MSNBC’s Alex Witt told a whopper on Sunday’s Weekends with Alex Witt while chatting with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). The senator was on to discuss the gun control bill that he and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa) have authored. Manchin used the on-air opportunity to beg viewers and fellow senators to support his bill, and he found at least one willing supporter in the host who was interviewing him. At the end of the interview, Witt told him, “I don't often weigh in with my personal opinion, but I'm behind you 100 percent. Good luck.”
There’s really not much to say here. I think most of us recognize that it’s wrong for a news anchor to voice her support for a senator’s initiative on-air, especially on a topic as controversial as gun control. But Witt tried to excuse her bias in this instance by pretending she doesn’t usually give her own opinion. Perhaps she thought viewers would be more likely to forgive her if they believed her bias was rare. Bias is bias, no matter how often it happens. And Witt, like many MSNBC anchors, certainly has a history of weighing in with her own opinion.
Back in 2007, when then-Senator Barack Obama announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination, Witt declared that Obama “possess(es) all the charisma and ideals that are the legacy of Lincoln.” That sounds like an opinion to me. Three years later, Witt was still expressing her admiration of Obama, saying she “got a few chills” listening to his “very powerful” speech on immigration.
In May 2010, after President Obama met with Republican senators on Capitol Hill, Luke Russert went on-air and chided the senators for not having an “elevated” dialogue with the president. Witt, who was anchoring the segment, weighed in with her opinion: “Yeah, I’d say that wasn’t elevated much at all.”
Bias does not always take the form of statements. Oftentimes, the questions that journalists ask expose their opinions on the subjects they are covering, and Witt is no exception. During the 2008 presidential campaign, after candidate Obama suggested that tire inflation could be a substitute for oil drilling, Witt expressed her annoyance that John McCain was using the comment against Obama. In an interview with former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, she asked, "But sir, when John McCain picks up this tire-gauge issue and you know - throws it about back and forth, doesn't he just perpetuate the problem?"
Just last fall, Witt combined a couple of questions with a statement that clearly showed her opinion about the Tea Party: “What has the Tea Party done to the Republican party? There doesn't seem to be a lot of embracing of diverse thinking. How much has it damaged the Republican party?”
Of course, Witt also supports abortion rights as part of the phony “war on women.” We know this because, in January of this year, she asked TIME’s Kate Pickert, “What do you think it’s going to take to get abortion rights back on track and not deny it from those who need it?”
As we can see, Alex Witt has never had a problem giving her personal opinion in the past. Sometimes it is stated explicitly, while other times it can be gleaned from the questions she asks. But she shouldn’t pretend that she doesn’t give her opinion often.
Below is a transcript of the end of the Manchin segment from Sunday:
ALEX WITT: How confident are you that this legislation will be passed after thorough reading and discussion with your colleagues in the Senate?
JOE MANCHIN: Tomorrow – Alex, tomorrow at 2:00, 2:30 or so, Pat Toomey and I will go to the floor of the Senate and we're going to start going through the bill and discussing it. We would encourage our colleagues to come down and join in with us. If you're thinking about it and you really want to know more, let's talk about it. Ask us a question, let’s go through the bill. That’s what we're going to do, and we're going to continue to do that. I think this is the type of a bill, Alex, the more people – if you're a law-abiding gun owner and someone says guess what, they’re going to start registering and making sure they know where your guns are so they can come take them. That is a lie; that is a falsehood and a lie. We protect you stronger than anybody has ever protected you for those rights. But you have to read the bill. Manchin.senate.gov, you can read this bill. And if they’ll just take time, and the longer we go if we don’t vote on Tuesday and we continue to debate, if we don’t vote on Wednesday and we continue to debate, then let's say we vote Thursday or so. I think you're going to see people turning. I think they're going to say, listen, this is responsible, it's reasonable. And I'm hoping my friend Marco and others will take time to do that and who knows, maybe they’ll be supportive, too.
WITT: All right, well, Senator Joe Manchin. I don't often weigh in with my personal opinion, but I'm behind you 100%, good luck.
MANCHIN: We’re trying hard. Thank you, Alex. I appreciate it.