PBS Ombud on NewsHour’s Tea Party

PBS ombud Michael Getler, inspired at least in part by this post on FAIR Blog, addressed Dick Armey’s recent appearance on the PBS NewsHour in his September 17 column. Getler wrote that the Armey segment, which was paired with a later interview with Arianna Huffington, “didn’t work,”since the guests seemed to havevery different agendas. The pairing wound up as a “big public relations win for Armey as mostly a platform for his views, while Huffington’s main point was that ‘the solutions are beyond left and right’ and spent as much or more time bashing the Obama administration, aside from noting that the problems grew from ‘obviously a failure of the Bush years.'”

Getler goes on to make excellent points about the larger context:

One is that Huffington may be labeled as “a liberal Democrat,” but she and her widely viewed website strike me, as a reader, as an equal-opportunity critic. Armey is not. There are plenty of sharp, critical assessments of the Democratic Party and administration on her site. For me, this fits into a purely anecdotal sense that I have that much of mainstream television coverage for some time now is more from a center-right starting point than left-center-right, where far more talking heads and pundits that are described as liberal or left-of-center, actually are closer to the center and just as likely to criticize the left as the right. That is usually not the case, at least as it seems to me, with conservative or right-of-center guests and pundits.

Another point goes to something I posted back in May in the aftermath of the shutting down of two major PBS public affairs programs–Bill Moyers Journal and Now on PBS. I said: “Both provided an outlet for people and subjects that are not in the safe, comfortable center of what passes for most public affairs programming on television. Rather, they often presented guests and topics that rarely get an airing, although what they have to say is of interest to many people who live and think outside that safe comfort-zone.”

Both Armey and Huffington, even though controversial, are in what I’d consider that comfortable, or familiar face, zone. Both have many friendly TV and web platforms where their views and books can be, and are, promoted.

Liberal TV pundits are often actually just centrists? PBS should do more to feature views of those outside the Beltway and media elite? FAIR couldn’t agree more.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.