There is little doubt that among many popular journalists and newscasters that grace the national television broadcasting corporations, there are a select few members of the fourth estate who forgo not only journalistic integrity, but human decency as well. Many seek to cover their own biases by hiding behind labels such as “Progressive” or “Traditionalist” and in doing so demand that we cannot be both. They are an insult to the audience’s ability to process information on their own. We have become so lazy that we rely on and trust people whom we do not know to interpret (and in most cases manufacture) the news for us.
Long since past are the days when Edward R. Murrow courageously stared down Senator McCarthy, when Dan Rather reported from within Mujahadeen strongholds in Afghanistan during the country’s Soviet occupation, or when Walter Cronkite managed to embody both the shock and willpower of the American people just minutes after the Kennedy assassination. The recent news that CBS, once the gold standard of television journalism, has been considering negotiations that would lead to outsourcing its news broadcasting to CNN is perhaps the final nail in the coffin. In honor of their memory, I present my list of the Top 5 Worst Newscasters Ever.
(EDIT: The allegations that CBS is outsourcing its news to CNN have not been confirmed by either party)
5. George Stephanopoulos (ABC News – This Week)
ABC has been shoddy ever since Peter Jennings passed away. Now ABC has George Stephanopoulos fronting the national news. However, for most of his career he has not defined by a lack of integrity, but an inability to define himself at all. The reason he is on the list is because of a recent debate between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton he hosted with Charles Gibson. While the debate drew in a record audience for ABC, it was crammed with commercials and unsubstantial accusations directed towards Barack Obama. Issues discussed included Obama’s former pastor Reverend Wright, the fact that he knows William Ayers (a former member of the Weather Underground), and (I’m not making this up) an appearance he made several months ago when he was not wearing a flag lapel pin. Stephanopoulos lacks the kind of gusto that defined Peter Jennings and will forever prevent him from distinguishing himself as a newscaster.
Best line ever (to Senator Barack Obama): “Do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do?”
4. Lou Dobbs (CNN – Lou Dobbs Tonight)
Every weekday evening between the Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer and Andersoon Cooper 360, CNN subjects us to a few hours of nonsensical ranting from one of the grumpiest men ever to grace the television airwaves. While I do not believe he willingly incites anti-Hispanic xenophobia, the effects of his class warfare/”pro-America, anti-everybody else” rhetoric are permeating and divisive. While he is best known as being a voice of opposition to American involvement in multinational councils, his summations often border on the absurd. Every time President Bush meets with President Calderon and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the fictional North American Union rears its ugly head as a talking point. Dobbs is always encouraging his listeners to register as independent voters, apparently because he believes that the best way to fix a broken system is to retreat from it altogether. This self-described “champion of the middle class” makes upwards of $10 million a year and easily qualifies as number four of the Top 5 Worst Newscasters ever. By the way Lou, I like NAFTA. Now watch as I give you the cold Canadian-American shoulder.
Best line ever (In response to a comment made by Condoleezza’s Rice): “Not a single one of these cotton…[stammering]…these just ridiculous politicians should be the moderator on the issue of race.”
3. Keith Olbermann (MSNBC – Countdown With Keith Olbermann)
Liberalism in the media has a name, and that name is Keith Olbermann. While normally MSNBC ranks in the top tier of national news outlets, Countdown is little more than a pathetic attempt by the network to create a left wing version of the O’Reilly Factor. Recent antics include imitating Walter Cronkite by counting down the days since major combat operations ended in Iraq, imitating Edward R. Murrow by ending his broadcasts with “good night and good luck”, and imitating the fictional Howard Beale in a poorly done interpretation of his “Mad as Hell” speech from the film Network. Not only did he once depict Bill O’Reilly with a cardboard cut-out giving the Nazi salute, but he has included him sixty times in his “Worst Person In the World” countdown, which paradoxically changes with every new episode. Keith Olbermann is unoriginal and his juvenile antics will forever guarantee that his viewer audience share is less than 1/3 that of Bill O’Reilly.
Best line ever: “I’m not a liberal, I’m an American”
2. The Entire Fox News Morning Team (FOX News – Fox and Friends)
Stephen Colbert once described Fox News as a cartoon about the news. You can always count on Gretchen Carlson, Steve Doocy, and Brian Kilmeade to provide the quality of newscasting one might expect from SpongeBob Squarepants, Scooby Doo, and Invader Zim. Starting off your mornings with the unholy trinity of Fox and Friends is an unhealthy way to live. Since 2007, they have been repeatedly claiming that Senator Barack Obama attended a Muslim school when he lived in Indonesia (he didn’t), which has not only been denied by Obama’s campaign, but was proven to be inaccurate by a CNN investigation. Most recently, Steve Doocy claimed to be offended by a comment Barack Obama made in a speech on race regarding Obama’s own grandmother’s prejudices towards African Americans. When Doocy asked if Brian Kilmeade would take offense at Obama calling him a “typical sports-guy” (as opposed to “a typical white person”), Kilmeade in a rare display of human frustration, walked off the set. If you enjoy shouting and unsubstantiated claims, Fox and Friends is for you. If not, than turn off the TV.
Brian Kilmeade: “When you’re in an unscripted interview with sports guys sometimes you’re not measuring every word”
Steve Doocy: “If I said you’re a typical sports guy would you take offense at that?”
1. Tie: Bill O’Reilly (FOX News – The O’Reilly Factor) and Arianna Huffington and her fellow bloggers (The Huffington Post)
The number one spot was something of a no-brainer. Bill O’Reilly is a god to many, and a demon to many more. While Arianna Huffington does not occupy a spot on network news, her influence is just as pervasive. The reason that O’Reilly and Huffington share the number one spot of the Top 5 Worst Newscasters Ever is because they exemplify every single stereotype associated with the ideologies they so passionately defend. O’Reilly, the conservative, has been a passionate apologist of the Bush Administration since he first took office. He has often been lampooned by satirists, most notably Stephen Colbert who in many respects is a parody of O’Reilly. One of the more interesting segments of his show covered him taking a trip to Harlem to have lunch with Rev. Al Sharpton. O’Reilly was astonished to find that the restaurant they were at operated just like a white restaurant, saying (Note: this is O’Reilly’s best line ever) “There wasn’t one person in Sylvia’s who was screaming, ‘M-Fer, I want more iced tea”.
Arianna Huffington was a gubernatorial candidate several years ago during the California recall election which ultimately put Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Governor’s Mansion. She operates a well known blog known as the Huffington Post, which contains articles written by well known Americans on the political left such as Chris Dodd, Alan Dershowitz, John Zogby, and Robert Kennedy Jr. However, the blog has also become a stomping ground for people who exhibit everything that has held back the Democratic Party for the last thirty years. Contributors such as Bill Maher, Alec Baldwin, Larry David, and (I’m not making this up) George Clooney epitomize the false stereotypes of liberals in America as people who pay large sums of cash for coffee, drive hybrids around the 90210 but take a private jet to anything more than 100 miles away, and host rock concerts to raise awareness about popular causes, whether it be “saving” Africa or finding means to make poor people better. They ultimately keep pushing the silent majority of Americans to the right of the political spectrum because they have become deluded into thinking that everybody who presents an opinion different from their own is conservative and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to contribute to public debate. This is best exemplified by Arianna’s most recent article condemning CNN for hiring Tony Snow as a political consultant calling him an “unabashed propogandist” because of his conservative views.
Best Line Ever: “What is it with these media outlets? Have they been so cowed by the Right’s relentless branding of them as ‘liberal’ that they feel compelled to show they’re not sleeping with the enemy? And make no mistake, Rove, Kristol, and Snow are the enemies.”
O’Reilly and Huffington have polarized those voters whom are best connected with the media and current events by demanding that we take sides. He has called her a Nazi, and she has called him a man “who spews hate as readily as he breaths”, calling it “his lifeblood”. Their most recent petty tirade was over comments on each other’s websites posted by anonymous readers. O’Reilly’s contained posts threatening the life of Hillary Clinton while Huffington’s included sexually inappropriate comments directed towards Senator John McCain’s 23-year-old daughter Meghan. The conclusion of the matter is this: as long as we continue to empower these people they will keep continue to tear this country apart.