Dear Media: Don’t Let Presidential Candidates Slow Jam Your News

Scott Greer Contributor
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Did you see Jeb Bush on Jimmy Fallon last night?

It was apparently hysterical. He even slow jammed the news!

The former Florida governor’s Tuesday appearance on “The Tonight Show” held a firm place in Wednesday’s news cycle and was featured nearly every hour on the airwaves.

For those who are confused as to what “slow jamming the news” means, it’s a popular segment on Jimmy Fallon’s show where the host adds comical commentary to a celebrity reading the headlines to the tune of smooth jazz.

It was certainly a coup for Bush’s campaign to have the clip run repeatedly on cable news.

Jeb desperately needs some of the charm that propelled his brother George to the White House if he hopes to secure the GOP nomination. Bush’s stiff personality is one of his major weaknesses. His performance with Fallon was supposed to show that he could get loose and come down to earth.

But what is it really news?

Some apparently think so.

As this very piece was being written, I witnessed a “Hardball” panel complain that Jeb’s late night appearance didn’t get enough attention from the media. Instead, two of the panelists — Howard Dean and Republican strategist John Feehery — bemoaned media’s focus on Donald Trump’s “xenophobia”

Apparently, Jeb making a joke or two on “The Tonight Show” is more important than Trump taking a hardline stance against immigration.

But Trump’s charged comments have started a debate and have already forced fellow candidates to discuss immigration and border security. Voters want to know where candidates stand on this issue. They don’t care if candidates can competently crack jokes with Jimmy Fallon.

And, contrary to Howard Dean’s allegations, Bush’s late night debut did receive more than its fair share of coverage — as a cursory Google search of “jeb bush slow jam” can demonstrate.

The clip also certainly received more attention on Wednesday — from a wider array of media — than the pressing fight over Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). The Associated Press reported that another House vote on the measure President Obama so desperately wants could come as soon as Thursday.

However, a Google search for “TPA vote” brings in a pittance of news results… even though this legislation — if passed — will make thousands of Americans unemployed, diminish national sovereignty and potentially increase our trade deficit. (RELATED: The GOP’s Foolish Embrace Of Obama’s Trade Deal)

Yet we’re somehow supposed to be more concerned with Jeb slow jamming the news than Obama slow jamming jobs to Vietnam?

This is one of the downsides of presidential elections: we get caught up in frivolous stories that are ultimately irrelevant. In 2008, we got thought pieces on Obama’s love of Jay-Z. During the 2012 GOP primary, candidates were examined on their favorite movies.

And we’re still somehow amazed by Bill Clinton playing the saxophone on “The Arsenio Hall Show” 23 years after the act.

Late night show appearances are the worst offenders in this category. The hosts usually end up offering up soft interviews that can only benefit the candidates. Just check out all the glowing performances Obama managed to have on the “Late Show with David Letterman.”

White House hopefuls will get a chance to cut up and demonstrate that they’re just ordinary people. Rarely do these appearances generate real news, but outlets replay the clips over and over again.

Furthermore, some of these interviews require the candidate to act like a clown, which makes it seem like the man or woman has to sell a circus act to get the desk in the Oval Office.

The real problem is that this type of news coverage takes attention away from issues that are no laughing matter. Sure, it’s fine to have a few pieces and segments on events like Bush palling around on “The Tonight Show.”

But when we have TPA set for another vote and Trump making everybody pay attention to the oft-ignored subject of immigration, it’s worth relegating Jeb’s comedy act to the back pages.

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