Blacklist: Obama Campaign Punishes Station for Tough Questions of Biden

Florida WFTV-Channel 9’s Barbara West thought that she was using her five minutes with Sen. Joe Biden to get at the toughest questions being raised by critics of the campaign. None of the usual softball, scripted questions in the video below. The choice reportedly resulted in the campaign canceling future interviews with the station. Blacklisting is a Nixonian trick and not something that most modern campaigns openly embrace.

West raised Sen. Obama’s comment about spreading wealth. That fact is that the comment is part of a variety of statements from democratic leaders connected to the campaign, including Biden, indicating that the Democrats intended to use their prior pattern of tax increases as a core agenda item. Indeed, a recent video show Obama using the expression in a 2001 radio interview on a failure of the Supreme Court. West asked why spreading the wealth does not make you a Marxist. Right subject, wrong delivery.

Biden was right to respond “Are you joking? No.” It hardly makes you Marxist to want higher taxes, though it does raise a legitimate issue as to the philosophy of the campaign in a still fiscally conservative country.

West then asked about Biden’s latest gaffe about Obama being tested by the foreign countries — a comment that played directly into the untested claims of the McCain camp. West again took the question a step too far and asked if Biden was saying America’s days as the world’s leading power were over. Once again, it was not the best framing of a valid question. Biden responded by stating “I don’t know who’s writing your questions.”

For the video of the interview, click here.
Instead of shrugging off the questions as awkward, the campaign went out of its way to cut off the entire statin and make it clear that it was being punished. It canceled an interview with Jill Biden, stating in a letter from Laura K. McGinnis, Central Florida communications director for the Obama campaign:”This cancellation is non-negotiable, and further opportunities for your station to interview with this campaign are unlikely, at best for the duration of the remaining days until the election.” So not to leave anything to speculation, McGinnis wrote that the cancellation was “a result of her husband’s experience yesterday during the satellite interview with Barbara West.”

Even if you were ticked, how dimwitted is it to send a letter telling every journalist that the campaign is now punishing anyone who asks irritating or unpredictable questions? This should be treated as a serious problem by the campaign and the decision reversed. It is hard to claim to promise a new open and transparent government when you are blacklisting media.

For the full story, click here.

46 thoughts on “Blacklist: Obama Campaign Punishes Station for Tough Questions of Biden”

  1. On the blacklisting by Obama’s campaign, I decry it for the same reason our founders decried it. Madison said that the “[t]o the press alone, chequered as it is with abuses, the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity over error and oppression.” They may be as inarticulate as our health reporter’s questions were in this instance, but they remain the people’s examiners of those in power, and to blacklist them, blacklists us all.

  2. Dr. Paul:

    Anyone who hasn’t realized that the current regime (and its successor in waiting, John McCain), has been engaged in the systematic erosion of our Constitutional rights just hasn’t been watching. I have no idea how “our courts have legalize [sic] many of the princiles of Eugenics, and now call it Genetic Engineering.” But I will say our courts have been stalwart protectors of the freedoms that are under daily assault. The reason John McCain should not be considered presidential timber is that if his selection of a VP candidate mirrors his judgment in the selction of Supreme Court justices, your dire prediction may well come true.

  3. To many Americans, Socialism represents welfare, ie something for nothing. This “something for nothing” that Germany expected in the 1940’s (from Hitler’s Socialist Party), resulted in a total loss of freedom for all, and a loss of life for some six million Jews and Blacks.
    After recently reading a portion of the documents from the Neremberg Trials, I am reminded of the “Crimes Against Humanity” that were committed by the Third Reich during those dark days. One such crime was Eugenics, which involved human experimentation. In a comparison study, you will find that our courts have legalize many of the princiles of Eugenics, and now call it Genetic Engineering.
    I suspect that many individuals have based their political choice on a particular “Special Interest”, but in the process, have failed to determine the personal cost of that particular Special Interest.
    Only the fool believes, there is something for nothing.
    A wrong choice in this election, could result in the elimination of our US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

  4. If any of you honestly believe the MSM is slanted to the right, I have a bridge to sell you. Or a mortgage….

  5. If any of you honestly believe the MSM is slanted to the right, I have a bridge to sell you. Or a mortage….

  6. Mike,

    I really see this so differently. The quote from James Galbraith was taken from his book published before this ratched up. We’ve had communist witch hunts, the red menace etc. for a long time in the US.

    Maybe it’s because I live in a VERY conservative area that I think as I do, but the McCain supporters really freaked out when Obama talked about “spreading the wealth around”. That statement made him a socialist or worse, end of story.

    Is it true that the right wing media took that to ridiculous levels? Yes. The right wing base will buy the idea that a right of center politician is a socialist. I don’t think anyone could not have understood the questioner was right wing, that was blatant. But Obama made the statement and he’s fully capable of restating what he meant, as Biden did in the interview.

    Obama is believed by both the right and the left wing media to be the candidate of choice for the press. I just don’t see has campaign as victimized by those questions.

  7. Jill,
    I disagree with you on this because for the last 20 years or so the socialist meme has not been in use. I think that this is a Republican Talking Point brought to the fore in that last month because nothing else was working. Republican’s in general are quick to pick up the party line. I had a very close friend in 2004, a person whose intelligence I respect, tell me with a straight face that he couldn’t vote for Kerry because he was too French. It’s been pretty much proven that these talking points are decided at the weekly Grover Norqvist meetings in DC. Their media shills then use them the following day with little variation. Asking a Democrat to continually play against a stacked deck is unfair and having watched the full interview the Obama team’s response seems appropriate to me.

    Dr.K.,
    I agree with you about disclosure, it happens rarely in the MSM.
    While most people know about Andrea Mitchell’s husband, it is hard to assume even with this disclosure, many don’t realize the bias appearance that this raises. Mitchell is just the tip of the iceberg and it is little wonder that our political discussion in the media is skewed so far to the right, that Pat Buchanan seems regarded as little more than a right wing centrist by the media.

  8. I am writing to you from Orlando, Florida. Ms. West’s interview problematic or not, speaks to larger issues in the press: that is of bias and objectivity. Yes, her questions were framed in an odd manner, and some of them were really reprehensible. That is not the issue. My issue has to do with Ms. West engaging in an interview without making her bias and subjectivities known. Ms. West is married to a Republican media consultant, and, has been a major player in the Republican party here. Her position at the ABC news affiliate is as an impartial reporter. If, she would have stated that her husband is a Republican media consultant and then asked the questions I do not think she would have engaged in an ethical breech of journalistic standards. For example when I write an article about the confluence between education and medicine, I always state that my husband is a physician therefore my bias in speaking about certain subjects is made clear. The ideology is always in the adjectives, the modifiers and the tone … for viewers who turned on the local news thinking that they were listening to an interview that was not ideologically laden were sadly not informed of what had transpired.

  9. Mike,

    I think answering the question is fighting back. This fear of “socialism” predates Obama and is embedded in our society. Let me just quote from James K. Galbraith: “{liberals} praise the “free market” simply because they fear that, otherwise, they will be exposed as heretics, accused of being socialists…” (from a review of his book, The Predator State in NY Review of books).

    I like my neighbors. Many of them have McCain signs in their law, including one “traitor” trial attorney! So I ask them why they like McCain and don’t like Obama. I have heard the, “Obama is a socialist” line from each and every McCain supporter, no exceptions. These are not stupid people, yet that belief has no basis in fact. In my opinion Obama is a right of center politician. He comes out of the Chicago school of economics which is pretty right wing.

    As this issue predates Obama and there seems to be a genetic fear of the “red menace” in the U.S. it needs to be addressed. I watched the tape twice. I though Biden aquitted himself very nicely (with one exception). By blacklisting the station the campaign has turned a positive into a negative.

    This isn’t just a cooked up question from the MSM. It’s a belief of many people in this nation. It should be answered. It is to Obama’s benefit to answer it, not because he will convince the far right (he won’t) but he may get through to people who will listen to an argument. I think Biden’s answers accomplished that goal.

    The Obama campaign is showing a very ugly side of itself by blacklisting or refusing further interviews. It’s sending a powerful message to all the press–“you ask questions we don’t like and we’ll cut you off”. That’s a formidable threat that I’m certain wasn’t lost on other news organizations. We don’t need an even more vapid, compliant press. This is a very bad move.

  10. Okay, now I’m thinking this is rigged. One more try:

    “It’s not that the questions were too (tough, it’s that they were) absolutely 100% ridiculous and unwarranted.

  11. Obviously I don’t have a degree in data entry, either.

    “It’s not that the questions were too absolutely 100% ridiculous and unwarranted.”

  12. Why should the Socialism & Marxism issues even be dignified? I have zero legal knowledge, a degree in nothing, I have read Obama’s stance on healthcare, taxes and “spreading the wealth” (equal opportunity, not handouts). It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out what his stance is on these issues. The ONLY reason these were asked is to give the GOP more talking points and to provide footage of Biden answering questions with the words “Socialism” or “Marxism” in them.

    Obama’s campaign should spend their time talking with professionals! And my hat is off to them for saying they aren’t going to interact with this station. They’re telling it like it is. It’s not that the questions were too absolutely 100% ridiculous and unwarranted.

    As for McCain giving full access to the media… You mean how he gave the media full access to Palin? Yeah, that was a good example of how it should be done.

  13. I must disagree on this with many whose opinions I respect. This reporter’s questions were shamefully constructed, but actually quite par for the MSM course. The MSM in general questions Democrats far more combatively than they do with Republicans. They have moved the political center very far right and their narrative is keavily skewed toward protecting the interests of the corporatocracy. I have been waiting and hoping for Democrats to honestly react to this bias by calling it out rather than ignoring it. Were I to provide examples of the questioning bias in the four debates I would be writing a tome, rather than a comment and since I know the level of informed knowledge of those posting at JT’s site only rehashing information you already know.

    The stupidity of equating Obama with being a socialist, or a Marxist would only have validity if McCain were being asked about whether he was a Fascist, or Ms. Palin as to whether she was a traitor given her and her husband’s ties to the AIP. As we know the MSM would not dare to ask such loaded questions to the Republican candidates. All tax policy deals with distribution of wealth and we are coming through almost 3 decades of a Republican tax policy that has clearly redistributed wealth upwards. The Bush tax cuts alone increased our national debt by about a Trillon$. I don’t particularly like blacklists, nor think it is politically smart to discuss them. However, the prior Democratic policy of ignoring the disparity of MSM press coverage proved totally ineffective.

    At some point, no matter the quality of our intellects, we must also explore our visceral perceptions of the world. There are 10’s of millions of people in pain and despair in this country due to the faux Conservative mythology that has substituted for governance in the last 3 decades, view Greenspan’s astounding testimony at the Waxman committee. I am angry at how people of the supposedly lesser classes have been treated since the Reagan insanity began and I am sick and tired of the support given to the mythological nonsense peedled and coddled by the MSM. Maybe it was unpolitical to admit to this so-called blacklisting, but fighting back at this unfairness is absoluted neccessary.

  14. Hans,

    Obama and Biden are not celebrities. They aspire to the positions of President and Vice President and seem likely to win them. The citizenry has a right to get straight answers from its political leadership.

    Not all the questions posed by the media, corporate or otherwise, will be well framed or well intentioned. But I see no reason why Obama or Biden can’t parry such questions. Moreover, I believe it is their duty to do so. What would be so difficult about Biden telling the interviewer that she is simply confused, that progressive taxation is not the same thing as socialism?

    If you don’t think this approach can work I suggest you tune in C-Span to the Prime Minister’s Q & A. No one cuts anyone else any slack & British political discourse is better for it.

  15. My point is, this bill does not derail criminal prosecution in the future and I am not aware that he has ruled that out as a possibility.

    I’ve chalked it up to making the best of a less than ideal situation,
    rather than what would have amounted to a symbolic gesture.

  16. Patty C,
    I am aware of the reasons that Obama outlined in his decision to cave in to the phone companies as he sent an email to all of the FISA bloggers on his website. I disagree with him that it was not important to see what happened and who broke the law. It is vital that the American public can see who committed felonies and that they be held accountable for them. Plus, the original FISA was also the “Exclusive” means to utilize if you were going to spy on Americans legally and the Bush Administration just ignored the law and spied on us. I also know that the Bush Administration just came out with a stance that they are going to ignore the provision in an 2007 bill that required a report to Congress and they are going to blow it off according to Chertoff because it allegedly infringes on the Executive branch’s power. This is why Obama was wrong to think that exclusivity again would work with an administration like Bush’s. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/25/washington/25legal.html?scp=1&sq=Administration%20to%20Bypass%20Reporting%20Law&st=cse.
    Prof. Turley,
    You are probably right that the Obama campaign did not authorize the actions of the local party person who used the word blacklist, but that doesn’t excuse the actions. I will have to agree to disagree on the other issues.

  17. Patty C you nailed perfectly,

    As for taxes, the money has to come from someplace.

    However, for some of us, money does grow on trees, well it did when I had a tree pruning business. But even back a couple years ago, when it was growing by the bushel load for me, only a small amount of objective observation could foretell the mortgage meltdown we were facing as 100 year old house in my neighborhood were “valued” at $450,000. Not to mention the national debt was skyrocketing after being brought under control in 1998-2000.

    And that brings us to the point of, is it really “blacklisting” a “news” outlet, when they are nothing more than corporate lapdogs, owned by corporations, to represent the views of the corporations and to make their views the de facto truths of the world around us?

    If we learned anything from the Rev. Wright “controversy”, it is that the MSM will do what is best for them first and foremost. If that means turning a sensational issue of zero relevance to their viewers lives in order to draw in more viewers and more advertising revenue, then that is what they will do. I hate using this term when it comes to Obama, but having a celebrity do an interview on a local station is a privilege to that station, not a right given that they no longer have any obligations to report news, but rather their obligations are to their stockholders and to make profit through drawing in the biggest names, most hyped sensational stories, all to increase advertising dollars spent at their station.

    This is not blacklisting, this is selective marketing. West and her producers, asked the questions they did to draw in viewers and in turn advertisers. The Obama-Biden campaign decision to not go on this channel again, is nothing more than denying that channel the privilege of their celebrity to capitalize for their stockholders.

    If the “news” media was not owned by corporations, then the Obama-Biden campaigns choice to not appear on there again would be considered blacklisting free press, however that is not the case in this corporation/market driven infotainment media environment we find ourselves blinding buying into.

  18. That sounds about right to me, JT. We shall see.

    Rafflaw, I did not read any comments here suggesting ‘it’s OK for Obama to act ‘badly’.

    As for FISA, you know the criminal provisions are still intact and must be aware of the reasoning Obama gave for voting for the bill, when he stated:

    “…It is a close call for me,” Obama told reporters. But he said the addition of the “exclusivity” provision giving power to the secret court, along with a new inspector general role and other oversight additions, “met my basic concerns.” He said the bill’s target should not be the phone companies’ culpability, but “can we get to the
    bottom of what’s taking place, and do we have safeguards?..”

    John Dean also wrote about it at length and appeared on KO this summer.

    http://writ.lp.findlaw.com/dean/20080702.html

    As for taxes, the money has to come from someplace.
    It ‘doesn’t just grow on trees’, as my father always used to say.

  19. Hans:

    I agree that more such questions should be asked. Most of the questions, particularly during the vice presidential debate, were laughable soft balls eliciting scripted responses. The point is that Obama and Biden (and other leading democrats) have made taxes a major issue. Saying that you want to redistribute wealth can be a misstatement. However, democrats have been repeatedly saying that tax increases are a central part of the objectives — playing to the very weakness the handed over the middle class to the GOP in the first place. We can debate the logic of such a campaign politically. We can also agree that reporters are not asking enough tough questions. However, this response was highly ill-advised and I doubt that it was approved by the campaign. It sounds like Biden was ticked and then the staff member over-reacted.

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