Phil Donahue on Media Control

I’ve always had a great deal of respect for Phil Donahue. I watched his talk show a lot when I was a kid and still would love to someday have my own talk show and ask that age-old question: Is the caller there?

I didn’t get to catch his comeback a few years ago on MS-NBC. Amy Goodman and Democracy Now interviewed him recently about why he was yanked off the air – even after being MS-NBC’s top rated program:

GOODMAN: Well, we all learned about this memo, just soon after you were fired that came out of NBC, that was — that said that as we led into the invasion of Iraq, they didn’t want to have their flagship show, no matter how successful it was, the most popular show on MSNBC, being one that provided a forum for anti-war voices. They didn’t want an anti-war face when the other networks were waving the American flag.

DONAHUE: I mean, I came back to television and ran right into a wall of widows. I mean, that shocked me. I just somehow wasn’t anticipating this. 9/11 widows. The New Jersey girls and these wonderful people, people who came on — mothers, wives said, “Not in my name. Don’t kill more innocent people to avenge the death of my loved one.” We just were very excited about what we were doing. Along the way, it became clear that they were really very nervous about us, and the rule was laid down, we had to have two conservatives for every liberal. I was counted as two liberals.

I think that they felt that — 29 years on the air, I mean, pretty high name recognition for good old Phil, and they figured, ‘well, numbers,’ you know? And they forgot perhaps that I meet be capable of featuring dissent. That’s the only answer I can give. It bewildered me, as well.

And dissent is a vehicle of entertainment, really. I admire so much those progressive people who do get on Fox. By the way, progressives are more likely to be found on Fox than anywhere else, because they’re inoculated against being — against any suggestion that they’re anti-American. The people in the middle are the ones who — Michael Moore has never been on Meet the Press. Michael Moore has never been on Face the Nation. Imagine, this is — he was considered Time magazine Man of the Year. I mean, it was in consideration. The documentary — lines around the world – around theaters around the world, certainly the center of the 2004 presidential campaign, this documentary. He was invited on Larry King but then dis-invited when the White House refused to send a balancing act. So, the White House, by refusing to send a balancer, was able to control him. I am — this is — he was on George Stephanopoulos, ABC, but edited to a fairly well — it was pre-taped and then edited. This is Karl Rove. You put Michael Moore on, you don’t get Condi. You don’t get access. You don’t get Colin. These are the legitimizing heavyweights that grant gravitas to the Sunday morning programs. It’s just – it’s amazing. Follow the ball–

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