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National Urban League Policy Chief Takes on 'Hateful' Talk Shows

Black Press USA.com, News Report , Pharoh Martin Posted: Sep 14, 2009

The gatekeepers of political opinion on cable are doing nothing to curb the increasingly incinerate and oft times blatantly false rhetoric coming from their political hosts and commentators against political figures of color such as President Obama and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Therefore, advocates are going for the jobs of conservative pundits like CNN's Lou Dobbs and FOX's Glenn Beck, who have made some of the most inflammatory statements.

In recent months, we've seen a ramping up of the most hateful rhetoric, said Stephanie Jones, executive director of the National Urban League Policy Institute. And also, complete misinformation about President Obama and a bunch of other issues.

In August, Jones wrote a letter to the heads of all three of the major cable news networks and NBC for giving the one-sided platform for such incendiary points-of-views.

We wrote to you in October 2008 to urge you to increase the racial diversity of your political and policy coverage in order to meet your obligation to present fair and accurate information to your viewers and to prevent the increasingly frequent dissemination of dangerous myths on your programs, Jones wrote in the letter addressed to network presidents Roger Ailes of FOX News, Steve Capus of NBC News, Phil Griffin of MSNBC, and Jonathan Klein of CNN.

Unfortunately, in recent weeks, certain hosts and commentators on your networks have ratcheted up their rhetoric and are actively advancing outright lies, advocating offensive and extremist social agendas and inflaming dangerous elements in our society, Jones wrote.

Jones specifically targeted conservative talking heads Lou Dobbs, Pat Buchanan, Glenn Beck and Michele Malkin in her letter.

While differing perspectives are welcome, these persons not only often blatantly misrepresent facts, the views they express are so extreme and reckless that they have no place on the public airwaves. The fact that such hosts and commentators are given expansive and consistent exposure on your programs, while minority hosts and guests are still all-too-rare, makes this situation even more unacceptable.''

These shows very rarely have African-American hosts, Jones said. She said when African-Americans are presented as guests they are almost always paired up with another guest to talk about race or politics but are almost never presented as experts.

The past few months the National Urban League has been stressing harder to the networks that some of their commentators are problematic and should not be there, Jones said. I think Pat Buchanan is a perfect example with some of the things that he has been saying.

Buchanan's recent comments have suggested that the Supreme Court's first Hispanic Justice Sotomayor was an affirmative action selection and that White males have become victimized due to such policies that ensure diversity.

The National Urban League did not receive any responses to their letter.

None of the network presidents; nor their representatives responded to NNPA's repeated requests for comment.

CNN president Joe Klein has defended Dobb's continual pursuit of the birther conspiracy, which questions Obama's country of birth, as one of editorial prudence.

''[Lou Dobbs] got more than 30 years as a television journalist, and I trust him, as I trust all our reporters and anchors, to exercise their judgment as various stories evolve,'' Klein said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

While FOX News has not publicly prodded Glenn Beck for calling the president a racist who has a deep-seeded hatred for White people advertisers have been pulling their dollars from Beck's show. To date, 57 advertisers have pulled their support from Beck's show, according to Colorofchange.org, a Web-based African-American advocacy organization that is spearheading the Glenn Beck Show advertising boycott.

Unfortunately, 57 advertisers dropping Glenn Becks show have not convinced Fox News to take responsibility for his comments publicly and it does not appear network executives have made any attempt behind the scenes to reign in Becks erratic on-air behavior, said Jessica Levin, spokesperson for Media Matters, a media watchdog organization. Similarly, efforts by organizations to reign in Lou Dobbs seem to have fallen on deaf ears. CNN President Jonathan Klein has been Dobbs number one defender, calling his relentless promotion of conspiracy theories about President Obamas birth certificate legitimate.

Levin said that none of this changes the fact that cable news networks must be held responsible for what is said on air.

Some observers have questioned whether the attacks on political figures of color like Obama are more incendiary than their White counterparts?

''The president doesn't think it's the case,'' Obama spokesman Bill Burton responded when asked at a press brief last week during the President's vacation in Martha's Vineyard.
Levin disagrees.

Theres no doubt that attacks on President Obama and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor have racial undertones, Levin said. In fact, at times the attacks have been outright racially charged. I think everyone can agree that the conservative medias coverage of Obama has been vicious, violent, and unlike coverage of previous presidents. No one ever demanded to see George W. Bushs birth certificate. Since the start of 2008, conservative media figures have attempted to paint Obama as foreign and not one of us and I think a lot of that is a blatant attempt to play off of peoples fears about the first Black president.

She continued by saying, The problem is that the viewpoints being presented are not representative of the diverse country we live in. During the controversy surrounding Don Imus racist and sexist remarks in 2007, a Media Matters report found that a huge majority of the guests on cable news shows were White males. Such disparities still exist today. So when you have someone like Glenn Beck calling the president racist, there is often not a person of color there to explain why that assertion is not only ridiculous, but dangerous.

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