TV Crush

MSNBC's Chris Matthews and The Trivial Pursuit of News

10/19/2008 1:58 PM

for the last week, I’ve watched a lot of cable news - Fox, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC etc.  If Chris Matthews isn’t enough to make you want to trash your plasma screen I don’t know what is.  Well, okay.  I take that back - a little.  Sean Hannity.  He’s the best reason ever to cancel your cable subscription.

Still, Hardball is a show that frequently contributes very little to the national discussion.  The show’s raison d’etre is to generate heat, not light.  And no one is served by this, least of all the voting public.

Let’s take Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Backmann’s appearance last week.  I watched the segment in its entirety in the early afternoon, long before the punditocracy weighed in.

Is Bachmann the new Joe McCarthy?  I’m no fan of Bachmann.  She demonizes and engages in lot of name calling. Her views are extremist.

But do I really believe she’s the new McCarthy?  No, I don’t.

The remark was made in the heat of the moment, under pressure from Matthews, without any nuance.  And then the blogsphere reacted in kind.

The other problem that does not serve the voters: the ENDLESS discussion of Bill Ayers.  Cable channels have given McCain proxies volumomous airtime to disseminate outright fallacies that are nothing but a distraction from the real issues. 

Chris Matthews especially like to respond to the chum.  Yet, he does little or nothing to  shed  light on the situation.

Two cases in point:  during the very same Bachmann interview, she carried this GOP talking point that I’ve heard over and over and over again. "Barack Obama’s career was launched in Bill Ayers living room."  Matthews said nothing.  Zero, zilch, nothing. He was too busy enacting his entrapment agenda.

Yesterday, on Sunday’s edition of Hardball, Matthews allowed Joe Scarborough carry on endlessly about Ayers, even though Obama’s association with Ayers has been proven to be tenuous at best.  Then Joe repeated verbatim the McCain "Obama’s career was launched..blah, blah, blah."

Paraphrasing: "That’s not true," Matthews pointed out although he was drowned out by Scarborough.  "Oh, well, whatever it was," replied Scarborough.  "And that’s it for Hardball today!" says Matthews.

That’s it?  Sorry that the inconvenient facts don’t support the  talking points, Joe.  Joe and Chris are popular MSNBC pundits.  They could bone up on the issue.  Here’s the Chicago Sun-Times story, written by Washington Bureau chief Lynn Sweet, on the Ayers smear.

And the other cable channel that covered the Ayers story in a fairly balanced fashion (for them) was… Fox News.  yes, Fox.  The Sean Hannity smear - in which virulent and clearly obsessive anti-Semite Andy ?????? was trotted out as a primary source on the Ayers, notwithstanding - Fox aired a special on Sunday night called "Ties That Bind" hosted by Greta Van Susternen.

Unfortunately, Fox still used old saw Stanley Kurtz to make the specious Ayers claims.  Kurtz is a one-man Obama-hater and he’s not exactly the most credible source.

Still,  Fox balanced out Kurtz by interviewing University of Chicago Law School professor Richard Epstein, well-know and highly respected in conservative circles.  Epstein has true red-cred (read his Wikipedia page here) and he debunked the Ayers connection, and rejected categorically the "Obama as radical leftist" label.

So, while Chris Matthews is busy playing Trivial Pursuit, real issues that should have a public vetting go unnoticed.  Case in point: McCain’s medical/melanoma issues were thoroughly and carefully explored in the NYT’s today.  Never in a presidential race have we had a presidential candidate with such clear, and dangerous terminal cancer issues paired with a seriously unqualified vice presidential candidate. 

This is an extremely serious issue that voters need to take into account as they consider their presidential choice.  But has this issue received even one one-hundreth the attention as ridiculous spotlight on Bill Ayers?  No.  And that’s a disservice. 

Over the past few days, I’ve been watching an awful lot of cable news, tracking how cable channels cover the Presidential campaign.  I’ve seen so much bad information, poor reporting and propaganda spouting that I’m forced to concluded that many cable news pundits are at best misinformed and perhaps not widely read.

Let’s take Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough as a case in point.  I just watched Joe Scarborough spout fallacies about the Bill Ayers issue - fallacies lifted directly off GOP talking points, clearly.  I heard the VERY same fallacies spouted by GOP Congresswoman Bachmann on Matthews Hardball the other day.

A big one: Barack Obama’s "career was launched in Bill Ayers living room." This phrase is employed verbatim by all GOP and their supporters.

And in both instances, Chris Matthews has allowed the false assertion to pass unchallenge or nearly so.  I wonder if Matthews and Scarborough have bothered to read this Chicago Sun-Times piece about GOP smear tactics being employed in this regard.

Fox News is the network lately that produced a much more balanced piece lately on the Ayers issue, in a documentary hosted by Greta Van Susternen.

CNN daytime isn’t much better.  I spent the better part of my Friday watching cable news and during the hours I screened the anchors were remarkably ill-informed. 

I was tweeting my responses at the time.

October