Media Arrogance

My reaction to the Colin Powell “palm tree incident” on last Sunday’s MTP was the same as most: Gee, what a dumb move by the staffer. But Jonah Goldberg is right:

Now, for reasons I find unfathomable, Russert seems to believe that in those 30 or so seconds, the fate of the free press hung in the balance. On CNN he declared, “I’ve been in countries where staffers pull the plug on people. This is the United States of America. It really is unacceptable.”

A “taxpayer-paid employee interrupted an interview,” he exclaimed to The Washington Post. “Not in the United States of America, that’s not supposed to go on. This is attempted news management gone berserk.”

Get thee to thy fainting couch, Tim! A government employee attempted to cut off an interview! In America!

Uh, folks, this happens every day.

I used to be a television producer. I know lots of television producers. And I can tell you flat-out: The suggestion that there’s something unusual, never mind ominously un-American, about cutting off a taped, satellite interview when it’s run too long is such nonsense it doesn’t pass the giggle test.

Now, again, Russert had the upper hand here and there’s no way for an aide to cut off a live interview [Actually, it was simply being taped, making it much less problematic.] in mid-question without making her boss look like a horse’s backside. But Russert’s indignation is a bit much. Indeed, many a time I’ve seen Russert–and virtually every other broadcast journalist–cut off a big shot interviewee–up to and including the President of the United States–because time in a segment was up, there was a need to air a commercial, or whatever.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Paul says:

    I watched it 3 times on my TiVo and I could not say that the staffer was trying to cut it short… She and Powell had an exchange about whether Russert was still speaking.

    I guess from everyone’s reaction she was cutting it off, but I could not find it, to me it looked like she thought they were clear.

    Either way after 13-14 minutes it is hard to make the case there was some sort of egregious censorship going on.

  2. Hal says:

    It was a bizarre peek behind the curtain, but hardly a muzzling of the free press. Russert is being melodramatic. It should have been cut.

  3. JG says:

    My first impression was that someone accidentally bumped into the camera until Tim got all huffy. Since I couldn’t hear what was being said at the remote, I thought Tim was just plain rude. No doubt Powell was ticked at his staffer, and then thought, “Damn, who does Russert think he is to admonish my staff?”

  4. Marc says:

    There is nothing to see here. Its plain that the interview was planned for ten minutes, and at the point of interuption it was at the 13 minute mark, and the staffer interceded. Wrongly as it was shown by Powells anger. Russert is an ass and this only adds to the list of examples he has displayed in the last few months.