The likes of Chuck Todd and Candy Crowley must have a hard time finding pacifists to interview.
In a two-week, three-episode span in September, America’s prominent Sunday news talk shows featured 89 guests talking about U.S. military options in Syria and Iraq. Only one of those guests, The Nation’s editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, would count as “anti-war.” The situation barely improves if you add in cable talk shows: Out of a total 205 guests discussing military options in the same period, just six opposed intervention, versus 125 who spoke in favor of it.
The numbers, compiled by progressive media watchdog group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), show how out of touch these shows are with the country as a whole, even as they remain Beltway obsessions. They also illustrate in stark terms how little has changed in the decade since monotonous, stenographic journalism paved the way for the Iraq War. Apparently, for these DC programs, being perceived as “serious” still trumps the opportunity to introduce fresh voices and contrarian perspectives.
FAIR’s research, which was the period from September 7 to September 21, included the Sunday shows Meet The Press, from NBC; CBS’ Face The Nation; ABC’s This Week; Fox News Sunday; and CNN’s State of the Union. Weekday cable shows surveyed include MSNBC’s Hardball, CNN’s The Situation Room, and MSNBC’s Special Report.
Yes, polls have shown that a majority of Americans are in favor of military strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, including 73 percent of respondents to a CNN poll conducted around the same time as FAIR’s research. But close to 20 percent oppose any military action, including the strikes authorized by President Barack Obama. And that group is drastically underrepresented on cable and Sunday news talk shows. You would have a better chance at seeing David Gregory hosting one of those shows again than you would to find multiple anti-war advocates on them.
There’s not much evidence the shows themselves see much need for reform, which is odd, given their diminishing popularity. CBS’ Bob Schieffer recently broadcast a self-congratulatory montage of his favorite highlights from the history of his Sunday show Face the Nation and explained that he loved his job and that “It doesn’t get much better than that.” It could get better than that — the Sunday shows could have some shred of relevance to the millennial and Generation Y demographics, for example — but at the end of the day it looks like the Beltway media establishment would rather endure apathy and declining ratings than give a platform to uncomfortably dissenting voices.
Image: NBC News