An Actual Act of Journalism

I’m not a huge Andrea Mitchell fan.  She is a true Washington insider – married to Alan Greenspan – and I wonder sometimes if the bubble she lives in affects her reporting.

But yesterday on Meet the Press she actually committed an act of journalism and challenged a claim made by Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS).  When asked why the Benghazi Committee had called on Clinton aides like Sid Blumenthal and Huma Abedin rather than those who could actually speak to the security situation and possible failures, Mr. Pompeo responded that “…Secretary Clinton relied on Mr. Blumenthal for most of her intelligence.”

Though I expect this kind of claim will resonate with many conservatives – it could feed their general sense of the Clintons as corrupt officials who rely on a shady cabal of allies – to most this claim sounds silly on its face.  Ms. Mitchell challenges the claim: “That is factually not true.”  Transcript below the fold.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

But let’s just say, if the reason for existence is to find out did Hillary Clinton make a grievous error in not following up security complaints, how could she tell the various investigating committees that that was below her, that it never reached her level? That could be a legitimate reason. But why then do you call Sid Blumenthal and Huma Abedin and all of these other personal aides and non-aides, why have you focused so much on emails and not on the central question of why was the security failure at that consulate?

REP. MIKE POMPEO:

Well, we have focused on the central failure. We have focused on the security issues. And we will continue, you’ll see lots of questions about that on Thursday. But let me speak to Mr. Blumenthal. Because directly to the security issue, we see now that former Secretary Clinton relied on Mr. Blumenthal for most of her intelligence. That if she wants to rely–

ANDREA MITCHELL:

That is factually not true.

REP. MIKE POMPEO:

No it is absolutely true.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Relied on Mr. Blumenthal for most of her intelligence?

REP. MIKE POMPEO:

Ms. Mitchell, take a look at the email trails and you will see–

ANDREA MITCHELL:

That’s just– I cover the State Department. That is just factually not correct.

See the clip here.

Yes, that’s right.  A member of the institutional media elite called a member of the institutional political elite a liar on national television.

We need more of this.  The ability of American elites in media and politics to simply lie like dogs to the American people causes a great deal of our political and economic dysfunction.  It permits a framing of policy issues and the nature of society that privileges the wealthy and otherwise advantaged over those with little economic and political power.

I once met Gwen Ifill at a conference and asked her why pundits don’t call out factually incorrect statements more often.  She responded that in the heat of the moment during live broadcasts it’s difficult to think quickly and make sure that they have the facts straight.

This seems intuitively fair enough, except that I would think that someone earning a fat paycheck interviewing people on television would learn how to prepare for the discussion, including notes on what kinds of things the interviewee has said in the past and whether they have a basis in reality.  That politicians especially settle on a set of talking points they repeat whether or not relevant to the question actually asked should make this pretty easy.

I suspect it’s another issue entirely: Meet the Press cannot exist if people like Mr. Pompeo refuse to come on the show, so the network incentive is to softball them.  To be sure, politicians want the exposure national shows like this give them, but they’ll like it less if the shows refuse to simply let them say anything they like, unchallenged.

Those trying to figure this out may also want to pay attention to the ads shown during shows like Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and others.  Attentive viewers will see lots of ads for large corporations, including defense corporations, making the case that they do good in the world.  Remember that television executives want to please advertisers more than viewers, and only part of their calculation has anything to do with producing watchable content.  Just as the networks need political and corporate elites to appear as part of the content the provide, they need advertising dollars to pay for this.  And that content matters to advertisers like Boeing, Archer Daniels Midland, and BP.  The won’t support it with ad dollars if it challenges their business models.

It’s really that simple.  And it’s really good to see Andrea Mitchell go against the grain for once.

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