ABC NEWS IS DOING WHAT?…. About three months ago, in the wake of the Shirley Sherrod fiasco, E.J. Dionne Jr. identified activist Andrew Breitbart as a “right-wing hit man.” Dionne added that the incident “ought to be a turning point in American politics,” one in which “the mainstream media” starts appreciating the difference between “news and propaganda.”
A few days prior, The Atlantic‘s Josh Green noted, “[I]t’s hard for me to see how the media can justify continuing to treat Breitbart as simply a roguish provocateur. He’s something much darker.”
As it turns out, it wasn’t a “turning point,” and it’s not hard at all for the media to justify taking Breitbart seriously.
Media Matters has confirmed that noted propagandist Andrew Breitbart will provide analysis for ABC News during their election night coverage.
After Breitbart’s BigJournalism.com website reported that Breitbart would “be bringing analysis live from Arizona” for ABC, Media Matters confirmed his participation in a town hall meeting anchored by ABC’s David Muir and Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg that will be featured in the network’s coverage.
Asked about Breitbart’s history of unethical behavior and misinformation, ABC News’ David Ford told Media Matters: “He will be one of many voices on our air, including Bill Adair of Politifact. If Andrew Breitbart says something that is incorrect, we have other voices to call him on it.”
It’s hard to overstate how ridiculous this is. For ABC News to invite a professional propagandist — a man ABC News has exposed on the air as a practiced liar — to be part of its election-night coverage is an embarrassment to the network.
The point is not that conservative voices should be excluded from broadcasts like these. The point is major news outlets are supposed to have credible journalistic standards. And yet, these same outlets keep undermining the discourse by extending invitations to right-wing activists, who really have no business in pretending to belong in such a setting.
ABC’s explanation for this is woefully unpersuasive — if the right-wing hatchet-man starts lying on the air, “we have other voices to call him on it”? Here’s a crazy thought: if ABC News has reason to believe Breitbart might try to deceive the network’s audience, then maybe he shouldn’t be part of the election-night broadcast.
For that matter, this isn’t exactly a recipe for quality journalism — Breitbart will spew propaganda; others on the broadcast will be there to “call him on it.” Viewers will, in other words, hear some falsehoods and some corrections, but won’t necessarily know who’s right.
I’d be surprised if ABC News reversed course so close to Tuesday, but it’s important that the network realize it’s making a humiliating mistake.