Yes, it was wrong for MSNBC hosts to huddle with Obama

Rachel Maddow joined the huddle at the White House. (Source: Wikipedia)

Conservative media are in a huff this week over the group hug that President Obama reportedly held with hosts and pundits from MSNBC, the left-leaning news network.

And they should be.

The grim bit here isn’t that Obama invited a group of journalists that he clearly views as friendly to his administration.  That’s politics.

It’s his job to find and cultivate allies wherever he can to advance his agenda.

The fumble is that MSNBC’s crew — who purport to be, you know, journalists — took the meeting.

According to Huffingtonpost, a White House spokesman said the “Obama meeting Maddow, other progressives [was] to discuss importance of extending the Bush middle-class tax cut.”

Maddow reportedly joked that she was joining a “hippie cabal.”

This isn’t quite on par with Fox News attempting to recruit its own presidential candidates, but its far too cozy and collaborative a relationship.

In a post this week, I argued that MSNBC is different from Fox — a liberal-leaning advocacy news network, to be sure, but still a news network.   This weakens my argument considerably.

Reporters and journalists meet with people in power in many different ways, from social gatherings to formal interviews.  Sometimes we’re actually (gasp) friends with the people we cover.

That’s nothing new. But this has the optics of an organizational session, a team meeting.

The bottom line is very simple.  News organizations face a lot of competing pressures, from the financial to the social to the political.

Which makes it all the more vital that they fight to maintain their first loyalty, which is to their audiences and to the facts.  My question to Maddow and Company would be simple.

How did that trip to the White House help inform your viewers?  What did it do for your credibility as an independent, trustworthy voice?

Joking that she’s part of a “hippie cabal” isn’t much of an answer.

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34 Comments on “Yes, it was wrong for MSNBC hosts to huddle with Obama”

  1. Paul says:

    “The grim bit here isn’t that Obama invited a group of journalists that he clearly views as friendly to his administration.”

    Brain these cats are not journalists. No different than hugging John Stuart (or Rush Limbaugh if you are Dick Cheney).

    These are spin doctors and they help you win elections, and they did. So they get a hug.

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  2. Paul says:

    Brian, MSNBC has pretty much slipped into the role of “tool”. This is just part of that. I think your view of the network may just be wrong.

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  3. Paul says:

    Did Chris Matthews get to be part of the hug? He must have fainted!

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  4. Mervel says:

    I am just offended that someone who makes as much as Rachel Maddow and curry’s favor with a hug from a war president, would call herself a “hippie” yeah she is real counter cultural.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  5. Mervel says:

    Actually in some ways this is worse than Fox, in this regard; do we know have an official government propaganda station? If MSNBC is “together” with the President of the United States helping him get power and stay in power as his official voice, how could they ever expect to challenge him when it is needed? Is MSNBC now the official voice of the Executive Branch of government? I think this is at least as dangerous as Fox trying to get its own candidate.

    Hot debate. Like/Dislike Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  6. The Original Larry says:

    Wow! Bias in the media! I’m shocked, shocked…..

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  7. Newt says:

    I’m trying to figure why Obama did this, since it would be virtually impossible for him to curry more favor than the MSNBC hosts already lavish upon him. Maybe he wants them to tone down their occasional peeps about drone strikes on wedding parties, not closing Guantanamo, his war on goernment whistleblowers, and stuff like that.

    I think ii was just thanks to them for a job well done in the election, (as if any swing voter ever watched MSNBC).

    It is kind of pointless to me to accuse MSNBC of not being a real news network. It is a real , left-leaning POLITICAL news network, but never even tries to cover non-political news, which even Fox does, (or so I’m told). It only covered Hurricane Sandy because the waters were nearly lapping at it’s doorstep. That is, until Chris Christie and the President got all chummy.

    The list I saw of the hosts invited did not include Chris Matthews, which is hard to figure. Maybe Chris was off peddling his JFK biogaphy somewhere and couldn’t fit the Whie House into his schedule.

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  8. gromit says:

    Most of these comments appear to be from people who never watch MSNBC, which has been, on occasion, relentlessly critical of Obama: on his failure to close Guantanamo, for example, or his appointment of Wall Street insiders like Geithner to his economic team. It is utterly absurd to say that Fox and MSNBC are working in the same way. Fox News is a constant, mindless, fact-free purveyor of wacky conspiracy theories and republican propaganda, while MSNBC is just trying to set the record straight when Fox et al distort or ignore reality. They make mistakes, of course, but when they do, they offer corrections. When was the last time you saw anyone on Fox do that?

    Hot debate. Like/Dislike Thumb up 9 Thumb down 5

  9. The Original Larry says:

    Why did Obama do this? Because he is trying to prepare support for his second administration and the controversial things that are sure to come. He is arrogant enough to think that we are too stupid to understand what he’s doing. We’re at the edge of a cliff all right, just not the one everyone thinks.

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  10. Mervel says:

    MSNBC by doing this shows it is totally on board with the Executive Branch of government, I would assume that they say exactly what the government wants them to say.

    Hot debate. Like/Dislike Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  11. Mervel says:

    Any corrections they make I assume would be now approved by the White House. I mean when you go down this path of gleefully going to the commander and chief of the military and the Executive Branch to give him a job well done hug and vice versa, a kind of we did it, victory hug, its all over and frankly it is actually very dangerous because of the power of the man they are serving.

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  12. George Nagle says:

    Give me a break.

    Obama is meeting with a variety of people as he builds support for his position in the fiscal cliff negotiations. So what if some MSNBC anchors join other so-called “progressive” journalists from different media, including the Washington Post, to let Obama lobby them.

    I find most of the MSNBC anchors insufferable. IMHO, they drip with bias and a smug self-righteousness.

    Rachel Maddow is different. She is easily one of the best journalists is any media. Yes, her point of view is left of center, but she is careful to state accurately positions she disagrees with and provide support for her own positions (usually solid though sometimes speculative), and she’s no lacky for the administration.

    For example, a day or two after Benghazi she presented information strongly suggesting that it was a carefully coordinated terrorist attack.

    We do not need journalists to be like Caesar’s wife. It’s OK if they have points of view. We’re big boys and girls, and we can sift what is offered to us and form our own opinons.

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  13. Paul says:

    Gromit, I watch MSNBC (a little). I also watch Fox (a very little). And Fox appears to have no shortage of bashing George Bush for his spending habits and currently they are wailing on Boehner for his handling of the “fiscal cliff” matter.

    I looked at their website. The current “republican propaganda” is them showing is a live video feed of house minority leader Nancy Pelosi’s press conference.

    Gromit, maybe you are watching too much MSNBC?

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  14. Newt says:

    Amen, George. Rachel is different from the rest. And, as I ranted too much the last couple of days, “Morning Joe “(hosts apparently not included in White House invite), has the broadest spectrum of guests and opinions. These make for all the rest, which might as well be Democrat infomercials.

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  15. Peter Hahn says:

    This may be a “lets be fair” piece (by Brian), but neither FOX or msNBC make any pretense of being unbiased. Nor are the journalist on the shows.

    There is a danger in having official propaganda arms – wars get started for trumped up reasons. Its not just “remember the Maine” and the Spanish American war. There was the gulf of Tonkin incident (Veit Nam) and the WMDs of the second Iraq war. An independent press would hopefully help avoid some of that although we had a pretty independent press for both Viet Nam and Iraq. The press helped us end the Viet Nam fiasco, but didnt do its job with the gulf of Tonkin incident.

    I dont know if FOX helped flame the fires of the WMDs for the Iraq war. Does anyone out there?

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  16. Mervel says:

    And she is a big hippie! I guess she really stuck it to Obama for Afghanistan that is the whole reason she went to the White House to speak Truth To Power.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  17. Mervel says:

    I think Fox certainly helped flame those fires just as MSNBC will for Obama’s wars of choice.

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  18. Paul says:

    As I recall everyone flamed those fires (or do you mean fanned those fires?).

    The folks at MSNBC know that Obama is doing what he can for the causes they have so they can’t be too hard on him, that might hurt him politically. They can’t do that. On things like Gitmo they run in to the little problem where the majority of the country disagrees with them on what they would like to do.

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  19. Peter Hahn says:

    yes fanned the flames? (got the metaphor wrong). thought it didnt sound right.

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  20. Mervel says:

    Yes fanned; flamed makes no sense.

    I really do think this brings up a very interesting issue. If we are going to have essentially political media organizations, which are not news but essentially the presentation of a political parties platform through the media, how does that work for the supposed role of journalism when your party is in power? Does that make MSNBC essentially a quasi government entity, the state run media so to speak?

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  21. Mervel says:

    Its no longer the Liberal media, it is the state media.

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  22. Mervel says:

    I am not saying MSNBC is controlled by Obama, but that MSNBC presents the Democratic Party Platform and the leader of that party is sitting in the Executive Branch thus they present the President of the United States’ views. There may be a danger in the future of that control happening however.

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  23. Mervel says:

    It is certainly no fun to be a hippie when you are part of the state run media.

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  24. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Brian, my hat is off to you for admitting the seriousness of this meeting and that it greatly deflates your charges re- Murdoch and Fox. Thank you for recognizing the obvious and commenting on it.

    While all this attention is aimed at MSNBC, lets not forget the parts CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, etc have played in electing Presidents and boosting or sabotaging his policies and plans. Anyone else remember poor old Jerry Ford tripping his way across our screens while Jimmy Carter was shown to be a simple peanut farmer, a man of the people, a flawless candidate? Or the panic the big 3 networks displayed when Reagan displayed that rarest of gems in a politician- an actual backbone? I gave some recent examples of this in the other thread that don;t need repeating. The point is we’d all be better served by taking everything we hear or see with a grain of salt and doing our own research as much as we can when it concerns us. The press has an agenda, good or bad, right or left, consciously or not. Deal with it.

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  25. Pete Klein says:

    This is another tempest in the tea pot.
    The MSNBC complaint came from Cornell West who would like Obama to stop being the president of all Americans and focus totally on poverty, especially black poverty.
    West can be an interesting character who makes some valid points but can be as stuck in his thinking as Grover.
    Both are Johnny One Notes who will always find a way to attack anyone who doesn’t agree 100% with them.

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  26. Paul says:

    Johnny one notes. I like that.

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  27. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    I’ll let you know what I think about Maddow when the White House let’s us know who met with Dick Cheney to discuss energy policy.

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  28. Mervel says:

    I thought we all knew that it was the oil companies who met with him to discuss energy policy.

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  29. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    It makes a lot more sense to me for the VP to meet with oil co execs to discuss energy than for the Prez to meet with liberal news media types to discuss fiscal issues.

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  30. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Obama has been meeting with a host of people from business leaders on down. We don’t know who Cheney met with but I would be surprised if he met with anyone other than extractive energy company execs when drafting the energy policy. There is a really big difference.

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  31. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    And Bush and Cheney meet with thousands of people over 8 years. Oddly, I don’t recall them meeting with news media to discuss fiscal issues. I’m pretty sure if Bush had had the entire Fox team, Rush, Beck, Hannity and a mess of other conservative media types in to advise him on fiscal issues we would have heard a lot about it.

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  32. hermit thrush says:

    but bush did have a meeting with prominent conservative media types at the white house!

    For an hour and a half, Mr. Bush discussed his case for the war in Iraq, his immigration proposals and even the personality of his Scottish terrier Barney….

    here’s the caption of the photo accompanying the article:

    President Bush discussed his policies with conservative radio hosts last month at the White House, including, from left, Mike Gallagher, Neal Boortz, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Michael Medved.

    these were major league conservatives in attendance.

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  33. Arlo T. Ledbetter says:

    Did Bush bring them in to get advice on fiscal issues or to ask them to sell his plan? No. Bush brought them in for a pep talk. If that’s what Obama did, then fine, no big deal But that is not what’s reported, is it?

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  34. hermit thrush says:

    where has it been reported that the people at obama’s meeting were there in an advisory role? certainly not in the huffpo article brian mentioned.

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