As Erik Wemple, the new media blogger of the Washington Post, reveals, NBC intended to sign on an irredeemably conflicted and biased “political analyst” for the upcoming campaign and election until her ongoing conflict of interest was made too obvious to hide. When Politico’s Mike Allen pointed pointed out that this announcement from the network…
“Stephanie Cutter has joined NBC News and MSNBC as a Political Analyst. She will contribute exclusively on a range of topics across all platforms including Meet the Press, TODAY, Nightly and MSNBC.”
…was made the same DAY a New York Times story, “Obama Mobilizes Campaign Veterans to Push for Court Nominee,” by Michael D. Shear and Eric Lipton reported…
“[Stephanie] Cutter … will oversee the efforts by the new group, to be called the Constitutional Responsibility Project. Anita Dunn, the former White House communications director, is handling the news media, along with Amy Brundage, a veteran Obama aide. Also involved are Julianna Smoot, the chief fund-raiser for Mr. Obama’s campaigns; Paul Tewes, Mr. Obama’s top field operative in 2008; and Katie Beirne Fallon, the president’s last legislative director.”
…even the shamelessly partisan NBC had to backtrack. Were they really willing to promote and pay a previous Obama campaign spokesperson as an objective and independent analyst while she was being paid to promote a politically charged Obama agenda item? Apparently not—not yet, anyway. This is, of course, a textbook, unresolvable conflict of interest, though NBC avoided that clarifying phrase. The official announcement from the network cancelling the deal with Cutter before the ink was dry on her contract stated:
“We look forward to Stephanie’s insights on our air during this election year, but she will appear as a guest and not as an analyst due to her leadership role in the battle over the President’s Supreme Court nomination.”
This is a porous band-aid on a gushing ethics wound on the journalism establishment, but good enough, I’m sure, for either the average inattentive TV viewer or the partisan Democrat who thinks, for example, that it’s fine to have Democratic operative Donna Brazile posing regularly as an objective commentator on ABC and CNN. Wemple even seems to praise NBC for making the call, even though it is outrageous that any network would dare to hire a demonstrably dishonest Democratic Party hack like Cutter and pronounce her capable of competent analysis, much less objectivity.
Either NBC was aware of Cutter’s conflict and hoping no one would notice, or Cutter withheld it from them, in which case she should have been fired and banned from even being a guest. (My guess: NBC knew.) Wemple thinks NBC is exemplary for acting correctly and ethically on a conflict of interest so classic that it could be cited in a dictionary as an an example of “conflict of interest.” Why? Apparently because almost no media outlets even bother any more. He writes:
Outside of this blog and some graybeards-cum-media watchers, few would have cared if the network just saddled Cutter into her analyst role with some well-placed disclosures, and continued with business as usual. There’s a long history of such activity at cable outlets, and it includes Cutter herself. Back in 2013, when CNN was trying to revive the once-successful shouting program “Crossfire,” co-host Cutter and fellow co-host Newt Gingrich got slammed for having various financial and/or professional ties to organizations and causes that flashed before them on “Crossfire” broadcasts. For instance, Cutter was working with the Obama White House on messaging, as the New York Times and Fox News reported. Gingrich had financially supported at least one guest on the show. CNN was fine with it:
We are clarifying the policy and making it clear Newt Gingrich is not in violation. The policy: If a Crossfire co-host has made a financial contribution to a politician who appears on the program or is the focus of the program, disclosure is not required during the show since the co-host’s political support is obvious by his or her point of view expressed on the program.
Another statement from CNN indicated that “political support and activism are there for all to see” with the “Crossfire” hosts. “It’s obvious they support liberals or conservatives.”
More recently, the Intercept’s Lee Fang exposed how various networks — NBC, CBS, CNN and ABC News — were failing to disclose financial ties between pro-Clinton guests/commentators and the Clinton campaign. A Cutter appearance on “Meet the Press,” noted Fang, failed to disclose that her firm did work for the Clinton campaign.
The mainstream news media is in the process of stacking the deck and rigging its 2016 campaign coverage, just as it did so successfully in 2008 and 2012. All NBC proved is that these blatantly partisan and fake journalism organizations—how ironic that it is Fox that is derided as “Faux News”—are reluctant to be so obvious about it that even their somnolent, vacant-eyed, malleable viewers might notice that they are being manipulated and that this distorts, indeed foils, the democratic process.