Schieffer: Critics of an 'Independent Press' Are 'Undermining Foundations of Democracy'

As Nick Fondacaro noted on Sunday, CNN Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter routinely suggests President Trump is an “autocrat,”  and Trump's blustery tweets that network news is so distorted they ought to have their broadcast licenses evaluated put Stelter into Category Five panic. At the end of his interview with “legendary journalist” Bob Schieffer on Sunday, he returned to the topic, and Schieffer suggested people trying to undermine the credibility of the media are “undermining the foundations of our democracy.”

 

 

That’s how simplistic these liberal thinkers are: Democracy = the “legacy media.” The First Amendment? That’s written for the “legacy media.” Anyone who uses their free speech to criticize them, or use their right to vote in support of a press-bashing candidate? They’re somehow autocrats who hate the Constitution. Stelter didn’t find anyone to push back against his position.

STELTER: And last question for you, Bob, it's like what we wrestle with almost every for every week on this program, is how seriously to take President Trump's tweets? You know, especially as his tweets about so-called fake news. How do you approach it? How much do you do care or read into all the president's words on Twitter?

SCHIEFFER: Well, I tell you -- all these attacks on the media, look, at my age, I've been called everything from a nattering nabobs of negativity back --

STELTER: Spiro Agnew, yes.

SCHIEFFER: -- in Nixon days -- to a female hygiene product these days. I don't pay much attention to that kind of stuff. You know, I've been called all kind of names.

What I do take seriously is when he tries to destroy the credibility of the media, an independent press that can gather information that people can compare to the government's version of events and that is what we do. It's as crucial to our democracy as the right to vote, and when people try to undermine that, I think they're undermining the foundations of our democracy.

Many conservatives  have a quick reaction to that: Does CNN with a Cuomo as anchor really look like an "independent press"? Does ABC with George Stephanopoulos as Chief Anchor on the breaking news really look like an "independent press"? The "revolving door" between Democratic office-holders and the "independent press" is an ongoing problem for Schieffer's (and Stelter's) argument. 

They fail to imagine that the conservative media is also media, and that conservative journalism and press criticism also represents the First Amendment; also represents a democratic diversity of voices; and also represents holding the government accountable.

Conservatives take great exception to the notion that the Old Media boldly challenges "the government's version of events" when the president is a Democrat. As Rich Noyes just replayed, eight years ago the "independent" legacy media were worrying that "harsh criticism" of Obama was indecent, racist, and put the president's personal safety in danger. 

Schieffer actually complained – with zero pushback from Stelter about ahem, Dan Rather and his fake-documents debacle – that everybody now is a publisher, and amateurs on the Internet don’t have professional standards for fact-checking, like, you know, CBS:

SCHIEFFER: [W]hat's happened here is that now everybody is a publisher. It used to be, you had at least a barrel of ink and a printing press to be a publisher. If you've got a phone now, you were a publisher. But are you following the same guidelines that we're used to the legacy media following? And that is before you print, before you go to press, before your broadcast are you checking it out to make sure it's true. And in many, many cases, especially on social media, that's simply not true and it -- that's what's making it so hard right now.

One other rebuttal to Schieffer comparing elite journalism to the right to vote is obvious: What about when the voters reject the advice of the media elite? Whether it was the rise of the Newt Gingrich House majority in 1995 or the Trump inauguration in 2017, the networks often sound like The Resistance, lecturing the voters on the mistakes that they made, and undermining the credibility of the Republicans who won in a democratic contest. Who is the democrat and who is the autocrat when the "independent press" murmurs daily about how the elected president must be removed from office? 

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