At the gym, I watched a Hardball segment in which Reps. Peter King and Debbie Wasserman Schultz were debating whether it’s true, as Rep. Schultz was claiming, that Barack Obama’s proposals would cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans or whether it’s true, as Rep. King was claiming, that Obama would raise taxes on 100 million Americans. The host, Chris Matthews, just kind of sat there as the two congressmen yelled at each other. Then he brought the segment to the end, remarked on how heated it was, and how both members of congress talk really quickly. Did he sum up by noting that independent analysis from the Tax Policy Center and even the conservative ideologues at National Review have concluded that Schultz is right and King is wrong? Of course he didn’t. And Matthews is a better-than-average TV host.
I think people in the news business ought to ask themselves some questions. If a campaign sends a surrogate to appear on my program and lie to my audience, is that more helpful to the campaign than it would have been to send nobody? If it’s more helpful to send someone, then aren’t I structuring my program in such a way as to encourage campaigns to send people to the studio and lie to my audience? Did I get into this business in order to be complicit in campaigns’ efforts to lie to the American public? Meanwhile, viewers need to take some responsibility of their own. Anyone who has a Nielsen box and watches these kind of shows on cable is doing serious harm to the United States of America and if you can count any Nielsen families among your circle of friends you have a duty to try to make them see the light.