Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Matthews, O’Reilly & Limbaugh: The Brothers Boisterous

Did you happen to see Page Six on Tuesday? The lead story is about MSNBC’s Chris Matthews mouthing off about the danger of having a Secretary of State named Hillary. And he did so on a train from Philly to D.C., after he woke up from a nap that featured loud, open-mouthed snoring. Oy. Chris. Perhaps a little decorum? Perhaps a little discretion in when and where you pontificate?

Considering Matthews’ ill-timed and obsteperous editorializing on a train, I have to wonder what is up with all of these pundits behaving badly. The Bill O’Reillys, the Rush Limbaughs, and you can add your own names to this cable hall of shame. Matthews may not be burning up the airwaves, but O’Reilly, for one, is reportedly luring about four million viewers every night to his screamfest, The O’Reilly Factor on FOX. Oh, and how does that quantify itself for the loudmouth host? He just signed a contract that puts $10 million a year in his pocket for the next four years. Hmmm…let’s see, the average high school journalism teacher in New York City makes just under 50 grand. Is it me, or is something wrong with this picture? Maybe not. In this culture we pay good money for theatre, and if O’Reilly isn’t theatre…well judge for yourself. His verbal battle with Representative Barney Frank is typical of his boorish behavior. Watch this (Warning: Content includes RANTING!):

Meanwhile, Matthews is reportedly hauling in about $5 million a year by insulting his guests, interrupting and stepping on their words, and generally proving he is a throwback to the 1950s prototype sexist, white male corporate animal. He once said of Hillary Clintion, “….the reason she’s a candidate for president, the reason she’s a frontrunner is because her husband messed around.”

Another time journalist Andrea Mitchell had to remind Matthews that Michelle Obama is a Harvard-educated lawyer after he rambled on about how happy he was the Obama has a pretty wife, and that “cosmetics are part of the game.” Oy vey. Chris. Edit yourself, brother.

That brings me to Limbaugh. Limbaugh makes Matthews look like a whimpering puppy in the rain who hasn’t eaten in two days. On his radio show on August 12, 2005, Limbaugh said, "Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society." I promise you he said that. Oh, and that doesn’t hold a candle to his statement about how affirmative action enabled Barack Obama to become President.

So, in America, what does that net you? In Limbaugh’s case, it reportedly becomes a radio contract, through 2016, worth $400 million.

Let’s review: Chris Matthews is loud and obnoxious; Bill O’Reilly is loud and volatile; and Rush Limbaugh is loud and racist/sexist/misogynistic. And that, ladies and gentlemen is your cable “news” lineup for the evening.

My point, and I do have one, is simply that the message is distorted by the messenger in all of these cases, and many more on the nightly parade of talking heads. Rewind your brain cells to the David Brinkleys (pictured at right with ABC News colleague Chet Huntley), Eric Severeids and Walter Cronkites of early TV world. No one raised his voice. No one became the story as he tried to tell the story. No one really ranted much. There were no on-air feuds or condescending editorializing that earmarked entire ethnic groups or genders. There was, instead, civil discourse. Even in times of the greatest controversy and scandal, journalists got the job done respectfully – think David Frost and Richard Nixon.

And so, I respectfully request: Chris, Bill, Rush, et. al. –and I believe I speak for millions of media consumers coast to coast - in the interest of the broadcast industries and the reputation of the journalism profession, is is possible you could shut the f___ up?

God, I miss Tim Russert.

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