MSNBC Panel Bemoans ‘Impartiality’ as ‘Mistakes of the Past,’ a ‘Disservice’

MSNBC’s self-crowned political referee, Chuck Todd, appeared to throw in the towel on enforcing D.C.’s political rules, or at least the journalistic ones. During the first segment of Monday’s MTP Daily, Todd and two of his panelists, Brian Karem and David Folkenflik, whined about how the media was expected to be impartial with President Trump attacking them. “But look, two generations of us as reporters. We're trained and conditioned to don't show emotion, we're the umpires and the referees.” Todd claimed. “When somebody is insisting on making you the story, what do you do? … I struggle with it.

It was clear that Todd didn’t know how to be an unbiased reporter as he opined about how he and other journalists weren’t trained to deal with Trump’s “moral failings.” “Somebody tweeted that journalists today were never trained to cover moral failings very well. And in some ways, this is what makes this more difficult,” he told his fellow partisans. “We're not good with having to say what's right and wrong sometimes because again, we have been trained to be dispassionate and the umpire.

He also championed Brian Karem who recently flipped his lid and yelled at Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders during a White House press briefing. “And you gave voice this when you said: ‘We're just trying to do our jobs here. What are you talking about,’” Todd hyped.

NPR’s David Folkenflik expanded upon Todd’s frustration with the need for journalists to be unbiased in their reporting. He talked about how new generations were supposed to learn from “mistakes of the past” and denounced the apparently outdated idea that news should be fair and balanced. “You and I, we’re trained on the idea of being down the middle and scrupulously impartial, and you have seen recalibration to the idea that doesn't always capture, not only, the facts in front of you but the truth of those facts assembled to become,” he complained.

And with a stone-cold face, Folkenflik threw away the popularly held belief that the media should show both sides to an issue or story. “But the idea of saying: ‘Well, this is one hand and this is the other hand, and therefore we’ve captured a journalistic fairness,’ is often a deep disservice.” You read that correctly. According to him, it’s “often a deep disservice” to fairly report an issue.

Throughout their discussion, they exposed their biases for all to witness. Towards the beginning of the segment, Todd equated Trump’s tweets to the actions of dictators. “Folks, if these actions and this language was being used by a leader in a different country … our State Department would be saying: ‘Hm. That country is inching toward authoritarianism because that's usually the first sign. When you try to delegitimize a free press,’” he asserted.

Karem touted and laughed about how he had gotten away with letting his unchecked emotions drive his reporting about the White House. “I was surprised. That's not the most viral moment I thought I had in the White House,” he joked, referencing his out of control spat with Huckabee Sanders. I called Mick Mulvaney a ‘soup Nazi’ during one briefing because he wanted to take food away from poor kids, and it just flabbergasted me.

The Playboy reporter (Karem) was proud of how he catered to the liberals of America with his throw downs with Trump administration officials. “The American public is frustrated with us for not stepping up and holding him accountable for that moral failing, people want to see that,” he declared with no evidence. He also equated himself to acting as Trump’s “parent,” and remarked that he didn’t want that duty.

This out in the open conversation about how tired they were of having to be fair and impartial in the age of Trump, is the epitome of why in poll after poll the public says they don’t trust the media. Their comments here are why Trump’s war with the media resonates with his supporters and the general public. It’s why they’re losing their credibility.

Transcript below:

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MSNBC
MTP Daily
July 3, 2017
5:03:03 PM Eastern

(…)

CHUCK TODD: Then there are the tweets. President Trump has slammed the media on Twitter 60 times since January 20th, that’s six-zero. This is just a smattering of the ways the President has spoken about the media since Inauguration Day. You see it there; disparaging, demeaning, failing, false. You know, sometimes they are lighter in humor. I get the sleepy eyes treatment. But some of the words are pretty, pretty nasty.

Folks, if these actions and this language was being used by a leader in a different country, our State Department, not just we in general. Our State Department would be saying: “Hm. That country is inching toward authoritarianism, because that's usually the first sign. When you try to delegitimize a free press.” But yes to be fair, U.S. Presidents have always warred with the press. It’s in their interest to push their agenda and there should be an adversarial relationship between the White House and the fourth estate. That's fine. It's our duty to find the truth and the truth can sometimes hurt.

(…)

TODD: What should the press do?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK: You know, in some ways it was worse than we might have hoped, and at least as bad as we might have feared. It's not bad in a sense that you haven't seen -- you haven't seen actions taken against the press too as then-candidate Trump promised to go after the libel laws, which would have been complicated for him to do that. But there are other things he could have done.

(…)

TODD: What the President does with his tweets, and I had this conversation with him. I said: “Don't personalize it. Attack the entities all you want, but when you attack individuals, you dehumanize.” And you gave voice this, when you said: “We're just trying to do our jobs here. What are you talking about?”

BRIAN KAREM: That's what it boils down to, and from day one, you start out by telling me I'm the enemy of the people. You start out by telling me that I'm fake media. And I'm sure you know as I know, people have been injured trying to do this job. Me and about 12 other people on the planet have actually gone to jail for the first amendment and that's a sobering experience. There are people who have died, been shot at, covered wars, and we're the enemy of the people? And to not have a press conference or a press briefing for a week on camera, and then your very first press briefing on camera you start out by bashing CNN in general and all of us, you know, as CNN specifically, and all of us in general, that's just a little too much to take.

TODD: Here's the challenge, and David, I want you to weigh in on this as well. But look, two generations of us as reporters. We're trained and conditioned to don't show emotion. We're the umpires and the referees. We are not to show emotion. Don't take it personally. Cover it, dispassionately if you can.

KAREM: Don’t be the story.

TODD: Don’t be the story. When somebody is insisting on making you the story, what do you do? This has been a struggle for all of us. I struggle with it.

FAREM: It’s a struggle for me!

(…)

TODD: You know, David, somebody tweeted during the mess of the President's horrendous attack on a colleague of mine using horribly graphic terms. Somebody tweeted that journalists today were never trained to cover moral failings very well. And in some ways, this is what makes this more difficult. We're not good with having to say what's right and wrong sometimes because again, we have been trained to be dispassionate and the umpire.

FOLKENFLIK: Well, I think every generation supposedly tries to unlearn the mistakes of the past and make so doing make their own. You and I, we’re trained on the idea of being down the middle and scrupulously impartial, and you have seen recalibration to the idea that doesn't always capture, not only, the facts in front of you but the truth of those facts assembled to become. And I think there is more of an emphasis among sophisticated, thoughtful journalists trying to make sense of the world for their readers and audiences, that we have to be scrupulously fair, very transparent about the journalism we do. But the idea of saying: “Well, this is one hand and this is the other hand, and therefore we’ve captured a journalistic fairness,” is often a deep disservice.

(…)

KAREM: We are part of the story. Whether we want to be or not. And that's a fact that we have to face. So, how do we deal with it is where do we go from here? You can't sit back and say: “I not a part of it.” He’s making us apart of it, and if you sit there and take it and take it, there is a good section of the American public when I did what did.

I was surprised. That's not the most viral moment I thought I had in the White House. I called Mick Mulvaney a “soup Nazi” during one briefing because he wanted to take food away from poor kids, and it just flabbergasted me. I thought if anything was going to viral it’d be that. But I didn't anticipate this. What happened afterwards, clued me in, it's not just us in that room that are frustrated. The American public is frustrated with us for not stepping up and holding him accountable for that moral failing, people want to see that. And at that point in time, I don't want to be his parent. But at some point in time, what do you do? As you said. You said: “Don't make it personal.” But he has made it personal. I can't pretend that he hasn't. I can't walk away from that.

TODD: Can’t un-ring the bell.

(…)

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