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Bill Press

Bill Press

Posted: February 9, 2008 01:54 PM

Caught in the Middle of David Shuster's Screwup


Meet the man in the middle. MSNBC's David Shuster was suspended for a question about Chelsea Clinton he asked -- me!

Appearing as a guest on Tucker last Thursday, with Shuster sitting in as guest host, I was puzzled when he brought up Chelsea's increasingly prominent role in the campaign and suggested that this was somehow "unseemly." Not at all, I responded. She was campaigning for her mom. Just like the Bush twins stumped for their dad. What's unseemly about that? (I should have, but didn't, think of mentioning the five Romney sons).

But Shuster persisted. Chelsea was even calling super delegates. Wasn't she being "pimped" into a more active role? Even though I winced at the word "pimped," I stuck to my point that Chelsea's campaigning for her mother is what family members always do. Like Michelle Obama, campaigning for her husband. No big deal. "Give Chelsea a break," I told Shuster.

Did his question merit suspension? Absolutely. Shuster's a damned good reporter, who's always been religiously fair. But even the best of us can sometimes go over the line. Chris Matthews did, earlier. This time, it was Shuster. Except he, unlike Matthews, has to pay the price.

But, of course, this isn't the first sign of media bias, intended or unintended. What's most disturbing about Shuster's pimp remark is that it reinforces the impression of media bias in this campaign.

It began with the networks' deciding which candidates were serious and which were not -- and therefore ignoring qualified contenders like Joe Biden or Ron Paul. It continued with the media's admitted infatuation with John McCain and Barack Obama. It culminated with the media's declaring open season on the Clintons. In contrast to fawning reports about Obama crowds, every story about the Clinton campaign is sprinkled with snide, critical, even crude, comments about Hillary or Bill. Now not even Chelsea is spared.

Enough's enough. The media's role is to report on the primaries, not decide the primaries. No candidate deserves favorable treatment. The media should treat all of them equally badly. That's their job. And there's a big difference between their job and ours. To bend a phrase: "They report. We decide."