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Robert Guttman

Robert Guttman

Posted: October 21, 2009 04:37 PM

Obama: Change the Channel

What's Your Reaction:

"An elite corps of impudent snobs" who are "hopeless, hysterical, hypochondriacs of history" and "nattering nabobs of negativism" said former Vice-President Spiro Agnew about the media in the United States when he served under President Richard Nixon.

And, going back to the press in the days of Thomas Jefferson there were many scurrilous comments about the candidates and politicians that were vitriolic from newspapers who were known for being completely biased in their views.

So having a biased press in the United States and having high ranking politicians and government leaders complain about the press is nothing new at all in the history of American politics.

When the Obama administration complains about a biased media and in particular FOX News they, of course, have a valid point. The "fair and balanced" network is known for its right of center positions. And MSNBC is known for its biased views on the left side of the political equation.

I am teaching a graduate course this semester entitled "The Media and Presidential Politics" at Johns Hopkins Graduate School of Government. Looking at presidents from JFK through George W. Bush there has always been criticism of the media and charges of bias in the press.

LBJ used to watch his three television screens at night and if he didn't like one of the stories would call up the head of that particular network and complain. George W. Bush was known to comment on the liberal bias of the New York Times during his tenure in office. So, why the huge uproar over the Obama administration's attacks on Fox News? It is not really a major news story. Fox News is biased -- we all know that. No White House staff likes to be criticized so they attack the media -- end of story.

However, it seems like the White House is picking a strange fight at the moment. Fox News under Rupert Murdoch is not going to change their views and opinions. Out of the total population very few Americans watch Fox News or even much news on any television network.

It is rather odd to pick this fight with Fox News. All it does is elevate their commentators and anchors to a level that people might tune in to see what all the fuss is about. Why in the world would the White House want to give this network any publicity at all?

If the president is trying to appeal to his base and win support for these criticisms it is also a rather useless ploy. Saying Fox News is biased is not a new revelation to anyone on the left and if it is then these people need to get out more.

I was on a talk show twenty years ago and the conservative guest was yelling at me for watching Dan Rather on CBS News because he thought Rather was way too liberal and was misleading the country with his views. I would tell the Obama administration the same thing I told this person when I was on the talk show. I told him to turn off CBS News by turning off his television set and take his young sons bowling.

There is nothing written in the Constitution or anywhere in the law that anyone has to watch any television channel or TV show. If you don't like a particular news channel don't watch it or better yet don't even turn on your television set.

This is a non-news story and the White House would be wise to move onto more serious issues like the approaching 10% unemployment figure coming soon and what to do in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and the Middle East -- not to mention health care. If and when the president finds solutions to all these serious problems of the day we will congratulate him and we can be certain that Fox News will have the opposite point of view.

So move on, Obama White House, and forget about Fox News.

Change the channel!

 

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