(This is an item from our new blog: Unofficial Sources.)
MSNBC TV personality Joe Scarborough pled “guilty” to not giving the major Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal enough coverage when I spoke to him about the issue over the weekend.
I caught up with the Morning Joe cohost at the First in the Nation conference in Nashua, New Hampshire, a gathering of potential Republican presidential candidates and local activists. Scarborough spoke onstage about the importance of media diversity, encouraging his audience to listen to all sides of the ideological spectrum.
Afterward, I asked about major media coverage of the controversial and far-reaching Trans-Pacific Partnership. Transcript records show that NBC and MSNBC, with the exception of The Ed Show, have barely covered the TPP trade deal, even though it impacts 40 percent of the global market.
“There hasn’t been,” Scarborough said, laughing. “Richard Haass brought this up. He came on set. President of the CFR [Council on Foreign Relations]. He said he wanted to talk about this and I poked him and said, ‘C’mon, let’s talk about the new Star Wars trailer.’ So I’m laughing because you’re talking about that and I’ve gotta count myself sort of guilty on that front. But I do think we’re going to talk about it a lot more.”
Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., called on Hillary Clinton and other candidates to reject the deal. The news, Scarborough noted, would mean the networks would have to begin covering the issue.
In 1994, Scarborough, a former Republican legislator, said free trade deals were an important part of his bid for Congress. “I campaigned against NAFTA, I campaigned against GATT. I campaigned against it … When I ran, I was anti-NAFTA, baby.”
The Morning Joe cohost explained that policymakers must grapple with the myriad issues presented by the TPP agreement. “I think it does put a lot of American workers at a disadvantage. I have no problem with free trade and I’m inclined for free trade but people have bowed at the altar of free trade as if it’s some sort of sacrosanct issue that you can never cross or never question. I just don’t believe in blind free trade,” he argued, citing stagnating wages for U.S. workers.
We also chatted about lack of coverage of MSNBC’s parent company Comcast and its takeover bid of rival Time Warner Cable, a merger of the nation’s largest and second largest cable companies. Transcripts show only a passing reference to the proposed deal on a MSNBC Saturday morning political trivia program.
“I’m not a real expert on it so I don’t really know how it’s going to go down. I don’t know the issues of it. I think at the end of the day it’s going to be up to the regulators to see if that makes a lot of sense,” said Scarborough. “I do know this, as a guy who’s lived in Manhattan, most of the people in Manhattan aren’t brokenhearted that Time Warner Cable might not be in charge of the Manhattan boxes any more. The service is pretty bad.”
Scarborough reasoned that because so many media outlets are now on the Internet, he’s not worried about concentrated media power. “If it were 20 or 30 years ago, I’d be worried about the squeezing of content. I’m just not worried about that now.”
Last week, I reported on hacked Sony emails revealing that despite a near broadcast media blackout of coverage of the TPP, media executives, including those from Comcast-NBC, have been closely engaged in lobbying for aspects of the agreeement.
Though Comcast’s television news networks have devoted little coverage to the TPP or the mega-merger with TWC, lobbying records show the firm has spent millions of dollars to influence policymakers on both issues.
Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty