PBS Panel Calls for Equal Time on 60 Minutes to Counter Justice Thomas Interview

Tavis Smiley Publicist Promotes Justice Clarence Thomas Book Discussion with Character Bashing E-Mail

I received an e-mail this week from Brian Steffen who is the online publicist for Tavis Smiley. The e-mail was a promotion for a PBS airing of a panel discussion on "My Grandfather's Son," the new book by Justice Clarence Thomas. The e-mail consisted of an advance set of excerpts that were designed to entice me to watch the program. The only problem was that every excerpt in the e-mail took a pot shot at Justice Thomas by attacking his character, without substance of course, very much in line with most of the criticisms that Thomas has had to endure mainly because he is a black conservative.

But there is more going on here than the criticism of Justice Thomas as it appears in an unsolicited e-mail. The context of the comments reveal the true biases of liberal educators, certain representatives of black activist organizations and that of the media darlings that put these people on a pedestal. You will soon see that their bias feeds into the notion that the Supreme Court should be used as a tool to create policy and subvert the role of the other two branches of government that most readily represents the people. The bias also allows the panel guests to extend the cry for equal time under fairness doctrine like standards; a cry that is increasingly being used as a weapon to try and silence the free speech rights of conservatives in talk radio, on TV and the internet.

The one sided group of panelists on Tavis Smiley's Monday night show consisted of Marc Morial, President and CEO of The National Urban League, Princeton professor Cornel West, and Columbia University President, Farah Jasmine Griffin.

After rambling on endlessly in attack after attack on the integrity of Justice Thomas the panelists called for equal time from "60 minutes" to present someone to counter last Sunday's Thomas interview.

"60 Minutes" owes the public a second piece, to give equal airtime to those of us who want to offer a completely different analysis and a different point of view. - Marc Morial, President & CEO, National Urban League

Ironic isn't it? Probably less so than enlightening for many. The fact of the matter is that liberals can't stand to have their ideas challenged. The lynch mob that was assembled on Smiley's program devoted a whole show to the character assassination of Justice Thomas before winding down the segment demanding equal time on another show to do the very same thing. That is what liberal elitists consider as "equal" time. Of the two outlets, CBS and PBS, which one would you imagine as having a larger public duty toward fulfilling an equal time requirement?

Keep in mind that this article was given life because of an unsolicited e-mail chain letter that directly criticized "60 Minutes" and Justice Thomas. I didn't ask for it yet somehow these people found a way to get their message out despite the lack of a modern day government censor of the kind we would find under the liberal version of a "fairness doctrine".

Here is the e-mail in full (all emphasis mine throughout):

Subject: Information For Your Blog!!!

Tonight on PBS' Tavis Smiley, Tavis convenes a panel to discuss "My Grandfather's Son," the new book by Justice Clarence Thomas and the "60 Minutes" profile that coincided with the release of the book.Guests are Marc Morial, President and CEO of The National Urban League, Princeton professor Cornel West, and Columbia University President, Farah Jasmine Griffin.

Here are some excerpts of what the panelists had to say about Justice Thomas and his interview on "60 Minutes:"

Marc Morial, President & CEO, National Urban League “He (Thomas) seems to have forgotten that he doesn’t stand by himself, he stands amongst many who’ve experienced discrimination, who’ve experienced the pain of racial injustice, yet not at a single point in his career has he used the power of his office…..to help those who he professed to be concerned about.”

Cornel West, Princeton Professor

They presented this story as if those us who are critics (of Clarence Thomas) have no good reasons to be critical of him siding with the strong against the weak, and the powerful against the relatively powerless. I thought ‘60 Minutes’ was all about journalism, what has happened to journalism these days where all you get is puff pieces that constitute an advertisement for a book. Especially with someone like Clarence Thomas who’s been a lightning-rod of this debate among all Americans concerned about truth and justice on the court and in our society.” Farah Jasmine Griffin, Columbia Professor

Justice Thomas used (60 Minutes) as yet another opportunity to vilify Anita Hill.

For more information on showtimes and podcast go to http://www.pbs.org/kcet/tavissmiley/.

Brian Steffen
Online Publicist
KCET & Tavis Smiley

The e-mail alone displays a blatantly unabashed type of bias that you would expect at lessor bastions of intellectual honesty and objectivity. But lets be honest here, that characterization is a facade that has been ballyhooed by people that are awed by titles such as Dr., professor, president and CEO. These people are no more intellectually honest and objective than any radical on any side of the political spectrum regardless of their title. The only problem is that they are considered so in their own circles.

While the e-mail itself is a picture perfect example of liberal bias we can glean from it a fundamental insight into other notions; especially where activists stand on the role of the Supreme Court. These specific criticisms of Justice Thomas provide a window into the group think mentality of people on the left that believe the Supreme Court exists as a tool to right the wrongs of the past and shape the policies of the future. Nothing could be further from the truth. Such notions are often repeated even though they are fundamentally flawed. The cast members on the panel discussion display more ignorance than insight when they criticize Thomas for not "using the power of his office" in such a manner.

I read the transcript of the show to discover that the excerpts in the e-mail were perhaps the most objective moments that Mr. Steffan could pick out for his mailer. Here's another jewel I picked out of the panel discussion.

Tavis: The first clip, he's responding to Steve Kroft, the correspondent who did the conversation, conducted the conversation, responding to him about the role that race - the impact that race has had on his life. Here's Justice Thomas.


Tavis: Is he right about that, Dr. West?

West: No, he's not right at all. If you look at his record, you can see that he has very little sensitivity to the disadvantaged. He has some of the most cold-hearted, mean-spirited decisions that side with the powerful against the weak. So when he talked about disadvantage and justice, it's just not true. "60 Minutes" should have asked that question.

And it's sad that they didn't. When he talks about being 5'8.5", I don't know of American history where they enslaved people who were 5'8.5". I don't know of American history where they lynched people who were 5'8.5". I'm glad they didn't, but let's be honest about this. The legacy of White supremacy is real. You could see it in the brother's soul.

I sympathize with him to the degree to which the brother's so wounded, he's so scarred.

Morial: Incredibly wounded.

West: He's so bruised, you know what I mean? And you can see he's after - like all of us, he wants to be loved. Frustrated and neglected. Love is the very heart and soul of our suffering. The question is whether we choose to be wounded healers or wounded hurters. He has chosen, unfortunately so far, to be a wounded hurter when it comes - not just to Black people - poor people, working people, across the board.

This drivel passes for deep thought in some circles. Yet in its own little way it is ironically self describing and a bit racist in its own right. West was not alone in promoting this type of broad brush attack on Thomas. I could pretty much excerpt the whole transcript. Please read it for yourself. It is an eye opening example of liberal bias at its naked worst, and then some. Not because they are critics of Justice Thomas, that's fine. It is bias at its worst because it is one sided and without substance, things like calling him a liar without an example of a lie. That is simply name calling, the very thing they accuse Justice Thomas of doing.

While reading the transcript you should pay particular attention to the following segment.

Morial: Tavis, I'm going to say this. "60 Minutes" owes the public a second piece, to give equal airtime to those of us who want to offer a completely different analysis and a different point of view. I think that the piece was as though Justice Thomas' public relations firm edited the piece, controlled the piece. They devoted, what, an hour?

Tavis: Forty-five minutes.

Morial: Forty-five minutes - unprecedented time. And Steve Kroft, great journalist, did not challenge him. Public people - and a Supreme Court justice is public people - have to be judged on their public record.

West: That's right.

Keep this is mind as you increasingly read about back door efforts to usher in a 2007 style version of the fairness doctrine as law. There was no voice on the PBS panel to defend Justice Thomas. Tavis Smiley himself hardly bothered to play devil's advocate in order to get the panelists to expand on their criticisms. It was one big happy family of like minded ideologues that just happened to exclude themselves in the discussion of fairness and equal time. There is a danger inherent in that thought process. One that is increasingly mainstreamed as evidenced here.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Don't forget that Smiley's panel didn't consider that CBS's 60 Minutes Anita Hill interview was a softball-palooza.

Terry Trippany is the editor and publisher of Webloggin.

Media Bias Debate Fairness Doctrine PBS Tavis Smiley

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