MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell Still In Favor of Obama Indoctrination

A week after aggressively defending school children in New Jersey literally singing Barack Obama’s praises, on MSNBC on Friday, anchor Norah O’Donnell once again expressed her support of the song and went after critics: “I think this is sort of a silly issue, I do, I’ll just say that, you know, and I’m not an ideologue. And I got hammered in the blogs for making that comment.”  

As NewsBusters’ Scott Whitlock reported on September 24, O’Donnell argued with conservative columist Tim Carney, seeing no problem with the disturbing song: “I mean, this is children. They're singing a song...If you can make your point again about why this is indoctrination, political indoctrination to praise your President...I remember certainly in elementary school when Ronald Reagan was President and we sent him jelly beans.”

On Friday, during MSNBC’s weekly New York Times Edition program, O’Donnell explained to liberal New York Times columnist Nick Kristof:
Nick, you know, there was – this was something that was on the Right that got a lot of play, which was these school students who were singing a song about President Barack Hussein Obama. It was during black history month, and those on the Right, in conservatives circles, have used that to say they’re now indoctrinating kids, essentially, in schools....I just wonder what it is then, when we can’t allow our children to praise a president or sing about a president, whether they’re a Republican or a Democrat or an independent or even people of different religions.
Kristof replied: “Oh, I absolutely agree with you. I mean, I think that people have, you know, that the blogosphere has discovered that if they draw blood, then they think and hope that maybe the mainstream media will, you know, pull back a little bit. I think that’s probably what they were trying to do with you, Norah.” Clearly O’Donnell did not get the message.

In addition to once again promoting the indoctrination of school children, on Friday’s show, O’Donnell also cited a recent column by Thomas Friedman, touting how he “says there’s no more ‘we’ in American politics, no more ‘we’ in American politics, drawing parallels between the attitudes surrounding Israeli Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated and the criticism of President Obama from the far Right.”

Speaking to Kristof, O’Donnell expressed her agreement with Friedman’s assessment: “I do think it was pretty provocative and I think it’s what a lot of people were thinking, but maybe just not ready yet to say out loud. And it became all the more scary this week when there was this Facebook poll, which I understand there’s now been an arrest in that, where someone asked ‘should Obama be killed?’.... How concerned are you about the tone that’s out there? The noise that’s out there?” Kristof responded: “I think Tom was exactly right, that the tone really is scary.”

Earlier in the segment, O’Donnell’s co-anchor, New York Times’s John Harwood, also asked Kristof about Friedman’s column: “But what do you think about that idea that in American politics there is no more ‘we’ there is no more communal impulse or action?.... is the news media going more polarized because that’s where the only place to make money is?” Kristof argued: “You know, traditionally the U.S. news media tried to appeal to a broad constituency, so we wanted to have liberals as well as conservatives reading our newspaper or watching our TV station, and then Fox discovered there was a pretty good business model in appealing to a political niche. And, you know, I think that, that is indeed spreading and that increasingly.” MSNBC would certainly know about appealing to political niches.

Here is a full transcript of the Friday segment:
2:20PM

NORAH O’DONNELL: And finally, on the ‘Op-Edge,’ Tom Friedman says there’s no more ‘we’ in American politics, no more ‘we’ in American politics, drawing parallels between the attitudes surrounding Israeli Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated and the criticism of President Obama from the far Right. He writes quote, ‘Hack away at the man’s policies and even his character all you want...but If we destroy the legitimacy of another president, we are in serious trouble.’

JOHN HARWOOD: And now we’re going to bring in New York Times columnist Nick Kristof, who joins us live from New York. Nick, let me start out by asking you about Tom’s point. You know, you spend a lot of time covering foreign affairs, you have written a book, ‘Half the Sky,’ about the role of women in the world and the importance of lifting up women around the world as a way to make everybody better off. But what do you think about that idea that in American politics there is no more ‘we’ there is no more communal impulse or action?

NICK KRISTOF: I think that Tom has a pretty good point and I also think that if we want to look for reasons, that we in the news media, to some extent, have to look in the mirror. I that over time, we’ve gone from empowering moderates to really giving the microphone to amplifying the voices of people, you know, with – who want to shout and that tends to increases the divide and increase the polarization. And you know, I think that’s partly about things that – that we in the news media, and especially, you know, the blogosphere, have done.

HARWOOD: You think it has anything to do with the economic difficulties that the news media is in, or in fact, is the news media going more polarized because that’s where the only place to make money is?

KRISTOF: I think there are a couple of things going on. You know, traditionally the U.S. news media tried to appeal to a broad constituency, so we wanted to have liberals as well as conservatives reading our newspaper or watching our TV station, and then Fox discovered there was a pretty good business model in appealing to a political niche. And, you know, I think that, that is indeed spreading and that increasingly, whatever your point of view, you can find news media sources that will re-enforce your prejudices, whatever they are, whether they be on the Left or on the Right, and that, that tends to just re-enforce all of our perspectives about the world and our sense of illegitimacy of the other side. I think that’s a really unfortunate tendency, and I think you know, it’s incumbent on us to try to reach out and to try to read or view new sources that are likely to challenge our prejudices.

O’DONNELL: Nick, it’s Norah O’Donnell. I just want to follow up a little bit more on Tom Friedman’s column, because I do think it was pretty provocative and I think it’s what a lot of people were thinking, but maybe just not ready yet to say out loud. And it became all the more scary this week when there was this Facebook poll, which I understand there’s now been an arrest in that, where someone asked ‘should Obama be killed?’ And of course, Tom Friedman talks about meeting with Yitzhak Rabin just before he was assassinated. How concerned are you about the tone that’s out there? The noise that’s out there?

KRISTOF: I think Tom was exactly right, that the tone really is scary. And there are people in the United States who really feel dis-empowered, who feel betrayed. And that when they hear these kinds of things, it amplifies that sense of grievance, that outrage, and can make people really do crazy things.

O’DONNELL: I just want to just say something, because this came up last week, Nick, you know, there was – this was something that was on the Right that got a lot of play, which was these school students who were singing a song about President Barack Hussein Obama. It was during black history month, and those on the Right, in conservatives circles, have used that to say they’re now indoctrinating kids, essentially, in schools. And I thought – I think this is sort of a silly issue, I do, I’ll just say that, you know, and I’m not an ideologue. And I got hammered in the blogs for making that comment and I just wonder what it is then, when we can’t allow our children to praise a president or sing about a president, whether they’re a Republican or a Democrat or an independent or even people of different religions. I don’t know what more, you know, to sort of say about that Nick, but I wonder if you want to weigh in.

KRISTOF: Oh, I absolutely agree with you. I mean, I think that people have, you know, that the blogosphere has discovered that if they draw blood, then they think and hope that maybe the mainstream media will, you know, pull back a little bit. I think that’s probably what they were trying to do with you, Norah. I also, though, think that vis a vi Tom’s point that, you know, it doesn’t really help when a columnist like myself, who tends to be a little more on the liberal side of things, tends to scold the Right and say ‘oh, you’re, you know, you’re too extreme.’ It really has to come from within that sector and you know, I hope indeed that some you know, many terrific conservative columnists and pundits will look on their own side and will try to ask them to change that tone, because it’s not something that – that is going to be meaningful coming from me.

O’DONNELL: Alright, Nick.

HARWOOD: Nick Kristof of the New York Times, thanks so much for being with us.

O’DONNELL: Thank you.

KRISTOF: My pleasure.

HARWOOD: Were blogs really picking on you? We can’t have. We’re going to put a stop to that.

O’DONNELL [LAUGHS]: I’m sure they’ve never picked on you either, John, right?
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC