Send To Printer Email to Friend

Cable Networks - Including C-SPAN - Scrub Democratic Press Conferences
Roxanne Jekot

For years, I ignored the daily press briefings and conferences of the Washington politicians. After the scandalous selection of George W. Bush by the Supreme Court, however, I became infinitely more attuned to the politics of this country. My anger at this action left me no alternative but to find an outlet for my stunned disappointment and rage at this devastating blow to our democracy.

I'm not even sure how I found it, but I stumbled upon DemocraticUnderground.com, where there is a message board dealing with all things political. The issues of the day are debated and detailed among friendly, involved Democrats of all stripes.

My contribution to the community at DU, along with several others, is to type a running transcript of press briefings, press conferences and the breaking news items on the message boards, so our compatriots stuck in work cubicles can stay up to date on the day's happenings. Considering my previous lack of interest, this work has been nothing short of a revelation.

My compatriots and I have noted, on many occasions, that the major news outlets tend to scrub and deflect the Democratic political message.

Let me give you an example: White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer gives a daily press briefing that is televised on almost every cable news station - CNN/MSNBC/FoxNews - without interruption and from start to finish. A breaking news story may interrupt occasionally. Typically, each weekday at around 12:30 you can find Ari on TV. Likewise, around 1:00 each weekday you can find Donald Rumsfeld or a member of the Pentagon on each channel. More often than not, this schedule is set in stone.

However, when there is a press briefing/conference scheduled by a Democratic politician, we are lucky if it is covered at all, by any of the news outlets that religiously report on the most picayune White House messages.

On a slow news day, MSNBC/FOX/CNN will announce a Democratic press conference at a specific time, and all my fellow DU media watchers will congregate to hear what they may have to say. It has been a disturbing revelation to see how rare such an occurrence actually is, and how often the Democratic message is distorted or discarded by the news media.

On January 4, 2002, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle was scheduled to give a press briefing on the economic situation of the US. We eagerly awaited his words at computer screens across the US. Mr. Daschle was speaking at the National Press Club, along with Robert Reich and Leon Panetta. The news stations did no coverage of Mr. Reich or Mr. Panetta and deemed only to cover Mr. Daschle's words. Mr. Daschle proceeded to present a 7-point discussion on the budget and economic situation facing us. You can find the DU thread covering his discussion here:


As you can see from this thread, the news stations cut Mr. Daschle off well before the completion of his speech. MSNBC cut away before Mr. Daschle had even completed Point #5 of 7, in order to provide White House advisor Karen Hughes and Republican Congressman J. C. Watts an opportunity to speak about how horrid Mr. Daschle and his comments were. It is worth reiterating that their critiques were aired BEFORE Mr. Daschle was finished speaking.

I'll give you a more recent example. On February 12, 2002 the Congressional hearings into Enron were being conducted and aired on CSPAN3. CSPAN is the one of the only stations that has deemed the investigation into the largest corporate bankruptcy in US history important enough to televise from gavel to gavel. We must, however, give CNBC credit for showing some of the hearings on a split screen while commentators babble away mindlessly telling us what it all means. At least they deem it important, unlike CNN/MSNBC/FoxNews.

However, just as Mr. Mintz, Enron in-house attorney, was about to testify about important names he discovered in his investigation, CSPAN3 suddenly deemed it necessary to discontinue coverage. Instead, they interrupted the Enron hearings to show a special about the Air Force One museum. You can read the DU thread on this here:

Powers hearing on C-span:

These stations cut away to commercials, or re-runs of Ashleigh Banfield in Afghanistan, or to anything but a Democratic speaker. In particular, a Democratic speaker who had valid, important comments to make about how our country is being run by Mr. Bush and his cohorts has no chance for the full and complete coverage enjoyed by spokesmen for the GOP.

This is not new, and it is not unique to Mr. Daschle. You'll find many transcripts among the archives of DU where this behavior occurs with any Democratic speaker.

It's clear to the viewer that a sudden "pull the plug" order is issued during these conferences, and the commentators are forced to find something, anything, else to talk about. The day's news is scrubbed of anything a Democrat has to say.

It's obvious to the viewer that the Fairness Doctrine, once the rule that ensured a wide variety of viewpoints within the media, no longer has any standing whatsoever on the airwaves today.

In complete contrast to the links above, please take a moment to review the Ari Fleischer, Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft transcripts on DU below. Take a moment to compare the completeness of these broadcasts with those pertaining to Democrats above.

Karen Hughes:

Mr. Bush:

Ari Fleischer:

Donald Rumsfeld:

It is important that the population understand the manner in which our news, our information, and our knowledge is being "scrubbed" for us each day. The implications are frightening. We the People are supposed to rule this nation, but we can do so effectively only if provided all the facts from a broad array of viewpoints. It has been made abundantly clear to me that much of the media seeks to narrow the scope of American political debate. This, in turn, narrows democracy as a whole. All of us become victims when this happens.