Political Animal


June 16, 2011 1:25 PM When the networks muted Pelosi

By Steve Benen

As she does every Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hosted her weekly press availability this morning. Though it was scheduled well in advance, Pelosi’s gathering started shortly after reporters learned of Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-N.Y.) resignation.

Not surprisingly, Pelosi didn’t want to talk about Weiner, and noted at the outset that she’d issue a statement later, after Weiner’s press conference. But TPM did a great job showing what happened next.

For those who can’t watch clips from your work computers, the major cable news networks waited with bated breath for Pelosi to start talking. But the moment she turned her attention to job creation and the middle class, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News immediately decided they were no longer interested.

“As usual we’re here to talk about jobs, about protecting Medicare, and protecting the middle class,” she said. “If you’re here to ask a question about Congressman Weiner, I won’t be answering any.”

No Weiner, no coverage.

Clearly, the media’s priorities are what matters here, but I have one suggestion for Pelosi. Next time, say, “Before we get to the subject reporters care about, I wanted to say a few words.” Then, talk about jobs and the middle class, taking Republicans to task. Once that’s done, then explain that the silly story isn’t on the agenda for the day.

The moment Pelosi said, “I won’t be answering any,” the networks decided to move on. If she’s only saved that line for the end, viewers actually might have heard something important.

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.


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  • Fed Up and Tired on June 16, 2011 1:33 PM:

    We need a complete change of media in this country by whatever means necessary, their antennas and studios need to be smashed to bits.

  • Stephen Stralka on June 16, 2011 1:35 PM:

    That's a really good point. Essentially using Weiner as bait (although I don't necessarily like the kinds of mental images that calls forth). I don't know, maybe there's some feeling that you shouldn't have to play little games to get your message heard, but unfortunately that is how it works.

  • Ron Byers on June 16, 2011 1:39 PM:

    The Washington reporters, producers and cable entertainment executives don't give a shit about the unemployed. They all have jobs.

  • Doug CA on June 16, 2011 1:44 PM:

    Excellent point Mr. Benen! I'm wondering though if any politician wants to be seen talking about the lack of jobs and this is why Pelosi defocused their attention. Maybe we can change their titles to "Cheerleader" instead of Representative, or perhaps U.S. [Chamber of Commerce] Representative.

  • Gummitch on June 16, 2011 1:53 PM:

    Great idea. Why don't any of those Democratic politicians listen to you?

  • Mitch on June 16, 2011 1:54 PM:

    There's that Liberal Media for you, always helping out the Democrats and making the Republicans look horrible bad. Nothing but a pinko-commie-sharia-loving conspiracy.

    Oh wait. I forgot. Corporate media has it's own agenda, and it sure as hell isn't Liberal.

  • joan on June 16, 2011 1:56 PM:

    Can we all now call for Vitter to resign?

  • FRP on June 16, 2011 1:57 PM:

    The long and honored tradition of lying , sigh , it brings a tear of joy to any liars eye . It even got a washed up comedian a job for his tribute to the lying liars , mmm good !
    Is it any wonder ?

    Is it any wonder I reject you first?
    Fame, fame, fame, fame
    Is it any wonder you are too cool to fool

    Wonder no longer ! The camera eye lingers softly on the teary Boehner , the dreamy Cantor , The Pedagogue serious Paul Ryan , while disdaining such liberal washouts as Nancy Pelosi .
    Time to get a narrative fired up about some deep personal problem of the representative who wouldn't play .
    Probably due to her ability to forget bow deeply and meaningfully to the idols of wealth and privilege . Nancy must feel she is too good for the simple burlesque of famed members of the felons club and periphery , Tom Delay , Jack Abramov , amongst the greats !

  • rob on June 16, 2011 2:10 PM:

    How many people on Pelosi's staff get paid to do media?

    Why is it that everyone on this blog can figure out how to deal effectively with the lame stream media but Pelosi can't or won't. Send in the GD first string already.

  • max on June 16, 2011 2:14 PM:

    Pelosi shouldn't be penalized for being honest, but that's infotainment.

  • ManOutOfTime on June 16, 2011 2:29 PM:

    Maybe the Progressive Caucus could get their budget on TV by advertising a statement about Weiner, leading off with "before we talk about Weiner," peppering the presentation with "what Congressman Weiner did was wrong, but our plan for growth and fiscal sanity does the following" ... and then close with no further Weiner comments except commending him for resigning and wishing him well. Like those posters in high school that were about the fundraiser but said "SEX" in foot-high letters.

    Play the game.

  • bdop4 on June 16, 2011 2:43 PM:

    It's way past time for progressives to launch a coordinated attack on corporate media and the dumbification of the American viewer. I'm talking about prime-time ads that directly address this mentality.

    If the stations refuse to air the ads, file suit and seek to revoke their FCC licenses.

    It's time to play hardball.

  • DougEMI on June 16, 2011 2:46 PM:

    "viewers actually might have heard something important. "

    Well, if Pelosi said something important about jobs, readers here wouldn't know it either. You didn't mention anything of substance about her conference either.

  • Goldilocks on June 16, 2011 2:50 PM:

    @ManOutOfTime has a great idea. Start off saying you're going to talk about seX. Then lather the jobs info with scandals no one else knows anything about - yet. Ditto for each policy item replete with teasers about sleaze to come. Could work. Would be a breath of thick, rotten, fetid air the Media would inhale like there was no tomorrow.

  • Bob M on June 16, 2011 2:56 PM:

    I wonder if the media and the Republicans would have screamed foul if Pelosi had done it your way.

  • Goldilocks on June 16, 2011 2:59 PM:

    @Bob M - not with the ratings they'd get.

  • Anonymous on June 16, 2011 3:02 PM:

    And CNN's graphic identifies Pelosi as "House Speaker." Fools!

  • Mitch on June 16, 2011 3:23 PM:

    The biggest problem, I think, is that the Republicans have controlled the narrative for so long that it is almost impossible for progressives to gain any semblance of control.

    If the networks actually began covering our side then the Repugs would scream "LIBRUL BIAS!!!!!!!!"

    And half of the country would believe them; everyone KNOWS, after all, that the media leans to the Left (/sarcasm).

    If we had more Rachel Maddows then maybe we could get the word out. But I'm not sure. Too many people buy into the Repug spin, and the pluotcrats in control the airwaves won't ever take our side.

  • Bless on June 16, 2011 3:45 PM:

    Though I expect for some strange reporting that would find merit in Pelosi's conference, Weiner announcements notwithstanding, at least we now know how to package the more relevant discussions to the people.

    "Before I share new shocking discoveries about our President's birth, I'd like to take a moment to talk about Democrats efforts to save Medicaire compared to Republicans in congress' efforts to destroy it...."

    "Now about the president Mrs. Speaker?"

    "Yes, of course. My shocking relevation is ... well before I get to that let me take a quick moment to help the American people understand how a progressive tax system maintains a basic standard of living for all Americans, after which I will share latest intelligence regarding Area 51..."

  • Old Uncle Dave on June 16, 2011 4:06 PM:

    Pelosi should have opened with: "I know you are all interested in the big scandal, but I have no new information on Senator Vitter's plans. If you want to know if he is resigning, ask him. Now let's talk about something truly important, the state of economy in post-industrial America."

  • Trollop on June 16, 2011 5:22 PM:

    If I ran a snewz organization like CNN, I'd be out of business.

    Why they aren't is anybody's guess, of course it may have a little something to do with the fact that 3/4 of the general public also believes in magic jesus the sky-fairy who's going to stick it but-good to all the muslims, gays and other sinners and simultaneously feed the pious happy bon-bons in heaven forever..

    That might explain why CNN is somehow still "useful" in day to day American life as a snooze organization.. The public is simply gullible through and through and the hope for humanity hangs by a thread.

  • Squeaky McCrinkle on June 16, 2011 6:25 PM:

    Lumping CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News together at last is appropriate and overdue. All three are at best a disgraceful joke, a blight on America. You can complain about Fox's misinformation, but the other two do sweet fuck all to compensate for it.

  • exlibra on June 16, 2011 7:03 PM:

    Anonymous on June 16, 2011 3:02 PM:

    And CNN's graphic identifies Pelosi as "House Speaker." Fools!

    I missed that; thanks! Maybe it's a Freudian slip; maybe they know, deep in their subconscious, that Bane-r is inherently wrong for that position :)

    Ah, yes... Captcha agrees: "loan gapher"; the gaffer's position is only on a short term loan to Boner

  • chi res on June 16, 2011 7:50 PM:

    CNN: "The press conference apparently won't be starting for some time, but we do have this piece of news: Rep. Weiner has left his apartment."

    That what they literally call "news" today: "Rep. Weiner has left his apartment."

  • John on June 16, 2011 10:49 PM:

    No Weiner, no coverage.

    This latest round of media-created "scandal" and stupidity has truly spoken volumes about how idiotic and juvenile they've become; I'm not sure they can sink any lower. Collectively they make a group of eight-year-old boys' giggling reaction to their first peek at a Penthouse centerfold look like a commentary in the London Review of Books.

  • yellowdog on June 19, 2011 11:55 AM:

    At 1:05 you almost expect to hear the scrape of fifty-odd chairs on the Capitol floor as the crowd of reporters rushes for the door, leaving Pelosi's next words all but inaudible over the commotion.

    "Hey, look," one of them cries, "Weiner is in a balloon lifting off from the Capitol." And off they go...

    If Rick Scott and Nathan Deal can toss reporters out of public events, I don't see why Pelosi can't lock them in until they understand the basics of Medicare and know the difference between a Ryan voucher and a coupon from the Sunday paper.