NB Interview: Ziegler on Clinton, Obama, Palin and 'Media Malpractice'

Last month NewsBusters introduced readers to John Ziegler, a conservative filmmaker creating a documentary about the astoundingly poor job the press did covering 2008's presidential campaign.

Marvelously entitled "Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected and Palin Was Targeted," the movie is set for release on February 23.

I chatted with Ziegler earlier in the week about last year's campaign shenanigans and the film. Some of the highlights include (60-minute audio available here):    

  • It's really extraordinary what happened to Hillary because the media was all prepared to annoint Hillary Clinton, and I think that's actually what backfired on her. We make a very strong argument in my film that what really occurred here was that because Hillary was presumed to be unbeatable, the media made a conscious decision not to vett Barack Obama because there was no point to do it. I mean, why pointlessly harm a smart, charismatic, liberal black man with a tremendous future? Why do it? You know, there's no point in doing it because he's not going to win anyway. And by elevating him, they knew that they could create some faux drama, and of course help their ratings, 'cause the last thing they wanted was for Hillary Clinton to run away with the thing. They thought they were just going to create some, some you know fake drama and Obama would run a strong second, Hillary would win, and maybe Obama would be her VP and everything would be wonderful. And we even have a quote from a clip from John King of CNN basically saying just that. This is clearly the mindset of the news media. But then a series of events occurred led by MSNBC, and I believe the advent of overnight ratings was critical to this because I think MSNBC was able to see as a third-place network that every time they did a Barack Obama story they got a bump in their numbers. And they would never have been able to know this five or ten years ago. But now we have the technology where they can pinpoint it to the minute. And they're a third-place network, they have nothing to lose, they don't care about their journalistic credibility, so they decide "Hey, let's jump on this bandwagon and ride it for all it's worth."
  • Once this snowball started, the Obama snowball started down the mountain, it was almost impossible to stop because of the nature of the way that the primaries and caucuses are done, and the way that the media works. I actually believe that what Hillary Clinton did in the second-half of that primary season is one of the most remarkable political achievements in history. And that's not hyperbole. That was absolutely amazing what she was able to accomplish in the second-half there. But it was virtually ignored. It is not supposed to, it is never in recorded, what happened is not supposed to occur that was there is a presumption, presumptive nominee that somebody is able to, to, with no money and getting outspent by ridiculous amounts is able to mount a comeback like she was able to. And if the media had not made the unprecedented decision of deciding to go with their favorite candidate over what has always been the Holy Grail of political reporters which was the prospect of a brokered convention, then we would have seen this thing go all the way to Denver. But for the first time in history, the media decided, "You know what, let's not go for the brokered convention. Let's just make sure that our guy limps across the finish line." I mean, this is like a man giving up free sex or a woman giving up free chocolate. I mean, this just doesn't happen. But for Barack Obama, it did.
  • [On why the media went after Sarah Palin] Well, because she was going to be much more of a threat. They only, they only really waste their ammunition on, on people they see as a threat. They don't on people that they don't see as that big a deal. I think very much like the primary season was a perfect storm, I think what happened with Sarah Palin was a perfect storm because you have a situation where the conservative movement isn't energized. You have a brand new person who is extremely engaging, incredibly charismatic, very attractive, hits a grandslam homerun in her convention speech, the polls go through the roof, the McCain-Palin team is now winning. So now you have the media in a situation where their guy is being threatened, his election's being threatened. And the other thing that happened which I think is an important part with regard to the news media. Joe Scarborough of all people really nailed this, and we used this in my film. You know, those first few days of the convention, they tried to destroy her. I mean, they pulled out all the stops. I mean, the bogus story about her affair, the ridiculous story about her not giving birth to Trig, you know, all sorts of lies about her background. There was talk that she was going to be another Eagleton and be kicked off the ticket. And then she hits this grandslam and the media looked like a bunch of idiots.
  • [On why women in the media hate Palin] The last thing that they want, you know, because a lot of these, a lot of women in the media are career women who have given up families, and under this delusion that they can have it all, and they haven't been able to achieve that, and here's a woman who seemingly does have it all. I mean, she's, she's to the extreme. And still able to look great doing it. I mean, it, it really triggered I think a visceral reaction in a lot of mostly women.
  • The Katie Couric interview was used to destroy Sarah Palin's credibility with the independent voters that had been so drawn to her in that first couple of weeks after her announcement as the vice presidential nominee...From my interview with Sarah Palin, one of the more interesting revelations was that Sarah Palin very early on in that interview realized that she was in enemy territory and that Katie Couric did not have her best interest at heart. And the reason why she realized this was that Katie Couric kept on coming back at her time and time again on the issue of abortion. It wasn't just a clarification question. It was clearly an attempt to play a game of gotcha. Just get Sarah Palin to say something extreme on the issue of abortion. We all know where Katie Couric and 99.99 percent of women in the media stand on that issue. And so at that point, I think that Sarah Palin started to feel as if, and I think she acknowledged this, she started to feel as if she was in a game, she started to shut down, she started to become skeptical if not paranoid about every single question, and I think that directly led to for instance the non-answer to the "What do you read" question, which has been totally misunderstood and misrepresented. And I think it led to a hesitancy on a whole series of other questions 'cause now all of a sudden she has to second and third guess everything she's going to say before she says it because she knows, she knows that, that she is in a situation where there are trapdoors everywhere.
  • [On his appearance on "The View," video embedded below] Maybe the most interesting behind the scenes story was that Whoopi Goldberg came to my dressing room well before the show and spent about 20 minutes with me. Was incredibly nice. Very open-minded. She expressed a real interest in seeing the film. And for better or for worse I think that may have bought me some slack with her that she realized I was not some sort of raving nutjob. And, so I think she was pretty fair with me. Now, Joy Behar is, just like Sarah Palin is everything that conservatives will hope that she would be, Joy Behar is exactly in my brief experience with here exactly everything that conservatives would presume her to be in the negative. She's an idiot, I frankly think she's a bit of a b***h, and I think she, you know, I don't think she has any clue about what the facts are. As a matter of fact, if she was able to come up with a way for people to look at food the way that she looks at facts she never would have had to work for Jenny Craig for all those years, I mean, 'cause she'd have the greatest weight-loss program in history. I mean, she just doesn't care about facts. 

  • [On his satellite radio interview with Barbara Walters, audio embedded in image to the right] She acknowledged I'd say three or four very important points almost like a confessional. I mean, she admits that, one, that "The View" is liberally biased, which I guess is not earth-shattering news. But she also admits that "The View" was far too sweet on Obama in her interview with him.

Great stuff, John. We look forward to the release of "Media Malpractice" next Monday, as well as your interview on the "Today" show.

Good luck.

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