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Obama Rips TV News for Making Rudeness the Road to Stardom

5 years ago
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President Obama turned media critic during his Sunday show marathon, zinging television news during interviews on CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC for making stars out of people who are "rude." Obama wants bookers to reward "decency" and "civility" in public discourse.

We'll see.

Obama seemed determined to make this point because the president used remarkably similar language during his interviews with Sunday morning show hosts, deploring the state of discourse, especially on cable news shows.

Obama, who also sat down with Univision, snubbed the outlet where many of his loudest critics have found a perch -- Fox News Channel.

The interviews were taped back-to-back Friday afternoon in the Roosevelt room of the White House. When I walked by the Roosevelt Room earlier on Friday en route to an interview with an Obama official in the West Wing, the room looked like a television studio, stuffed with lights, wires, cameras and other equipment.


Obama of course, owns the top bully pulpit, and can get on television almost at will. He's done more interviews at this stage of his presidency -- eight months ago today -- than George Bush and Bill Clinton. A standard Obama line through the years has been that you don't have to be disagreeable to disagree. But as he noted on Sunday, that does not get you on the news.

On CNN, Obama told John King, host of "State of the Union":


"I think it's important for the media -- you know, not to do any media-bashing here -- to recognize that right now, in this 24-hour news cycle, the easiest way to get on CNN or FOX or any of the other stations, MSNBC, is to say something rude and outrageous.

"If you're civil and polite and you're sensible, and you don't exaggerate the bad things about your opponent, and, you know, you might get on one of the Sunday show but -- but you're not going to be in the loop.

"And, you know, part of what I'd like to see is, is all of us reward decency and civility in our political discourse."

On ABC, Obama told "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos:


"I think, that, frankly, the media encourages some of the outliers in behavior, because, let's face it, the easiest way to get on television right now is to be really rude. If you're just being sensible and giving people the benefit of the doubt and you're making your arguments, you don't . . . get time on the nightly news."

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Obama told host David Gregory:


"Well, look, I think that we have an obligation in Washington, as leaders, to make sure that we are sending a strong message. That we can disagree without being disagreeable. Without, you know, questioning each
other's motives. When we start caricaturing the other side -- I think that's a problem.

"And unfortunately, we've got, as I've said before, a 24-hour news cycle where what gets you on the news is controversy. What gets you on the news is the extreme statement. The easiest way to get 15 minutes on the news, or your 15 minutes of fame, is to be rude."

On CBS "Face the Nation," Obama told host Bob Schieffer:


"One last point I've got to make, Bob, and that is I do think part of what's different today is that the 24-hour news cycle and cable television and blogs and all this, they focus on the most extreme elements on both sides.

"They can't get enough of conflict; it's catnip to the media right now. And so the easiest way to get 15 minutes of fame is to be rude to somebody. In that environment I think it makes it more difficult for us to solve the problems that the American people sent us here to solve."


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