16 March 2009

Media Matters: Watchdog group calls for change at CNBC

March 16, 2009 11:48 AM

Following comedian Jon Stewart's lead, liberal group Media Matters for America started a petition to urge CNBC to take a harder line with Wall Street executives.

(AP) - Some critics are seizing on comedian Jon Stewart's attacks of CNBC to launch an online petition drive urging the network to be tougher on Wall Street leaders.

The liberal media watchdog Media Matters for America and some economists are behind the effort, launched Monday. They're asking CNBC to hire economic voices with a track record of being right about the current crisis and do more to hold business leaders accountable.

CNBC has been in the firing line since Mr. Stewart pointed out on his Daily Show network personalities who, in retrospect, offered bad financial advice. After a week trading barbs with Mr. Stewart, Jim Cramer apologized for mistakes he'd made on his show, Mad Money.

CNBC had no immediate comment. A CNBC spokesman said last week that the network was proud of its record of offering diverse opinions on the economy.



During the past year, three MSNBC commentators have been suspended, reprimanded, fired, or forced to apologize for their sexist and/or racist comments. Rather than address these problems by proactively moving to make certain they do not happen in the first place, MSNBC has instead decided to use these controversies as part of an advertising campaign to promote its political coverage.

That's right -- MSNBC has turned the recent mea culpa by Hardball host Chris Matthews for his sexist comments into an advertising campaign, using clips of his statement to push MSNBC programming. Left on the cutting room floor, of course, are the portions in which Matthews acknowledged having been "callous," "nasty," and "dismissive" toward Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The pattern of sexism at MSNBC doesn't stop there. Last year MSNBC canceled its simulcast of host Don Imus' show for his racist and sexist comments targeting the Rutgers women's basketball players. It was only after a widespread outcry by individuals, employees of the network, and many organizations, including Media Matters, that the network took action. At the time, NBC News President Steve Capus promised to "continue the dialogue about what is appropriate conduct and speech."

The latest example of the systemic problem of sexism and misogyny on MSNBC's airwaves came last week from correspondent David Shuster when he stated, while talking about Chelsea Clinton's campaign activities on behalf of her mother, "doesn't it seem like Chelsea's sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way" by Sen. Clinton's presidential campaign. Following criticism from many who found Shuster's comments indefensible and demeaning, MSNBC suspended Shuster indefinitely and aired an apology from him that evening.

Many know of the high-profile controversies I've noted above, but what about the less publicized incidents of sexist and misogynistic commentary that have gone unacknowledged and uncorrected by NBC News and MSNBC? Media Matters has documented scores of examples. Just last year, MSNBC host Tucker Carlson said of Sen. Clinton: "[T]here's just something about her that feels castrating, overbearing, and scary." Further, Carlson has said of Clinton: "I have often said, when she comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs."

Just how seriously are these issues being taken?

With Americans going to the polls this year to select the next president of the United States, news organizations like NBC News and MSNBC have a sacred duty to be good stewards of accurate, balanced, and responsible political discourse.

These controversial comments undercut the foundations of what journalism should be. They turn political news coverage into a sideshow circus, diverting attention from and distorting the real issues Americans face daily.

Reasonable people of every political persuasion agree, as I'm sure you do, that sexist smears should not be a part of legitimate journalistic coverage of the issues or candidates in any race.

It's clear the management at NBC News and MSNBC has consistently failed to address what appears to be the core problem. Please take a moment to sign our petition and send a message to NBC News President Capus that the time for apologies has passed. The time for a real commitment to change is long since overdue. With your help, we can urge MSNBC to change the demeaning tone that its coverage all too often takes and truly address this disturbing pattern once and for all.

Thank you for your continued support.


David Brock

David Brock,
President & CEO
Media Matters for America



Thanks for all you do!
your values. Love your country.
And, remember: TOGETHER, We can make a DIFFERENCE!

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