In the wake of his recent death, some liberal writers and bloggers are criticizing Meet the Press host Tim Russert for being insufficiently tough on Bush administration officials.
“Everyone my age is checking their will … and no one wishes a father and husband to drop dead at 58. But for many of us ordinary citizens, Tim Russert was a powerful man who mostly did harm in every way we can think of,” wrote Linda Hirshman in the left-wing The Nation magazine.
Although Russert, who unexpectedly died of a heart attack on June 13th, was widely regarded as a fair journalist, leftists have charged that his insistence on balance translated into cakewalk interviews for many conservatives when rigorous cross-examination was needed.
“Where were the probing questions on Meet the Press in the run up to the war? Here was this devoutly religious journalist who managed to compartmentalize his morality so that it never spoke up on critical issues that affected this country deeply,” wrote Sherman Yellen, a blogger for the Huffington Post-- a website which once maintained a blog called “Russert Watch” to monitor Meet the Press for alleged conservative bias.
Hirshman charged that Russert was a closet conservative who often could not contain his bias. “Russert's sunny manner also concealed that he was anything but a neutral journalist, advancing, somewhat covertly, the conservative trifecta: War on terror, war on women's reproductive rights, and war on Social Security,” she wrote.
Other liberals were less subtle.
“I am not mourning this 5-million-dollar-a-year talking head, felled by his own obesity,” wrote the blogger “acquittal” on the left-wing blog Daily Kos. “How is it that in this world of suffering, we are expected to weep for a talentless and filthy rich tv [sic] prince?”
Russert has generally been posthumously praised by both liberals and conservatives for his aggressive interviewing style and objective journalism. Most criticism has come from hard leftists who contend that the media needs to take a more definitive and skeptical stance against politicians.
And who could have taught Russert a lesson in skeptical journalism? Jon Stewart, according to one newspaper editorial writer.
“The truth is that on any night of the week Jon Stewart’s ‘Daily Show’ does more in a two-minute segment to show in politicians’ own words how venal, dishonest, contradictory and just plain dense they can be than Russert did in his Sunday services,” charged Pierre Tristam of the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Hirshman agreed. “[The Bush administration’s] new lies to Meet the Press were halfway round the world while The Daily Show was putting its boots on.”