Last month, on the Huffington Post, I wrote about NBC's "Erin Burnett problem" after she relentlessly spouted Wall Street talking points on Meet The Press.
I pointed out that we have a bunch of "embedded" reporters on Wall Street -- like we did at the start of the Iraq War -- who feel so dependent on their sources for access that they don't ask tough questions or give the public the information we desperately need to be informed during this time of crisis. (Jon Stewart later proved this point beautifully in his epic critique of CNBC.)
Well, NBC's Erin Burnett problem is back.
This morning, on Morning Joe, for no apparent reason, she blurted out, "I'm going to throw this out there, it's just a question..." and then went on a long rant about "the whole question about unemployment benefits themselves." As in, should they even exist?
After all, she pointed out, they don't have them in China (the epitome of a pro-worker country). She asked, "Does that encourage people in places like China to go get jobs more quickly rather than waiting to exhaust their unemployment benefits?"
Donny Deutsch, who happened to be on the set with Scarborough, helpfully pointed out, "Erin, if you met some people who are out of work right now, I don't think they'd be telling you that they're not working because they're waiting for unemployment benefits to run out."
Burnett agreed, "No doubt." But then said, "We get a lot of emails where people say, maybe they do wait a little bit." She added that she has no opinion on it, but people are talking about it so "it's fair to bring up."
Obviously, Burnett appreciates viewer email so much that she's willing to repeat even the most uninformed ones on air. For all my critique of Burnett, her openness to emails from the public is commendable.
So, let's email her some feedback on what we think her role as a CNBC Wall Street reporter should be: SquawkOnTheStreet@cnbc.com
Here's my email, sent this morning -- feel free to put yours in the comments below!
From: Adam Green
To: "Burnett, Erin"
Date: Thu, Mar 12, 2009 at 9:28 AM
Subject: wow - seriously?
Hi -- this is Adam Green. I saw Morning Joe this morning. I don't know what to say except, "seriously?"
Did you really just use your platform as a journalist to hold PEOPLE APPLYING FOR UNEMPLOYMENT's feet to the fire? You think the reason people aren't finding jobs is because they are lounging around, coasting off their unemployment checks - seriously?
That was one of the most out-of-touch things I've ever seen. You appeared oblivious to the fact that many of the CEOs you interview continue to give themselves exorbitant salaries at the same time they lay off $30,000-a-year employees. You also seem oblivious to the fact that, for economic stimulus, unemployment checks happen to be one of the best returns on invest out there, next to food stamps -- will you be taking on people on food stamps next?
You hid behind your emails, saying you were just relaying what you heard over email, so let me give you an excuse to do your job in this email: Your job during these economic times is to hold WALL STREET ACCOUNTABLE. You should be asking your sources tough questions that debunk any mis-truths they are telling to the public, and pressing them on claims that are too good to be true (see Jon Stewart's recent CNBC montages for countless examples of CEOs saying their companies were fine weeks before going under).
Your job is to ask questions to Wall Street that are so hard that you actively lose a couple sources that you've cultivated for years -- why? Because as a journalist, you are supposed to be a watchdog for the public, not for Wall Street.
Will you commit to doing that? Some time in the next week, will you randomly insert into a conversation something that calls out a Wall Street executive for policies that hurt the little guy and hurt the economy?
I'll likely be blogging this on Huffington Post, so please consider this on the record and a request for comment.
Note: If she comments, I'll update.