MSNBC Host Rips AP Reporter's Analysis of Obama Speech

By Mitchell, Greg | Editor & Publisher, August 29, 2008 | Go to article overview

MSNBC Host Rips AP Reporter's Analysis of Obama Speech


Mitchell, Greg, Editor & Publisher


In an unusually heated attack on a veteran political reporter by a cable news host, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann laced into the Associated Press's Charles Babington an hour after Barack Obama had concluded his speech in Denver on Thursday night.

Nearly all of the top commentators and reporters on the three cable news networks had hailed Obama's speech as something new and powerful, and filled with specifics, and predicted it would have a positive effect on his chances vs. John McCain. This hallelujah chorus included conservatives such as Bill Kristol and Pat Buchanan and the longtime Republican David Gergen, as well as Tom Brokaw and Brian Williams. Buchanan called it the best and most important political convention speech he had ever heard, going back 48 years.

So the liberal Olbermann was outraged that the AP's Babington had written, in his analysis of the speech, just off the wire, that Obama had tried nothing new and that his speech was lacking in specifics. He read the first few paragraphs on the air, lamented that it would be printed in hundred of newspapers on Friday, and concluded, "It is analysis that strikes me as having borne no resemblance to the speech you and I just watched. None whatsoever. And for it to be distributed by the lone national news organization in terms of wire copy to newspapers around the country and web sites is a remarkable failure of that news organization.

"Charles Babington, find a new line of work."

Olberman even criticized the reporter on his time-keeping, noting that the article said the speech was 35 minutes long when it was, he said, actually at least seven minutes longer than that. A few minutes later, the AP copy showing up at news sites had been corrected to "44 minutes."

Even as Babington was hitting Obama for a lack of specifics, AP was transmitting a second piece by another reporter, Jim Drinkard, that offered a detailed look at seven specific policy proposals in the speech (and expressed doubts about all of them)

Obama backers have criticized the coverage of their candidate by the AP's Washington Bureau Chief, Ron Fournier, and other AP reporters, for several months. Fournier has denied any slant but has said that he wants more analysis in more AP stories. Indeed, AP had transmitted a Babington preview of the Republican convention earlier in the day in which he declared "Republicans appear to have lost their identity....For now, the Republican Party seems torn from familiar moorings of fiscal prudence, social conservatism and sure-footed national security policies. Few think the journey back to prosperity will be easy."

Here is the entire Babington article on the Obama speech for your own analysis.*

Barack Obama, whose campaign theme is "change we can believe in," promised Thursday to "spell out exactly what that change would mean."

But instead of dwelling on specifics, he laced the crowning speech of his long campaign with the type of rhetorical flourishes that Republicans mock and the attacks on John McCain that Democrats cheer. The country saw a candidate confident in his existing campaign formula: tie McCain tightly to President Bush, and remind voters why they are unhappy with the incumbent. …

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MSNBC Host Rips AP Reporter's Analysis of Obama Speech
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