If you missed Thursday night’s episode of Rock Center with Brian Williams on NBC, you probably didn’t catch Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer criticizing the cable news media for inciting partisanship.
Here’s what Hoyer said when asked by special correspondent Ted Koppel to critique the current crop of cable news broadcasters.
“Today’s journalists too often, because it’s profitable to do so and it builds audiences, see their job not to inform, but to incite — to get people riled up, to get their juices flowing.”
Hoyer’s comment fit perfectly into Koppel’s piece, the aim of which was to paint cable personalities — particularly conservative hosts/pundits like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter — as rabid partisans who have no concern or regard for keeping their political views hidden in order to objectively inform the electorate. Like Koppel says he did.
Fair enough. A good number of observers would probably agree that, for better or worse, the purpose of cable news these days isn’t really to report in an unbiased fashion, but rather to make money by advancing an agenda or point of view that reinforces viewers’ personal opinions and beliefs. And certainly, both sides do it. It’s just that, from a ratings and revenue standpoint, some, like Fox News, do it better than others.
But back to Hoyer. Just hours after his remarks were aired on NBC, he held a press conference on Capitol Hill with several of his Democratic colleagues to assail Republicans for trying to leave town without passing a jobs bill.
Hoyer took the podium, and absolutely went off.
“[Americans] have seen [Republicans] over the last several weeks perpetrate a myth that President Clinton so successfully debunked at the Convention about work requirements. The only requirement for work is that Republicans stay here and work instead of cutting and running. We’re ready to do the job that we’re sent here to do. We’re here to get a jobs bill in front of the American people. We want to work and get the job done.”
On paper, Hoyer’s remarks don’t really stand out as being particularly inciteful. But now listen to the audio.
It would appear that Hoyer may have been trying “to get people riled up” or “to get their juices flowing,” in order to convince listeners to side with his party.
Yet, according to Hoyer, that’s a bad thing.
Now, here’s a clip that NBC used last night of Bill O’Reilly taking Rep. Barney Frank to task on his show, The O’Reilly Factor, which airs on Fox News.
So, is there a double standard in play here? Is it okay for lawmakers to incite people, but not okay for talking heads, who, by the way, get paid to talk, to do the same?
In fairness to Hoyer, he’s not the only one in Congress who loses his cool every now and then when trying to make a point. Remember this rant?
Of course, John Boehner isn’t the one telling the cable news networks to tone it down.
Geoff Holtzman is the deputy Washington bureau chief for Talk Radio News Service.