Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 30, 2010

ABC NEWS IS DOING WHAT?.... About three months ago, in the wake of the Shirley Sherrod fiasco, E.J. Dionne Jr. identified activist Andrew Breitbart as a "right-wing hit man." Dionne added that the incident "ought to be a turning point in American politics," one in which "the mainstream media" starts appreciating the difference between "news and propaganda."

A few days prior, The Atlantic's Josh Green noted, "[I]t's hard for me to see how the media can justify continuing to treat Breitbart as simply a roguish provocateur. He's something much darker."

As it turns out, it wasn't a "turning point," and it's not hard at all for the media to justify taking Breitbart seriously.

Media Matters has confirmed that noted propagandist Andrew Breitbart will provide analysis for ABC News during their election night coverage.

After Breitbart's BigJournalism.com website reported that Breitbart would "be bringing analysis live from Arizona" for ABC, Media Matters confirmed his participation in a town hall meeting anchored by ABC's David Muir and Facebook's Randi Zuckerberg that will be featured in the network's coverage.

Asked about Breitbart's history of unethical behavior and misinformation, ABC News' David Ford told Media Matters: "He will be one of many voices on our air, including Bill Adair of Politifact. If Andrew Breitbart says something that is incorrect, we have other voices to call him on it."

It's hard to overstate how ridiculous this is. For ABC News to invite a professional propagandist -- a man ABC News has exposed on the air as a practiced liar -- to be part of its election-night coverage is an embarrassment to the network.

The point is not that conservative voices should be excluded from broadcasts like these. The point is major news outlets are supposed to have credible journalistic standards. And yet, these same outlets keep undermining the discourse by extending invitations to right-wing activists, who really have no business in pretending to belong in such a setting.

ABC's explanation for this is woefully unpersuasive -- if the right-wing hatchet-man starts lying on the air, "we have other voices to call him on it"? Here's a crazy thought: if ABC News has reason to believe Breitbart might try to deceive the network's audience, then maybe he shouldn't be part of the election-night broadcast.

For that matter, this isn't exactly a recipe for quality journalism -- Breitbart will spew propaganda; others on the broadcast will be there to "call him on it." Viewers will, in other words, hear some falsehoods and some corrections, but won't necessarily know who's right.

I'd be surprised if ABC News reversed course so close to Tuesday, but it's important that the network realize it's making a humiliating mistake.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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Downright pathetic, I would say. Will turn off any knowledgeable members of the audience anyway - might be a small group, though.

Posted by: Betty on October 30, 2010 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

And he will make claims about someone or something that no one else will know anything about. So they will keep quiet because they have no information to dispute it.

Posted by: RJ on October 30, 2010 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

And you wonder why 'washington" is broken?

And I might add..... we wonder why Obama's message of accomplishments aren't getting thru, it's because the media like ABC treat basic misinformation as 'fact'.

Posted by: mike reilly on October 30, 2010 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

I don't know how widespread this is, what exactly the relationship means, or if it's unfair to make the connection, but my local ABC affiliate is also a FOX affiliate.


Posted by: jhm on October 30, 2010 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

I know I won't be watching ABC, I hope that we can encourage anyone we know to boycott this channel, I think they have just joined the ranks of FOX.

Posted by: js on October 30, 2010 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

Breitbart on ABC for election coverage? FTW!!!
What's next, Goebbel's covering Hanukkah? Thank goodness he's dead, or that's what we'd get.

I'm boycotting ABC, and sending them an e-mail. Hey, it's all I can do. But if others do the same, who knows?
PS: I won't tell them I'd watch MSNBC anyway. What they don't know, won't hurt them.
But then again, what they don't know's hurting the entire country...

Posted by: c u n d gulag on October 30, 2010 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, they've got a business to run, and shareholders who want dividends. Outrageous people get attention. Attention gets viewers. Viewers get Nielsen ratings. Ratings get sponsors. It's the same reason why Ann Coulter is always getting invited to appear on talk shows -- she has nothing knowledgable, insightful or civilized to say, but she dresses like a slut, and some conservative men with poor vision used to think she was hot before Sarah Palin stole their hearts. Now that Coulter's really starting to show her age, she's been bumped off the A-list of right wing hatchet-man celebrities by Breitbart and Beck, but the principle remains the same.

Posted by: T-Rex on October 30, 2010 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

I didn't think television journalism could get any worse but this represents a nadir that even surpasses Eric Erikson's hiring at CNN. These news organizations see Fox News' ratings and try to reach that base. The sad part is they never will attract those viewers and instead only debase their own credibility. This hiring continues to lower journalism standards of fairness and accuracy.

Posted by: doyles on October 30, 2010 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

What, ABC decided to double down on the stupidity of CNN when they hired Eric Erickson and thought, "Here's a great idea, let's hire the guy involved in creating and pushing two known false stories that created public firestorms!"

If I hadn't already traded my TV for a truckload of crap to the dump, I would be hurling it out the window right now.

Posted by: karen marie on October 30, 2010 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

This is just the latest example of NBC/CBS/ABC re-arranging the deck chairs on their Titanics,

Posted by: DAY on October 30, 2010 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

And how many of ABC's so-called professional journalist with the alleged standards will do the right thing and refuse to appear on the same show as Breitbart?

Posted by: martin on October 30, 2010 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Viewers will, in other words, hear some falsehoods and some corrections, but won't necessarily know who's right.

Yes, all 12 of them. Who besides a few frothing teatards are going to be glued to the tube on Tuesday watching results trickle in anyway? I'll vote to ease my conscience then take it on faith that 538 is about right and go about my life. Besides Teatard Nation will be getting their news from The Source™ which apparently has journalistic standards now higher than ABC.

Posted by: Alrighty Then on October 30, 2010 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

ABC clearly believes that the most extreme, provocative, irrational right-wing commentators will juice their ratings -- in this sense they're following CNN's lead with Erickson. If the Tea Party does well on Tuesday, then expect more of these kinds of corporate hirings.

Until progressives step up and boycott, making venues like ABC suffer economically, then this will only increase.

Posted by: BrklynLibrul on October 30, 2010 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

And how many of ABC's so-called professional journalist with the alleged standards will do the right thing and refuse to appear on the same show as Breitbart?

If Jake Tapper's Twitter feed yesterday afternoon is to be believed, he is offended that anyone would think he had any power to do anything about it, and besides, he isn't responsible for what comes out of Breitbart's mouth, Breitbart is.

It was quite a display of cowardice.

Posted by: Blue Girl on October 30, 2010 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

ABC hired Glenn Beck to do periodic pieces for GOOD MORNING AMERICA when he was already recognized as a dangerous demagogue on CNN HEADLINE NEWS. Absolutely dispiriting, ABC . . .

Posted by: Giselle on October 30, 2010 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

It's another example of that horrible liberal media!

Posted by: menthol on October 30, 2010 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

What, David Duke was unavailable?

Posted by: beejeez on October 30, 2010 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

In a related note, Micheal Vick will be doing commentary for the Kensington Dog Show.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on October 30, 2010 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Where have you all been? ABC has been FOX, Jr. for quite some time now, thanks to the hard work of "I'm an impartial journalist (who happens to love Republicans)" Mark Halperin. I quit watching their "news" long ago. In a way, ABC is worse than FOX because they pretend to be impartial.

Posted by: dalloway on October 30, 2010 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks for outing yourself.

Posted by: louie on October 30, 2010 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

Not that big a deal. A one shot deal to do post election wrap up for an election that is all but decided at this point.

Posted by: Dan on October 30, 2010 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Wow, it's like asking Jeffrey Dahmer to work in a restaurant kitchen.

Posted by: Alavar Cotero on October 30, 2010 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

You all remember when ESPN hired noted football expert Rush Limbaugh to be part of its Sunday pre-game show, right? ESPN is a subsidiary of ABC. It's all just part of the mindset.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on October 30, 2010 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

I vote ABC invite Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog to assist with the coverage. His rants on voter fraud are confrontational and conspiratorial enough to boost their ratings and his knowledge is more than enough to counter the Breitbart Bull Shit.

Posted by: chopin on October 30, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

I'm just shocked about this. I could have sworn our corporate (aka mainstream) media was liberal.

Posted by: Bob on October 30, 2010 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

I got one of those lovely bumper stickers that says to turn off Fox; I will simply have to use a Sharpie to add ABC. The only news worth watching anyway is from Jon Stewart. This from a southern white woman in her 50s.

Posted by: withay on October 30, 2010 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

contact abcnews.com via


Posted by: dj spellchecka on October 30, 2010 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Was he also unethical and dishonest when he set up Huffington Post ? Just pathetic.

You should read this even if you don't like the source.

Posted by: Mike K on October 30, 2010 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sorry, Steve. You're just so out of touch. If you're not Fox approved, you're not qualified to publicly comment on national TV. Please catch up with modern news standards.

Posted by: EL on October 30, 2010 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Well, when you see some of the younger ABC producers showing up on FOX news as pundits....the writing is on the wall.

Posted by: golack on October 30, 2010 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

They're not making a mistake. They figure that the election will be a Republican blow-out, so Dems will be discouraged and turn off the set. They are worried that all the Repubs will go to Fox, and no one will watch ABC. So they need a name that will keep some viewers away from Fox.

Posted by: Bloix on October 30, 2010 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

Another large chunk of ABC's credibility just broke off and sank beneath the surface.

Posted by: Seould on October 30, 2010 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

That is why comedians deliver news these days while news organizations now do really bad comedy.

Posted by: Silver Owl on October 30, 2010 at 9:47 PM | PERMALINK

Can I reference part of this on my site if I post a reference to this website?

Posted by: engelsk kurser on November 3, 2010 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Man I dont know, it's too early to really predict but somebody can get super high futures odds on Superbowl bets right now.

Posted by: Harold Oatis on December 30, 2010 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK



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