PBS isn’t for the “public.” It’s taxpayer-funded content for Democrats.
Last September, when President Joe Biden gave a nasty speech in front of a blood-red backdrop at Independence Hall, proclaiming, “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic,” PBS streamed this harsh rhetoric live with no “explanatory” text on screen for charges the Republicans are authoritarians.
But on June 13, when Trump spoke in New Jersey after being arraigned in Florida, the PBS livestream felt inexorably compelled to insert opinions on screen. Near the end, there was this: “Experts warn that inflammatory rhetoric from elected officials or people in power can prompt individual actors to commit acts of violence.”
Even the liberal website Mediaite called it a “jawdropping warning label” in its headline about the speech. Founding editor Colby Hall called it “a concerning next step in the infantilization of television viewers.”
Hall added, “It’s very difficult to imagine that the Venn diagram of Jan. 6 rioters and PBS viewers overlap at all. So the ‘context’ warning label placed under Trump’s speech by PBS seems more designed to signal the virtue of the PBS viewers watching the former president speak than to serve any legitimate purpose.”
My first thought was to recall examples where PBS and the “NewsHour” unloaded inflammatory rhetoric without any warning label that it could “prompt” violence from the rabble. Let’s take a walk down Bad Memory Lane.
1994: On “To the Contrary,” panelist Julianne Malveaux unspooled hate for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. “I hope his wife feeds him lots of eggs and butter and he dies early, like many black men do, of heart disease.”
2003: On his show “Now,” Bill Moyers ripped Republicans who wore flag pins, which was somehow reminiscent of communism: “When I see flags sprouting on official lapels, I think of the time in China when I saw Mao’s Little Red Book on every official’s desk, omnipresent and unread.”
2006: “NewsHour” panelist Mark Shields claimed that a mine collapse in West Virginia that killed 12 is “Tom DeLay’s America in action.”
2007: On the “Now” show, abortion doctor Warren Hern trashed abortion opponents: “This is a terrorist movement. And they instill fear in people. … This is a civil war. The anti-abortion people are using bombs and bullets. And they’ve been doing this for 30 years.”
2010: PBS host Tavis Smiley fought with author Ayaan Hirsi Ali about Islamic jihadists who kill people for Allah. Smiley shot back: “But Christians do that every single day in this country. Christians, every day, people walk into post offices, they walk into schools, that’s what Columbine is. I could do this all day long.”
2013: “NewsHour” panelist David Brooks lamented Marco Rubio adopted “some of the dark and satanic tones that (Ted) Cruz has.”
It’s still going on. On March 23, “Amanpour & Co.” host Michel Martin smeared pro-lifers and autocrats: “There really along the rise of this movement against abortion rights has also been the rise of autocratic movements around the world.”
On April 29, “NewsHour” celebrated transgender Montana Rep. Zooey Zephyr, who claimed Republicans had “blood on their hands.” Host Amna Nawaz encouraged more inflammatory talk: “When you spoke in your defense before the vote today, you said that you felt you were being asked to be ‘complicit in the eradication of your community.’ What did you mean by that?”
PBS should spare us the warnings about potential violence from “inflammatory rhetoric” unless they promise to stop spreading their own poisonous hot takes.
Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org. To find out more about Tim Graham and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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