Silencing Melissa and the Critical Minds

On Friday, November 14, 2014, former CNBC, and current Fox Business News, anchor Melissa Francis charged that the management at CNBC effectively silenced her criticism of the math of Obamacare.

When I was at CNBC, I pointed out to my viewers that the math of ObamaCare simply didn’t work, not the politics, by the way, just the basic math,” Francis said. (my emphasis)

“And when I did that, I was silenced. I said on the air that you couldn’t add millions of people to the system and force insurance companies to cover their preexisting conditions without raising the price on everyone else.”

“I pointed out that it couldn’t possibly be true that if you like your plan, you can keep it,” Francis said. “That was a lie. And in fact, millions of people had their insurance canceled.”

“As a result of what I said at CNBC, I was called into management where I was told that I was ‘disrespecting the office of the president’ by telling what turned out to be the absolute truth.”

Francis ThumbnailA Fox News Insider report states that on the November 16, 2014 episode of Howard Kurtz’s Media Buzz, Melissa Francis stated that this call to the office occurred four years ago, when the Obama administration was attempting to pass Obamacare.  She further stated that she was called into the CNBC management office a number of times.  She states that the CNBC management informed her that her on air comments were ‘inappropriate’ and ‘too political’.

Look, this is math, not politics. I’m talking about dollars and cents. We’re a money channel,” Ms. Francis states that she said in her defense in one of these meetings. “And I was told I was ‘disrespecting the office of the president.’”

When Howard Kurtz asked Melissa Francis if this happened four years ago, why she didn’t go public earlier, Ms. Francis basically said her reason for coming forward now is that she now feels guilty for any role she may have played in, what M.I.T. health economist, and chief architect of Obamacare, Jonathon Gruber stated was the passage of Obamacare, based on the stupidity of most Americans.  She also basically stated that she feared for her job, even though no such threats were made to Ms. Francis by the management at CNBC.

I think the American public deserves to know that the reason why Jonathan Gruber and others like him are able to get away with this is because there are networks out there and management at CNBC who are complicit in this cover-up and keeping people ignorant,” Francis said.

Ms. Francis further stated that:

You may decide that ObamaCare makes sense, but you need to do it based on the facts. You need to understand the real math, then decide. And that’s certainly what we try to do on Fox Business.”

Ms. Francis can only comment on this matter from her personal experience with CNBC management, but as anyone that has watched a critical news broadcast will tell you, the stories of the Obama administration managing their press, in an unprecedented manner, are legion.  One example the Media Research Council’s News Busters provided on September 19, 2009, involved Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace complaining about being a target of such attempts by the Obama administration on The O’Reilly Factor.

(To) These guys (the Obama administration), everything is personal,” Wallace said. “They are the biggest bunch of crybabies I have dealt with in my 30 years in Washington. They constantly are on the phone, or emailing me complaining, well, you had this guest. Or you did this thing. I mean, they are working the umps all the time. I think it works for the others. It doesn’t work with me.”

It could be argued that the Fox News brand tends to swing traditional, in general, and it is usually more critical of Democrats, in general, and the Obama administration specifically, than the other networks.  Those that make such an argument would say that the Obama administration has every right to defend itself against the charges that Fox News makes against it.  Anyone that has watched the Fox News Sunday broadcast, however, knows that Chris Wallace makes a concerted effort to make his presentation less partisan than the opinion-based broadcasts on the cable network.  If you are one that refuses to acknowledge this, and you remain steadfast in the belief that these charges come solely from a news broadcast that you deem to be adversaries of the administration, provides an October 13, 2013 report that details the Obama administration’s efforts to control the media from a non-profit, watchdog group called The Committee to Protect Journalists that states that they are dedicated to global press freedoms.

Among the charges this group makes is that the Obama administration has “chilled the flow of information on issues of great public interest.” They state that “Obama has “fallen short” on his promises of a transparent government while at the same time forging ahead with an unprecedented effort —the “most aggressive” since the President Richard M. Nixon administration— to silence government officials and the media at large.

Six government employees, plus two contractors including Edward Snowden, have been subjects of felony criminal prosecutions since 2009 under the 1917 Espionage Act, accused of leaking classified information to the press—compared with a total of three such prosecutions in all previous U.S. administrations (since 1917),” said the committee’s report, prepared by Leonard Downie Jr., the former executive editor of The Washington Post.”

This, writes author David Kravets of the piece, is in contradiction to Obama’s speech in 2008 when he stated: “I’ll make our government open and transparent so that anyone can ensure that our business is the people’s business. No more secrecy.”

As further evidence of the administration’s desire to manipulate their press, the administration objected to this Committee to Protect Journalists report –the first time the committee has examined the press climate in the United States.  In their defense, the administration said that President Barack Obama “has given more interviews than his two predecessors combined, has placed online more government data, and has moved to limit the amount of classified government secrets.”

The former executive editor of The Washington PostLeonard Downie Jr., disagrees:

The administration’s war on leaks and other efforts to control information are the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration, when I was one of the editors involved in The Washington Post’s investigation of Watergate.”

Downie’s Committee to Protect Journalists report then provides other conclusions that it found regarding the administration’s relationship with the media and its overall transparency:

  1. To the administration’s defense that they have “placed more government data online”, the report states that the administration, “Employs the internet to ‘dispense’ favorable information while hindering efforts of a ‘probing press.’”
  2. As Chris Wallace charged, the report found that the administration, “Often calls reporters and editors complaining about news stories.”
  3. As former CBS reporter, Sharyl Attkisson, has charged, the report found that administration, “Spokesmen are “often hostile or unresponsive to press inquiries.””
  4. The report also stated that the administration, “Has secretly seized telephone records from The Associated Press and Fox News; and that the administration, “Declared in an affidavit for telephone records that a Fox News reporter may have breached the Espionage Act in reporting about the United States’ monitoring of North Korea’s nuclear program.

If it’s true, as political philosopher Hannah Arendt says that “To think critically is always to be hostile,” then it could be said that the administration’s mentality in regards to their relationship with the media is: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”

The immediate defenses that comes to mind regarding the charge Melissa Francis brings to the table is that she does not mention the administration, and that her complaint specifically dealt with the management at CNBC.  That is true, of course, and it could be the case that the CNBC management acted alone, and that the disagreement between the two parties was all about a difference over the characterization of her presentation.  Given the administration’s track record, however, one could reasonably suspect that the management were merely passing the pressure along to Ms. Francis.  Another defense one could foresee from administration officials, and their defenders, is that other administrations (Bill Clinton’s most notably) have had entire teams devoted to controlling their media.  It’s proven to be good politics, they could say, for any administration of this era to “work the umps” and stay on top of the media’s presentation of them.  As Melissa Francis and Chris Wallace imply, and the Committee to Protect Journalists report corroborates, the extent to which this administration has attempted to intimidate and silence their critics in the media has silenced some to such a degree that the electorate has become so uninformed that the administration can now “torture bills and legislation” in such a way that the American people are stupid enough to fall for it.


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