The 65-page letter is addressed “Dear NBC Affiliate Owner.” The sender: the Conservative War Chest, with spokesman Michael Flynn signing the letter. The group has most recently been advertising in GOP Senate races around the country in the 2014 election cycle, as seen here.
The subject: Comcast/NBC Universal, now in the middle of a merger bid with Time Warner, and the larger issue of “the corruption of American journalism.” There is also a two-minute video, found here. Comcast/NBC is accused of acting as a “leftist Super Pac sponsoring millions of dollars worth of attack ads disguised as ‘news’ that seek the political oblivion of conservatives and the Republican Party.” It also calls on Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to mobilize the GOP against the Comcast/Time-Warner merger.
Mentioned in detail? NBC and MSNBC hosts are singled out by name in the letter, including NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd, Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough, Hardball host Chris Matthews, and PoliticsNation host Al Sharpton. But there is sharp focus on the role of the “suits in the suites” — specifically Comcast/NBC CEO Brian Roberts and MSNBC president Phil Griffin.
The letter complains that Comcast/NBC executives deliberately “established a news narrative” about Barack Obama not simply because the “suits in the suites” have an “ideological attachment to a liberal, counter-cultural agenda that makes them deeply prejudiced against political conservatives, Tea Party activists and scripturally oriented Christians.” The real Comcast/NBC objective, the letter alleges, is a corrupt crony relationship with President Obama’s administration. To wit: “In the weeks after the government gave approval to Comcast to purchase NBC…Obama attended an event at Comcast CEO Brian Roberts’ house.” Weeks later, Obama ally Al Sharpton “was given a show on MSNBC.”
The purpose in taking their case directly to the NBC affiliate owners across the country is to fight what the group calls the “corruption of American journalism” — a corruption the Conservative War Chest believes is made even more disturbing by the company’s merger attempt with one-time rival Time/Warner. The group lays out specific complaints: the network’s slanted coverage of the 2014 election, the lack of coverage of administration scandals and Obama foreign policy difficulties. This is contrasted with the network’s extensive coverage of Bush administration problems including Abu Ghraib, Hurricane Katrina, Valerie Plame, and the testimony of Richard Clarke before the 9/11 Commission. More of this in a moment.
Brian Williams is cited in six specific instances of what the letter calls the network’s “early investment” in Barack Obama. Williams is quoted lavishing fawning praise on Obama for being on the cover of Newsweek, saying “I just can’t wrap my arms around” people who “buy any merchandise with any depiction” of Obama, and saying this to the President in an August, 2010 interview:
Finally, I’m hoping to find you in a reflective mood on a cloudy day. We’re the first to speak to you coming off your summer vacation. How does it re-charge you? What do you think about? What do you see? What do you read about? How are you thinking about your job these days?
In contrast, Williams reports of the Tea Party:
…Signs and images at last weekend’s big Tea Party march in Washington and at other recent events have featured racial and other violent themes, and President Carter today said he is extremely worried about it.
The letter goes on to point out that after painting the Tea Party as racist, it cited Carter while ignoring “Carter’s history (starting as a state senator in Georgia) of using race to savage his opponents late in campaigns.” The network also ignored “a blistering editorial in The Washington Post that called the then president out on the issue in 1980.”
Chuck Todd is cited for saying of the Tea Party: “But I tell you, the idea hasn’t really caught on.” Months later the Tea Party would play a key role in the Republican Party’s re-taking of the U.S. House. In 2014 Todd was predicting a “surprisingly close” election due to a supposed Democratic “surge” — which never materialized. Todd, whose background as a staffer for now-former Iowa Democratic Senator Tom Harkin is cited, is also accused of using “his admittedly impressive political and analytical skills to mislead his audience into believing the IRS scandal is something it’s not.” Also mentioned is that in a new book of Todd’s, the Meet the Press host “concedes…that MSNBC and its hosts are essentially ‘allies’ of the Obama administration.”
At the end of the letter is a series of recommendations to the recipients — the NBC affiliates. They include “putting a real journalist in charge of NBC News,” encouraging “real reporters” still inside the network, creating a diverse network with conservative hires, appointing a panel of “experienced journalists to investigate whether NBC has fully informed viewers about the vested interests of their sources or even acted in collusion” in such episodes as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” affair.
Not mentioned is one very interesting point. Many on the Left are in opposition to the merger out of sheer anti-corporate populism, with Minnesota Senator Al Franken in the lead. And up until now, leading Republican Senators including Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham have indicated support for Comcast/NBC. Stay tuned.