Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Obama, Gore, stop whining about right-wing media

By Howard Kurtz, CNN
updated 3:03 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Former vice president Al Gore promotes his new book,
Former vice president Al Gore promotes his new book, "The Future" on January 30, 2013 in New York City.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Al Gore says right-wing media help account for resistance to Democrats' policies
  • President Barack Obama said media coverage could determine future of bipartisanship
  • Howard Kurtz: Fox News, Rush Limbaugh have influence, but White House has bigger voice
  • He says conservative media gained support because of belief established media leaned left

Editor's note: Howard Kurtz is the host of CNN's "Reliable Sources" and is Newsweek's Washington bureau chief. He is also a contributor to the website Daily Download.

(CNN) -- I never realized that the conservative media were so eye-poppingly powerful.

So mighty, in fact, that liberal politicians can't seem to stop talking about how they are running roughshod over the country.

Howard Kurtz
Howard Kurtz

My response: Can we please stop the whining?

The latest to rant about the right is Al Gore. The former vice president told Charlie Rose that President Barack Obama had been cautious, and when the CBS anchor asked whether there was "a very hostile environment for progressive ideas," Gore had his culprit ready:

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



"Fox News and right-wing talk radio. In Tennessee there's an old saying if you see a turtle on a fence post you can be pretty sure it didn't get there by itself. And the fact that we have 24/7 propaganda masquerading as news, it does have an impact."

Watch: Why Geraldo Rivera's Senate hopes are an empty vault

OK, Gore doesn't like Fox. So he started what he hoped would be a liberal counterweight in Current TV, spent millions on such stars as Keith Olbermann, and ... the channel flopped. It was such a failure that he just sold it to Al Jazeera for an estimated personal take of $100 million.

Gore on Al Jazeera
Geraldo for Senate? Really?
Media's Hillary Clinton lovefest
Gore's Al Jazeera payday

Leave aside the obvious contradiction of a climate change crusader selling to a network largely financed by the petrodollar kingdom of Qatar. Whatever you think of Fox, Rupert Murdoch's network has been a financial success and Current TV was anything but. Isn't that the free market at work?

Watch: The media's gushing send-off for Hillary Clinton

Obama often invokes the conservative media, most recently in an interview with The New Republic. Asked about working with Republicans in his second term, the president said: "One of the biggest factors is going to be how the media shapes debates. If a Republican member of Congress is not punished on Fox News or by Rush Limbaugh for working with a Democrat on a bill of common interest, then you'll see more of them doing it."

Now it's true that Fox or Limbaugh can boost or batter any lawmaker, and that they can help drive a controversy into the broader mainstream media. But we're talking here about the president of the United States. He has an army, a navy and a bunch of nuclear weapons, not to mention an ability to command the airwaves at a moment's notice. And he's complaining about a cable channel and a radio talk-show host?

Limbaugh later offered this response: "If Fox News and I are the only thing keeping the Republicans from caving to Barack Obama on every issue, I'm not paid enough."

Watch: Does Sarah Palin have a future after Fox?

I have been through this before. It was on my "Reliable Sources" program, in the fall of 2009, that the White House declared war on Fox News. Anita Dunn, then the White House communications director, called Fox "the communications arm of the Republican Party" and said, "It is not really a news network anymore."

The resulting furor gave Fox months of fodder and was widely judged a tactical misstep that if anything elevated the network's role.

There are times when many Fox programs, including in the nonopinion hours, appear to be on a jihad against the administration. And these days, MSNBC can be counted on to defend the Democrats almost around the clock.

But let's face it: These are cable channels with relatively modest audiences, and their impact is sometimes exaggerated inside the Beltway echo chamber. After all, Obama handily won re-election despite the best efforts of Sean Hannity and Limbaugh.

Watch: New York Times censors company's vulgar name

What liberals sometimes forget is that the conservative media took root because many Americans felt the fourth estate was too left-wing. ABC, NBC, CBS, NPR, The New York Times and The Washington Post all strive for fairness, in my view, but there is little question that they have a social and cultural outlook that leans to the left. Collectively, they have far more weight than Fox, talk radio and The Wall Street Journal editorial page.

Right-wing pundits make a convenient foil, but at times Obama seems to magnify their importance. After all, he's got the biggest bully pulpit of all.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Howard Kurtz.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 3:18 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Frida Ghitis says as violence claims three U.S. doctors, the temptation is to despair, but aid to Afghanistan has made it a much better place
updated 2:33 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says in California, Asian-Americans are against the use of racial criteria in public colleges.
updated 2:44 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Heidi Schlumpf says if the Pope did tell an Argentinian woman married to a divorced man that she could take Communion, it may signify a softening of church rules on the divorced and sacraments
updated 12:29 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Norcross, Georgia, Chief of Police Warren Summers says the new law that allows guns in bars, churches and schools will have unintended dangerous consequences.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Mel Robbins says social media is often ruled by haters, and people can be brutally honest.
updated 12:44 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Mike Downey says the golf purists can take a hike; the game needs radical changes to win back fans and players.
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Robert Hickey says most new housing development is high-end, catering to high-earners.
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Alexander Motyl says as Russian President Putin snarled at Ukraine, his foreign minister was signing a conciliatory accord with the West. Whatever the game, the accord is a major stand down by Russia
updated 8:29 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Les Abend says at every turn, the stowaway teen defied the odds of discovery and survival. What pilot would have thought to look for a person in the wheel well?
updated 7:04 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
updated 1:37 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
updated 1:08 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT