ABC News legal analyst and media mogul Dan Abrams is a powerful guy, with his fingers in many pies, even once owning a stake in an upscale Greenwich Village restaurant. But his latest launch, the primetime NewsNation cable show "Dan Abrams Live," takes a peculiar tack: Rather than "speaking truth to power," in the journalistic cliché, it centers around protecting some of the most powerful people in our society: police officers.
Abrams' new show appears drenched in deep and unconditional love for those who wear the badge. One promotional ad I heard recently on the Washington, D.C., Metro goes like this: "You know, too often the media ignores the everyday heroics of police. That changes on NewsNation."
During his debut episode on Monday night, Abrams said: "As a regular feature of the show, we will be highlighting police work and some of the incredible and dangerous situations officers deal with every day." And over the next two broadcasts on Tuesday and Wednesday, the former host of "Live PD" on A&E — a highly-rated show that was pulled from the air after filming an incident in which a Black man was killed by police — continued to carry copious amounts of water for cops. On Monday, Abrams was joined by former Tulsa police sergeant Sean "Sticks" Larkin, a regular talking head from the A&E show.
Strategically and in every other way, this seems odd. Why is a politically "moderate" cable news show — yes, it's being billed that way — advertising heavily in the diverse D.C. metro area with a message that police officers are role models too often railroaded by more mainstream news outlets?
I emailed Abrams this week with these and other questions about his new program and, more specifically, his particular affection for policing.
In one email, I asked him about the perception that BIPOC (Black, indigenous and people of color) Americans are unjustly killed by police at disproportionate rates, and how he squares that with a show focused on the good-faith acts of cops. Wouldn't a "moderate" cable news show hold those with power accountable?
Abrams ultimately requested that I run both my questions and his answers in full for "fairness and completeness," something I hadn't agreed to in advance. I've done my best to accommodate that in good faith.
He responded to that question by writing that "uniformly demonizing police is a scourge I hope to combat" on his show:
I appreciate the transparency about your viewpoint in the question so I hope you will appreciate my response in the same vein. I believe one of the greatest sins journalists can commit is to feign objectivity, so your willingness to make your poition on the matter clear and unambiguous, is refreshing. You seem to be suggesting that "BIPOC Americans" are being "murdered" by police on a regular basis with just the "occasional good faith" police officers doing their jobs. This, in my opinion, shows a fundamental lack of understanding of what police officers do and are supposed to do, every day. In fact, part of the purpose of this show is to present far more accurate and complete portrayals of policing in America. Police reform is important and police officers who commit crimes must be held to account, but uniformly demonizing police is a scourge I hope to combat.
In response to my question about accountability and police misconduct, Abrams said he won't avoid the topic. "I will certainly be covering police misconduct and the accompanying trials when appropriate. This show is not, however Salon TV," he wrote. "It is entirely within your discretion to solely focus on police misconduct, but that is not what I will be doing. I hope that answers your question."
As full disclosure, I worked for the site Mediaite, which is owned by Abrams, for more than a year, from January 2020 to March 2021. I have never met him in person, and had never previously communicated personally with him before our email exchange over the past week.
Abrams' show has yet to capture the attention of major media reporters, and may remain an oddity on the cable landscape. It's unclear why pro-police viewers would pick "Dan Abrams Live" over the known right-wing propaganda enterprises at Newsmax and Fox News, and even less clear why liberals or "moderates" who traditionally watch CNN would do so. Indeed, recent cable news history would seem to back that up such an assertion. When former Fox News host Shepard Smith moved to CNBC, his attempt to brand a "moderate" cable news show was a "high-priced flop."
At the moment, NewsNation averages around 100,000 viewers daily, according to publicly available cable news ratings, making the channel barely visible relative to Fox News and CNN, and even behind CNBC and Newsmax TV as well.
Asked about the difficulty of pulling audiences away from the cable news behemoths, Abrams said: "Yes, it's an uphill battle because I do think people are stuck in their echo chambers. But I certainly hope we will be able to break through, because the vast majority of Americans identify themselves as moderates."