MSNBC: No Time for Obama's Kill List?

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MSNBC: No Time for Obama's Kill List?

The New York Times' lengthy report (5/29/12) on Barack Obama's drone "kill list" should provoke serious questions: Is such a program legal? How does it square with Obama's criticism of the Bush administration's "war on terror" policies? What does it tell us about how the administration identifies "militants" who are targeted for assassination?

But those questions have been raised only in fits and starts–and are basically absent from the liberal cable news channel MSNBC. In fact, a far more interesting discussion of these questions can be heard on Fox News Channel.

It's not all good on Fox, naturally. Host Bill O'Reilly and guest Dennis Miller (5/29/12) joked about  whether they were on the kill lists . Geraldo Rivera defended the program on Fox & Friends (6/1/12). Fox "liberal" Bob Beckel did the same on Fox's The Five (5/29/12):

To even suggest that somehow there is something wrong with a kill list, for you to suggest that shows you how rabidly anti-Obama you are.

Part of that discussion focused on what the reaction would be if we were reading about George W. Bush's drone kill list–a contrast that was raised on other Fox shows, and a legitimate one.

That wasn't just that angle that Fox covered, though. On Special Report (5/30/12), James Rosen looked at the White House's "fuzzy math" at counting civilian deaths from drone strikes. A Special Report panel (5/29/12) used a soundbite from the ACLU to illustrate criticism from the left.

But what about the channel that would seem the natural place for some of that left-leaning analysis? MSNBC has been mostly quiet. A search of the Nexis news database turns up nothing on Obama's kill list. The program Morning Joe had one discussion (5/29/12) where the panelists mostly supported the program, though host Joe Scarborough expressed some reservations.

What was more newsworthy? MSNBC's prime time shows seemed to have plenty of coverage of "birther" Donald Trump.

And it is worth noting one left-leaning TV host who did present a critical take on the Obama drone program was Current host Cenk Uygur (5/29/12). Some might remember that he briefly hosted a show on MSNBC but left amidst disputes over whether management wanted him to tone it down. Draw your own conclusions.

*Also: Kevin Gosztola has a good piece about drones and media coverage at FireDogLake (6/1/12). And it should be noted that ABC correspondent Jake Tapper (5/29/12) asked some strong questions to White House press secretary Jay Carney, particularly about civilian deaths and how the administration was defining "militants." As best I can tell, Tapper's exchange with Carney was not included in any ABC broadcasts, but can be viewed at the link above (starting around the 13:00 mark)

Peter Hart

Peter Hart is the activism director at FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting). He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra, and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly" (Seven Stories Press, 2003).

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