Richard Wolffe returned to Countdown this week, absent from MSNBC airwaves for only a month after Glenn Greenwald pointed out that his full time employer was no longer Newsweek, but a lobbying firm:
Having Richard Wolffe host an MSNBC program -- or serving as an almost daily "political analyst" -- is exactly tantamount to MSNBC's just turning over an hour every night to a corporate lobbyist. Wolffe's role in life is to advance the P.R. interests of the corporations that pay him, including corporations with substantial interests in virtually every political issue that MSNBC and Countdown cover. Yet MSNBC is putting him on as a guest-host and "political analyst" on one of its prime-time political shows. What makes that even more appalling is that, as Ana Marie Cox first noted, neither MSNBC nor Wolffe even disclose any of this.
This is a conflict so severe that it's incurable by disclosure: who wouldn't realize that you can't present paid corporate hacks as objective political commentators? But the fact that they don't even bother to disclose that just serves to illustrate how non-existent is the line between corporate interests and "news reporting" in the United States. Then again, Wolffe himself -- when it was previously revealed that he was exploiting his position as a Newsweek reporter covering the Obama campaign to leverage access to Obama in order to write a glowing book about him -- said this:
And [Wolffe] suggested he’s not that different from other reporters in an era in which the business and the profession of journalism have gotten closer and closer.
"The idea that journalists are somehow not engaged in corporate activities is not really in touch with what's going on. Every conversation with journalists is about business models and advertisers," he said, recalling that, on the day after the 2008 election, Newsweek sent him to Detroit to deliver a speech to advertisers.
"You tell me where the line is between business and journalism," he said.
And yet, he's back...with nary a word about his absence, still as an MSNBC political analyst.
Don't get me wrong, I like Richard Wolffe in general, and appreciated his appearances on Countdown in the past, but to name him as a "Senior Strategist at Public Strategies" is truly the sparest way to describe him as a lobbyist and really blurs the lines between journalism and promotion/propaganda beyond what should be acceptable. How can we ever know if Wolffe's analysis is truly what he believes or if it's what he's been paid to promote by a client?
And frankly, I'm tired of the insular nature of these broadcasts, when the same predictable people show up day after day after day. To be fair to Keith, Olbermann is not the only news anchor with a retinue of guests they stick with over and over. They all do it. Even Rachel Maddow brings on "Uncle Pat" Buchanan, whose views are generally factually wrong or so far outside the mainstream, you can't but wonder why he's still on television. Wolffe isn't like that. But as I've documented before on media balance and biases, so much critical information is withheld from we viewers already that we generally don't get a fair view of the issues of the day, I really do have to ask if there are no other voices that Olbermann can turn to that he has to bring back a DC lobbyist?