Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Kristol, Krauthammer Lauded Bush Inaugural Address, But Failed To Disclose Obvious Conflict of Interest

Say an ESPN baseball analyst praised Barry Bonds' professionalism in the wake of accusations he had used steroids. Then say, after the fact, it's learned that the analyst had offered Bonds help with media relations.

You'd be disgusted. You might never trust that baseball analyst's credibility again. You might even hold it against ESPN.

Say Ebert & Roeper give "two thumbs up" to a film that had otherwise received lackluster reviews. Then say you found out, after the fact, that Ebert had assisted the film's producers.

You'd feel gipped. You probably would think twice before trusting any positive review Ebert & Roeper gave.

So how would you feel if you heard two FOX News analysts heap praise on George W. Bush's inaugural address, and then you found out that each analyst had assisted with the speech?

According to a Jan. 22 article in The Washington Post, William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, and Charles Krauthammer, columnist for the Post and Time Magazine, each consulted the president's speechwriting team on his address. Yet neither disclosed that fact during their FOX News inaugural day coverage.

According to the Post: "The planning of Bush's second inaugural address began a few days after the Nov. 2 election with the president telling advisers he wanted a speech about "freedom" and 'liberty.' That led to the broadly ambitious speech that has ignited a vigorous debate. The process included consultation with a number of outside experts, Kristol among them. One meeting, arranged by Peter Wehner, director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives, included military historian Victor Davis Hanson, columnist Charles Krauthammer and Yale professor John Lewis Gaddis, according to one Republican close to the White House."

We will never know how great a role Kristol or Krauthammer played in the writing of the speech. But the fact that neither mentioned their role calls into question whether FOX News was providing political analysis or propaganda on inauguration day. The fact that the subject was also not broached by FOX News managing editor Brit Hume, who anchored a post-speech panel featuring the two, only adds to the question of FOX News' credibility.

As reported by mediamatters.org, Kristol took the charade a step further, going out of his way to distance himself from the inaugural address during the post-speech panel:

KRISTOL: If I were editing this speech, the only sentence I think maybe I would have changed which was to simply say we are ready to meet, perhaps, the examples of those of our forebears and our forefathers who fought so valiantly in the history of freedom and I think that will play into a sort of sophisticated criticism that "Gee, the president is susceptible to hubris and is too grandiose." But having said that, except for Lincoln, no speech is perfect, and I think he's entitled to a slight slip in one sentence. ... I've seen Mike Gerson over the past couple of months, and he has been working very hard on this speech. But he has been working with the president on it, and it is a remarkable collaboration.

Krauthammer limited his comments to lavish praise of the president's address, which he declared "revolutionary."

What would truly be revolutionary is if either Kristol or Krauthammer were even slapped on the wrist for their lack of journalism ethics.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just for the record, ESPN's Michael Kay was indeed involved in a similar situation. A couple of months back Kay was ranting on his ESPN Radio show about how Barry Bonds should be punished for using steroids. At the same time and on the same radio show, Kay was doing on air commercials that promoted a meet and greet event that featured Barry Bonds. Fans were charged about $7,000 to meet Barry Bonds. Kay I believe also hosted the event.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, it's not quite the same thing. First off, Kay was being critical of Bonds, not praising him. Second, if he was advertising for the Bonds signing, his role was pretty transparent.

To be true to the Fox example, Kay would have had to praise Bonds, while quietly turning a profit (behind the scenes) at the signing. Listeners would have had to have learned about the relationship after the fact, and from a source other than Kay.

In the example you provide, I don't think Kay has done anything wrong, or anything close to what Kristol and Krauthammer did. The difference, perhaps, is that Kay cares about his credibility.

5:09 PM  

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