The latest episode of “news anchors gone wild” is a real doozie. Seems long time CNN anchor Lou Dobbs has pretty much spawned a cottage industry of misinformation supporting the contention that Barack Obama was born not in Hawaii, but rather in Kenya, and is therefore precluded by our Constitution from serving as President. Dobbs’ followers even have their own nickname, “birthers,” and with Dobbs’ national telecast at the bow, right wing talk radio is going bonkers in the wake.
Shame on Marconi for discovering electromagnetic waves and making such shenanigans possible.
Among other things, the current imbroglio highlights the true cultural loss of Walter Cronkite and the high standard of mass media journalism he represented. Cronkite exuded credibility. His telecasts were balanced and devoid of personal opinion. What a neat idea! The few times Cronkite stepped out of character and offered an editorial opinion, such as his announcement that the Viet Nam War was “unwinnable” on February 27, 1968, he made huge news. For well over a decade after he retired, Cronkite was still the “most trusted man in America” according to opinion polls.
Could you imagine Lou Dobbs being voted the most trusted man in America?
The erosion of journalist standards among national media started long before Dobbs and his bellowing “birthers.” Cronkite’s own successor on the CBS Evening News, Dan Rather, was a surprise choice. From the start it seemed to some that Rather was in way over his head and his stoic, wooden style quickly took CBS from first to third in the ratings. (CBS even tried switching Rather’s on-air apparel from dark suits to more casual sweaters to try and lighten things up, to no avail.) Over the years Rather stumbled on a number of boondoggles, several with profound national implications. For example, in the run-up to the 1988 Presidential elections, then V.P. George H.W. Bush’s presidential campaign was flagging. On January 25 of that year, Bush appeared on the CBS Evening News and Rather abrasively attacked Bush on the topic of the Iran Contra scandal. To many, Rather lost his cool. Showing hints of real leadership, Bush rose to the occasion, trounced Rather, and from then on Bush’s campaign was back on track all the way to his election victory over Michael Dukakis. Ironically, sixteen years later the same Rather “broke” the story of George W. Bush receiving preferential treatment from the Air National Guard to avoid tour in Viet Nam. The story turned out to be bogus. Rather’s glaring miscue may well have been a boost to Bush in an incredibly close 2004 election.
From Rather to Dobbs to a whole slew of electronic news folk that have morphed from reporting the news to making the news, please stop! Ineptitude from a national media pulpit and democracy are a dangerous mix.
So what’s next for the news anchor nabobs of misinformation? Word is that even Dobbs now accepts that Obama was born in Hawaii. But wait! If you look closely at Obama’s birth certificate, you can see that the original year of birth may have been whited out and altered with a black Bic pen. I had a dream that instead of being born in 1961, Obama was actually born in 1975, which means he was only 34 years old when inaugurated last January — one year short of the Constitutionally required 35 years of age to be President. Move over Obama-wasn’t-born-in-Hawaii “birthers,” your days are numbered. Welcome aboard “daters,” we know Obama is too young to be President and as he celebrates his birthday this week he should come clean on his real age. It’s okay, many of us lie about our age. Now, if we just get Lou Dobbs to sound the bugle from his national media desk…