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Fired from MSNBC for Anti-War Views, Phil Donahue Speaks Out on Republicans and Journalism, While Campaigning for Norman Solomon in California

The legendary talk show host, who lost his show because he opposed the Iraq war, discusses the wars, the presidential candidates, and more in an in-depth interview.

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DB: I’m sure to this day, and of course, we’re concerned because the same kind of media machine is cranking us up for another war. It is interesting to me what happened in journalism, and I do want to get your feedback on this.

The great Israeli journalist, Amira Hass, who actually reports for an Israeli newspaper in the West Bank, talks, when you ask her “What’s the job of a journalist?” She says, “To monitor the centers of power, whether they be in the government, in the corporation, in the local politicians. It’s our job as the Fourth Estate, to monitor the centers of power.” But now it seems that the media has become its own center of power. How would you define what happened here?

PD: With the war?

DB: And the role that the journalists seem to play in fanning the flames as opposed to reporting about what exactly is the situation.

PD: Well, there’s almost a worship of people in power. You never see a peace worker or leader on  Meet the Press. The established journalists cover established power. … You know, I thought journalists could take all kinds of criticism because they dish so much of it out and I was wrong. They bleat and they pout. And they never forget you if you say something, so I don’t mean to be swinging round-house bar room generalities here. But … how else can we explain the surrender of … the reporters [at a] Rumsfeld briefing.

So did the so-called expert generals, defense people on CNN and the other channels…. I mean this was so managed and the press made it happen. One of the few journalists that I admire who doesn’t care if the White House calls them back is Sy Hersh. And I’m sure you’ve interviewed and you know you won’t see him on  Meet the Press. …

DB: And it’s not because he wouldn’t accept the invitation. He’s not going to get the invitation.

PD: That’s what I mean. That’s exactly true. And we gotta somehow fix this.  mainstream media, like the American public, as I say, if you criticize a president ramping up for war you’re unpatriotic, you don’t believe in God. They have got it, and you don’t. That’s the coup de grace.

And as long as that kind of drum beat against … this “tax and spend, tax and spend!” I mean they have blistered us. We’ve changed our name, we’re no longer liberal. That’s how brilliant it has been this strategy of marginalization.  You don’t understand it, you liberals! You never saw a problem you don’t want to spend my money to fix. You don’t understand the geopolitical rah, rah, rah. They’ve got all kinds of things they’re going to nail you with.

You go to war [and] if you criticize it, they’re mad. If you criticize it after we go to war, you don’t respect the troops. If you criticize it after we lose troops, you’re defiling the memory of these troops and you are spitting in the face of their loved ones and their parents. I mean from everywhere, and by the way, you can’t say “Why did they crash into the towers?” Because then you’re blaming the victim.

At every turn they are ready for you, and you better shut up and sing or they’re going to make life miserable for you and if you’re thirty something, with two and a half kids and a mortgage, and reporting to a Republican boss, you know, how much of an outspoken dissenter are you going to be? Everything conspires to open the door wide for a president to march through it with his cruise missiles, his aircraft carriers. …

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