Politico to GOP 2012 hopefuls: Don’t worry about NBC/MSNBC/Chris Matthews — there’s no bias

Jeff Poor Media Reporter
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Imagine a Republican debate moderated by a network whose marquee commentators include Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell and Ed Schultz. Seems like there could be an ideological clash? Not according to Politico’s John F. Harris.

Given the slow start to the 2012 Republican presidential campaign, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation decided to move a scheduled GOP debate from May to Sept. 14. Politico and NBC were partners with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation in the event. In the meantime, some have asked why NBC, the parent network of left-leaning MSNBC, was sponsoring a Republican presidential debate in the first place.

On Wednesday’s syndicated Hugh Hewitt radio show, Politico Editor-in-Chief John F. Harris defended NBC’s participation as a partner in the debate, despite Hewitt’s protestations that NBC’s involvement, and by extension MSNBC’s and Chris Matthews’s, would taint the event.

“Well, I just don’t accept the premise and I don’t accept your premise about Chris Matthews, who I admire,” Harris said. “In any event, Chris Matthews is not the moderator of this debate – Brian Williams, who is going to be bringing his journalistic reputation, his journalistic values to bear, just as I will be, Hugh, as the other moderator.”

Harris said the “commentators” at MSNBC would have no influence over the proceedings of the NBC/Politico-sponsored GOP debate.

“I don’t think that those people who do come at the news from an ideological point of view — they’re commentators, people like Rachel Maddow, are going to be influencing Brian Williams as he puts his imprint on the debate and the two of us together try to come up with the questions that we think will be the most illuminating for the audience,” Harris said.


Harris added that if Hewitt’s logic were applied – that NBC/MSNBC can’t be involved with a Republican debate — then Fox News couldn’t be involved with a Democratic debate.

“Do you think that Fox News could ever sponsor a fair Democratic debate with somebody like Chris Wallace who has established a reputation as a non-ideological journalist as moderator? Or could it never be done because they have conservative commentators on that network?” Harris said.

Hewitt explained Fox News could do it, but it would never happen because the Democratic Party wouldn’t allow it.

“No John, I think Fox could do it absolutely – but the Democratic Party would never allow it and therefore the Republican Party ought not to allow it on this side because if you’re going to keep the ideologically involved on the right away from the Democratic Party, you ought to keep the ideologically involved, NBC away from the Republican Party. It’s just fair.”

The Democratic Party has demonstrated they aren’t willing to partner with the Fox News Channel. In 2007, after numerous candidates declined to participate, a Fox News/Congressional Black Caucus-sponsored debate to be held in Detroit was canceled. The reason: Opponents viewed “Fox as biased against Democrats” at the time.

“I just don’t agree with that and I just don’t welcome a climate where people think that no journalist including places like NBC with established decades-long reputation for first-rate journalism can’t cover the news fairly. I don’t see the entire world operating through an ideological spectrum,” Harris said.