(UPDATE: See the video of Matthews’ comments here, along with some discussion of what it all means.)
Reporting from the big cable TV industry event this week, Broadcasting & Cable‘s Andrea Morabito writes (5/22/12):
Hardball host Chris Matthews argued that because of the rise of opinion-based news networks, the non-critical aspect of the media is gone, going as far to say that the reporting that verified the U.S. administration’s claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2002 would not happen today because of cable news.
“I would like to think there would be a reckoning we didn’t have then because of modern media,” Matthews said. “24/7 is good because it’s not only breadth, it’s depth. Without cable, it is just network [television] thinking, embedded thinking, which is dangerous in a democracy.”
Umm… He’s aware of the fact that cable news channels existed in 2002, right?
In fact, here’s some of what he and his cable colleagues were doing:
—MSNBC‘s Hardball host Chris Matthews asks of World Bank/IMF protests in Washington, D.C.: “Those people out in the streets, do they hate America?” Conservative pundit Cliff May responds: “Yes, I’m afraid a lot of them do. They hate America. They align themselves with Saddam Hussein. They align themselves with terrorists all over the world.” Hardball correspondent David Shuster later adds that “anti-Americanism is in the air.”
And elsewhere on MSNBC (3/6/03):
—MSNBC‘s Dan Abrams indignantly defends the Bush administration against critics who suggest the White House isn’t telling the truth about the rationale for war:
“Well, anyone making these allegations better be willing to defend exactly what they’re saying. They’re saying this administration is at the least morally corrupt, lying to the American public and the world about their motives and willing to have Americans die for that lie, and, at worst, that they’re actually abhorrent criminals. That’s absurd.”
A few months later, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough (4/10/03) demanded that war critics apologize:
“I’m waiting to hear the words ‘I was wrong’ from some of the world’s most elite journalists, politicians and Hollywood types…. I just wonder, who’s going to be the first elitist to show the character to say: ‘Hey, America, guess what? I was wrong’? Maybe the White House will get an apology, first, from the New York Times‘ Maureen Dowd. Now, Ms. Dowd mocked the morality of this war….
“Maybe disgraced commentators and politicians alike, like Daschle, Jimmy Carter, Dennis Kucinich, and all those others, will step forward tonight and show the content of their character by simply admitting what we know already: that their wartime predictions were arrogant, they were misguided and they were dead wrong. Maybe, just maybe, these self-anointed critics will learn from their mistakes. But I doubt it. After all, we don’t call them ‘elitists’ for nothing.”
To be fair, there were people at MSNBC pushing back against the pro-war propaganda. Phil Donahue was the most prominent– and he was fired for it. What was Matthews doing at the time? He was reportedly going to management to lobby to get Donahue off the air.
“We would have stopped the drive to war” is probably more comforting than “We helped make the war happen.”