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Moyers: How Money and the Media Are Shaping the 2012 Elections (And Why You Should be Watching the Fox News Debates)

Bill Moyers talks with media critic Kathleen Hall Jamieson about money in politics, the media's missteps and the way the GOP's jeers shape debate results.

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We know that moderates, particularly moderate women, do not like rudeness or incivility in politics. And when audiences engage in it and when candidates play to elicit it I think they may be drawing they may be inviting inferences that are inappropriate about Republicans and Republican audiences.

BILL MOYERS: Have you seen a race that changed leads so often?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: No.

BILL MOYERS: I haven't either.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: But I think it's been healthy that the leads have changed. Because ordinarily we lock down to two candidates very quickly and everyone else is marginalized. And as a result they get fewer questions in debates. Their questions tend to be about the frontrunners as opposed to about themselves. And so the whole journalistic context begins to shift.

And in an environment which there has been an alternative to Mitt Romney featured at different points throughout the process, at least you've had the chance to look carefully at what those person's positions on the issues were.

With the exception of Ron Paul all of the other major contenders for President have had their moment in the media spotlight. And the media in general have done a good job exploring their plans and the implications of their plans. And the debates have featured their strengths and their weaknesses.

The debates actually made the candidacy of Newt Gingrich and helped the candidacy of Rick Santorum. A lot of debates, but the debates mattered. Secondly, this has been a year in which journalism can be proud of the quality of the interviews that have been done of candidates. And the liberals or progressives who don't watch Fox have missed something important.

BILL MOYERS: What?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Because the Fox interviews of the candidates have been strong and substantive. And importantly the candidates have been held accountable for their advertising and for their more extreme statements. And so if you watched Fox you heard Bill O'Reilly for example challenge candidates who called Barack Obama a socialist, Bill O'Reilly defining socialist and asking how it is that they can apply that label to President Obama.

You also heard Fox commentators and anchors holding candidates accountable for misleading advertising. In one segment Rick Perry was asked how he could possibly say that the president had said that Americans are lazy. Wasn't the referred in that statement actually investors rather than Americans in that APEC statement by President Obama?

That point made in a Fox interview. If the partisan media or the partisan-leaning media will hold the candidates on their side of the aisle accountable as well as some on Fox had this year, then there's a real upside to the rise of that form of media.

BILL MOYERS: The knock on the left is that Fox News is an arm of the Republican party. What accounts for a different approach to Republican candidates this year?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: One of the things that one has to be careful about is saying that everything in one media environment is exactly the same. So there's a great difference across the programming on MSNBC, there's a great deal of different in the programming across Fox. There are places in both of those networks in which you have strong traditional journalism.

But the point this year that I think is worth making is that the Fox debates have been strong and have held candidates accountable and the Fox interviews have, as well. We haven't had a chance to see something comparable on the Democratic side because of course we have an incumbent Democrat.

 
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