The Republican National Committee has pulled out of its Feb. 26 debate with NBC News after widespread criticism from both the party and campaigns over this week's CNBC debate.By the way:
"CNBC network is one of your media properties, and its handling of the debate was conducted in bad faith," RNC chairman Reince Priebus wrote in a letter to NBC News chairman Andrew Lack.
"I have tremendous respect for the First Amendment and freedom of the press. However, I also expect the media to host a substantive debate on consequential issues important to Americans. CNBC did not."
Important to note: the NBC exec in charge of the suspended 2/26 debate, Andy Lack, doesn't oversee CNBC... it operates independently...— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) October 30, 2015
But that's irrelevant. Despite Priebus's pro forma invocation of the Bill of Rights, he's trying to silence dissent. How do I know that? I've been told that many times by the conservative media.
You see, every so often the Obama White House does something to express its displeasure with Fox News -- the channel isn't shut down, and its executives aren't hauled off to prison the way they would be in a truly totalitarian state. In fact, Fox is thriving. But to hear Fox commentators talk -- particularly faux-liberal Kristin Powers -- you'd think that the administration's critiques of Fox, and failure to tick off the Fox box while making media rounds, is the equivalent of sending Roger Ailes off to rot away in a gulag.
Here's Powers earlier this year:
Kirsten Powers doesn’t mince words when discussing what she calls the “illiberal silencing tactics” of the left, including those employed by the Obama administration.And here's Powers at FoxNews.com in 2013:
“It goes without saying that if George Bush had done this, he would have been Hitler,” she said of the Obama administration’s attempt to “delegitimize” Fox News....
While speaking to a small group of reporters Monday at The Heritage Foundation, Powers explained how the tactic works, using the Obama administration’s attack on Fox News as an example:
“They go around to ABC and CNN and say, ‘We’re not going to listen to them, and neither should you.’ To me, it’s so unprecedented,” she said.
They can’t handle any dissent. It’s got to be completely 100 percent behind what they want -- they don’t want to debate, they won’t send anybody on Fox News. … It goes without saying that if George Bush had done this, he would have been Hitler. If George Bush had come out and named a news organization … I can’t even imagine what would have happened.
Obama vs. Fox News -- behind the White House strategy to delegitimize a news organizationSo does that mean we can say now that the Republican Party is trying to "silence any dissent" by "delegitimizing" NBC? (I know the GOP isn't the White House, but it does control both houses of Congress and the governments of a large majority of states, which makes it pretty damn powerful.)
... In a recent interview with The New Republic, President Obama was back to his grousing about the one television news outlet in America that won’t fall in line and treat him as emperor. Discussing breaking Washington's partisan gridlock, the president told TNR,"If a Republican member of Congress is not punished on Fox News...for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest, then you’ll see more of them doing it."
... This latest volley from the president is just one in a long line of comments from his White House as part of their campaign to silence any dissent they detect in the press corps.
Recently, the White House has kept Fox News off of conference calls dealing with the Benghazi attack, despite Fox News being the only outlet that was regularly reporting on it and despite Fox having top notch foreign policy reporters.
They have left Chris Wallace’s "Fox News Sunday" out of a round of interviews that included CNN, NBC, ABC and CBS for not being part of a “legitimate” news network. In October 2009, as part of an Obama administration onslaught against Fox News,White House senior adviser David Axelrod said on ABC’s “This Week” that the Fox News Channel is "not really a news station" and that much of the programming is "not really news."
Whether you are liberal or conservative, libertarian, moderate or politically agnostic, everyone should be concerned when leaders of our government believe they can intentionally try to delegitimize a news organization they don’t like.
In fact, if you are a liberal -- as I am -- you should be the most offended, as liberalism is founded on the idea of cherishing dissent and an inviolable right to freedom of expression.
In the past, when the White House tried to be sharp-elbowed with Fox, the rest of the press took Fox's side, as in October 2009:
... the White House has gone beyond words, reports CBS News senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield. Last Sept. 20, the president went on every Sunday news show - except Chris Wallace's show on FOX. And on Thursday, the Treasury Department tried to exclude FOX News from pool coverage of interviews with a key official. It backed down after strong protests from the press.So let's see. The GOP has canceled a debate on NBC. Three upcoming debates are scheduled on Fox News and Fox Business, but there are other Republican debates scheduled to take place on CNN and Salem Radio (twice), CBS, and ABC.
"All the networks said, that's it, you've crossed the line," said CBS News White House correspondent Chip Reid.
Will those media organizations stick up for NBC the way the rest of the media stuck up for Fox in '09? They should say that they no longer intend to be part of their debates, unless NBC's broadcast rights are restored.
But they won't. Instead, they'll kowtow to any of the party's demands (and to demands from the angry Republican candidates who are getting together to demand that the debate hosts lick their boots).
None of this rises to the level of "silencing tactics," you see. It's OK if you're a Republican.
UPDATE: John Cole is thinking similar thoughts.