'Don't Ever Appear on The Daily Show'

Megan McCardle reminds her readers at Bloomberg View that Viacom’s faux news show loves itself plenty of dishonest ransom note editing and ambush interviews:


In mid-September, some Washington Redskins fans agreed to go on “The Daily Show” to defend the team’s name. In the course of negotiating their appearance, the fans asked whether they would be confronted by American Indians on the show. The producers said no, and then surprise! They were ambushed by irate American Indian activists.

What follows is Megan’s boilerplate PC defense of changing the Redskins’ team name, until she notes that ransom note interviews:

[Appear] to be something of a standard practice for “The Daily Show” when interviewing its ideological opponents. It is not good journalistic practice, which is why so many millennials should take Jon Stewart at his word and not treat the show as news. However, I’m sure millennials will continue to do so, and the show’s producers will continue to supply them with dubious antics, so here’s a guide for people who do not share the show’s politics but are considering going on it anyway:

  1. Don’t.
  2. If you must, bring two tape recorders, a video camera and a witness. Announce at the beginning that you are going to record this and reserve the right to release the entire recording to the public. When they tell you that they will not do the interview under those conditions, prepare to leave. There is no ethical reason that a reporter requires the ability to ask you questions without having those questions recorded. The reason they don’t want unedited audio is that you might release it and be revealed as a normal decent person, rather than a horrible fool.
  3. They may attempt to get you to stay by explaining that recording will interfere with their equipment. This is the point where you whip the video camera out of your bag and helpfully offer to videotape the interview instead. Do not, under any circumstances, allow yourself to be alone in a room with the producers and no recording device.

Of course, this has been known about the Daily Show for several years now, and about the MSM in general. When ABC’s Charlie Gibson turned his September 2008 interview with Sarah Palin into a melange of jump cuts to disparage her and help advance his (and Megan’s) preferred candidate, Glenn Reynolds advised anyone being interviewed to “Bring Your Own Camera” in a New York Post column:

So, when you sit down for an interview (unless it’s live), you’re putting yourself, like Homer, at the mercy of the editors. Usually they’re honest, but not always.

But there’s a remedy now, with technology being what it is. If I were a candidate, I think I’d bring my own camera to interviews, shoot the whole thing and post the unedited raw video on the Web.

The technology for this is easy – I’ve got a little Sony HD video camera that records on a chip and fits in a coat pocket or purse – and putting video on the Web is a snap, too.

Of course, the knowledge that this will happen is likely to be enough to keep people honest – but if anything is edited unfairly, the full video will tell the tale. No need to wait for Groundskeeper Willie to appear.

TV journalists won’t be happy with this, of course, but it’s hard to see a principled basis for objecting.

Especially since the MSM has had a reputation for ambushing anyone whose ideology they disagree with for decades; I recall reading articles that some Nixon era officials refused to go on TV interviews unless they were live. A few years before establishment liberal fossil Mike Wallace passed away at age 93, Quin Hillyer of the American Spectator described “the first time Mike Wallace had ever apologized to an elected official on air on 60 Minutes. For all I know, it still might be the only time. And 15 years later, in this age of Obama when the establishment media is hostile to conservatives, the episode still can teach lessons about how to fight back with the truth.”


In 1993, Hillyer was the press secretary for Rep. Bob Livingston (R-LA), when he and other Livingston aides got word that the congressman was in 60 Minutes’ crosshairs for what could prove to be a fatal hit piece:

A Republican congressman was in the show’s sights—oddly enough, not for being too heartless, but for supposedly pandering to touchy-feely animal rights extremists. And the producer was demanding an on-camera interview with Livingston.

I drew on my experience as a research assistant for a widely used text on journalistic ethics, The Virtuous Journalist by Stephen Klaidman and Tom Beauchamp, in which CBS News and 60 Minutes had been used in several case studies of what not to do. I advised Livingston that he should demand the right to have our own camera tape any interview ourselves, so we could have irrefutable evidence if the show unfairly spliced several interview segments together, out of context, to make him look bad. Livingston declined. He had nothing to hide, he said. Tell the producer he would gladly do the interview— as long as it was aired either live or entirely unedited. Pre-taped and edited, no. Live or fulllength, fine.

I called the producer back with our terms. She laughed nastily. She said I’d regret it.

They didn’t — read the whole thing.

Of course, 60 Minutes would descend even further, until Dan Rather permanently destroyed the show’s reputation with Rathergate and faked documents. And nowadays, NBC has picked up the mantle of ransom note editing and run with it big time:


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Beleaguered former NBC chief Jeff Zucker, now the beleaguered chief of CNN, declares “We continue to have complete confidence” in Fareed Zakaria despite multiple media outlets on both sides of the aisle declaring him a plagiarist.

And why not? When it comes to the MSM, he’s seen — and likely allowed, tacitly or explicitly — far worse crimes.

But at least these days, as Megan McArdle notes, there are tools for those whom the MSM would demonize, to fight back.

Related: After decrying Gary Hart’s infamous “Monkey Business” implosion in 1987, and the usual Chappaquiddick-esque wistful flashbacks of the leftwing glories that could have been, Matt Bai of the New York Times finally gets his suspect, nearly 30 years later: the person who blew the whistle on Hart. Punish the heretic, bring her to justice, no matter how long it takes, Matt!

(H/T: Kathy Shaidle.)


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