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Thursday, September 4, 2008
Yet Another NewsBusters Double Standard
Topic: NewsBusters

From a Sept. 3 NewsBusters post by Matthew Balan:

Less than two hours after Peggy Noonan and former McCain advisor Mike Murphy appeared on MSNBC Wednesday afternoon, a YouTube video appeared of their candid exchange in which they dismissed Sarah Palin’s viability as a VP pick. The speed at which the video appeared indicated that it almost certainly originated from someone inside MSNBC, another favor for the Democrats this election year.


Due to this expedited nature, it indicates that someone at MSNBC leaked the exchange so it could be posted on YouTube and so it could be commented upon by bloggers and talking heads.

There was no similar hand-wringing and brow-furrowing at NewsBusters a couple months ago when another recorded off-air conversation came to light. While Balan noted that "which is reminiscent of Jesse Jackson being caught by a hot mike making a vulgar comment about Barack Obama," the NewsBusters folks were more than happy to have that go live and barely questioned the propriety of Fox News for leaking it:

  • A July 10 post by Kyle Drennen reported reaction to Jackson's statement without noting (beyond the transcript he includes) it was recorded off-air.
  • A July 10 post by Scott Whitlock similarly finds it unworthy of note that Jackson's remarks were recorded off-air.
  • A July 10 post by Ken Shepherd reported on "the media's varying levels of squeamishness in reporting Rev. Jesse Jackson's desire to castrate the presumptive Democratic nominee."
  • A July 10 post by Noel Sheppard found it "hysterical" that newscasters reporting on Jackson's remarks had a problem saying "nuts." Another Sheppard post cited Jackson's "indelicate remarks."
  • A July 11 post by Whitlock pointed out that the Jackson sound bite had been "widely reported" and "repeatedly replayed."
  • A July 14 post by Seton Motley referenced Jackson's "moment of hot microphone pre-interview candor" and complained that the Washington Post gave prominent play to Jackson's subsequent apology because "they are neck-deep in the tank for Obama, and wish to minimize anything that may damage their Boy Wonder."
  • A poll asked, "How Much Coverage Will Jackson's Anti-Obama Slurs Get?"

There's no mention in any of these post that they were recorded off-air, let alone any note of concern that Fox News "leaked the exchange so it could be posted on YouTube and so it could be commented upon by bloggers and talking heads."

The lone exception is Amy Ridenour, who wrote in a July 10 post:

I suggest that the public benefited very little from knowing Jackson's personal feelings on this matter, and that Fox was doing little more than spreading gossip.


I'm no Jackson fan, to say the least, and this Jackson issue is far less significant than the Reagan issue, but I think broadcasting Jackson's private comments was a bit rude of Fox. Jackson was a guest in the Fox studio, he said something that obviously was not meant to go out on the air, and Fox put it on the air anyway.

It isn't as though Jackson is running for office himself, and we already know Jackson has an inclination toward blunt talk. Fox told us nothing new and nothing important.

If Jackson had said the same thing by the sink in the men's room and a Fox employee overheard him, would the comment still be fair game? Does a live mic make all the difference? Would it matter if Jackson didn't realize his was on, or that it was sensitive enough to pick up whispers?

Are there any rules, or is it fair for journalists to print anything they overhear?


As I said earlier, I'm no Jackson fan, and as it happens, I generally like Fox and watch it often. But I don't think journalists should do to others what they would never do to themselves.

Ridenour gets a gold star for properly raising the ethical question that applies regardless of ideology -- indeed, the same question applies to the MSNBC leak as well. The rest of NewsBusters receives no stars. For NewsBusters to suddenly raise ethics questions about the MSNBC leak when it mostly couldn't be bothered to do so with the Fox News-Jackson leak is highly disingenuous and hypocritical.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:22 AM EDT

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