Yesterday we reported that Crossfire host Newt Gingrich may have broken ethical rules for conflicts of interest set forth by CNN's EVP of standards and practices Rick Davis.The short version is that Media Matters caught Gingrich violating supposed CNN network standards by having a PAC that gave cash to politicians who were guests on the show without disclosing those ties. In response, CNN has now clarified that Crossfire will not be held to ethics standards at all because that would be hard. At the beginning of the month, the standard was this:
Today, those rules appear to have changed. In a statement to Media Matters, Davis clarifies the network's new ethics policy for disclosing potential conflicts of interest:
"If Newt is helping fund a candidate and that candidate's on the show, or being discussed on the show, of course he'll disclose that," [CNN Executive Vice President Rick Davis] said. "Disclosure is important when it's relevant."And immediately after Media Matters pointed out that wasn't happening, the new Newt-based standard became this:
We are clarifying the policy and making it clear Newt Gingrich is not in violation. The policy: If a Crossfire co-host has made a financial contribution to a politician who appears on the program or is the focus of the program, disclosure is not required during the show since the co-host's political support is obvious by his or her point of view expressed on the program."Translation: The very nature of the show is to be a cesspool of moneyed insiderism, a pointless crank-fest of lobbyists and special interests often tied to each other and to the hosts themselves, and if we had everyone involved in this open sewer disclose when their own financial interests might be affected by the claims they or their professional guests were pontificating on the whole show would be 20 minutes of such disclaimers followed by two minutes of actual show.
More on Crossfire below the fold.
This is, of course, why Crossfire should have stayed sealed in its coffin. The very point of the show is to elevate he-said, she-said media "analysis" from figures whose very livelihoods are manufacturing those ideological points of view for consumption by the public. The audience need not be told which statements are facts and which ones are lies. The audience need not be told that so-and-so was booked as a guest because Newt Gingrich's personal PAC or private ventures have an ongoing relationship with them. It is cable newsism in its purest, uncut form: an infomercial on behalf of those in power, regardless of merit, and a monument to the crass faux-punditry notion that every last issue has two equal and opposite sides to it, even if one of the sides must be propped up by a racist, a flat-earther, or a professional liar.
Informing the public as to what the precise interests of the various parties in an national political argument are and what they stand to gain from their positions would seem to be the highest and best form of journalism. Instead we get shows celebrating the positions and dismissing the interests outright, and when any of those interests inadvertently come to light we get hurried re-interpretations of ethics rules explaining that those personal interests are unimportant and irrelevant to the purpose of the show.
Crossfire died because it had turned into a national embarrassment, a 30-minute argument for the sake of argument, a show devoted entirely to heat and openly contemptuous of light. It came back because the rest of the political media sank low enough to make it sound reasonable again.