|April 3, 2006|
Our Unbrave Media World Continued: ABC News Suspends Producer for Writing Personal Anti-Bush E-Mail
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
New York: Readers of my current BuzzFlash commentary on the unbrave world of media ("The Fear is in the Room") will note that I reference a DRUDGE REPORT "expose" of a private e-mail sent by an ABC GMA producer expressing his personal disgust with our President's way of communicating.
Guess what's happened since that was published? The producer has been silenced!
The Washington Post reports that the ABC producer in question, John Green, a 12-year ABC News Veteran, was suspended and forced to make a groveling apology to the White House, a gesture that sounds straight outta Stalinist Russia.
"ABC News suspended the executive producer of the weekend edition of 'Good Morning America' yesterday over a pair of leaked e-mails in which he used inflammatory language to slam President Bush and Madeleine Albright.
"John Green, whose unpaid suspension will last one month, apologized to the White House in a call to communications director Nicolle Wallace, while two ABC executives called the former secretary of state to apologize."
The White House reportedly was "pleased" receive the face-saving gesture.
Talk about a chilling effect on personal expressions by any and all network producers. You can't even have a personal opinion and work in news anymore. One of two emails Green is being punished for was written back in 2004.
Kerry Marash, ABC's executive in charge of editorial standards and a former colleague I once admired did the dirty deed of "disciplining" Green.
This same VEEP of Editorial Standards was unwilling to discuss editorial standards in war coverage when asked for a meeting by anti-war and media reform activists on the third anniversary of the war. The request ended up on Kerry Marash's desk. She did not call back. Perhaps, ABC needs a new vice-president of viewer accountability.
News employees should be entitled to personal opinions, and being open-minded doesn't mean being empty-minded. Yet these days, you can lose your right to free speech if someone leaks what you have to say. Walter Cronkite speaks out about the chilling of media speech in a statement on Mediachannel.org. He says: "Journalists shouldn't have to check their consciences at the door when they go to work for a media company. It ought to be just the reverse."
Rather than stand behind their producer's right to free speech, ABC pushed him into an embarrassing public apology, the kind of "confession" that the Chinese Communists demand of their dissidents.
Howard Kurtz reports in the Washington Post: "... two ABC executives called the former secretary of state to apologize."
He adds, "No one is sorrier than John for the embarrassment that these albeit private e-mails caused to his colleagues and to the people who were the subjects of those comments," said ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider. "John would be the first to say this has been a real lesson to him. John is abjectly sorry for all the comments that have come to light, and that's appropriate."
In one of the e-mails, written during the first presidential debate in 2004 and leaked to the Drudge Report, Green wrote to a colleague on his BlackBerry: "Are you watching this? Bush makes me sick. If he uses the 'mixed messages' line one more time, I'm going to puke."
Reporters could not speak to Green directly as Kurtz explains."
"Green, who was not made available for comment yesterday, wrote his colleagues after that leak to say "how much I regret the embarrassment that this story causes ABC. It was an inappropriate thing to say, and I'm deeply sorry."
"Deeply sorry." ABC "embarrassed?" ABC was not embarrassed when its own News President, former corporate lawyer David Westin, Marash and Schneider's boss, admitted publicly at Stanford University last year that ABC News was "not critical enough" in its coverage of the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
"We let the American people down," he said at that time. He was not suspended or forced to kowtow to the Disney Board of Directors run then by Michael Moore nemesis Michael Eisner.
Kurtz adds: "Both e-mails were disclosed at a time when public distrust of news organizations and their ability to be fair are at or near an all-time high.
"It is widely believed at ABC News that the e-mails were leaked by a former employee who has a vendetta against Green.
"Everyone who works at ABC News is unhappy with the situation because it reflects on all of us," Schneider said. But, he said, "I don't think the e-mails tell us anything about the show John Green was putting on the air every Saturday and Sunday, which is fair and balanced and down the middle."
That last comment is revealing signaling to the White House and the public that there has not been, nor will there be, any "bias" against them. Note the use of the phrase "fair and balanced."
News VP Schneider appears briefly in my film "WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception" insisting that ABC News played it "straight down the middle" in its coverage of Iraq. His boss David Westin later contradicted him.
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
News Dissector Danny Schechter is blogger in chief for Mediachannel.org. His latest books are “When News Lies” and “The Death of Media.” Comments to Dissector@mediachannel.org
Interested in contributing an article to BuzzFlash? Click here for more info.
Articles in the BuzzFlash Contributor section are posted as-is. Given the timeliness of some Contributor articles, BuzzFlash cannot verify or guarantee the accuracy of every word. We strive to correct inaccuracies when they are brought to our attention.