Both sides of aisle rip MSNBC
EmptyIn a room full of television industry executives, no one seemed inclined to defend MSNBC on Monday for what some were calling its lopsidedly liberal coverage of the presidential election.
The cable news channel is "completely out of control," said writer-producer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, a self-proclaimed liberal Democrat.
She added that she would prefer a lunch date with right-leaning Fox News star Sean Hannity over left-leaning MSNBC star Keith Olbermann.
Olbermann was criticized by several in the room at Monday's luncheon sponsored by the Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The event was dubbed "Hollywood, America and Election '08."
Bloodworth-Thomason and others seemed especially critical of the way MSNBC — and other media — have attacked Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin while demeaning her supporters.
"We should stop the demonizing," she said, adding that Democrats have been worse than Republicans as far as personal attacks on candidates are concerned. "It diminishes us," she said of her fellow Democrats.
Bloodworth-Thomason even suggested a defense of Palin and her supporters should be written into TV programming, just as she went out of her way to portray Southern women as smart in her hit TV show "Designing Women."
Attendee Michael Reagan, the radio talk-show host and son of President Reagan, said he no longer will appear as a guest on MSNBC because "I actually get death threats."
"I'll stop sending them," joked Larry Gelbart, the writer, producer and director best known for the "M*A*S*H" television series and such movie screenplays as "Tootsie" and "Oh, God!"
Pollster Frank Luntz, a regular guest on Fox News, joked that MSNBC is "the only network with more letters in its name than viewers." (He even queried the 200-odd attendees as to which cable newsie they most watched; only a few raised their hands when MSNBC was mentioned.)
On a more serious note, Luntz said it's a problem that the electorate chooses to watch news programs not for information but to confirm already-held beliefs, and that applies to viewers of CNN and Fox News as well.
Luntz predicted a Barack Obama victory and said that one of the many reasons the Democrats have been more effective with their message is because, while Republicans dominate talk radio, Democrats have begun to dominate the Internet.
"I'd rather have the Internet," he said.
Obama also gets credit because he's a better communicator than past Democrats, Luntz said, comparing the previous Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry, to one of those trees that threw apples at Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz."
Actress Patricia Heaton noted that Hollywood workers too often just assume everyone they work with is a like-minded liberal. When those around her belittle John McCain or Palin, she politely reminds them that she's a Republican.
"That's what you have to do in our town," she said.
Actor Beau Bridges lamented that there is "too much entertainment" in elections nowadays. "Just put 'em in a room — like we are now — and let 'em talk about the issues," he said.
Some of the most spirited debate came from the panel's moderator, outspoken conservative Lionel Chetwynd. The writer, director and producer passionately defended the Iraq War and Palin, whom he called "the ideal Jeffersonian political figure."
Chetwynd's performance prompted Gelbart to joke that Chetwynd was the most "immoderate moderator" he had ever seen.
"It's a liberal organization," Chetwynd said of the Caucus. "But I'm trying."