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MSNBC Hosts Liberals to Complain About the Right Attacking the Media

Posted on 17 July 2017

On Sunday's MSNBC special, Trump at 6 Months, a panel stacked with liberals was assembled to discuss the conflict between President Donald Trump and the media. Given the makeup of the panel, it was no surprise that the group concluded that distrust of the media was the fault of right-wingers attacking them for decades, and that the media should continue what they already are doing, rather than make reforms to regain credibility. 

After American University's left-wing historian Allan Lichtman predicted that Trump's defenders will end up on the "scrap heap of history," MSNBC contributor Joan Walsh griped about the Right attacking the media for liberal bias, even as she admitted "some of it" was true: "The Right in this country has claimed for a long time that the media is liberal, you know, making up a lot of it, some of it true, and it's -- Trump, you know, weaponized it, took it to a whole new level."

As host Yasmin Vossoughian began the segment at 6:50 p.m ET by introducing her four guests, she did not identify any of them as coming from a left-wing point of view, in spite of the presence of Salon's Joan Walsh -- who used to be with the far-left The Nation magazine -- and liberal historian Allan Lichtman, who once ran for public office as a Democrat.

The MSNBC host began the segment by recalling a recent Pew survey showing Republicans have a more negative view of the media than Democrats. Without acknowledging any culpability by the media in damaging their own credibility, Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple blamed right-wingers for eroding support for the media as he began:

Let's be honest about what's happened here. Many people on the right -- Sarah Palin going all the way back to Spiro Agnew -- have been hammering the media for decades. Donald Trump did what he does, which is to take those things to the extreme. And they've had an impact. People don't trust the media, especially followers of Donald Trump.

Wemple then defended the credibility of the Washington Post and MSNBC as allegedly accurate sources of information:

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And even though we believe -- the Washington Post and MSNBC, I'm sure, we believe that we get it right, and when we don't get it right, we do correct -- those sort of claims and that sort of integrity is not appreciated or valued or people just don't agree with it. 

He then bemoaned:

So I don't know exactly how the endgame here -- exactly how this is going to end up hurting the country, but it's already starting, and I believe we're just -- we're losing a factual -- common factual ground. And it's frightening to watch.

Wemple, notably, was among those in June 2015 who gave credence to the smear that Fox and Friends hosts were in denial about whether the Charleston church massacre was a racially motivated crime, even though -- previously documented by NewsBusters -- their comments on the subject came early on before more information had by released by authorities.

Vossoughian then turned to Lichtman, who began with a George Orwell reference: "That's correct. We've kind of moved into the George Orwell era where hate is love, war is peace."

The liberal historian soon added:

As an historian, I can say with some confidence, that when we reach the denouement of all this, just as in Watergate, it's not going to be the press, but it's going to be the apologists for this administration that are going to end up on the scrap heap of history.

Toward the end of the segment, after Yamiche Alcindor of the left-wing New York Times had her turn, Lichtman likened the Trump administration to President Richard Nixon and Watergate. The MSNBC host then turned to the left-wing Walsh and posed: "Well, and, Joan, quickly, that's what I want to say. What can the media do?"

After Walsh began, "Exactly what it's doing," Vossoughian added: "Anything differently?"

Walsh did not recommend that journalists do anything at all to improve the current state of their profession as she responded:

No, nothing. Nothing. This is a game -- it does go back to Spiro Agnew. It may go back further than that, but the Right in this country has claimed for a long time that the media is liberal, you know, making up a lot of it, some of it true, and it's -- Trump, you know, weaponized it, took it to a whole new level.

But we're also seeing that his supporters believe him and they go along with whatever he thinks -- you know, they don't think Putin is a bad guy anymore. They don't think Russia -- this Russia story is a story. So you can't think about it. You just do your job, as Allan said.

Wemple could twice be heard injecting, "Joan is right," before being cut off as the show was ending.

The earlier part of the hour-long special had also been heavily stacked against conservatives as the first two segments included Salon's Walsh, Alcindor, and former DNC chairman Howard Dean, pitted against one right-leaning guest in the form of former George H.W. Bush spokesman Gian-Carlo Peressutti.

And in the middle of the show, Vossoughian spoke with three voters in a segment where one conservative was outnumbered 2-1 by one Hillary Clinton voterr and one Bernie Sanders supporter.

Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Sunday, July 16, Trump at 6 Months on MSNBC:

6:50 p.m. ET

YASMIN VOSSOUGHIAN: The President has spent much of his first six months at war with the press, and -- while tension is normal, even necessary -- the President has been on a crusade to undermine journalism facts and the free press.

[clips of President Donald Trump attacking the press]

VOSSOUGHIAN: Okay, joining me now, Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple; and distinguished professor of history at American University and presidential historian Allan Lichtman; and back with us, Yamiche Alcindor and Joan Walsh. Welcome to you both -- welcome to you all. Erik, I'm going to start with you.

Let's look at those numbers from Pew. This is the number of Americans who support the news media's watchdog role. Democrats -- they're 47 percent more likely than Republicans to support the watchdog role -- 89 percent to 42 (percent). But look at the chart -- it wasn't always that way. It was actually in the high seventies until 2016, then a huge dropoff for Republicans. What do you think happened there, Erik?

ERIK WEMPLE: Well, I mean, let's be honest about what's happened here. Many people on the right -- Sarah Palin going all the way back to Spiro Agnew -- have been hammering the media for decades. Donald Trump did what he does, which is to take those things to the extreme. And they've had an impact. People don't trust the media, especially followers of Donald Trump. So we are more and more -- more than ever, we have a media that's speaking to half the country or a third of the country or, however you divide it up, there is an increasing number of people that the media is just not going to reach. And even though we believe -- The Washington Post and MSNBC, I'm sure, we believe that we get it right, and when we don't get it right, we do correct -- those sort of claims and that sort of integrity is not appreciated or valued or people just don't agree with it. So I don't know exactly how the endgame here -- exactly how this is going to end up hurting the country, but it's already starting, and I believe we're just -- we're losing a factual -- common factual ground. And it's frightening to watch.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Alan, you know, you hear the President saying that this dropoff -- if he were to be asked -- from Republicans is a reflection of the media really doing kind of a bad job. Or is it that you now have a Republican as President who spoke so loosely with the truth that we have been forced to fact-check him constantly? And, in that realm, he doesn't like it.

ALLAN LICHTMAN: That's correct. We've kind of moved into the George Orwell era where hate is love, war is peace.

(...)

LICHTMAN: As an historian, I can say with some confidence, that when we reach the denouement of all this, just as in Watergate, it's not going to be the press, but it's going to be the apologists for this administration that are going to end up on the scrap heap of history.

(...)

LICHTMAN: As an historian, I can assure you, eventually the truth will out. You can only maintain the coverup for so long, and everything this administration is doing has all the hallmarks of a Nixon-type coverup.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Well, and, Joan, quickly, that's what I want to say. What can the media do?

JOAN WALSH, SALON: Exactly what it's doing.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Anything differently?

WALSH: No, nothing. Nothing. This is a game -- it does go back to Spiro Agnew. It may go back further than that, but the Right in this country has claimed for a long time that the media is liberal, you know, making up a lot of it, some of it true, and it's -- Trump, you know, weaponized it, took it to a whole new level. But we're also seeing that his supporters believe him and they go along with whatever he thinks -- you know, they don't think Putin is a bad guy anymore. They don't think Russia -- this Russia story is a story. So you can't think about it. You just do your job, as Allan said.

VOSSOUGHIAN: Doing our jobs, yeah, and telling the truth.

WEMPLE: Joan is right, I --

VOSSOUGHIAN: Okay, you guys, thank you so much for joining me. I very much appreciate it. I'm getting in my ear that I got to wrap. I'm basically getting yelled at, so thank you to my panel.

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