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Phil Donahue on corporate media and the Iraq war

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SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN JOURNALIST: What is your impressions of the coverage on the war in Iraq?

PHIL DONAHUE, EX-TALK SHOW HOST: Every major metropolitan newspaper in this country supported this war. That’s what corporate media will do for you. Opposing this war was not good for business, and the right-wing war machine was able to convince millions of Americans that somehow to dissent or to speak out against the war at a time when the president was preparing to go to war is unpatriotic. Imagine. All those young men died on foreign battlefields to protect my right of free speech in past wars; not to use it is to waste their blood. Come on. If we ever need free speech, it’s at a time like that. So don’t give in to the pressure�the pressure is significant, by the way��shut up and sing.� That is not the America that my parents raised me to pledge allegiance to. I believe in the first amendment. The dissenters are the patriots. We believe in the Bill of Rights. We don’t think you should be able to look in on people’s e-mail and tap their phones. We believe a woman’s home is her castle. And we believe in free speech. You know, these people who are demanding that we shut up and sing are saying, you know, �Free speech is kind of a quaint idea; it’s not very practical in a time of war.� This is what they think. So we stand with the framers. We believe that only Congress can declare war, which they didn’t this time; they just gave them permission: �Here, Mr. President. If you have to go�.� And this covers them. If it goes badly, they can say, �Hey, I didn’t. He�I thought�.� That’s not what the Constitution demands. Only Congress can declare war. They haven’t done it since the early 40s.

PERIES: Well, let’s say during that period right after 9/11, that the media was still shell-shocked from what had happened at 9/11 and events leading up to going to Iraq. Do you think now the media has learned a lesson?

DONAHUE: Oh, absolutely.

PERIES: And have they improved? Have the networks improved in terms of their current coverage of the war on Iraq?

DONAHUE: The New York Times and other newspapers have published thousands of words of apology. �What we didn’t�here’s where we went wrong. We should have, but we didn’t, and next time�.� So certainly this has been very embarrassing for corporate media. And, you know, all we can do is hope that it won’t happen again. But it’s important for every American to know that for big media and the boardrooms and the CEOs, who by the way worry only about the price of their stock�that’s their Mecca, the price of the stock. In order for that stock to go up, you have to have popular people working on your television channel or network. And if you oppose the war, you’re not popular. So it’s counterintuitive for a profit-making organization to hire a person who’s always complaining. That’s how they put it. We’re [�skoles�]. You know, we don’t love America. We love America more than they do. We believe in the Constitution. This is a very, very difficult bind we have. We have a media that’s supposed to stick its nose under the tent, not supposed to be popular, and if it isn’t popular, it can’t have a job in media. I mean, you know, it’s a rock and a hard place problem.

PERIES: Do you think the soldiers are getting fair play in the mainstream networks these days?

DONAHUE: Not at all. You know, we’re not seeing the pain. We’re not. No group. You very seldom see a peace member group on the shout shows on cable. You don’t see United for Peace and Justice conduct all these rallies. You don’t see MoveOn. You don’t see Iraq Veterans Against the War, MFSO, Military Families Against the War. There’s a growing groundswell of grassroots organizations that feature veterans who are saying, �Hold it. This war is not fair to the American troops.� We haven’t seen this pain. We have sanitized this war. Less than five percent of us are actually sending a loved one into this war. We don’t see the pain. Everywhere you turn, they will tell you to shut up and sing. And increasing numbers of Americans are saying, �Hold it. We’ve been silent long enough. We’re on our feet now, and we’re not going to take it anymore.� The majority of the American people are against this war. Wow. Took long enough.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Phil Donahue and the Donahue show have been honored with 20 Daytime Emmy Awards, including nine for Outstanding Host and a George Foster Peabody Broadcasting Journalism Award.