On Reliable Sources Sunday morning, right wing talking head Michael Smerconish revealed the mind of a Fox News producer when he was approached to go on the air with Neil Cavuto.
Fox News obviously is the worst, but this is something endemic to the entire industry. News is supposed to be news. Having two different points of views, no matter how myopic and slanted one of those sides might be, is the networks' idea of presenting "balance". All it really does is set up antagonistic debate as entertainment, which they then try to justify by claiming that it is news. Well, folks, that hurts the country.
KURTZ: Well, we'll try not to make this interview torture, even though you're tolerant of it. Let's talk about cable news and the way the booking process works. This was just fascinating to me. You have e-mails in this book from a producer who works for Neil Cavuto and his Fox News program. And let me put it up on the screen and share this with our viewers.
The first e-mail, this was last April, just about a year ago.
"Wanted to see if you're available today at 4:05 for Neil's show today. The topic is on Obama and his cockiness. We're looking for someone who will say, yes, he's cocky and his cockiness will hurt him."
And I love your rather brief response. You wrote back, "Thanks for the clarity. I am not your man." OK. Then you get a second e-mail from this same Fox producer. And it says, "What about a debate off the top on the show on whether or not Hillary is trustworthy? We have someone who says she is and we're looking for someone who says she isn't." Now, how common is that in cable news, that you only get to appear if you're willing to take a predetermined, precooked, prepackaged position?
SMERCONISH: Well, I think it's very common. It's exactly what I was just describing. I mean, it's this mentality that says that only good television is television which pits one individual against another and there's a fight that ensues. I just don't believe that.
I mean, what's wrong with a host taking a contrarian point of view in a respectful way? I think the viewers get all that they need. But you're right, in that circumstance -- and I raised it just as one clear example -- my invitation was predicated on my willingness to say that Barack Obama was cocky or that Hillary was untrustworthy. And I was unwilling in that circumstance to say either.
And then there's the pettiness of David Gregory:
CONISH: In that circumstance, I had appeared, as I continue to, on a variety of MSNBC programs. I've had a relationship with Chris Matthews for years, and I had been appearing both regularly on "Hardball" and on David's program. David let it be known that he had wished I had come forth on his program and not on "Hardball" to make clear how I viewed the presidential race.
KURTZ: And you were then canceled for an appearance on Gregory's program?
SMERCONISH: I didn't come back on that program until after David had given up the program and David Shuster was the host. And when David Shuster came back as the host, all of a sudden, my invitations were more forthcoming.
Gregory having a hissy fit is not surprising at all. It's how cable-TV works: Driven by egos.