ABC Banishes Dennis Kucinich
by Al Giordano

December 13, 2003
First Published in Big, Left, Outside

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That's the headline on
a press release from the campaign of Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich on Wednesday:

The day after Presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich took ABC debate moderator Ted Koppel to task for avoiding questions that would be useful to voters in favor of questions about endorsements, money, and polls, ABC pulled its fulltime "embedded" reporter from the Kucinich campaign, a reporter who had been given no warning that such a move was coming and who had discussed at length yesterday with the Kucinich campaign staff her plans and her needs for the coming months...

This action by ABC, as well as Koppel's comments during the debate, can only serve to disempower Americans, communicating to them that someone other than they is deciding elections and that their votes don't mean much.

This action also seems to conflict with the network's interest in boosting ratings and Koppel's expressed interest in making the debate exciting, given that Kucinich received the loudest applause of the evening...

Folks, this is serious.

ABC -- a Commercial Media organization, that lives thanks to the First Amendment, and occupies airwaves that belong to you and me -- is trying to chill speech with this maneuver.

ABC is trying to punish Kucinich and send a message to the other candidates: "don't you dare challenge the mighty Oz or the same will happen to you!"

Just read the transcript, if you missed the debate, and it will all become very clear.

Whether you are Republican, Democrat, or Independent... whether you like Dennis Kucinich or hate him or don't care... something much larger is at stake here... and ABC should not be allowed to use our airwaves to pick and choose which candidates are in the race.

It's particularly disturbing because Kucinich, by the following standards, is one of the top three candidates in terms of measurable public support: website traffic, number of "MeetUp" groups, and his second-place finish in the MoveOn online primary.

Kucinich is also a standing, elected member of the United States Congress. Like him or not, agree with his views or not, he deserves an equal and fair shake to be reported on before a single caucus or primary has taken place.

Kucinich stood up to ABC's Ted Koppel at last Tuesday night's debate, and then (the written transcript doesn't disclose it, but it's an objective fact that nobody disputes) the live audience booed and hissed Koppel. And the floodgates began rattling with the suggestion that they might open and the American people's legitimate rage against the Commercial Media might then come a pourin' down.

That's why ABC wants to punish him, and why "competing" news organizations were silent the next morning on the big story of the previous night.

Here's a key excerpt:

KOPPEL: Congressman Kucinich, I remember you when you were the boy mayor of Cleveland. You've been at this for a very long time.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on what endorsements like this mean or don't mean.

When you hear some of your colleagues here -- you know, I get a little bit of a sense of sour grapes here, that if anyone else on this stage had gotten Al Gore's endorsement, he would have been happy to have it. What do you think?

KUCINICH: Well, I can't say I was really counting on it.


But let me say, Ted, let me say -- let me say that some of the best talent in American politics is on this stage right now.


And with all due respect to you, Ted Koppel, who I've admired over the years greatly...

KOPPEL: There's a zinger coming now, isn't there?



To begin this kind of a forum with a question about an endorsement, no matter by who, I think actually trivializes the issues that are before us.


For example, at this moment there are 130,000 troops in Iraq. I mean, I would like to hear you ask during this event what's the plan for getting out. This war is not over. I have a plan, which is on my Web site at kucinich.us, to get the United States out of Iraq.

I want to talk about that tonight, and I hope we have a substantive discussion tonight and that we're not going to spend the night talking about endorsements.


Koppel then cuts Kucinich off and goes to Howard Dean with a question... about the same endorsement.

Later in the debate, Koppel tries to play kingmaker, and Kucinich embarrasses him (and ABC) again:

KOPPEL: This is a question to Ambassador Braun, Reverend Sharpton, Congressman Kucinich. You don't have any money, or at least not much. Reverend Sharpton has almost none. You don't have very much, Ambassador Braun.

KUCINICH: We've raised $4.5 million. I mean, that's not nothing.


KOPPEL: You've got about $750,000 in the bank right now, and that's close to nothing when you're coming up against this kind of opposition. But let me finish the question.

The question is, will there come a point when polls, money and then ultimately the actual votes that will take place here in places like New Hampshire, the caucuses in Iowa, will there come a point when we can expect one or more of the three of you to drop out? Or are you in this as sort of a vanity candidacy?

Reverend Sharpton, you go first...

Then Koppel goes to Kucinich to answer Koppel's ridiculous question:

KOPPEL: When do you pull out?

KUCINICH: After I -- when I take the oath of office, when you're there to cover it...



... and I can tell you, Ted, you know, we started at the beginning of this evening, talking about an endorsement. Well, I want the American people to see where the media takes politics in this country.

To start with endorsements...


We start talking about endorsements, now we're talking about polls, and then we're talking about money. Well, you know, when you do that, you don't have to talk about what's important to the American people.

Ted, I'm the only one up here that actually...


... I'm the only up here on the stage that actually voted against the PATRIOT Act and voted against the war -- the only one on this stage.

I'm also...


... I'm also one of the few candidates up here who's talking about taking our health-care system from this for-profit system to a not-for-profit, single-payer universal health care for all.


I'm also the only one who has talked about getting out of NAFTA and the WTO and going back to bilateral trade...


... conditioned on workers' rights, human rights and the environment.


KOPPEL: Congressman?

KUCINICH: ... I may be inconvenient for some of those in the media, but, you know, I'm sorry about that.


What does ABC's Koppel do? He doesn't let Kucinich go in for the kill. Koppel then cuts Kucinich off, and goes directly to Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun.

Later, as Koppel is conversing with Howard Dean about the Iraq "war," Kucinich, the only candidate who voted against that war in Congress, tries to get a word in edgewise:


KOPPEL: ... I just want to make sure I understand you correctly and then...



KOPPEL: Just one second.


KOPPEL: I just want to make sure that I understand Governor Dean correctly...

After some back and forth with Dean, Koppel turns to Kucinich, who discusses the Iraq war. Koppel cuts him off...

KOPPEL: Let me just point out that while we do have significantly more flexibility in this part of the format, I'd like you to keep your answers a little shorter, just so that we can get around to everyone.

Anybody want to do a word count comparing how many words Koppel allowed Dean as compared to Kucinich, who he kept cutting off?

The coup d'grace probably arrived the next morning in Howard Kurtz's Washington Post profile on Koppel (see below), which started as a puff piece but ended on a sour note for ABC's airhead, when Kucinich press secretary Jeff Cohen declared -- and it's objectively true! -- Koppel as the big loser of the debate.

So, now what?

A day later ABC pulls its reporter off the Kucinich campaign. Simultaneously, it pulls reporters off the two black candidates, but ABC was planning on doing that anyway.

Now, according to ABC, it's down to the country club of rich kids who, ABC feels, can be trusted not to rock the boat: The Dean, Kerry, Gephardt, Clark, Lieberman, and Edwards campaigns all understand what has just happened. A hardball hush has fallen over all of them, over all of you, and me, and the entire campaign: Dennis Kucinich has just been punished - his campaign will now be censored from ABC News (and watch how the "competing" news orgs follow suit) - for having had the guts to stand up to the Commercial Media's inauthentic, pay-per-view, "journalism" at Tuesday night's debate.

ABC (and, I'm sure, it speaks for "competing" media organizations) wants Kucinich banished and censored from public view... not just to punish Kucinich, but to chill the speech of the other candidates regarding the real issue in this campaign, which is the media's dishonest, manipulative, and corrupt, behavior.

In fact, ABC has just inadvertently given my thesis -- that the Democratic nominee must run against the media (see below) -- new life.

And if Kucinich wants to take this to the limit, I'll be here reporting it, even if ABC and the rest of the corrupted Commercial Media does not.

My first advice to the Kucinich campaign: Use your paid advertising in the New Hampshire-Boston market to show the confrontation with Koppel and tell the story of WMUR Manchester's flagship -- ABC -- getting revenge on your candidate for having told the truth that all Americans and New Hampshire citizens know is the truth:

KUCINICH: ...and I can tell you, Ted, you know, we started at the beginning of this evening, talking about an endorsement. Well, I want the American people to see where the media takes politics in this country...

Dennis: You've GOT $750,000 in the bank, more than enough to saturate the New Hampshire media markets with such a message. If WMUR bans your ad, that will be a national story. If ABC's Boston affiliate WCVB Channel 5 bans it, well, you've got yourself a lawsuit, plus an FCC complaint, in the town where the Democratic National Convention will take place next summer.

Begin, today, the teach-in about "where the media takes politics in this country." If you do, if you make THEM, the real usurpers of democracy, the Commercial Media, the issue, you will have found your issue... which is our (as in "We, the People") issue... and the voters will come.

You'll be surprised how fast it happens if you do it right.

Al Giordano is formerly publisher of Narco News and political reporter for the Boston Phoenix. Al spent the early 1990s as a daily AM talk radio host in the United States. He know publishes Big, Left, Outside, where this article first appeared. He can be reached at: al@bigleftoutside.com

Other Articles by Al Giordano

* U.S.-Funded "Expert" Brings Reefer Madness to Brazil
* Jayson Blair Cracked the Code: The Young Plagiarizer Beat the NY Times at Its Own Game
* NY Times Reporter Quits Over Conflict of Interest: Venezuela Misdeeds Adding Up on 43rd Street




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