On CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday, new host Brian Stelter turned to President Obama the press critic. At the end of his cakewalk “Hardball” interview last week, Obama called out the media for being divisive. “The American people are good and they are decent. And yes, we get very divided partly because our politics and our media specifically tries to divide them and splinter them.”
Stelter asked a decent question about whether that was an odd statement to make on divisive MSNBC. NPR television critic Eric Deggans shot that down, insisting MSNBC was a “great place” to attack cable news and plugged his book "Race Baiter" on the subject:
BRIAN STELTER: Eric, I wonder if you think it's hypocritical to come on a channel that's known for catering to liberals and criticizing the press, criticizing the press for being divisive.
ERIC DEGGANS: Not at all. I think that's a great place to do that kind of criticism. And as you know, I spent 250 pages in my book that came out last year, Race-Baiter, talking about this exact issue, that there are cable channels and other media outlets that segment the audience. And one way they do that is by pitting people against each other. And they may use race, they may use class, they may use other hot button issues to divide people. But the idea is to segment an audience and super-serve that audience their world view in your coverage, and sometimes that can be very harmful, whether you're talking about Fox or MSNBC or even, you know, a radio show or a Web site.
Neither pundit seemed to offer that they had slightest clue that perhaps their own news on CNN or NPR could be seen as racially or politically divisive -- or that perhaps they "super-serve" an audience with a liberal worldview. Or they could discuss Obama's own troubling history with race-baiters, from Reverend Wright to Reverend Sharpton.
Stelter began by noting Obama’s acceptance of an MSNBC interview “raised a few eyebrows, given the recent trouble the liberal news channel has had with Alec Baldwin and Martin Bashir, and it also riled up some media types.”
But he didn't ask his guests if Obama the Alleged Uniter's appearance signaled that the president approved of the network's slashing attacks. He could have asked Deggans how NPR was handling Bashir (they've ignored it), or Baldwin (who hosted a show at NPR affiliate WNYC). But perhaps Deggans was spared since he's guest-hosted the "Reliable Sources" show in the weeks before Stelter took over.
Several media blogs noticed Obama's media-bashing remarks at the close, but didn't include any rebuttal from press critics. David Jackson at USA Today covered it, and also noticed Obama whining a bit earlier in the show:
"When it comes to the management of government, part of the reason people are so skeptical is that when we do things right, they don't get a lot of attention," Obama said. "If we do something that is perceived, at least initially, as a screw-up, it'll be on the nightly news for a week."
Oh, sure. Obama is treated with weeks of abuse by Brian Williams, Diane Sawyer, and Scott Pelley. Does that sound like reality to anyone?