Media critic Jeff Cohen praises Sanders for calling out Hillary for saying he stood with Minutemen vigilantes. Correction: Delegates in the Democratic primaries are awarded proportionally
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders held a contentious debate on Wednesday night in Miami on a whole range of issues. Joining me now to discuss this is Jeff Cohen. He’s a director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College. He was the founder of the media watchdog FAIR. Also the co-founder of RootsAction.org. Thanks so much for joining us again, Jeff. JEFF COHEN: Thank you. NOOR: So, Jeff, let’s start off by getting into the debate. We’re going to play an extended exchange between Clinton and Sanders about Sanders’ opposition to a 2007 comprehensive immigration reform bill, and whether he supported the white supremacist group the Minutemen. Here’s that clip. [Clip from Democratic debate] So, Jeff, that was one of the most electric moments in the debate. You can hear the response Senator Sanders got for standing his ground and kind of fighting back about some of Clinton’s claims. We know on Sunday night Sanders did not correct Clinton about misconstruing his support for the auto bailout. And he took that opportunity last night to address this issue. Give us your response. COHEN: Well, I think one reason why Bernie’s supporters might have been elated is he was fighting back. And many Bernie supporters have been critical of him for just letting Hillary Clinton distort and smear his record. And when he’s had opportunities to criticize her specifically, he backs off. He’s more comfortable attacking the system than to point out how closely Hillary Clinton is corrupted by the system. But yes, that was–it’s an example of what Bernie knew he was going to be up against. But sometimes he doesn’t seem to be admitting it, which is the powerful Clinton lie machine. They are willing to do anything to get elected. She consciously distorted his position on the auto bailout. Everyone knows that Bernie Sanders is a critic of Wall Street, and does not believe that taxpayers should bail out the crooks and financial manipulators who so ruined the U.S. and global economy. But everyone who knows Bernie’s ideology knows that he believes the government should be supporting industry, and that there’s nothing wrong with taxpayers supporting, you know, jobs in Ohio, in Michigan. So that was a huge smear. Hillary had an ad running every–I’ve got my relatives, my family’s from Michigan. She was running the ad attacking Bernie over the auto bailout, which he clearly was supportive of. He just wasn’t for giving hundreds of billions to Wall Street. So here she comes now, a few days later, and she’s bringing up a new smear linking Bernie to the racist, right-wing Minutemen on the U.S.-Mexico border. And I think he snapped, correctly so. And believe me, in a few days there’s going to be new smears from the Clinton lie machine, and if Bernie isn’t willing to fight back, there’s going to be an awful lot of disappointed Bernie supporters, especially all those young people under 30, under 35, that want to see a candidate that does not allow the Clinton propaganda machine to get away with its propaganda. NOOR: And Jeff, even the New York Times editorial board called out Hillary for her, essentially, lying about Sanders’ record on Sunday night. And they actually say that’s one of the reasons she lost Michigan. It’s because people, you know, people realized–like, she assumed that she wouldn’t get fact checked, but she did. And people knew that she was misportraying Sanders’ record. Now, this piece from the editorial board is called a lesson in Hillary Clinton’s loss in Michigan. And one of the lines goes, Ms. Clinton’s falsely parsing Mr. Sanders’ Senate vote in a 2008 recession-related bailout bill as abandoning the auto industry rescue hurt her credibility. Now, again, this is the New York Times editorial board, which has come out and endorsed Sanders. They’re saying–. COHEN: They’ve endorsed her. NOOR: I’m sorry, sorry, I misspoke there. They endorsed Clinton. And so they’re saying she’s risking her electability in November if she continues to spout these lies. COHEN: I’m heartened by that editorial, but I think the Times is wrong. Lying works. Lying works because the corporate mainstream media doesn’t usually correct the Clintons, or powerful individuals and groups. This was an anomaly. I’m heartened by the New York Times editorial, but I think Hillary Clinton will continue to smear, will continue to distort–I mean, I, there’s almost nothing that, you know, is hard for me to believe about Bill and Hillary Clinton and the Clintonites, and what they’re capable of doing in terms of propaganda. But linking Bernie Sanders to the right-wing racist Minutemen on the U.S.-Mexico border, that was beyond belief. And we don’t know if Bernie Sanders would have won Michigan by more if it hadn’t been for Hillary Clinton with that lie, that distortion, that misleading about Bernie being against bailing out the auto workers of Michigan. I’ve got a feeling it was effective, and that Bernie would have won by a little bit more in Michigan if that lie had not been told and then run on broadcast advertising hour after hour in Michigan right up to the voting. NOOR: Well, and we’re also coming to a crucial time in this election. In just a few days there’s going to be, you know, a primary in states like Florida, which is a winner-takes-all state. Some 500 delegates are going to be up for grabs next week. And I wanted to bring up a piece, we talked a little bit about the media, but you know, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting noted that the Washington Post ran 16 negative ads in 16 hours on Bernie Sanders right around that, the Michigan, the crucial Michigan primary. You know, you were sort of surprised the New York Times corrected Clinton on this. How do you evaluate overall the role that the corporate media’s playing in the Democratic primary? COHEN: The corporate media may not like Hillary Clinton or Bill Clinton as individuals, but the corporate mainstream media, NPR, New York Times, Washington Post, they love their ideology. They love their corporate-centrism. They like the fact that it’s a semi-hawkish foreign policy of the Clintons, pro-Wall Street, but you know, liberal on gay rights and abortion. So the Clintons are ideologically supported by the corporate mainstream media. And it’s why Bernie Sanders knew–he’s not naïve about corporate media. Indeed, I talked to him once after the first debate. He’s the first candidate I’m aware of that ever, during a nationally televised debate, criticized the corporate media by that name. So that was wonderful to see. He knows they’re going to be after him. He’s got an ideology that is so different than corporate mainstream media when it comes to these free trade treaties. The New York Times and Washington Post [inaud.] has done studies for years, is pro-, quote, free trade, fanatically so. He’s so much more about taxing the rich and taxing the 1 percent and taxing corporations than they are in the corporate liberal or corporate centrist or corporate mainstream media. So I don’t think Bernie was ever naïve about whether they would give him a fair shake. And the fact that the Washington Post had pretty much 16 negative articles in 16 hours is par for the course. They’ve distorted–Hillary Clinton and the corporate media have distorted Bernie Sanders’ proposal on single-payer enhanced Medicare for all. And you’re certainly not going to, out of those news outlets, you’re not going to get a fair shake on trade. And trade, I believe, is the reason that Bernie won Michigan, and it’s the reason he’ll run strong in Ohio. That Bernie Sanders has been there from the beginning. What sickens me about–my final point on corporate, mainstream media–they know that the Clintons and Barack Obama in 2008, Bill Clinton in ’92, Hillary Clinton in 2008 and today, they know that they can count on corporate Democrats to question these trade treaties while they’re campaigning. And once they get into office, they’ll be shoving through those free trade treaties, alleged free trade. And so if we had a free press, as opposed to a corporate-dominated media, it would be pointed out that Hillary Clinton said she was against these treaties in 2008, and then when she gets into the Obama White House, she’s pushing the Trans-Pacific partnership. And so this idea that these corporate Democrats, they campaign to the left, and then they govern to the right, and if we had a free, diverse media in mainstream media, there’d be mainstreamers pointing out the charade of Hillary Clinton picking up Bernie’s anti-Wall Street rhetoric, you know, saying she’s now against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, when her State Department helped negotiate it. You know, that’s the role of media in a free society, in a democratic society, is to say, you know, this is BS. She’s campaigning this way, but her record is that way. And that’s something that mainstream media don’t do [that’s] Hillary Clinton against Bernie Sanders. Because Bernie is consistent on these issues. He doesn’t campaign one way and govern another way. But we can show the Clintons since 1992 have campaigned left, governed right. It’s so clear, it’s clear as day, but you can’t really point that out in NPR, New York Times, Washington Post, too clearly. They want to see Hillary Clinton get the nomination. NOOR: And even last night we saw that, when they were more interested in asking about Benghazi or the email scandals instead of the issues you’ve raised. So Jeff Cohen, we want to thank you so much for joining us. COHEN: Thank you. NOOR: Thank you for joining us at the Real News Network.
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