Donahue Is Back and He's Angry About Iraq [VIDEO]

I wasn't fully aware of Phil Donahue back in the day when he was dominating daytime talk, but I vividly remember his short-lived show on MSNBC in 2002-03. As a college sophomore watching this country mindlessly head to war, Donahue was literally the only person I remember on mainstream television who consistently challenged the rationale for war. Night after night, he pleaded with Americans to pay attention and debate the disastrous course we were on. Here was a host unafraid to feature topics like the PATRIOT Act, the drug war, and Israel-Palestine, and provide a national platform for guests like Ralph Nader, Barbara Ehrenreich, and mothers of 9/11 victims who opposed war (any war) in their name. He'd run around his studio with a microphone, inviting his audience to engage in the discussion. I even remember at least one show where he was taking live calls in the studio, and I was so excited that someone on cable news was telling the truth that I did something I'd never done before and called (though I didn't make it on air).

And then on February 25, 2003, less than a month before the Iraq war began, Donahue - then the most watched show on MSNBC - was canceled. An internal memo at NBC spoke of executives' fears that Phil would be "a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war." The memo continued, "He seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration's motives," and went on to describe how the Donahue show could become "a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity."

Everyone knows what's happened in the world since Phil Donahue was booted out of our living rooms, but what about him? He made a brief cable news cameo in 2005 to belittle and embarrass Bill O'Reilly, and now he's back with a feature-length documentary on the war that Manila highlighted earlier this week. Good thing there are non-corporate media outlets like The Real News and Democracy Now! who aren't afraid to put Donahue back on-screen where he belongs.

(See this excerpt from Jeff Cohen’s book for a fascinating behind-the-scenes account of the challenges the Donahue show faced at MSNBC. Cohen was a senior producer of the show, and is the founder of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.)

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