Well, I certainly got that one wrong.
Based on news reports, and after two phone calls to check them out, on Tuesday I wrote a column saluting Jake Tapper and CNN for saying, “No!” to Kellyanne Conway when the White House offered her up as a guest for Tapper’s Sunday program. Except for Fox and Breitbart, I said, no news organization had been more useful to Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy than CNN, but now it appeared they were fed up with serving as a springboard for the lies tossed around like grenades by Trump’s propaganda minions — most notably Ms. Conway, the president’s senior adviser who doubles, I pointed out (with apologies to my late Baptist deacon father for the language) as the administration’s official Queen of Bullshit.
Standing up to her took some guts from Tapper and his network, given the fear and loathing Trump directs at journalists who dare exert some First Amendment independence, and I said so in the column:
“So yes — let’s salute CNN for this one small step of resistance — for refusing to give Kellyanne Conway a forum to push the lie a little further. Perhaps I am making too much of one incident, but cheers nonetheless to Jake Tapper… Maybe, now, someone else will follow, another domino will fall, and another and another — until we in the press have collectively reclaimed our courage and independence from complicity with the state.”
I finished the column, hit “Send” (you can read it in its entirety here) and went to do some chores, feeling a tiny bit more hopeful about my craft. On my rounds, I even fancied that in protest against the vilification constantly aimed at them by Trump and his thuggish enforcers, perhaps CNN and the other big guys on the block would pull out of the annual White House Correspondents Dinner this spring, that godawful spectacle where journalists and their corporate masters — those with much business pending before the government — preen and prance with the privileged and powerful. All are one, on a night of reveling reminiscent of the court at Versailles when it was the seat of power in the kingdom of France.
And then I was rudely awakened. Word came that CNN had reversed itself. The ban had been lifted. Conway was back — and being interviewed at that very moment by none other than Jake Tapper, whom I had only hours earlier hoisted on a pedestal.
What had happened? We may never know. Obviously, someone high up at CNN had ordered the turnaround. My sources there said they simply didn’t know who it was.
To be fair, in the rematch, Tapper was in fighting form. He questioned Conway relentlessly and pressed when she evaded, dodged or dissembled, as she did throughout their exchange, even asserting that the administration has “a high regard for the facts.” In all this, he held his own.
Nonetheless, the very premise of these broadcasts always enables Conway to declare “Mission Accomplished” when she returns to the White House. No matter how aggressive the questioners (and most are not, except in a rigged sort of way), she manages to drop more lies into the public discourse, reinforce Trump’s base with the “alternative facts” they prefer to reality, and come across as Joan of Arc breaking the siege of Orleans. Like her boss, she often turns a question into a chance to make herself the victim: “I know firsthand what it’s like to have all the haters descend upon you,” she told Tapper. She is masterful at avoiding a question by changing the subject. When he tried to engage her on Trump saying things that are “demonstrably not true,” she responded, “Are they more important than the many things that he says that are true that are making a difference in people’s lives?” Well, yes; it’s the lies that kill democracy. If the doctor tells you the MRI shows cancer in the liver, you don’t reply, “That’s okay. My lungs are clear.”
With network talk shows, the format favors the fabricator. Conway’s the one determining the course of the interview.
CNN, expressing “serious questions about her credibility,” was right on Sunday to refuse her a forum — something press critic Jay Rosen has been urging for some time, arguing that the networks must stop booking someone who so obviously refuses to deal honestly with viewers. There were even hints the network was considering a permanent ban, the surest way to prevent a professional con artist from using you to pollute the airwaves with one flagrant lie after another. CNN’s change of heart Tuesday was a blow to its own credibility, and a disappointment to many hoping for greater courage among the media. My own cheering was premature; I have to take it back. Hereafter, I will keep in mind Charles Dickens’ counsel not to trust flat things coming round.
This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com.
Mitch McConnell just gave Democrats a huge gift — by publicly tainting any acquittal of Trump: columnist
It seems all but inevitable that the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump will end with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) mustering the votes to block conviction, no matter what the evidence says and no matter whether Democrats successfully bring in new witnesses and documents.
But McConnell has already handed a victory to Democrats in one key aspect, wrote columnist E. J. Dionne for the Washington Post. His handling of the trial has removed any possibility that impeachment will bolster the president's approval — and emboldened Democrats to take their case to the American people as hard as they can. Indeed, wrote Dionne, Democrats "owe a debt" to McConnell.
Here is how Jason Crow ‘pulled rank’ on John Roberts — and exposed the Chief Justice’s bias
Former Army Ranger Jason Crow repeatedly drew upon his experience serving three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan during his prosecution of President Donald Trump as an impeachment manager.
Crow, who was awarded the Bronze Star and retired as a Captain, attended law school after his military service before successfully winning a seat in Congress during the 2018 midterm elections.
Elie Mystal, a justice correspondent for The Nation magazine, explained how Crow pulled rank on Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
Mystal broked down how Crow put Roberts in his place with the subtle question of whether senators were getting restless and needed a break.
Rape trial told Harvey Weinstein a ‘seasoned’ predator
Harvey Weinstein was a "seasoned" sexual predator and rapist who abused his power as a movie-producing titan to prey on vulnerable aspiring actresses, prosecutors said Wednesday as his trial heard from its first witness.
Weinstein, wearing a dark suit, shook his head as New York Assistant District Attorney Meghan Hast painted a picture of a 300-pound (140 kilogram) bully who violently raped, humiliated and manipulated several women, leaving them traumatized for years.
His defense team hit back by saying the fallen film producer engaged in consensual relationships with his accusers, including a "loving one" in which the woman called Weinstein "her casual boyfriend."