Muzzling the press so we could go to war in Iraq
Democracy Now! has an interesting interview with Phil Donohue, on how he was fired by GE for presuming to speak out in favor of not going to war in Iraq.
n 2003, the legendary television host Phil Donahue was fired from his prime-time MSNBC talk show during the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The problem was not Donahue’s ratings, but rather his views: An internal MSNBC memo warned Donahue was a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war,” providing “a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.” Donahue joins us to look back on his firing 10 years later. “They were terrified of the antiwar voice,” Donahue says. [includes rush transcript]
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Phil, I’d like to bring in another subject in terms of this whole issue, the—what happened to you, directly, as a host on MSNBC in the midst of the run-up to the war, and the responsibilities of the press in America and its—the mea culpas that have rarely been uttered by the pundits and by the journalists over what the American press did in the run-up to war.
PHIL DONAHUE: Well, I think what happened to me, the biggest lesson, I think, is the—how corporate media shapes our opinions and our coverage. This was a decision—my decision—the decision to release me came from far above. This was not an assistant program director who decided to separate me fromMSNBC. They were terrified of the antiwar voice. And that is not an overstatement. Antiwar voices were not popular. And if you’re General Electric, you certainly don’t want an antiwar voice on a cable channel that you own; Donald Rumsfeld is your biggest customer. So, by the way, I had to have two conservatives on for every liberal. I could have Richard Perle on alone, but I couldn’t have Dennis Kucinich on alone. I was considered two liberals. It really is funny almost, when you look back on how—how the management was just frozen by the antiwar voice. We were scolds. We weren’t patriotic. American people disagreed with us. And we weren’t good for business.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, I had this unusual experience, Phil, in July of 2006. It was the 10th anniversary of MSNBC, and I was invited on Hardball by Chris Matthews to celebrate the 10th anniversary. I think first Brian Williams was on the show, and then the Israeli ambassador, and then I was on the show. And we were standing outside 30 Rock. It was a big deal. All the execs were on the top floor of 30 Rock, and they were all about to have a big party. And we were just coming out of a commercial.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to congratulate you, Chris, on 10 years of MSNBC, but I wish standing with you was Phil Donahue. He shouldn’t have been fired for expressing an antiwar point of view on the eve of the election. His point of view and the people brought on were also important.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: I don’t know what the reasons were, but I doubt it was that.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we have the MS—the NBCmemo, that was a secret memo—
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Oh, OK, good.
AMY GOODMAN: —that came out, that said they didn’t want him to be the face of this network, an antiwar face, at a time when the other networks were waving the flag.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH: Could I answer the question? I’d love to answer that question.
AMY GOODMAN: Phil Donahue is a great patriot.
AMY GOODMAN: I said there, Phil, you were a great patriot. We did have the NBC memo, the secret memo that said they didn’t want their flagship show to be you, when the other networks were waving the American flag.
PHIL DONAHUE: That’s what it said. And, by the way, that memo was written by a Republican focus group, a Republican counseling group that took the focus group and that revealed that most of the people in the focus group didn’t like me. But I saw that, Amy. . .