Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Obama, Gore, stop whining about right-wing media

By Howard Kurtz, CNN
February 6, 2013 -- Updated 2003 GMT (0403 HKT)
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
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery support the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1817 GMT (0217 HKT)
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1752 GMT (0152 HKT)
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.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
April 19, 2014 -- Updated 1710 GMT (0110 HKT)
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1250 GMT (2050 HKT)
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1845 GMT (0245 HKT)
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.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 2323 GMT (0723 HKT)
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
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
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
ADVERTISEMENT