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 2:49 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
updated 5:29 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say the Kansas Jewish Center killings are part of a string of lethal violence in the U.S. that outstrips al Qaeda-influenced attacks. Why don't we pay more attention?
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Danny Cevallos says families of the passengers on Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 need legal counsel
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Frum says Russia is on a rampage of mischief while Western leaders and Western alliances charged with keeping the peace hem and haw
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Most adults make the mistakes of hitting the snooze button and of checking emails first thing in the morning, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:54 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Wheeler says as middle-class careers continue to disappear, we need a monthly cash payment to everyone
updated 7:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Democrats need to show more political spine when it comes to the issue of taxes.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Donna Brazile recalls the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act as four presidents honored the heroes of the movement and Lyndon Johnson, who signed the law
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Elmer Smith remembers Chuck Stone, the legendary journalist from Philadelphia who was known as a thorn in the side of police and an advocate for the little guy
updated 2:56 PM EDT, Sun April 13, 2014
Al Franken says Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, wants to acquire Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable provider. Should we be concerned?
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Philip Cook and Kristin Goss says the Pennsylvania stabbing attack, which caused grave injury -- but not death, carries a lesson on guns for policymakers
updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Wikipedia lists 105 football movies, but all too many of them are forgettable, writes Mike Downey
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
John Sutter and hundreds of iReporters set out to run marathons after the bombings -- and learned a lot about the culture of running
updated 12:49 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Timothy Stanley says it was cowardly to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The university should have done its homework on her narrow views and not made the offer
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Al Awlaki
Almost three years after his death in a 2011 CIA drone strike in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki continues to inspire violent jihadist extremists in the U.S, writes Peter Bergen
updated 9:21 PM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
David Bianculli says Colbert is a smart, funny interviewer, but ditching his blowhard persona to take over the mainstream late-night role may cost him fans
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Rep. Paul Ryan says the Republican budget places its trust in the people, not in Washington
updated 5:28 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Aaron David Miller says Obama isn't to blame for Kerry's lack of progress in resolving Mideast talks
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
David Weinberger says beyond focusing on the horrors of the attack a year ago, it's worth remembering the lessons it taught about strength, the dangers of idle speculation and Boston's solidarity
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Katherine Newman says the motive for the school stabbing attack in Pennsylvania is not yet known, but research on such rampages turns up similarities in suspects and circumstances
updated 7:03 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Simon Tisdall: Has John Kerry's recent track record left Russia's wily leader ever more convinced of U.S. weakness?
updated 12:40 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Mel Robbins says Nate Scimio deserves credit for acting bravely in a frightening attack and shouldn't be criticized for posting a selfie afterward
updated 2:39 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Wendy Townsend says the Rattlesnake Roundup -- where thousands of pounds of snakes are killed and tormented -- is barbaric
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Dr. Mary Mulcahy says doctors who tell their patients the truth risk getting bad ratings from them
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Peggy Drexler says the married Rep. McAllister, caught on video making out with a staffer, won't get a pass from voters who elected him as a Christian conservative with family values
updated 7:43 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
David Frum says the president has failed to react strongly to crises in Iran, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela, encouraging others to act out
updated 4:57 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Eric Liu says Paul Ryan gets it very wrong: The U.S.'s problem is not a culture of poverty, it is a culture of wealth that is destroying the American value linking work and reward
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Frida Ghitis writes: "We are still seeing the world mostly through men's eyes. We are still hearing it explained to us mostly by men."
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Chester Wisniewski says the Heartbleed bug shows how we're all tangled together, relying on each other for Internet security
updated 3:26 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Danny Cevallos says an Ohio school that suspended a little kid for pointing his finger at another kid and pretending to shoot shows the growth in "zero tolerance" policies at school run amok
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT