Thursday, August 16, 2012

Poison & Truth

As our longtime readers know, we like to occasionally take the time to call politicians and public figures of all stripes on the lies and distortions they perpetrate, just as we like to give them kudos when they do something well.

Especially over the last week, you may have noticed a lot of crying in the media by the Romney/Ryan campaign and its surrogates that everyone is being mean to them. More than a few of our journalistic colleagues who fake their impartiality poorly have attempted to claim that this year's Presidential campaign is pouring more poison and meanness into the campaign than ever, with equal offenses being committed on both sides.

To borrow a turn of phrase from Mr. Romney, that's a load of baloney.

The people we're calling out today - and the people to whom we are awarding kudos - are some of our own fellow members of the media.

Far too many surrogates from both campaigns have stuck their heads in front of cameras and microphones and said things this year that were less than perfectly honest. It's politics, not beanbag, so we expect a least a good dose of that from all sides.

What we rarely see, however, is the kind of in-interview insistence on holding a candidate or surrogate responsible that we saw from both CNN's Soledad O'Brien and MSNBC's Chuck Todd over the last two days.

O'Brien had invited former New Hampshire governor and Romney surrogate John Sununu onto her show Tuesday to talk about the campaign. Sununu attempted to bully, bluster, talk over, and push talking points on O'Brien, as he often does with members of the media. This time, however, O'Brien stood her ground and did what real journalists should do: she called him on it. This only served to make the bully Sununu even more angry.

To which our response is, "If you can't stand the heat, Mr. Sununu, stay out of the kitchen."

On Wednesday, Chuck Todd invited Iowa Governor Terry Branstad onto his show to discuss several issues.

However, the Governor got stuck on a single talking point that was a blatant lie: that the work requirement of 'Workfare' had been removed by President Obama. Much as O'Brien did on Tuesday, Todd stood his ground, and refused to let the Iowa governor bake his right-wing lie into the interview.

To both O'Brien and Todd we give our most profound respect today - which means a good deal, as we have previously excoriated both hosts for ducking this most difficult part of journalism.

As Steve Benen noted on Wednesday, letting candidates and their surrogates lie, "...is infinitely more serious and consequential than whether one candidate hurt another candidate's feelings in a spate of rhetorical excesses. Millions of people will elect a president in 12 weeks based on faulty understandings of basic truths because they ended up falling for a con -- a con made possible because media professionals let it happen."

If you represent a candidate, and you lie to our faces, you SHOULD be called on it, right there, on the spot. No, both sides will NOT do everything equally - so it's also long past time all members of the media stopped that kind of false equivalency.

When one side lies more - and there will always be one side that lies more than the other - we need to call it for what it is.

Members of the media - especially those in news and news-related products -  simply don't have the luxury of time to beat around the bushes anymore.

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