Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Race Hustler And GE

There will be criticism, from the left, the far right, or simply from Americans who believe that with unemployment over 9%, a deal to raise the debt ceiling should not be fashioned to be a job-killer. But from whatever corner is expressed disappointment over a Democratic President encouraging the unraveling of the New Deal, it won't come from the guy holding down the 6:00 p.m. (Eastern) hour on MSNBC.

Until recently, that was the Young Turks' Cenk Uygur, who held the curious notion that Presidents should not be immune from criticism, even from the sole 24-hour cable news channel not partial to Barack Obama. Uygur fell victim to the corporate masters at the network, once owned by General Electric and now by Comcast, but with a substantial minority ownership still held by GE. He was replaced by Al Sharpton, who was the subject of a 60 Minutes profile (transcript here; video here, hopefully) on May 29, 2011, in which Lesley Stahl noted he is "now a trusted White House adviser who has become the president's go-to black leader campaigning around the country for President Obama and his agenda." Stahl added "the administration is rewarding him with access and assignments, like making him a spokesman for their education policy and sending him on the road with Newt Gingrich, of all people, to build support for hiring better teachers. " Moreover,

Sharpton told us that having a black president is a challenge: if he finds fault with Mr. Obama, he'd be aiding those who want to destroy him. So he has decided not to criticize the president about anything - even about black unemployment, which is twice the national rate.

Glenn Greenwald (who has found Sharpton "a constructive political voice") rhetorically but pointedly asks

How can a media outlet such as MSNBC that purports to be presenting political journalism possibly employ someone as a journalist -- even an opinion journalist -- who publicly and categorically pledges never to criticize the President of the United States under any circumstances? That would be like hiring a physician who vows never to treat any diseases, or employing an auto mechanic who pledges never to fix any cars, or retaining a pollster who swears never to make any findings about public opinion. Holding people in political power accountable is the prime function -- the defining feature -- of a journalist, including a pundit; if you expressly and publicly vow never to do that, how can you possibly be credibly presented as being one? And how can the political analysis of someone who takes this pledge possibly be trusted as sincerely held, let alone accurate? Note that this vow was not from three years ago; it was from two months ago.

Why would MSNBC violate orthodox journalistic standards? Perhaps because Barack Obama appointed GE chairman Jeffrey Immelt as chairman of the President's Council on Jobs and Effectiveness. Or perhaps it's only a coincidence. In either case, the President's modus operandi is clear. Only one individual could have realistically challenged his re-nomination in 2012 and was appointed Secretary of State. An attractive, moderate, respected western governor who was interested in the GOP nomination to run against Obama in 2012 was appointed ambassador to mainland China. That is a liability almost impossible to overcome in a Repub primary, as Jon Huntsman will find out.

Long-time investigative reporter Wayne Barrett of The Daily Beast, identified in the 60 Minutes piece as having "written about Sharpton for more than 20 years," remarked

I think he has been a hustler all of his career.... I think he's in the civil rights business, I don't think he's a civil rights leader. I think he's in the business. He has an organization called the National Action Network; nobody knows what has happens to all that money.

It's disturbing that General Electric avoids income taxes, its chairman is appointed to a potentially influential position, and MSNBC hires an Obama acolyte to hold forth for an hour nightly.

Additionally, however, as the Immelt/Murdoch truce over the petty Olbermann/O'Reilly feud suggested, the pro-Administration MSNBC and previously pro-Administration Fox News may have more in common than it appears. The sacking of Uygur and his replacement with Sharpton prompts Greenwald to observe

Of course, never criticizing the President was the overarching credo of Fox News during the Bush years, but that's one of the features that made it so pernicious; besides, not even Fox took a public pledge never to do so.


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