Political Animal


May 15, 2011 8:45 AM The Sunday shows can’t help themselves

By Steve Benen

I promise not to do this every Sunday morning — it only seems like I will — but take a look at today’s guest lists for the five major Sunday shows.

* NBC’s “Meet the Press”: Disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.)

* CBS’s “Face the Nation”: House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)

* ABC’s “This Week”: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R)

* Fox News’ “Fox News Sunday”: Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) [Update: Mike Huckabee (R) is a late addition to the line-up]

* CNN’s “State of the Union”: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), former Bush administration officials Dennis Blair and John Negroponte

For those keeping score at home, that’s two Republican presidential candidates, two House Republican leaders, two Senate Republican leaders, one Republican governor, one former Republican governor, two Bush administration officials, and one Democrat.

Liberal media, indeed.

In fairness, it’s worth noting that after these headliner guests, the shows will feature panel discussions, and some of the voices will be center-left. Paul Krugman will be on ABC, E.J. Dionne Jr will be on NBC, and Joe Lockhart will be on CNN.

But (a) this doesn’t make up for the seven-to-one imbalance among officeholders and candidates; and (b) each of the center-left guests will be featured alongside a conservative, presumably to offer the kind of “balance” viewers won’t get with the headline guests.

Rachel Maddow noted the other day, “The Sunday shows are supposedly the apex of political debate — the pulsing, throbbing heart of what’s going on in American politics.”

Right, and week in and week out, this debate is dominated by voices from only one party.

A couple of years ago, Josh Marshall talked about how the Washington establishment is simply “wired” for Republicans. It’s GOP ideas that get attention; it’s GOP talking points that get internalized; it’s GOP voices that get aired.

The Sunday show guest lists help drive the point home nicely.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • blondie on May 15, 2011 9:00 AM:

    Which is why I can't remember the last time I watched the Sunday morning talking-heads shows. (Not that the inside-the-Beltway crowd cares - talk about shows where "ratings" don't matter! I wish the networks would be as generous with GOOD television, like "Friday Night Lights!")

  • DAY on May 15, 2011 9:03 AM:

    It's kinda like church on Sunday;
    you know you're going to hear
    the same old BS,
    but you go anyway.

  • stormskies on May 15, 2011 9:19 AM:

    The corporate media hires those that will do their bidding. These journalistic criminals are just that: criminals who are hired to megaphone the propaganda that the corporations want them too. And this propaganda is repeated over and over and over until it becomes the 'reality' of this country. Like Bush's former communications director said: "Reality is what we say it is". And, indeed, this exactly why we never ever hear about the budget plan of the Democrats in the Congress for example, a plan the literally balance the budget in ten years. Nope. All's we hear is about Ann Rand = Paul Ryan and that the only way to balance the budget in on the back of the poor, the middle class, the elderly and the disabled.

    It's just one example that of course can be examples a thousand times. And these journalistic corporate cum sluts in the form of the David Gregories of this world get paid millions to do what they are hired to do. And their reward for becoming corporate cum sluts is to be among the 'media elite'. The beltway media that Digby called the Villagers.

    Villagers indeed .. they are just like the mafia. It is because of them that the typical stupid American ends up believing the opposite of what is actually true about almost anything.

    All of them should be charged and arrested for journalistic fraud. All by themselves they are destroying what is left of our once great country.

  • John R on May 15, 2011 9:35 AM:

    @ Day
    It's kinda like church on Sunday;
    you know you're going to hear
    the same old BS,

    but you go anyway.

    Or you don't . Same thing Fairy Tales . Made up by primitive people who didn't know or understand the basic principles of science.
    They are all breathing Foxygen (My favorite daily show word last week)

  • Budly on May 15, 2011 9:43 AM:

    But, it does seem like the only real news being made is BY the Republicans, unfortunately. They are getting the media "grease" because they are the squeaky wheel. Sure it would be nice for Democrats to get some attention but they have to be brave enough to draw attention to themselves. We need more stuff like the Congressional Progressive Caucus´┐Żs budget proposal and we need to keep drawing attention to news like that. Continuously complaining that the Sunday talk shows ignore the democrats is not going to cut it in my view.

  • SW on May 15, 2011 9:51 AM:

    Well, it is just not what you seem to think it is. But then I guess if your chosen profession is 'journalism' and if your personal identity is wrapped up in the idea that such a thing exists in this country I suppose you have to cling to fiction.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on May 15, 2011 9:56 AM:

    We own the f*cking media and they do what we tell them to do!

    You have to be some kind of a commie, socialist worshiper at the idol of anti-capitalism to believe that we do not have the right to use our corporations to fulfull our corporate objectives!

  • KurtRex1453 on May 15, 2011 10:04 AM:

    The Sunday talk shows are run by corporations and corporations are inherently conservative. When they news media was independent, they could afford to have a balanced view point, but now they dare not for fear of incurring the wrath of their corporate masters. They will deny this, of course, but as Dylan said, "It does't take a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."

  • boffo on May 15, 2011 10:13 AM:

    "I promise not to do this every Sunday morning -- it only seems like I will -- but take a look at today's guest lists for the five major Sunday shows."

    It simply makes no sense that these shows, which seemed to be originally meant to foster high-minded dialogue and debate, are now dominated -- week after week after week -- by (often discredited) Republican voices spouting specious, easily debunked talking points that often go unchallenged or insufficiently challenged by the hosts.

    Yes, it does indeed bolster the impression that these "liberal media" shows are now nothing more than willing vessels for the dissemination of Republican perspectives and talking points.

    So I kinda hope you -- and others -- will keep talking about this issue until it leads to a change in the system, or it drives the current variant of these Sunday shows into complete irrelevancy.

  • SaintZak on May 15, 2011 10:17 AM:

    Yes, the news media in this nation is nothing more than the the propaganda arm of the corporate ownership, but the audience makes their task easier. Who watches these shows? My guess is that the vast majority of their viewers are old, white and conservative. News is a profit-making entertainment division now. Much of this is also playing to the the audience.

  • Greg Worley on May 15, 2011 10:18 AM:

    Shame there isn't some organized group with political and governmental power that could and would use that power to assert strongly its views in opposition to the dominant orthodoxy. Perhaps start community organizations and new outlets. They could even organize themselves into a political party. Maybe distinguish themselves from the Republicans by calling themselves, oh, I don't know, maybe "Democrats?" Nah. Never happen.

  • John Gee on May 15, 2011 10:24 AM:

    "Liberal" media companies have learned from Faux. You can dumb down your talking heads, rely less on facts, and expect less from your audience---and STILL make money. Though how they can be happy about their contributions to society is a bit of a wonder. (and how they can sleep at night too)

  • LL on May 15, 2011 10:26 AM:

    I want to see David Luft on a Sunday show, discussing this:


    Now, THAT would be some fun. American media can't even begin to call itself balanced until I see Luft on all the news shows, with the same number of appearances as that fucking mendacious, useless fossil McCain.

    Interesting part is, imagine the ratings! You promote Luft on your show, and what his subject would be, and ratings would skyrocket. Just think, much of the Village would be hearing something brand new--for a change.

  • Frances Smith on May 15, 2011 10:30 AM:

    That's why we don't watch them any more. But today I am going to e-mail my displeasure to the networks and ask for a more balanced approach.

  • ComradeAnon on May 15, 2011 11:19 AM:

    Media is big business too. They want what republicans want.

  • the_dan on May 15, 2011 11:23 AM:

    Anyone who doesn't agree with @KurtRex1453 was asleep during the run-up to Iraq.

  • Alan on May 15, 2011 11:25 AM:

    Paul Krugman was not on ABC

  • Modaca on May 15, 2011 11:31 AM:

    Please check to see if there are there Dems who aren't getting on?

  • Alan on May 15, 2011 11:52 AM:

    Sorry, Krugman was on. My bad

  • jsjiowa on May 15, 2011 2:52 PM:

    Please keep covering this issue. Fox is bad enough, but when all the "mainstream" networks start tilting so heavily to the right, it skews the national conversation even more. Eventually, they have to start paying attention to being more balanced.

    And, I do watch the Sunday morning shows, though I don't think the questions are nearly as pointed and hard-hitting as the evening shows on MSNBC, so it lets conservative viewpoints often go unchecked. What I really want is for MSNBC to schedule political programming on the weekend, instead of those prison & true crime shows.

  • Cha on May 15, 2011 4:30 PM:

    I see the corporatemediawhores have "Budly" brainwashed. I haven't watched corporate manufactured "news" since 2002 when I saw how they influenced the midterm elections.

    And, I have no problem knowing how much the Democratic President and his Team of supporters are doing by going online.

    The "squeaky" republicons have the bully pulpit courtesy of the gop run tv shows.. showcased for those who just love to listen to their stupid lies. Suckers.

    There should be a massive boycott of these shows and sponors by Millions of us who want to see it change. Let them play to the 30%.

    Almost 14 Million tuned in to see President Obama last Sunday night on 60 Minutes Overtime..and you know that scares the shit out of the corporatemasters.

    captcha bites.

  • Anonymous on May 15, 2011 4:33 PM:

    Frances Smith on May 15, 2011 10:30 AM:

    "That's why we don't watch them any more. But today I am going to e-mail my displeasure to the networks and ask for a more balanced approach."


  • Hudson on May 15, 2011 4:38 PM:

    We're with Anonymous. We used to watch several each Sunday. We now may watch Chris Matthews, but that's it. The rest is pointless or worse.

  • Egypt Steve on May 15, 2011 5:12 PM:

    But the Democrats hate America. Why should they be on the Sunday shows? So the Terrorists can win? Sheeesh.

  • bob somerby on May 15, 2011 5:17 PM:

    Steve is clearly right on one point--he does do this every week. He did it last week, when the featured guest on all five shows was a Democrat. And he did it again this week, when the featured guests were mainly or wholly Republicans.

    Two points:

    1) There will soon be a half-dozen major Republican presidential candidates pointing toward a series of primaries. There will be no contested events on the Democratic side; it will be Obama (who won't do Sunday shows) and no one else. This will produce an inevitable "imbalance" in some of the campaign-based coverage. Let's all try to brace ourselves for this unavoidable fact.

    2) You can't sensibly assess the "balance" of Sunday guest lists on a cherry-picked, week-to-week basis. You have to do a study over a reasonable period of time. Such detailed studies have been done in the past, by orgs like Media Matters. The fact that Steve isn't giving you any such data tells you something rather obvious, though you may prefer to go through life failing to see what it is.

  • Liberal on May 15, 2011 5:38 PM:

    Time to start a boycott. Anyone know of one to join?

  • Southern Beale on May 15, 2011 5:59 PM:

    And it's always ALWAYS been this way. I remember back during the Bush years we complained about the same exact thing. We were told, "The Republicans are in power, that is why ...." Well, the Democrats have the Senate and the White House, but it's still the same issue. WTF?

    It's because the right wing rules the media's world. That's it. It's because Republicans are somehow sexier, more virile, more manly, they send more shivers up Tweety's leg and God knows what all else. They're more interesting to the Villagers who rule the discourse.

    And that is why I never watch these crappy shows. Because I don't need to watch them to know what the right wing thinks. I get their point of view on the news every weeknight, and in the newspaper op-ed pages, and on cable news and on and on. They own the media.

    But it will be the foul mouthed liberal bloggers who killed the media. I'm just SO OVER IT.

  • Squeaky McCrinkle on May 15, 2011 6:48 PM:

    The Sunday shows are a sick joke, and their main audience would have to be primarily old, white and conservative (as others here have suggested).

    I guess you might also watch if you thought Newt Gingrich really is an "intellectual", and Paul Ryan is a financial genius. Perhaps you could then stay awake to watch E. J. Dionne's utterly passionless impersonation of Alan Colmes, or Peggy Noonan's stilted, braindead "analysis".

    In other words, you'd only watch these shows if you liked what they did. That's their audience, and I don't think they'd change their minds no matter who was on their TV screen. They'd probably just change channels - to Fox.

  • RepubAnon on May 15, 2011 7:08 PM:

    I seem to recall hearing about a number of the children of Republican movers and shakers being hired by various media outlets during the Bush years. Could this have been a media variant of the K Street Project, where ex-Republican staffers are hired as bookers for the Saturday shows?

  • dj spellchecka on May 15, 2011 7:12 PM:

    fair.org did a study of the ideology of sunday guests from jan 09 to june 10. they discovered that even the gop guests on the shows tended to be more conservative than the average republican. [fauxnews sunday being a major cause]

    Right-Wing Tilt on Sunday Morning
    The conservative records of talking-head lawmakers
    By Jim Naureckas and Alyssa Figueroa

    full details:


  • dj spellchecka on May 15, 2011 7:20 PM:

    if anyone's interested here's the media matters report which studied the big 3 broadcast networks sunday show guests from 1997 through 2005.


    their conclusion: "The Sunday talk shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC are dominated by conservative voices, from newsmakers to commentators. The data from the Clinton years indicate that the disparity cannot be explained simply by the fact that Republicans currently control the government."

  • dannyshenanigan on May 15, 2011 8:39 PM:

    My suspicion is that the right wing has a right wing talent (using that word very loosely) agency, of sorts, in place. Actively and consistently working to get these guys on the air, that the democrats do not. These shows are not calling newt and jon kyle at home begging them to come on. The wingers most likely have an ongoing effort to get these guys on air week after week, making it easy, pushing the message, spewing the talking points. It's just what they do. Shadowy groups with a conservative agenda pushing through their message onto the networks.

    Democrats wonder why they're not being called and the networks don't really have a choice. Oh, and the somebody who is probably a nobody doing a poor imitation of bob somerby @ 5:17 is likely one of them. If he were a regular poster, he' know that Steve B. has been doing this without cherry picking for years.

    I do think this issue could be resolved by asking prominent Democrats what they could do to get on these shows to counter the republican talking points and why they aren't doing it more frequently.