NPR’s Weiss to Bush: "You don’t get to pick your interviewer"

It isn’t often these days that one gets to celebrate a turn of courage from our usually complacent, not to mention presidential-ass-kissing, media but today is one of those days. On top of Tavis Smiley’s brilliant PR coup (see Michael’s post below), we may now add another.

Ellen Weiss, NPR’s News VP, rejected outright Bush’s offer to grant NPR an interview because he insisted on choosing his interviewer and refused any other.

 

This president, in fact this whole damn Administration, has gotten way too used to calling the shots – all the shots – when it comes to the news.

  • They’ve sent out govt propaganda tapes made by Dan Bartlett’s political team – tapes masquerading as “news stories” by independent free-lance journalists – to TV stations around the country.
  • They’ve paid media personalities to boost their policies. (In the rock ‘n’ roll days when record producers paid disc jockeys to play their performers’ records, this was called “Payola” and was, like, illegal.)
  • They’ve controlled what was supposed to be uncontrollable: press conferences. They chose not just the questioners but which order the questions would come in and which questions would be asked. (Bush has been so blatant about this that on at least one occasion he refused to answer a question by a questioner who wasn’t on his prepared list and then made a tasteless joke about it.)
  • They’ve thrown “unfriendly” (read: not in the Bush Bag) reporters out of public presidential events or, more often, refused them admittance to the presence of the August One to begin with.
  • For 5 years, Karl Rove made credentials allowing reporters into WH press conferences contingent on Administration-friendly stories, making it plain to the reporters that if their stories were not friendly, their credentials could and probably would be pulled, shortening their careers in DC significantly.
  • Every public appearance by Bush that was not a press conference has been tightly scripted and under the complete control and supervision of Karl Rove’s political shop, right down to which camera angles were allowed and how far away (faaaaaaar…) reporters had to stand, including the seminal photo op on the WTC rubble after 9/11, “Mission Accomplished” on the USS Lincoln, and the nightmare, night-time visit to Jackson Square after Katrina.
  • Also after Katrina, Bartlett’s Boys built a phony “refugee camp” in Biloxi and had Bush filmed by major networks as food and medicine were handed out to people who had fled the storm. No sooner were the cameras gone (all but one belonging to a German TV crew) than Bartlett had the camp torn down, the supplies loaded on trucks, and the whole shebang hauled off into the Great Unknown, leaving the refugees high and dry and somewhat…confused. The life-span of this “refugee camp”, from throw-up to tear-down, was barely 4 hours.
  • When, on his state visit to Ireland, an Irish journalist asked him a tough question, Bush filed an official complaint with the Irish govt.

And that is not an exhaustive list but a mere taste of the way the Bush WH has handled the US press – with scandalous contempt and arrogance. So it was nice to see, for once, a news professional willing to act professionally.

The White House reached out to National Public Radio over the weekend, offering analyst Juan Williams a presidential interview to mark yesterday’s 50th anniversary of school desegregation in Little Rock.

But NPR turned down the interview, and Williams’s talk with Bush wound up in a very different media venue: Fox News.

***

Ellen Weiss, NPR’s vice president for news, said she “felt strongly” that “the White House shouldn’t be selecting the person.” She said NPR told Bush’s press secretary, Dana Perino, that “we’re grateful for the opportunity to talk to the president but we wanted to determine who did the interview.” When the White House said the offer could not be transferred to one of NPR’s program hosts, Weiss took a pass.

What, Scott Simon is too cutthroat for him? Mara Liason digs too deep?

And just how deep in the Bush Bag is Juan Williams, anyhow?

Williams said yesterday he was “stunned” by NPR’s decision. “It makes no sense to me. President Bush has never given an interview in which he focused on race. . . . I was stunned by the decision to turn their backs on him and to turn their backs on me.”

“Stunned”? Stunned??!! Because a news producer finally refused to allow King George to pick a media buddy to do the interview because he knows his mb won’t dare piss him off by handing him a hard question or following up one of his patented nonsense answers or challenging any of his many bare-faced lies?

No, what “stunned” Mr Williams was that, having worked so hard NOT being a reporter so he could get personal access to the Great Man, having basically dumped his journalistic ethics, his reputation, and his integrity to get inside the Emperor’s invisible pants, his fucking boss went and ruined it all by acting like a goddamn news professional.

Which actually all worked out fine. Williams got his scabby, pandering, fawning interview with Bush on Fox, which is where they both belong.

HIP HIP HOORAY, ELLEN!

But before I leave this, one final gem: Dana Perino letting el gato out of el baggo.

“We thought this would be a good opportunity for the president to sit down with someone and have a broader conversation about race relations,” Perino said. “The president has talked with Juan before and we know him well. He’s active in trying to keep good relations with us. . . . We could have done a print interview, but I felt I wanted people to hear the president’s voice.”

(emphasis added)

Well, we all know at this point what you have to do to “keep good relations” with the Bush WH (*snuffle snuffle*), and ol’ Juan has been “active“. Say, Juan, point of interest. Does that brown ring around your nose come off with ordinary soap or do you have to, like, spray it with the same abrasive they use at nuclear plants to get radiation off the skin? Just curious.

Oh, and Dana? For the record? Nobody but David Brooks and Jonah Goldberg want to “hear the president’s voice”. The rest of us would, you know, rather not. We have severely dented foreheads and are running out of towels to mop up the chunks with. I’ve never had morning sickness but I’m almost positive this is worse.

3 Responses to “NPR’s Weiss to Bush: "You don’t get to pick your interviewer"”

  1. Well you know they say the only difference between an ass kisser and brown noser is depth perception.

    Actually this is interesting. Remember, this is a guy who plans on restocking the coffers by public speaking. I wonder if he thinks he’s going to get such preferential treatment once he’s an ex-president?

    I think he’ll make a mint on the paid speech circuit, that is assuming people are handed things to throw at him at the door.

  2. mick says:

    I wonder if he thinks he’s going to get such preferential treatment once he’s an ex-president?

    Of course he does. He’s had preferential treatment from the press all his life. Even when that slimy Ranger stadium deal got some national press, they basically left him out of the reporting even tho he was smack dab in the middle of it. You think when (if) he’s a ex-king he’d expect anything different?

    No, he’ll be a main passenger on the Wingnut Welfare Express, make $$millions$$ mangling English for the adoring – but very rich – few in venues where the audiences will be hand-picked for their willingness to worship-and-adore, and questions containing more import than “How’s your dog?” will be strictly verboten.

  3. alice88 says:

    if he hadn’t gotten preferential press treatment all his life, we would have known about his (alleged) drunk driving, cocaine use, ignorance of the real world and how most people actually live, his failed enterprises, how he took little advantage of his educational opportunities, etc. and yes, he will be very much in demand at speaking engagements sponsored by the wealthy conservatives he has spent his political life serving. so his coffers will be filled. and i wonder how much time he will spend at his “ranch” in west bumf___ texas once he doesn’t need it as a refuge from the american people?

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