Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

John King lets Mary Matalin lie about Bush inheriting 9/11 and a recession to earn the Media Putz

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Originally published on on December 31, 2009

John King

One new expression that found its way into the 2009 lexicon was “You lie.” Unfortunately, for Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), he used it in a case (President Obama) where there wasn’t a lie.

It would be nice to hear the phrase “You lie” when there is a lie, especially when the lie is as egregious as the one told by Mary Matalin.

Matalin wasn’t the first one to tell the “Bush inherited 9/11” lie, but it was the first time in a non-Fox “News” setting, where CNN’s John King should have been paying more attention.

KING: The politics of the economy. Do the Republicans have that right? Deficits and maybe giving Congress too much control in writing this legislation? Is that a problem for this president? How has he been as a leader in his first year?

MATALIN: It’s not just the deficits. It’s the dud. It’s incomprehensible. And it’s the Bush fashion in perpetuity. Never gives a speech where he doesn’t explicitly or implicitly look backwards.

I was there. We inherited a recession from President Clinton and we inherited the most tragic attack on our own soil in our nation’s history. And President Bush dealt with it. And within a year of his presidency at this comparable time, unemployment was at 5 percent. And we were creating jobs.

Matalin’s answer drones on followed by a lengthy reply from her husband, James Carville, King comes back with the next question, like a robot reading from the teleprompter:

KING: You worked for George W. Bush. He was a governor when he came to the Oval Office. You worked for Bill Clinton. He was a governor beforehand. You worked for H.W. Bush before that. He was the vice president. This president came to office with zero executive experience. And one of the big questions was, how would he handle that role. The end of the first year?

In the Washington bubble, journalists are expected to ask questions and not even listen for the answers. The pundits, whom the journalists are friendly with on a social basis, get to spit out their answers unfiltered. They all walk off the set together happy and rich. For the rest of us, this leaves us without much faith in politics and even less regard for journalism.

To be fair, John King may have a bad memory. King might have thought, “Well, maybe Bush wasn’t president when 9/11 happened. If I’m wrong, I’ll look foolish for saying a Republican operative told a lie.”

No, you look foolish for not catching an obvious lie, regardless of who told it.

This isn’t the first time on-camera King has shown an incredible lack of memory. After all, King shared the Media Putz with Campbell Brown from an incident on Election Night 2008 where Brown and King couldn’t remember that Bush and the Republicans were in charge of the White House, House of Representatives, and the Senate at the same time.

Given that King served as CNN’s White House correspondent from 1999-2005, perhaps there were a lot of facts about Bush that King has forgotten.

Clearly, King’s memory doesn’t always suffer this badly since he wouldn’t have a job otherwise, even at CNN. But his bad memory does seem to be selective in favor of Republicans.

While the 9/11 remark got a lot of media attention, let’s not forget the other big lie Matalin told in the same sentence: “We inherited a recession from President Clinton.”

No, you didn’t.

Paul Krugman wasn’t the first, but is the latest to note who was in the White House when that recession started.

The Republican strategy is to tell the same lie over and over until people remember it as “truth.” Journalists such as King are supposed to catch those, but somehow manage to miss as often as Charlie Brown kicks the football that Lucy holds for him.

At least when Dana Perino told the “Bush inherited 9/11” lie, Perino was on Fox “News” Channel, where she knew the correction would never get made. Matalin took a chance by doing so on CNN. After all, if John King were paying attention, he might call her out for two egregious lies in a 22-word sentence.

But Matalin knew what all Republican operatives are keenly aware of: If you are dealing with one of the Washington insider media, you have no shot of being shot down for telling an obvious fib. But it wasn’t until John King that we truly found that this philosophy is virtually iron-clad.

After all, when everyone above the age of 5 watching the show knows it’s a lie. When even the most dyed-in-the-wool, Second Amendment loving, tax hating, health care reform stifling Republican knows who was sitting in the Oval Office on September 11, 2001, John King should hang his head in shame, even by Washington insider TV journalism media whore standards.

What John King doesn’t get is that Mary Matalin gets paid to lie. King gets paid a lot of money to catch those lies. And doesn’t do so.

However, King keeps getting rewarded for his selective memory. King got a brand new Sunday talk show “State of the Union” about a year ago and will transition into a cushy, 5 nights a week gig in early 2010, replacing Lou Dobbs in the 7 p.m. Eastern time slot.

It’s possible that Matalin might not be as kind to King if King were to do his job and call out Matalin for telling two huge whoppers on his show. But if you’re a TV personality who is there to suck up to the pundits, then you’re not behaving like a journalist. And since he is getting paid a lot to pretend to be a journalist when he’s not, John King wins this week’s Media Putz award.

John King won the award on March 19, 2009 and November 13, 2008.


Written by democracysoup

December 31, 2009 at 6:00 am

Posted in media criticism, MSM

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