Huffpo has a story up questioning whether or not MSNBC hosts should be “cheering Obama on” or taking him on. The story starts by asserting that MSNBC “could also be described these days as simply pro-Obama.”
There is truth in this and no one would deny that. Where the story goes off the rails is in comparing MSNBC with Fox News for comparably biased coverage. No less a beloved figure than Bill Clinton has compared the two networks saying that MSNBC “really has become our version of Fox,”. Much as I enjoy the opinions of Bill Clinton, he and the rest of those who compare the two networks are comparing nice healthy red succulent apples with old moldy rotten stinky oranges.
Lets start with the programming at the 2 networks in question. Who is Fox’s Joe Scarborough. What 3 hour long segment of the day is dedicated to the presentation of the news from a liberal point of view on Fox? Morning Joe isn’t exactly a 3 hour block in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep and not watching television. It is a block placed directly in morning prime time for the east coast. Not only is there no equivalent to a 3 hour block of Morning Joe at Fox, they do not offer any programming hosted by a liberal at any time of the day.
The Huffpo story references a study by Pew which purports to show that MSNBC had zero negative stories about President Obama, and zero positive stories about Mitt Romney while coverage on Fox was roughly the same in favor of Mitt Romney. That study does not reflect the coverage on Morning Joe because Scarborough favored Romney and did not favor Obama plain and simple. In fact Huffpo acknowledges this shortly following the Pew citation by saying: “the network’s top partisan hosts –- with the exception of former Republican Rep. Joe Scarborough –- seemed to circle the wagons around the Democratic president during his reelection bid”.
Why doesn’t the Pew study account for Scarborough’s show when looking at the tone of coverage for Fox and MSNBC, and why does Huffpo cite a study which they refute in the paragraph following the citation?
Looking at that study, even when we only consider the prime time lineup of MSNBC, Pew is wrong. Pew says that Obama did well in horserace stories compared with Romney and that MSNBC had no negative stories about Obama in the week prior to election day. But look at the transcript of Rachel Maddow’s program on Monday Nov. 5th, the day prior to the election and particularly her interview with Dan Rather:
RATHER: [T]hat may have been a mistake by the Obama forces. They came to the decision, for good reason from their standpoint, that they need to attack Governor Romney, particularly during the early summer months. But as you laid it out, they have a very strong case to make. This has been a consequential presidency. Now, plenty of people say yes, it`s wrong consequences.
But, you know, it`s hard to go wrong in a campaign when you have positives to accentuate, not to accentuate the positives at least in the last say six or eight weeks of the campaign. I don`t know why they didn`t do it. I think — when we look back on the election, particularly if President Obama should lose, they will regret not running some version of what you ran to open the program as the part (ph) of their campaign.
Is that Pews idea of a prime time MSNBC endorsement of Obama’s campaign and how they’ve played the horse race? Here is more of Rather’s biased take on Obama’s campaign the day before the election:
RATHER: Listen, if he doesn`t get women above 56 percent and particularly if younger women don`t turn out, then Obama`s chances may be doomed. And knowing that, why not emphasize, listen, I appointed two women to the Supreme Court who were the third and fourth women ever appointed to the court in the history of the country. I think they may have missed an opportunity not to accentuate that positive.
Sheesh… someone stop Rather from figuratively drooling all over the Obama campaign on TRMS! He obviously tried to create an air of inevitability to affect the outcome of the election. Thank goodness Pew is on the case regarding MSNBC cheerleading for Obama. I mean with quotes like “Obama`s chances may be doomed” Rather is obviously pushing a positive Obama horserace story here.
Frankly MSNBC is not like Fox because MSNBC hosts do not reliably parrot the party line. This was most recently demonstrated by the reaction of MSNBC hosts to the 1st Presidential debate when President Obama flat out bombed. Even as Obama surrogates put on their game faces and tried to make the best of a bad performance, MSNBC hosts did not pretend that he had won, pushing a false narrative to encourage their liberal viewers. In contrast following the next two debates, each won by President Obama by any objective standard, Fox hosts gamely pretended that Mitt Romney had obviously won those debates, because that was the official Republican party line.
That example points to the crucial difference. MSNBC hosts don’t parrot the party line even if they normally do agree with the party. Fox hosts always echo the party line regardless of the truth. With one notable exception MSNBC hosts are liberal. Fox hosts are invariably conservative. That said, the approach of each network to their programming is not comparable at all. Fox’s central role as THE Republican mouthpiece, no matter how wrongheaded Republicans may be, is not the model of MSNBC on the other side of the aisle.