President Continues Contentious Relationship With Cable News

By Andrew Gauthier 


Fox News’ Glenn Beck is back from vacation this week, just as President Obama leaves for his, all in the midst of a spirited health care debate that has turned a spotlight on the increasingly rocky relationship between the President and cable news.

The president’s latest dig came at a town hall in Montana last week, when he said, “TV loves a ruckus. What you haven’t seen on TV and what makes me proud are the many constructive meetings going on all over the country.”

In his weekly address recorded Friday, Obama sought to “debunk some of the more outrageous myths circulating on the internet, on cable tv, and repeated at some town halls across this country.”

On Greta van Susteren‘s “On the Record” on Friday, former Republican senator Rick Santorum called Obama “thin-skinned,” and said Obama’s recent complaints “remind me of what Hugo Chavez is doing down in Venezuela, trying to shut down the voice of opposition in the media.”

The health care debate has dominated the news in the last couple of weeks, and cable tv is clearly driving the coverage, according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. A recent Pew study found that cable news channels were responsible for 62% of the coverage.

As the cable channels focus on the town hall protesters’ objections, public support for the plan has dwindled (down 20% since Obama took office, according to one survey), leading some to suggest that Obama has lost his momentum on health care.

Obama reminded an audience Thursday that the buzz over Sarah Palin last August prompted similar concerns. “The media was obsessed with it . . . ‘Obama’s lost his mojo,’ You remember all that? There’s something about August going into September where everybody in Washington gets all wee-weed up. I don’t know what it is. But that’s what happens.”

Obama has long disapproved of the “cable chatter” and joked to Chris Matthews during his campaign that watching cable news was all he needed to make him laugh.

As the healthcare debate continues to rage, and questions linger about cable news’ significant role in it, Baltimore Sun critic David Zurawik offers some perspective. In a recent blog entry, he wrote that while cable news is “committing plenty of sins,” they are still “among the few tools the people have to cut through the spin.”