One might get this precise impression.
On Monday, when CNN fired Donna Brazile thanks to Wikileaks disclosing the unfortunate and inconvenient fact that she hadn’t just given Hillary Clinton one debate question in advance but had done it at least twice, a writer at Slate named Ben Mathis-Lilley penned a piece entitled “Why Stop at Donna Brazile? Let’s Purge All the Political Hacks on Cable News.”
The reasoning could be found here…
Promoting the interests of politicians is just what political operatives do. But the practice of paying operatives who personally benefit from the success of certain candidates/narratives to make ostensibly earnest, objective declarations about American politics is an absurd one. (And one that flows from the oft-derided “gotta hear both sides” teeveeland paradigm in which there is is no objective reality, only two parties making competing claims between commercial breaks.) Paul Begala, Karl Rove, Ana Navarro, James Carville, Alex Castellanos, Frank Luntz, and their ilk dip in and out of roles as journalistic “contributors” to cable news networks to take paid work for candidates, parties, and causes. In many cases, the journalism and the business overlap. (In July, Slate overheard Fox News’ Rove at the Republican National Convention pitching another conventiongoer on a “tremendous opportunity” apparently involving a massive government contract.) The pundit panels that networks convene after debates and big speeches are, in essence, pitch meetings in which strategists sell themselves to prospective clients.
The most obvious ongoing exemplar of this idiocy, of course, is former Trump goon Corey Lewandowski, who was fired as campaign manager in June and then immediately hired by CNN. Trump kept paying Lewandowski until August, and Lewandowski was seen on Trump’s campaign plane (among Trump’s aides, not among other journalists) in October. If Trump wins and Lewandowski’s view of the race becomes conventional wisdom, Lewandowski benefits personally; CNN is basically paying Lewandowski for the privilege of televising a daily infomercial called “Help Corey Lewandowski Get a Plum Job in the White House While Lining Up Consulting Gigs for 2018.”
CNN wholly deserves the flak it deserves for employing this modern Goebbels. But if CNN didn’t pay him, another network would. The only thing that can stop the cycle is general public shame, a revolt of the cable-viewing proletariat in which we join together to call on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox to fire all the Lewandowskis and Braziles, so that we may build, anew, a society in which more deserving and insightful experts become TV politics personalities. I’d suggest that more networks start booking Slate bloggers, for example—but then again, I’m biased.
More on that rationale later, but on Tuesday morning Stephanie Grace published her latest column at the Baton Rouge Advocate’s website, entitled “CNN right to take Donna Brazile off air, and it shouldn’t stop there” and containing this interestingly familiar bit of punditry…
Brazile has been licking her wounds on Twitter since the news broke, and has called appropriately tough questioning by Fox News’ Megyn Kelly persecution, even as she refused to clear up the facts. She’s tried to shift the focus back to the improper obtainment of the private emails, which is a fair point but one that doesn’t excuse her behavior. CNN was right to sever the relationship, and frankly, it shouldn’t stop there.
Also hopelessly tainted are analysts such as Corey Lewandowski, the fired Donald Trump campaign manager who’s been an on-air commentator on the network even as the campaign continued to pay him for several months. He should go, as should anyone else whose main agenda is to promote rather than elucidate, whose outside obligations or relationships limit his or her willingness to honestly assess the landscape.
Grace then cited a POLITICO column by Jack Shafer which contained similar complaints about the cable news industry and all the politicos brought in to opine on current events, but it didn’t quite come off as similar to Grace’s column as that Slate piece did.
Without going overboard into accusations of plagiarism in Grace’s column, we’ll just note the interesting similarity of the reasoning.
And its meager quality.
We’ll not make a brief for cable news and the constant adversarial food fight that goes on at CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and so forth. The basic judgement that having Democrat and Republican politicos argue about every item in the news constitutes crappy television is correct, and it’s one reason cable news generally isn’t watchable anymore.
That being said, the Shafers, Mathis-Lilleys and Graces of the world hardly have a better option on offer. What they’d bring to replace the food fight is “journalists” reporting “news” instead.
Meaning instead of a 50-50 argument presented as such, we’ll get a 90-10 slant to what’s offered on cable news in favor of the Democrats, because the profession of “journalism” is chiefly made up of Democrats.
All three to some extent decry the false notion of “fair and balanced” with respect to the food fight contributors they want to get rid of, but what they offer is imbalance to replace it.
And the entire premise of Donna Brazile getting fired serving as some sort of catalyst to exile all the politicos from cable news is a fraudulent one. Brazile wasn’t fired from CNN because she was too partisan; nobody at CNN is stupid enough to believe she brings objectivity to the table by this point. She was fired because her honesty and integrity were called into question with the news she had stolen CNN’s debate questions to give to Hillary Clinton and therefore destroyed CNN’s objectivity and integrity.
We don’t need to get into too vigorous a defense of Corey Lewandowski to recognize that for all his faults he’s not been accused of stealing debate questions to give Trump. Maybe he’s guilty of that, and if it ever came out that he is then Grace and Mathis-Lilley and Shafer would be justified in demanding his head. Without that happening, though, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.
Maybe if someone at Deadspin or the Bleacher Report pens a piece demanding that all the ex-jocks get dumped at ESPN and Fox Sports 1, Grace could parrot that next time. It would make about as much sense and contain as much originality.