Andrea Mitchell Agrees That ‘Traditional Media Has Become Irrelevant’

On her MSNBC show on Wednesday, anchor Andrea Mitchell’s exchange with former Defense Secretary William Cohen turned surprisingly contentious when the Clinton cabinet official started lecturing the press on its obsession with every tweet from President-elect Donald Trump: “I think we have to be less concerned with tweets, chasing every one as if it's some sort of revealed wisdom that's going out into a rabbit hole – ”

Mitchell countered: “But when he tweets something about ISIS claiming responsibility for what happened in Ohio State, when that's not at all confirmed, doesn't that raise questions about the judgment – he is the president-elect.”  Cohen pushed back: “It raises questions, but also raises questions about the media. Why are you chasing it? Why, when a story comes out with a tweet which intuitively you know is not of significance, and yet, you spend an entire day analyzing it?”

He further scolded: “So I think the media has a responsibility to take tweets that are serious seriously and those that are irrelevant, don't spend time chasing it.” Mitchell complained: “Why is it our job and how can we assess what does he mean seriously on Twitter and what does he not mean? He's using social media – there are no news conferences, we have no access to him.”

Cohen declared: “The problem is that the media has become – the traditional media has become almost irrelevant...” Mitchell chimed in: “Agree with you on that.”

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After gaining that concession, Cohen worried: “There's no filter. So if there's no filter, there's no accountability....he's bypassing you and just putting out a tweet, so now you're left guessing, what does he mean?...So I think we've got to insist that not every tweet that he puts out is something worthy of following.”

Mitchell fretted: “But the media are left to interpret what a man as important as the next President of the United States says.” Cohen concluded: “I think at some point, you have to turn the cameras off and say this is not something we're going to follow. This is another rabbit hole we're going down and we're not going to do it.”

Here is a full transcript of the November 30 exchange:

12:32 PM ET

(...)

ANDREA MITCHELL: Now, the CIA director, John Brennan, was speaking to the BBC about Donald Trump's argument during the campaign and since that the Iran deal was a bad deal, he would try to renegotiate it, cancel parts of it. This is the warning that the CIA director gave.

JOHN BRENNAN: First of all, for one administration to tear up an agreement that a previous administration made would be almost unprecedented. And then it could lead to a weapons program inside of Iran, that could lead other states in the region to embark on their own programs. So I think it would be the height of folly if the next administration were to tear up that agreement.

MITCHELL: Now that is a public warning. We don't know what the private warnings have been. But we do know that Donald Trump has only had three intelligence briefings since being elected, rather than the daily briefing that he's entitled to.

WILLIAM COHEN: I think the President-elect has to spend more time dealing with intelligence briefings, less time tweeting. And I think we have to be less concerned with tweets, chasing every one as if it's some sort of revealed wisdom that's going out into a rabbit hole –  

MITCHELL: But when he tweets something about ISIS claiming responsibility for what happened in Ohio State, when that's not at all confirmed, doesn't that raise questions about the judgment – he is the president-elect.

COHEN: It raises questions, but also raises questions about the media. Why are you chasing it? Why, when a story comes out with a tweet which intuitively you know is not of significance, and yet, you spend an entire day analyzing it? So I think the media has a responsibility to take tweets that are serious seriously and those that are irrelevant, don't spend time chasing it.

MITCHELL: Why is it our job and how can we assess what does he mean seriously on Twitter and what does he not mean? He's using social media – there are no news conferences, we have no access to him. If this is the only way he's communicating with the public, when he talks about flag burning or ISIS, we have to take that seriously. He now is in a different position. He's not a candidate.

COHEN: The problem is that the media has become – the traditional media has become almost irrelevant, because he has – he is going directly –

MITCHELL: Agree with you on that.

COHEN: There's no filter. So if there's no filter, there's no accountability. He can make a statement about flag burning, but if he had a press conference, you’d say, “Mr. President-elect, did you know about Justice Scalia's decision? Do you agree with it? You disagree? Do you want a constitutional amendment? How can you say something that has been judged to be freedom of speech and yet you want to put someone in prison for it?” That's the role of press. Now, he's bypassing you and just putting out a tweet, so now you're left guessing, what does he mean? Does he mean he's going to put a constitutional amendment before the congress? So I think we've got to insist that not every tweet that he puts out is something worthy of following.

And I think that the President-elect has to understand that the presidency is more than 140 characters. We can't conduct this office, this high – the highest office in the world, through 140 characters. You have an obligation to the people of this country to talk about substance and be held accountable for everything you say, and not simply put it out there with no filter, with everybody commenting around the press.

MITCHELL: On that, you agree, in fact, with what Newt Gingrich said yesterday, and I agree entirely, that that is the responsibility of the person hitting the Twitter machine. But the media are left to interpret what a man as important as the next President of the United States says.

COHEN: I think at some point, you have to turn the cameras off and say this is not something we're going to follow. This is another rabbit hole we're going down and we're not going to do it.

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is the Senior News Analyst for MRC