Woodruff Plans to Leave CNN ... And Liberals Should Be Cheering
Veteran journalist Judy Woodruff, anchor of CNN's Inside Politics, announced today that she will retire when her contract expires in June.
CNN President Jon Klein told the Hollywood Reporter that he offered Woodruff a new contract, but she had made her decision before negotiations had even begun. Instead, Woodruff told the Associated Press that she will be a consultant and occasional CNN contributor.
"She is in the top tier of political journalists," Klein told the Reporter, and apparently he sees Woodruff's pending departure as such a loss to the network that he may pull the plug on Inside Politics, much as he did recently to another CNN mainstay, the blusterfest you may know as Crossfire.
Frankly, I won't miss Woodruff, who like many television talking heads, seemed to equate "inside" with "ability to repeat spin." And the truth is, conservatives are better organized and better able to spread their spin, especially to the likes of Woodruff.
But wait, conservatives say. Doesn't Woodruff work for CNN, the "Clinton News Network?" I can almost hear the screams of "liberal media bias."
But, as JABBS and other similar blogs show time and time again, "liberal media bias" is a conservative-driven myth, shouted from the rafters again and again to leave the likes of Woodruff quaking in their boots. The next time someone tells you about liberal media bias, offer a copy of Time with Ann Coulter on the cover and a glowing story inside, or the copy of the Washington Post with the front-page puff piece about Trent Lott.
And the next time someone tells you Judy Woodruff is a liberal working for a liberal news network, remind them of some of the things she has said over the years.
Here are a few examples* of Woodruff's "top tier" reporting:
STORY #1: In March, 2004, Woodruff interviews the conservatives favorite Democrat, Zell Miller of Georgia.
WHAT WOODRUFF SAID: Let’s talk about fiscal issues…Aren’t there questions, I guess I’m asking, for both of these candidates about how they would fill out?
MILLER: Well, that’s what we’ll sort out during this campaign. That’s why we have campaigns. I know this, though, that John Kerry has voted to increase taxes 350 times since he’s been in the United States Senate. That to me looks pretty much like a tax-increase.
WOODRUFF: Georgia Democratic Senator Zell Miller, endorsing President Bush.
THE SPIN POINT: Kerry is a tax-and-spend Massacusetts liberal.
THE TRUTH: The "350 tax increases" line was widely criticized as soon as it was first used by President Bush in a March 20, 2004, speech. Woodruff's former colleague, Brooks Jackson, wrote on factcheck.org: "Kerry has not voted 350 times for tax increases, something Bush campaign officials have falsely accused Kerry of on several occasions. On close examination, the Bush campaign’s list of Kerry’s votes for “higher taxes” is padded. It includes votes Kerry cast to leave taxes unchanged (when Republicans proposed cuts), and even votes in favor of alternative Democratic tax cuts."
By the time Miller gave his interview, six days after Bush's speech, the "350 tax increases" claim had been thoroughly vetted. A better journalist -- especially one with "top tier" political insight -- would have corrected the falsehood.
STORY #2: During the Democratic National Convention, Woodruff interviews 1972 nominee George McGovern.
WHAT WOODRUFF SAID: Senator, when you ran for president, you mentioned 32 years ago, the Republicans were criticizing you and the party of being too liberal. They’re still accusing the Democratic Party of being too liberal. Are they going to be able to get away with that argument this year?
MCGOVERN: I don't think so. John Kerry is a moderate liberal. He's not way out in either right field or left field.
WOODRUFF: Well, they say he's got the most liberal record in the U.S. Senate.
THE SPIN POINT: Kerry is the Senate's top liberal.
THE TRUTH: Kerry was ranked most liberal for calendar year 2003 by National Journal, but for his career, the newsletter ranked Kerry 11th. The newspaper's editors noted that Kerry's ranking was out of character because, as a presidential candidate, he had missed many votes. But conservatives -- from Vice President Cheney to any number of pundits -- ignored that in order to repeatedly take the information out of context throughout the presidential campaign. You would expect that from Sean Hannity, but Woodruff should have known better.
STORY #3: The House of Representatives sought to alter rules in order to allow Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) to retain his leadership position if indicted by a Texas grand jury on political corruption charges.
WHAT WOODRUFF SAID: "As some House Republicans tell it, their vote today to change party rules was not just about protecting Tom DeLay. They say it was about taking power away from a Democratic prosecutor who they believe may be eager to indict their majority leader." (11/04)
THE SPIN POINT: Travis County (Texas) District Attorney Ronnie Earle is "prone to partisan witch hunts," and bringing down DeLay is the latest example.
THE TRUTH: Earle is an elected Democrat. But according to the El Paso Times, 11 of the 15 politicans he has prosecuted over the years were Democrats. This shouldn't be a secret to "top tier" reporters like Woodruff, unless she is listening too closely to conservative spin points.
STORY #4: Matt Drudge reported that Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), then on the verge of his presidential campaign, spends $150 to get his hair cut.
WHAT WOODRUFF SAID: "Just two days after moving closer to a presidential race, John Kerry already is in denial mode. His office says the senator does not pay $150 to get his hair cut, as claimed by Matt Drudge on the Internet. The Boston Herald quotes a source as saying that Kerry pays more like $75 to get what some have called the best hair in the Senate. The Drudge Report, which we’ve not yet confirmed, says Kerry’s do is the work of a stylist at the chic Cristophe salon. And you may remember Cristophe from the $200 trim that he gave Bill Clinton on board Air Force One while it sat on the tarmac at LAX in Los Angeles. Clinton learned then what Kerry may know now. Even hair can be a cutting issue when you are or want to be president." (12/02)
THE SPIN POINT: Kerry is a liberal elitist.
THE TRUTH: Like so many of Drudge's "scoops," this story was false, the main reason CNN couldn't confirm it. Yet this non-story was worth re-telling on Inside Politics? This is television "news" at its worst.
STORY #5: Trent Lott makes racially insensitive comments at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party, which ultimately lead to his resignation as Senate Majority Leader.
WHAT WOODRUFF SAID: Disccusing Thurmond's candidacy as a Dixiecrat, she said: "Back in 1948, Thurmond was known to make statements such as this one. Quote: 'All the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, our schools, our churches' — end quote." (12/02)
THE TRUTH: For reasons unknown, Woodruff sanitized Thurmond's statement, which was: "Ladies and gentlemen, there’s not enough troops in the army to force the southern people to break down segregation and admit the n*gger race into our theaters, into our swimming polls, into our homes and into our churches."
Showing such courtesy to Thurmond (R-S.C.) seems unnecesary, and certainly runs counter to the charge of "liberal media bias."
And there are other cases when Woodruff was less than "top tier." She was among the parade of journalists who, back in 2000, claimed that Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore had said he "invented the Internet." What makes it particularly bad in Woodruff's case was that Gore made his comments -- strangled and manipulated by conservatives -- to Woodruff's CNN colleague, Wolf Blitzer.
Woodruff herself had mentioned the Gore comment just a few days after it was made, at which time she and colleague Bruce Morton recited other conservative spin points about Gore -- that he lied when he said he learned farm chores from his father, that he lied when he said he was the model of Erich Segal's book Love Story -- even though neither Gore statement was, in fact, wrong.
Conservatives will point and say Woodruff is a liberal. After all, she works for the "Clinton News Network." And maybe Woodruff isn't as apt to repeat conservative spin points as the folks over at Fox News, or even the blustermouths like MSNBC's Chris Matthews.
But for someone who CNN considered "top tier," who was supposed to know the ins and outs of Washington politics, Woodruff should have done a better job avoiding blatant conservative spin.
* With thanks to the archives of mediamatters.org and dailyhowler.com