times. It has been a disgraceful performance by the press. Fred Thompson took it on last night and I certainly hopes she takes it on tonight. Because quite frankly it is a battle that the press started and the conservatives and the Republicans really ought to finish.

MATTHEWS: Well it could be said, Pat, that your part of that strategy right now, because of what you're saying. Savagery is a strong word.

...

MATTHEWS: It seems like this is old political tactics. Start a fight with the media, the establishment. Portray yourself as the underdog.

EUGENE ROBINSON, WASHINGTON POST: Absolutely, absolutely. Look, who knew that Republicans were so sensitive and finely attuned to any whiff of sexism or ageism or anything like that? I wasn't aware that the Republicans were, were such hothouse flowers about all this stuff.

...

NORAH O'DONNELL: There is one important thing to point out. The media is not attacking Sarah Palin. The media has done investigative pieces, in their job, about the way Sarah Palin was chosen.

...

[7:43pm]

OLBERMANN: The media mene has been so long established in this country, the running against the media idea, that the candidates often turn on a dime on this point. It was only in March, at an event for Newsweek magazine, that Governor Palin of Alaska, who then did not seem to be a national political figure by any stretch of the imagination was asked about Senator Hillary Clinton's complaints and her campaign's complaints about media coverage. She described Senator Clinton as "whining." And now we turn around, in a matter of months later to a totally reversed situation. Tom Brokaw is with us along side NBC News political director Chuck Todd inside the Excel Center. This is, I guess, a tradition as old as time itself Tom.

TOM BROKAW: It is and it, and it has worked particularly well, I think, for the Republican Party, Keith because they always feel that this country is held captive or held hostage, if you will, by what they would call the "Eastern liberal press establishment." Let me read you what Governor Mitt Romney will say in his opening paragraph tonight.

"For decades the Washington sun has been rising in the East, Washington has been looking to the Eastern elites, to the editorial pages of the Times and the Post and to the broadcasters from the coast."

This is Mitt Romney, who was the head of Bay Capital, based in Massachusetts. He was the governor of Massachusetts. He became a man worth hundreds of millions of dollars by dealing with the Eastern establishment. So I think we're gonna see this pattern throughout that's been going on for a long, long time. And 1964 was probably the apotheosis of it at the Goldwater convention, when John Chancellor was led off the floor and had that memorable line, "John Chancellor reporting from somewhere in custody." We're grown-ups. We'll have to deal with all of this.

...

MATTHEWS: Yeah I think, I think it's fair to say, without casting any moral judgment on it, that we're watching a political plan taking effect tonight. It's begun for the last couple of days. If you bring out a candidate for Vice President of the United States on quick notice, if you present that name off the usual list, you are guaranteeing that the major serious press in this country will go to work.

The major editors of the major news organizations will make the assignments. The best reporters will be assigned, the news will develop. It is a very predictable phenomenon and it's a good one. If, however, you use that predictable phenomenon as the set-up for a political game you're gonna play, that's political gamesmanship, it should be seen as that. The major press has a job to do, it's to dig up stuff on people who would rule this country. We have to do it. The best reporters are the toughest at it. This is what we have.

Thomas Eagleton was not discovered in his problem of having had electro-shock therapy by the, the man who put him up, George McGovern. Clark Hoyt broke that story. So somebody has to break these stories. It's not always popular to do so.

But if something breaks bad about this nomination, if there is some problem out there with this nomination, it's not gonna come from the Republican National Committee. It's not gonna be issued as a press release. It's gonna be coming because some good reporter goes out and does the job. And the American people expect that to get done.

And so this is a bit of a set-up here. But it's fair enough. It's politics. They want have an enemy, they want to take it on, fine. Better they fight a war in a phony sense than real war. That would be my thinking.

...

OLBERMANN: Alright gentlemen. Let's stay with you for just a moment here about this, this dichotomy on the media and, and Sarah Palin and, and the, the picking of fights. Is there, first off, is there a collective media to assume responsibility for the, for the, for the slights perceived or, or created, I suppose is what I'm looking for here.

BROKAW: Well this is not a legal argument, nor is this a laboratory experiment. This is a political tactic on their part. And the shorthand is, "Let's go after the media." And are they sorting out, for example, Fox or conservative blogs or others who have, in fact, been defending all of this? No what they want to do is just raise the specter that everything that America sees is controlled by a tiny band of Eastern liberal elites.

This is the same convention, that tonight will hear from the mayor of the city, of the largest city, New York City. Rudy Giuliani will be speaking here tonight. John McCain was raised in a, in a great military establishment family. That they were raised a lot in the Washington D.C. area. He's been in the Senate for a long time.

But I completely understand what the political strategy and the tactics are. Let's create something called, "The Eastern Media Elite," and go after them because we have to stitch together this party.

CHUCK TODD: But a word of caution on this. Didn't work in '92. George H.W. Bush tried this. I remember. "Annoy the Media! Re-Elect Bush!"

... 

[8:18pm]

MATTHEWS: Let's be clear about this, tremendous support from the Washington media. John McCain is an immensely popular figure among the Washington media. He used to say that the press was his base. I mean I’m sure we have that on tape, many places. Because he did enjoy, when he went out with the Straight Talk Express on his wonderful bus trips, I was on, among that happy band on occasion. There was tremendous camaraderie. What he deals with now is the reality that in, it doesn't have to do with party politics or ideology.

But there is always a love of the new. There's always an appeal of the new. Let's face it. The governor of Alaska will benefit from some of that. Barack Obama's benefitted from that. The new kid on the block, whether it's Bill Clinton or it's, or it's Ronald Reagan, in a sense, back in '80. The new kid gets the appeal. The news business, I think, does like the new. It may like the young as well, although not always. Because I thought Ronald Regan got a fabulous press! And Pat Buchanan would even admit it, I think, under sodium pentothal. But the fact is that this-

BUCHANAN: You think the media is in love with Sarah Palin?!

MATTHEWS: I think the media is in love with the story Pat, because it’s a fascinating story. And I’ll tell ya this, if she gets up there tonight and gives a whale of a speech, you’re gonna hear it like Sardie’s after a big Broadway smash.

BUCHANAN: Right.

MATTHEWS: All tonight people will say how great she did. You can predict it.

BUCHANAN: Alright.

MATTHEWS: Nobody's going to deny her a successful night, if that's the case.

BUCHANAN: Alright well let me ask you. Will you, will you say it sent a tingle up your leg?

MATTHEWS: Pat I have always, a multifaceted reporter, and I do report fully on my experiences in the hall. And when you get a new line let me know, will ya buddy? It’s a little tired by now, but it's a good one.

David, we're, but let me go to David who's on the floor right now to get, to see if he has a full report. David is this the buzz right now? The incipient war between the almost, the old Goldwater establishment in terms of its attitude towards the Eastern media? As Tom Brokaw pointed out. This is an on, an old, old conflict and it may be a useful one to the Republican Party.

...

[11:39pm]

BRIAN WILLIAMS: About the attacks on the media tonight. Joe Klein is on the board. His blog for Time magazine. And, and I'll quote briefly.

"I hope my colleagues," meaning his colleagues in the news media, "stand strong in this case. It's important for the public to know Palin raised taxes as governor, supported the "Bridge to Nowhere" before she opposed it. Pursued pork barrel projects as mayor. Tried to ban books at the local library. And thinks the war in Iraq is quote, 'A task from God.' The attempts by the McCain campaign to bully us into not reporting such things are not only stupidly aggressive but unprofessional in the extreme."

Just another Wednesday night in Minnesota. Keith?

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.