Laura Hollis

Just a couple of weeks ago, late-night comic David Letterman continued the media’s incomprehensible hatefest on Sarah Palin. (Incomprehensible at least in part because her ticket lost; for a losing VP candidate, she has remarkable and unprecedented staying power.) Part of his schtick that night included calling her a “slutty flight attendant.”

Of all the pots and kettles I have ever seen, having a member of the media/entertainment establishment call anyone else a slut is at the top of the list.

But Letterman, for whatever else you can say about him, is an entertainer and a comedian. He is not a news personality. (Nor does he pretend to be, unlike some comedians.)

ABC, however, does purport to be a purveyor of news. So it is incredibly unfunny and profoundly disturbing that the network will be broadcasting what will be little more than an elaborate all-day informercial for Obama’s plan to socialize the entire American health care system. In a story broken by the Drudge Report last week, it was revealed that ABC would be hosting a primetime special, “Prescription for America,” broadcast from the East Room of the White House this evening. Ok, fine. But Charlie Gibson will also be anchoring World News from the Blue Room in the White House. And this is in addition to an interview with the President on “Good Morning America,” and with Michelle Obama later in the day. (It is so bad that a a number of commentators have rechristened ABC the “All Barack Channel.”)

Even for a media so slavishly adoring of Obama that their coverage of him seems more like a sex act, this is a new low.

Republicans were stunned at these blatantly partisan efforts by a news organization. Republican National Committee Chief of Staff Ken McKay sent a written request to ABC News, asking to participate, present opposing viewpoints and alternatives to “Obamacare.” ABC News refused. From that, you know all you need to. But the response of ABC News’ Senior Vice President Kerry Smith is just as revealing. He said:

"ABCNEWS alone will select those who will be in the audience asking questions of the president. Like any programs we broadcast, ABC News will have complete editorial control. To suggest otherwise is quite unfair to both our journalists and our audience."

Like, duhhhhh. I’m sorry, but isn’t that precisely the point? We know you’ll be controlling the content and handpicking the shills in the audience.

And so does Barack Obama, who is no doubt thrilled with ABC’s “complete editorial control.” At this week’s Radio and Television Correspondents’ Dinner, Obama got a big laugh when he joked, “A few nights ago, I was up tossing and turning trying to figure out exactly what to say. Finally, when I couldn't get back to sleep, I rolled over and asked Brian Williams what he thought.” If the President himself admits you’re in bed with him, it’s hard to argue the point.

The more ABC to defend itself against accusations of bias and currying favor, the more obvious the travesty becomes. And a travesty it is, indeed. The press is the only non-governmental institution that is specifically mentioned in the United States Constitution. The drafters of the Constitution understood how vitally important it was for a free people to have a free press; one unfettered, uncensored, and uncontrolled by government. One utterly devoted to uncovering and exposing the truth. It is a mark of how spoiled, selfish and unforgivably ignorant our media have become that they have abandoned this sacred duty to the public, and cast all semblance of neutrality aside to give this President (or any political leader, for that matter) the kind of obsequious uncritical coverage that would give Ahmadinejad a tingle up his leg.

It is particularly heinous that this event comes even as we watch the trickle of information – that would be real news for those of you who have forgotten – seep out from Iran via Twitter and crude cell phone cameras, disseminated by an oppressed people who do not enjoy any of the freedoms we have – including a free press – and who are facing retaliation, imprisonment, injury, and death to keep the world informed about what is really going on there.

The bravery of these “amateur” reporters makes the cowardice and sycophancy of our Pravda press more than an embarrassment; it is a moral outrage.

On the other hand, there is some good news. Apparently, the ratings slide that the TV news shows have felt is continuing. So perhaps not that many people will watch after all. Or, perhaps – even better – they will, and that will seal the existing network news’ fates for good.

Either way, we still won’t respect them in the morning.


Laura Hollis

Laura Hollis is an Associate Professional Specialist and Concurrent Associate Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches entrepreneurship and business law. She is the author of the forthcoming publication, “Start Up, Screw Up, Scale Up: What Government Can Learn From the Best Entrepreneurs,” © 2014. Her opinions are her own, and do not reflect the position of the university. Follow her on Twitter: @LauraHollis61.