It would be bad enough if all Americans had to worry about was bad reporting on their television newscasts. In addition to the many recent cases of not only bias, but outright false reporting on the newscasts, there is a lot of "news reporting" working its way into entertainment media and the result is a misinformed public.
Having political viewpoints or news items woven into entertainment media is certainly nothing new. Since the show debuted in 1990, NBC’s "Law & Order" crime series has touted its plots were "ripped from the headlines." Often in television drama, and even on television sitcoms, political ideas and even agendas have been explored and even promoted. I remember, in particular, an episode of the early 90’s sitcom "Blossom" in which the young teenage characters were assured that sex was safe as long as they used a condom.
Today, in addition to political or social themes being woven into the storylines of fictional dramas and comedies, there are programs where news, or statements based on news events, is part of the presentation. On Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," Jon Stewart delivers a fake news broadcast, similar to the Saturday Night Live "Weekend Update" made famous by Chevy Chase and Jane Curtain in the 70's, with a liberal slant.
Sadly, a growing number of Americans get their "news" from the nightly monologues of comedians like Jay Leno and David Letterman who frequently base their comedy on current events, including political news. Since the comedy often relies on stereotypes and exaggerations of the truth, any news content in the material is often greatly distorted, and at times, just plain wrong.
On comedy shows, at least the public realizes they are getting a comedian's perspective of the news. Even though dozens of jokes based on the stupidity of George Bush or the wickedness of Dick Cheney or Halliburton, can have the effect of influencing the public and leading them to misconceptions, at least viewers know they are not getting their information from a news source.
The same cannot be said for some other programs. Viewers getting their news from morning "news" shows like "Today" or "Good Morning America" must surely believe they can rely on the information they get. After all, the news departments from the networks play a role in the programs.
Similarly, viewers of ABC's "The View" certainly must believe the information presented on a program co-owned, co-produced and co-hosted by Barbara Walters would be reliable. For years there has been a liberal slant to the opening round table "Hot Topics" segment of the program, but recently with the addition of Rosie O'Donnell the slant has turned into outright misinformation and propaganda – all with the Barbara Walters stamp of approval.
For years there was not a conservative voice to be heard in the "hot topics" discussions on "The View." Now there is at least one conservative voice in Elizabeth Hasselbeck, but she is often either not up to speed on the topic being discussed or is shouted down or bullied by the loud and obnoxious O'Donnell. Often incorrect information is presented by co-host Joy Behar or O'Donnell and is not disputed or even questioned.
In the past week alone, Rosie O'Donnell has shared the following with the audience of "The View" (quotes via Newsbusters):
• On the U.S. Attorney firings: "Okay, Republican officials who supposedly called these judges that were fired and said, are you going to prosecute this Democratic, and they said, I can't talk about that because I'm actually a judge, and it's illegal. And they said "click," and they got fired."…That's mob tactics. That's Tony Soprano. We're going to lean on people. That's what the president's doing. That's scary.”
• On the British sailors held hostage by Iran: "But interesting with the British sailors, there were 15 British sailors and Marines who apparently went into Iranian waters and they were seized by the Iranians. And I have one thing to say: Gulf of Tonkin, Google it. Okay."… "In a no bid contract for 5 years Halliburton -- wait a second -- 16 billion dollars. You want to know why we would go into Iran? For the money. That's why we would do it."
• "Nearly everyone in this administration is under indictment or suspicion. Nearly every person. From Karl Rove to Rumsfeld to Gonzalez. What do you have to do to be impeached in this country?"
My question is what do you have to do to be held accountable for your ridiculous, often incorrect, statements on a major network television program created and controlled by Barbara Walters? I am all for discussing topics and debating them openly, and even fiercely, but on a major network program endorsed by a journalism legend, there should be some effort made to ensure the information presented is not routinely inaccurate and even reckless. At the very least there should be some attempt to balance the presentation.
In recent weeks on "The View" O'Donnell said "radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam in a country like America," that the U.S. government "robbed" terrorists including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed "of his humanity," and she has also made statements promoting conspiracy theories about the U.S. government playing a role in the September 11 attacks.
This week on "The View" O'Donnell said that "in America we are fed propaganda and if you want to know what is happening in the world go outside of the US media because it is owned by four corporations and one of them is this one." I strongly disagree that the media in the rest of the world more accurately reports what is going on inside America, but when she said that we are fed propaganda, I have to agree. Anyone who doubts that needs only to watch the first 15 minutes of “The View.”