April 2, 2009
For weeks the FRC Blog has been commenting on the growing prominence of CNBC as a national news outlet. We have also commented on the liberal counter-reaction against the network. Our point has been that even though the Left dominates the mainstream media (MSM), in a time of financial and economic crisis the MSM news organs are structurally ill-equipped to deal with stories of such complexity. CNBC has on-air staff with the smarts and the career training to discuss these matters at a sophisticated level. The MSM does not have people like this on their programs with a few exceptions (e.g., Lou Dobbs at CNN (who is not MSM)). Consequently, there has been a tremendous power shift toward CNBC.
CNBC is more conservative than the MSM, but it might be fairer to say CNBC is more libertarian and market-oriented. That being said there has always been a good mixture of liberals and conservatives on CNBC, and many Wall Street players were Obama supporters.
Well, the Left noticed the increasing prominence of CNBC and a campaign of mau mauing began quickly once Barack Obama became president. First, Rick Santelli was attacked; this effort was assisted by NBC's Today Show. Jim Cramer was next, and his assault by Jon Stewart soon followed. However, it appears that a larger effort to compromise CNBC is underway, and it may be working. There is now an entire Leftist-"progressive" website devoted to serving up ideological attacks on CNBC: it is called "Fix CNBC." (Go to the website and look at the long list of liberal big-wigs who have signed on. Amazing. This is quite an effort. I wonder who is paying for it?) Interestingly, Media Matters also presents an online petition at "Change CNBC," and the language looks pretty similar to Fix CNBC's petition.
(Please note: I am not saying we should be unconcerned about conflicts of interest in financial reporting. See Dan Gifford's excellent article ("Big Hollywood" website; March 22nd) discussing "Fix CNBC" and the journalistic integrity of business reporting. However, the house cleaning being called for by these "progressive" groups seems suspiciously timed to protect the Obama political agenda from rigorous analysis and criticism.)
Within the past two weeks, former Vermont governor and former Democratic National Committee head, Howard Dean, was given a two-hour guest role on CNBC's morning show, "Squawk Box." Similarly, on March 31st, doyenne of the Left, Arianna Huffington (founder "Huffington Post" website), was similarly ensconced on the "Squawk Box" for two-hours. There are reports that Dean will be a regular CNBC contributor. To the best of my knowledge, neither person has a substantial background in financial or economic matters.
CNBC is flirting with danger here. I am sure that there have been GOP political figures on the show. For example, Dick Armey appears on occasion. However, I have never seen Matt Drudge on "Squawk Box." The real test will be if we see the CNBC management interfering with Larry Kudlow's program at 7:00 p.m.
Only time will tell whether CNBC fights to maintain its political and intellectual independence. CNBC may not be perfect, but it does provide analysis of our economic problems that lies outside the MSM groupthink and political agendas. We should all hope that CNBC survives.