Saturday, February 9, 2008

MSNBC Needs to Stop Sniping at Hillary Clinton

I'm a devoted Obama supporter. I voted for him in the super-primary in New York last Tuesday, and am convinced he would make the best next President. But I am also a student - and a professor - of the media, as well as someone who wants to see the Democratic party strong, and it is for those reasons that I think it's time to say enough is enough already about the shoddy way MSNBC is treating Hillary Clinton's campaign for the Presidency.

It's not just David Shuster's astonishingly tasteless and unacceptable remark about the Clinton campaign "pimping out" Cheslea to campaign for her mother. MSNBC has apologized for that remark and suspended Shuster. Cheslea's campaigning for her mother has been nothing but laudable and classy. One wonders if Shuster or anyone would have used that term had a son been campaigning for his mother or father.

But any news operation could be subject to the loose tongue of a reporter or commentator, and the problem at MSNBC regarding Hillary Clinton goes much deeper.

You can hear and see it just about every night on Chris Matthews' Hardball. For some reason, he refers to a lot of things that Hillary Clinton has been doing in this campaign as being done not by Hillary Clinton but by "the Clintons".

What's that? If Matthews wants to claim that Bill Clinton as well as Hillary had something to do with a specific action or strategy of Hillary's, let him say so. But the constant reference to Hillary Clinton as "the Clintons" undermines Hillary Clinton as an individual and is demeaning.

Keith Olbermann is no angel in his attitude towards Hillary Clinton, either. When Olbermann attacks Rush Limbaugh by constantly calling him a "comedian," we all laugh. Olbermann's tick-like verbal attacks and facial expressions are usually welcome when they are directed at Fox News. But they have no place in supposedly even-handed coverage of a Presidential campaign. And although Olbermann is not as out there against Hillary Clinton as is Matthews, his comments about her are all too often studded with sarcasm and derision.

Indeed, of the MSNBC nighttime regulars, only Dan Abrams has been consistently even-handed and non-ad-hominem.

It may well be that, by the time this election is over, MSNBC will have become the liberal equivalent of what Fox News has been for conservatives. That would be good news for CNN, but bad news for the American people, who could certainly benefit from three unbiased cable news networks - or, at least two.

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