Obama’s YouTube Interviewers Smeared By Fox News Host With Smaller Audience

On MediaBuzz, the Fox News program dedicated to reviewing the press, anchor Howard Kurtz took another opportunity to belittle President Obama and the YouTube personalities that interviewed him following the State of the Union Address. This is apparently a sore spot for conservative media dinosaurs like Kurtz who think that it is “beneath the dignity of the office to be hanging out with some of these YouTubers.” As noted in a previous article, the jealously and hypocrisy of the entrenched conventional media was exposed by their arrogant dismissal of a forward-thinking politician who recognizes the value in relating to a new generation of Americans on their own turf.

But Kurtz wasn’t finished. He took his criticisms to his own Sunday program to lay into the President and the YouTubers again. This time he focused on a distinction between the YouTube personalities and mainstream entertainment programs on television saying that he is “fine with Obama going on Ellen, The View, Colbert, but isn’t this sort of like the low-rent district?”

Howard Kurtz vs. YouTube

First of all, it wasn’t too long ago that going on shows like Ellen was looked down upon in the same way that Kurtz is demeaning YouTube. Bill Clinton’s appearance on Arsenio Hall was widely mocked by the dino-press. The same is true when politicians began to take cautious steps onto late night shows like Leno and Letterman. In most cases they still complain that such appearances trivialize the political guest.

Secondly, for Kurtz to insult the YouTubers as “low-rent” displays a giant, family-sized bag of chutzpah. His program on the journalistic wasteland of Fox News has an audience of about half a million viewers. Fox News Sunday, pulls in about 1.3 million. But the YouTube trio who sat with Obama last week reach a much bigger audience. Hank Green’s Vlogbrothers has a YouTube subscriber base of 2.4 million. The flamboyant Glozell draws 3.4 million. And Bethany Mota pulls in a whopping 8.1 million people. That’s about four times the viewers of Bill O’Reilly.

In Kurtz’s MediaBuzz segment he ran a brief video that featured only a few moments of fun or silliness, and he implied that they were representative of the whole of each interview. That is a deliberate and bald-faced lie. Many of the questions asked of the President were as substantive and probing as any that the more “professional” reporters would have asked. For instance…

  • Hank Green asked Obama whether the issues he raised in the State of the Union were politically feasible. He also asked whether Obama’s policy of drone strikes would be viewed in retrospect as a misuse of technology.
  • Glozell addressed the issue of police relations with African-Americans. She also imposed on Obama to justify his initiative to reinstate diplomatic relations with Cuba and the Castros.
  • Bethany Mota began with a question that many of her generation are struggling with, making education affordable. She continued with questions about the Nigerian terrorist group, Boko Haram, which has not been getting the media attention that ISIS does, even though they have been at times more lethal.

It would be difficult for Kurtz to honestly find fault with these lines of questioning without condemning his own colleagues who have asked many of the same types of questions. But instead he chose to air some laugh lines and pretend that’s all that occurred. And his panel was no better. Jonah Goldberg of the ultra-rightist National Review whined that Obama “only likes to talk to people who think he’s awesome.” That will come as some surprise to Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and Bret Baier, who have both interviewed Obama. Either Goldberg has early onset Alzheimer’s or he is purposefully misleading. As for examples of profound inquiries by Fox News reporters, this morning Chris Wallace asked Obama’s Chief of Staff if because of the election results in November “Doesn’t the President need to scale back his agenda to work with Republicans?”

Really? So the President should abandon his principles and capitulate to a party that won a majority in the lowest turnout election in 70 years? And when did Wallace ever ask Republicans to scale back their agenda in 2012 or 2008, after big Democratic victories? In fact, one of the first things Wallace said after the first inauguration of Obama was to question whether he was actually president because Chief Justice Roberts flubbed the oath of office. Then GOP senate leader Mitch McConnell declared that his top priority was to make Obama a one-term president. And Rush Limbaugh said “I hope he fails.” Apparently no agenda scaling back was necessary for the Republican losers.

Before Kurtz maligns others as being in a “low-rent district” he should assess the value of his own property. What he will find is a petty, biased, plot of fear mongering and racism. It’s a tract that Fox News has spent years developing.

Republicans Finally Face-Off On YouTube

After initially declining to participate in a proposed CNN/YouTube debate, the Republican candidates have finally weathered the ordeal that had so frightened them at first. I could care less about the actual substance of the debate because it was so predictably a contest to see who could be more opposed to immigrants, gays, taxes, getting out of Iraq, and any variety of Clinton.

However, I would like to note that my criticism of the Democrat’s YouTube affair still holds true for this one. Specifically that, since all of the videos broadcast were pre-selected by CNN, this could hardly be characterized as promoting the voice of the people.

However, the Republican outing even surpassed the Dems for editorial misconduct. The first flaw was that CNN shuffled through 5,000 “citizen”-submitted video questions and managed to select one from Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, friend of Jack Abramoff, and erstwhile companion of Republican politicos everywhere. Secondly, CNN awarded another of the limited questions to General Keith Kerr, a current member of Hillary Clinton’s LGBT Americans For Hillary Steering Committee. Debate moderator Anderson Cooper had to issue a post-debate disclaimer after being advised of the connection.

This is what happens when the media elites act as gatekeepers. Thousands of potential questions and CNN hands off two of the 34 selected to a well-connected lobbyist and a campaign operative. Then they fill some of the other slots with inanities like why Giuliani supported the Red Sox. And they try to pretend this circus represents the voice of the people.

Republicans Are Afraid Of YouTube

News Corpse readers are aware that I was not impressed with the Democratic debate co-sponsored by CNN and YouTube (see The Two Hour YouTube Commercial On CNN and We Report. CNN/YouTube Decides). But my objections were based on execution, not on YouTube or the introduction of citizen participation in the electoral process. Despite it’s shortcomings, there is merit in venturing out into new constituencies and the broadcast did attract a record number of 18-34 year olds.

Republicans, however, are shrinking from the ghastly specter of pajama-clad netizens. So far, only John McCain and Ron Paul have RSVP’d. The others have not actually sent their regrets and they may yet agree to attend. But Mitt Romney was overtly dismissive, saying…

“I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman.”

Perhaps so. But the real question is, “If you can’t stand up to a snowman on YouTube, how can you stand up to Al Qaeda?”

Update: A coalition of Republican bloggers has mounted an Internet campaign to Save The Debate. From their web site:

“Republicans cannot write off the Internet […] If you approach the Internet from a position of paralyzing fear, you will be out-gunned, out-manned, and out-raised at every turn. It is fundamentally unacceptable to surrender to the Democrats on one of the most important battlefronts of this election.”

This online petition has the potential to be effective, except for one thing: It’s online and Republicans are afraid of that.

We Report. CNN/YouTube Decides

The one clearly positive aspect of this “ground-breaking” experiment in television journalism, is that watching cutesy citizens asking evasive candidates questions that hunky moderators won’t follow-up on, is still better than watching washed-up reporters asking the same questions even more boringly.

Many in the media have declared the experiment a success. The Washington Post proclaimed that, “The debate underscored the arrival of the Internet as a force in politics.” That’s if you don’t count Howard Dean’s campaign in 2004; or MoveOn.org; or George Allen’s “macaca moment” last year; and the list goes on.

What they might be touting as success is how effectively the debate did achieve one of its goals: They got young people to watch. With a total audience of 2.6 million, it was a notable showing for a debate so far in advance of an election. Also, CNN reported getting 45.5 million page views on its Web site. But the real coup is that 407,000 of those viewers were in the coveted 18-34 year old demographic. The CNN broadcast was the 9th most viewed (pdf) debate in history in that demo. Of the top ten, it was the only one broadcast this electoral season (the others were in 2004). It was also the only primary debate. And all nine of the others aired within five weeks of an election. That would have to be considered a respectable performance.

However, the performance of the editors at CNN leaves something to be desired. While they found the time to include a talking snowman and a singing inquirer, for some reason they chose not to present YouTube’s top question as determined by the YouTube community. Could it be because the question dared to raise the specter of (gasp) IMPEACHMENT?

We report. CNN/YouTube Decides

The Two Hour YouTube Commercial On CNN

Now that the first ever YouTube debate is completed, can we please promise not to have any more?

If you separate out the candidate’s answers and overlay the questions in text, the debate was no better or worse than any other debate. The participation of YouTube added nothing positive to the format or the content.

Since all of the videos broadcast were pre-selected by CNN, this could hardly be characterized as promoting the voice of the people. There were probably considerations by the CNN judges that included such irrelevancies as humor, entertainment value, charisma, and controversy. That is not an appropriate basis for engaging prospective occupants of the White House.

What’s worse, the gimmickry of this format is notable for whom it excludes. For instance:

  • Any questioner that doesn’t have a video camera or video skills.
  • Anyone who is uncomfortable performing on video or lacks public speaking skills.
  • All of those without Internet access or who don’t know how to upload files.
  • Internet users who are not registered with YouTube and don’t want to be.

This doesn’t seem like a format that encourages participation from a cross-section of America. If it was their purpose to produce a debate that was representative of the population, they failed.

What they succeeded at was promoting YouTube and it’s corporate parent, Google. The program was a two hour American Idol style commercial for a business that has a broad portfolio of vested interests in media and politics. CNN is partnered with Google who’s search engine is featured on their web site. And all of the political players on the stage have potential for benefiting Google’s regulatory agenda.

A far better experiment along these lines would have been a blog powered debate hosted by a broad-based and open site that allowed for more diverse and less moderated (or community moderated) participation. If CNN had such a site, I would not have objected to them using it. But since they don’t, something along the lines of the Huffington Post might be interesting.

Unfortunately, I don’t have much hope that that will occur. It’s a little too far off the radar of old media players like CNN. So we’ll have to endure these spectacles for some time to come. And of course, the Republicans are going to get the YouTube treatment next.