On the other hand, some guests (and listeners) don't talk back. In February another MSNBC host, Lawrence O'Donnell, was interviewing Michigan ex-Governor Jennifer Granholm. He stated, "The Republican Party is saying that the president of the United States has bosses, that the union bosses this president around. Does that sound to you like they are trying to consciously or subconsciously deliver the racist message that, of course, a black man can't be the real boss?" Granholm replied, "Wow, I hadn't thought about the racial overtones."
And I hadn't thought, until New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd educated me, that GOP budget-cutters were "cannibals… vampires... zombies...the metallic beasts in Alien." (She mixed all of those metaphors into one memorable paragraph.) I also learned from Katie Couric that Americans will realize Islam is not a problem when we watch "a Muslim version of The Cosby Show."
But maybe the tilt of these mainstream opinion merchants isn't so important anymore. When Jill Abramson in June became editor of The New York Times, she said her rise was like "ascending to Valhalla. In my house growing up, the Times substituted for religion. If the Times said it, it was the absolute truth." Happily, almost no one has that kind of faith anymore.
And yet, people sometimes think they're getting facts in news reports. That's why a report by correspondent Ray Suarez on PBS' NewsHour astounded me. Suarez spoke of communist Cuba's "impressive health outcomes… no doctor shortage… care that's both personal and persistent." Right. In reporting from Havana in 2004 I talked with doctors serving as cab drivers and bellhops to get money for their families. Some churches hosted illegal clinics because parishioners couldn't get help through official channels. A pharmacy's shelves were mostly naked. A hospital had a BYOX policy: Bring your own X-ray film.
Happy new year, in a land that's still mostly free.