What the Big 5 Sunday Shows Tell Us About Who to Value
10 Jan 2016
Reporting for Rachel Maddow’s Blog, Steve Benen tallied political guests on the big five Sunday Talk Shows: “Meet the Press,” “Face the Nation,” “This Week,” “State of the Union,” and “Fox News Sunday.” In 2015, Donald Trump made 36 appearances – or three Sundays every month for a year. A number of his “appearances” were by phone, but he still had a constant, free platform from which to bloviate. Bernie Sanders and Ben Carson each made 28 appearances. They were each on the air more than twice a month, getting buckets of free publicity. Benen also notes “Republican voices easily outnumbered their Democratic counterparts last year.”
Ben Carson is the only person of color on that list – and if he were not likewise a candidate, you’d see that same bunch of old(er), white men you always see.
What about female voices of either Party? Look carefully at that graphic. You will see two women’s names – Carly Fiorina (only getting press because of her candidacy) and Senator Dianne Feinstein. What of the other 19 women Senators or the 84 women elected to Congress? None of them have anything valuable to say? Do tell.
We know Hillary Clinton is not a fan of the Sunday shows, but she has certainly done them — her name didn’t even make the list, although I guarantee that she was a dominant subject on these shows. Not her policies — but as much negativity as they could spew about her. In 2015, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer took to theorizing about the prospective penalties for her imaginary “criminal activity.” The bent of these shows often seems to be to try to erode her formidable poll numbers, manufacturing a horse race that may not exist.
Look also at the dominance of socially conservative voices – very important in understanding who gets a platform and who doesn’t in a woman’s right of self-determination, career growth, equal pay or child care — and from whose perspective we are framing these issues. Even though there were lots of (2nd tier) presidential candidates being interviewed last year, where are even a few rebutting voices?
In great part, the show hosts don’t call out b.s. when they hear it so that guests are allowed to offer up questionable talking points unchecked. Meet the Press’ Chuck Todd doesn’t think it’s his job to call out a lie on his show. But he’s more than happy to push false, or belittling, talking points about a candidate he doesn’t like (Hillary Clinton comes to mind). So what purpose does the 4th Estate serve if not to be our watchdogs?
Benens list “excluded hosts and journalists, looking exclusively at current officials, former officials, candidates for public office, domestic or foreign policymakers, or anyone fairly characterized as actively involved in the political arena.” This matter, because, as he notes
“[T]he five major Sunday shows represent a political institution of sorts, highlighting the kinds of voices and ideas the Beltway media considers important. The discussions held on these programs help reflect – and in many cases, shape – the conventional wisdom for the political establishment in D.C. …And every year, it seems it’s GOP voices who dominate.”
Not just GOP, but male, white voices. Want to know why “women’s issues are considered “soft” or “secondary” or why issues affecting people of color get patronizing, if any, coverage – look no further than the guest list of these shows.
Until we get a lot more vocal in our complaints, or better yet, boycott altogether until we get a guest list offering up more varied commentary, this will not change.