February 11, 2015
Republican National Committee
310 First Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Dear Mr. Chairman,
We write to you about the current crisis at NBC News and its implications for the network’s sponsorship of a televised debate among Republican presidential candidates.
The events behind the current NBC-Brian Williams scandal are not isolated occurrences. Nor are they the failings of one journalist. They are emblematic of a larger culture at NBC News, one characterized by the collapse of journalistic ethics and professionalism and a determination to drive a political and commercial agenda.
These are not loose allegations but facts -- carefully documented and researched. As you may be aware, a month ago, well before Mr. Williams’ current imbroglio, our group produced a 2-minute TV spot and published a 65-page letter to NBC affiliates citing NBC –MSNBC as the prime example of “the “corruption of American journalism” and detailing questionable and unethical practices. We called on the affiliates to halt the transformation of NBC–MSNBC into “a left-of-center Super PAC” sponsoring millions in nightly attack ads” -- ads disguised as ‘news’ but seeking the political oblivion of conservatives and the Republican Party.”
Both the TV spot and the 65-page report received extensive media coverage and some have speculated its lengthy recounting of Brian Williams’ record at NBC precipitated the events that exposed his gross fabrications. By this we mean the anchorman’s extraordinary decision to not only sanction the retelling of his “hit by fire in Iraq” story -- a story that he knew some members of the military had already disputed – but to have it retold in no less public a place than New York’s Madison Square Garden. Wrapping himself in the mantle of American sports and the American military by putting himself at the center of New York Rangers hockey game, while embracing to thunderous applause a retiring US Army Sergeant Major, Mr. Williams may have been trying to demonstrate to his new British-born NBC News boss that conservative criticism of his actions were absurd and that he was aligned with the minds and hearts of Middle America.
Whether or not our recent criticism prompted him to revisit a long-ago story is irrelevant. After reviewing the transcripts, videos, charts and graphs referenced in our TV spot and 65 page report documenting NBC News’ overt political bias, he can appreciate that the anchorman might have experienced a certain level of existential anxiety.
Among the examples Mr. William’s journalistic misdeeds we cited were:
- His unprofessional, even embarrassing on-camera displays of infatuation with then-candidate and now President Barack Obama.
- His casual slander of Tea Party dissenters and Obama critics as sympathetic to racism or violence and his use of Jimmy Carter (of all people) as the nation’s moral guide on the subject.
- His role with political director Chuck Todd in NBC’s virtual refusal to cover the 2014 election (see the graph in our letter) because it signaled a Republican victory. NBC, however, did show a heightened interest in the election on several occasions when Democrats seemed to be gaining advantage. NBC New’s interest in the election soon waned as the Democrat hopes evaporated.
- His downplaying, again with Mr. Todd, of the Republican election-night victory as merely “anti incumbent” or “ voter anger ” as well as his apparent agreement with Mr. Todd’s insistence the election was “not a wave” (A statement only grudgingly and belatedly revised to “approaching a wave.”)
- His role in NBC’s attempt to give Democrats a turnout lift and morale boost with Mr. Todd’s absurd pre-election prediction of “a late surge of Democratic enthusiasm” and “surprisingly close contest.” Mr. Todd’s reading of the 2014 midterm was so abjectly wrong, in fact, that it can only be explained by a strong partisan slant.
- Despite Williams’ position as “the face of NBC news,” his appearance at an event sponsored by Al Sharpton and his warm reference to “Reverend Al.” As we asked: Is it even remotely conceivable that any of Mr. Williams’ predecessors would have appeared at an event associated with such an extreme end of the political spectrum and sponsored by such a scurrilous race-baiter?
And while we stressed in our letter to the affiliates that NBC has a legitimate news tradition and still has fine producers, editors and reporters, we also pointed out that news professionals have not been in charge at the network for some time and that the network’s credibility could not possibly be restored until these other issues were addressed
Among those additional issues were:
- NBC’s history of doctoring tapes and videos including three well-known examples, all of them calculated to advance a left-of-center agenda. (Doctored tapes are doctored tapes – and nothing over time is more corrosive to an ethical journalistic culture then leaving them uninvestigated and not holding guilty parties accountable.)
- The appearance of collusion by NBC with Obama Administration officials and Democratic activists to shape the news agenda particularly with attacks on Republican candidates. And, again, the minimal journalistic failure here was that of declining to be candid with viewers about the partisan sources of these attacks.
- A failure to not only report on Obama Administration scandals like IRS, Benghazi and Attorney-General Holder’s perjury, but active attempts to help the administration cover them up. Here we described the elaborate and sometimes conspicuously mendacious efforts of Political Director Todd to absolve the administration of guilt or blame, while simultaneously accusing Republicans of “conspiracy theories.”
- ·MSNBC’s record of relentless smear attacks on conservatives and Republicans as part of the open and aggressive disavowal of journalistic standards by MSNBC boss Phil Griffin. We labeled Mr. Griffin “a hard eyed ideologue and political hater” who seeks “with “calculated malice” to use both NBC and MSNBC News to assault the personal reputations of conservatives and Republicans.
As you know, Mr. Chairman, NBC has now decided to ask experienced journalists to look into Mr. Williams’ history of falsehoods and fabrications. The network as suspended him for 6 months without pay. While this is an encouraging first step we believe that until NBC’s management agrees to take further steps and look into the political slant and possible misrepresentations across its new operations, the RNC should reconsider its decision to sanction a presidential debate under NBC auspices.[ODR_Group4]
Let us cite here just two of the most pressing considerations.
The first concern about any NBC presidential debate would be the choice of lead questioners. Even if Mr. Williams has formally left NBC by the time of the debate, many difficulties would remain if the network chose to have its current political director, Chuck Todd, take a major role.
We hope you will take a moment to look at our letter and see the careful presentation of evidence about Mr. Todd’s blatant attempts to help Democrats in the last election and equally objectionable record of trying to cover up Obama administration scandals, while accusing Republicans of “conspiracy theories.” As we also suggested, nothing about this should be too surprising. A former aide to liberal icon Senator Tom Harkin, Mr. Todd lacks the kind of field experience as a journalist that would have taught him the news business is about vigorously investigating government wrongdoing not helping to cover it up, as well as about vigorously avoiding even the appearance of partisanship. Mr. Todd really is “a political activist with access to network TV”[ODR_Group5] and we find objectionable the thought of someone with such meager news credentials putting questions to Republican governors and senators who have through long years of struggle -- and not infrequently over the objections of the Chuck Todds of the political world – added historic public achievements to their names.
Mr. Chairman, rely on it, at any debate Mr. Todd will pull a George Stephanopoulos or Candy Crowley (their 2012 antics are featured in our TV spot) and do what he has been doing since taking over as NBC political director – help the liberal Democrats cover up for the Obama administration and try to damage Republicans.
The second question concerns the continuing powerful influence of Phil Griffin at both NBC and MSNBC. While we congratulate you, Mr. Chairman, on your quite courageous decision to confront MSNBC about its attacks on conservatives and Republicans by refusing to let it sponsor a debate we also believe the facts in our report, as well as recent events, show how successful Mr. Griffin has been in blurring the distinction between MSNBC and NBC News and corrupting the journalistic ethos at both networks.
A spectacular failure as a news executive – MSNBC is a ratings disaster and loses countless millions in revenue – Mr. Griffin is, however, the sort of corporate operative who knows how to distract his bosses by going on the offensive. Accordingly, he openly challenged the usefulness of journalistic training and argued publicly that his style of narrative journalism is the future of broadcast news even as he continues to succeed in making NBC and MSNBC a single entity, he goes on record.[ODR_Group6]
In the meanwhile he uses the multiple millions Comcast NBC Universal gives him to pursue his personal mission of defaming conservatives, Republicans, Tea Party members and scriptural Christians. He has for example transformed Chris Matthews – once regarded as a fair and balanced presence in the Washington political-media world -- into someone who with great regularity and purpose accuses conservatives and Republican of “racism,” compares them to Joe McCarthy (31 times in the case of Senator Ted Cruz), the Ebola virus (Senator Thom Tillis) and recently labeled that GOP triumph in November, that you and others worked so hard to achieve, as a “victory for the haters.”
So, you can take it from Chris Matthews, Mr. Chairman – who probably got it from Mr. Griffin during one of his many on-air calls to the Hardball set – that you are a racist, a Joe McCarthy and a hater.
We could go on with the long list of smears – the worst probably ever heard in American public life. MSNBC has specialized in invidious attacks on Republican women. Laura Ingraham is, for example, a “right wing slut.” And that is not to mention Martin Bashir’s despicable attack on Governor Sarah Palin. It took Mr. Griffin, incidentally, 19 days to fire Bashir for those comments and he did so only after much public pressure and issuing a fulsome tribute to Bashir.
With those millions in financial resources made available to him by Comcast, Mr. Griffin also recruits supposed conservatives like Joe Scarborough who, though allowed to occasionally present a fair conservative viewpoint, can in the end be counted on to speak out against any promising conservative issue or attack some Republican rising star. (Not to mention helping deliver flowers to Valerie Jarrett at the White House. We’re not kidding. Take a look at our letter.) And this week Mr. Scarborough was of course in full protective mode on behalf of Brian Williams.
And it never ends at MSNBC. Only a week ago Navy Seal Chris Kyle, the real life hero of the movie American Sniper was accused of being a “racist” who went on “killing sprees.” No apology from NBC News has been forthcoming.
So too, no one has been more important than Mr. Griffin in putting on MSNBC the divisive hatemonger Al Sharpton.
So the simple fact is that we do not believe that in good conscience the RNC can lend its credibility to the Williams-Todd-Griffin school of political non-journalism. We urge you to notify the network that until further notice the RNC is removing any agreement for the network to host a debate with Republican candidates.
We also hope that you will direct your attention to one final issue. While we stressed in our letter to the affiliates that NBC has a legitimate news tradition and still has fine producers, editors and reporters we also pointed out that news professionals are not in charge at the network but “the suits in the suites.” We mean here, of course, Comcast NBC executives with little interest in doing the journalist’s job of speaking truth to power and a great deal of interest in being partisan players who, for political and commercial reasons, willingly push the left- of-center, counter-cultural agenda favored by the current Administration.
In addition to the huge subsidies Comcast NBC Universal provides MSNBC for its nightly smear attacks against conservatives and Republicans we ask you to consider these other Comcast actions:
- Proselytizes on behalf of the Democratic Party with Hispanic Americans by insuring a heavily anti-Republican tilt to the highly influential Telemundo TV network.
- Gives 10 million dollars to one of America’s most active left-of-center journalists, Ezra Klein, to advance his caustic often unsubstantiated attacks on conservatives and Republicans.
- Sponsors an MSN web-page that day after day gives priority to negative news stories about conservatives or Republicans while doing the same for any news story favorable to statist economic views, counter-cultural social issues or Blame America First foreign policies.
- Continues the politicalization of NBC Sports. Yes, even during the Super bowl play-by-play Al Michaels and Chris Collingsworth carried out their instructions to plug (twice) Chris Matthews’ show. Then too there is Bob Costas’ gun control sermonettes. Or the green power mentions during NFL programming. So too, Mr. Griffin’s latest project is a sports show where he can be counted on to attack sports figures who have conservative views or traditional values.
- And, of course, provides a national television show and national legitimacy to Obama ally and miscreant Al Sharpton. (Rev. Sharpton got the show shortly after the administration gave tentative approval to the Comcast-AOL merger and a couple days after an Obama visit to the home of Comcast CEO Bruce Roberts. The show’s former host also openly complained he was displaced because he refused to go along with management’s insistence he not criticize the Obama White House.)
We draw your attention to all these items and in particular the Sharpton connection for a still larger concern than even the fact that Comcast NBC Universal has become, as we called it, the nation’s most powerful and militant left-of-center political force.
Yes, there actually is a more serious issue than NBC-MSNBC’s current political bias. Comcast is currently petitioning the government for approval to purchase Time-Warner Cable. The proposed merger would greatly increase Comcast’s control of America’s cable boxes. According to a report in the Washington Free Beacon, Comcast would also control 80% of the market for local political advertising. This would represent an unprecedented concentration of power in the hands of what is becoming America’s largest left-wing advocacy organization.
Winning approval from the Obama Administration for its proposed merger with Time-Warner is worth billions to Comcast. Again, as our report details, within weeks of Comcast winning approval from the Obama Administration to purchase NBC News, Al Sharpton was given a nightly platform on MSNBC to attack Republicans. How much further to the left will Comcast go to secure government approval for the proposed merger? The potential for collusion between the government and a major broadcast news network is not the stuff of fantasy when so many billions hang in the balance.
As we recently warned, the last time Comcast needed a government favor we got Al Sharpton five nights a week. What will we get in exchange for a deal worth billions to Brian Roberts and other owners of Comcast?
You should also be aware that Comcast has given plenty in campaign contributions to Republicans and hired some conservatives as lobbyists. In addition, we have no doubt that our criticism of the corporation will lead the company to offer inducements to other conservatives. (Though, frankly, we wonder if any of them will ever approach the $600,000 given to Chelsea Clinton.) And you will probably be getting multiple invitations to appear on Meet The Press.
Mr. Chairman, you have done a wonderful job rebuilding a party that many observers left for dead just six years ago. The party is stronger and holds more political offices than it has in several generations. With the party in a strong position to contest for the White House in 2016, Republicans ought to expect another assault on the party’s message, directed, in many cases, by former political activists now ensconced within America’s media news networks.
The party must win the media campaign of 2015 if it is to have any hope of winning the White House in 2016.
Accordingly, in addition to withdrawing RNC support for an NBC-sponsored debate we hope you will fully mobilize Republicans against the Comcast –Time Warner merger. Certainly congressional hearings on the proposed merger would be in order. In addition, an inquiry into what if any discussions were held between Mr. Roberts and President Obama about an Al Sharpton show might also prove fruitful. And one other thought—why not send the company a copy of our 65 page report and ask them to comment on its allegations?
Finally, we would point out that while all these actions would be good for the Republican Party and the conservative cause they would also be good for American journalism.
If you and the RNC take action now we do believe that one day you will receive the thanks of the honest news professionals still left at NBC. Those professionals are tired of seeing their news department turned into an Obama campaign war room where dutiful attention is given calls from Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod, Anthony Podesta and other political operatives demanding Saul Alinsky-like attacks on their political opponent or journalistic cover-ups for what may well be recorded as the most lawless, scandal-ridden administration in US history.
You have done much to revive the Republican party, make it competitive and offer a clear alternative to the voters. The country needs to policy ideas of a strong Republican party if it is to navigate the shoals of our challenging world. Any cooperation with a corporation or new organization bent on the destruction of the Republican party will eradicate all the work done by you and your dedicated staff.
It is natural to not want a fight with NBC News and its enormous partisan bullhorn. It is, however, a fight they have declared. You must not shirk from your duty.
Conservative War Chest Spokesperson