Revealing Gaffe on MSNBC About Obama Coverage

By: Roger Aronoff
Accuracy in Media


The scenario is rich in irony. Glenn Greenwald, the left-wing journalist who became the conduit for NSA contractor Edward Snowden to leak American classified secrets to the world about NSA surveillance, both at home and abroad, was on MSNBC on Thursday talking about the latest from Snowden. How the members of the media, and the Democrats in Congress, wish this wasn’t occurring under their beloved Barack Obama. If only this had happened on George Bush’s watch, they could have been calling our government fascist, expressing hyper-outrage, and demanding impeachment. Instead, most of them find themselves reflexively defending the federal government tracking all of our phone calls and emails.

But in fact, this is what federal judge Richard Leon said last week about the NSA program:

“I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval. Surely such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.”

Leon went on to call the program “almost-Orwellian technology.”

But as documented [with video] by The Daily Caller website, “Greenwald—the reporter who published Edward Snowden’s initial documents on NSA surveillance and retains many more for future publication—blasted MSNBC’s hypocrisy for suggesting his defense of Snowden violates journalistic ethics. ‘That’s ludicrous,’ he said, noting that ‘the agenda of President Obama and the Democratic Party are promoted, defended, [and] glorified’ every day on the cable network.”

MSNBC’s substitute anchor, Kristen Welker, who is normally NBC’s White House correspondent, was interviewing Greenwald the day after Christmas. She asked him to “respond to critics who claim he’s become ‘more of a spokesman for Edward Snowden.’

Greenwald’s response? Pot, meet kettle:”

I think that’s ludicrous, is what I say to that. Every journalist has an agenda. We’re on MSNBC now, where close to 24 hours a day the agenda of President Obama and the Democratic Party are promoted, defended, glorified. The agenda of the Republican Party is undermined. That doesn’t mean the people on MSNBC aren’t journalists, they are. I think every journalist has a viewpoint.

My viewpoint is clear. I don’t hide it. I think what Edward Snowden did was very admirable and heroic, but at the same time the ultimate test of a journalist is, is what you publish accurate and reliable? And I think with regard to every story we published over the last six months, there hasn’t been a single correction made to any of them, very few called into question. And I think that’s the ultimate question when it comes to journalism.

Welker, as The Daily Caller pointed out, appeared flustered. She said, “the point is not so much about MSNBC,” but that Greenwald’s defense of Snowden’s actions may “cross a line.”

“Sure, I do defend him,” Greenwald snarked back, “just like people on MSNBC defend President Obama and his officials and Democratic Party leaders 24 hours a day.”

Not everyone on MSNBC does that 24 hours a day,” Welker sulked (emphasis added). “No, not everybody,” Greenwald laughed. “But a lot—a LOT—of people on MSNBC do.”

That’s her defense? “Not everyone on MSNBC does that 24 hours a day.” Would she dare name names? Who are the faithless on the network who don’t do that 24 hours a day? And how many hours a day do they do that?

She had committed the unpardonable, a Washington gaffe, defined for modern pop and political culture by journalist Michael Kinsley as “when a politician tells the truth—some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.”

Okay, Welker is not a politician, per se. She just plays one on TV, like nearly all of the NBC / MSNBC hosts, news readers, and actual journalists.

Greenwald sounded like Accuracy in Media when he pointed out that the journalists of MSNBC “defend President Obama and his officials and Democratic Party leaders 24 hours a day.” And Welker inadvertently acknowledged that he is mostly correct. Okay, it’s not “24 hours a day,” and it’s “not everyone on MSNBC.” But you get the picture.

Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at View the complete archives from Roger Aronoff.


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