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Former Bush Spokesman For American Mission At U.N. Critiques Media Coverage Of Boston Bombings

Saturday, April 20, 2013

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HH: Richard Grenell was the public spokesperson for America’s mission to the United Nations throughout most of George W. Bush’s tenure as president. He is also the founder of Capitol Media Partners, and one of the real smart guys when it comes to talking about foreign affairs. Part of the story of the last 24 hours, indeed the last 96 hours is the collapse of American media responsibility. Richard Grenell, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show, it’s great to have you on.

RG: Hey, thanks, Hugh, thanks for having me.

HH: Well, what is your reaction to how the American media has covered, from the bombing on Monday through the continued manhunt this afternoon?

RG: You know, I think it’s clear that we live in a world where they value speed more than accuracy. We can all forgive mistakes now and then, but CNN has really done an atrocious job. They have decided since they’re in last place that they need to be first rather than correct. And so they have just been speculating and pushing the limit. It isn’t just CNN. I think it’s across the board that people are really interested in being first. We live in a society that journalism is really dead, and what we really have is reporters who retweet and repeat and sit around, and no one’s really looking for multiple sources or first-hand knowledge. They’re just looking at their colleagues and trying to stay in front.

HH: There isn’t much of an effort, either, Richard, I’m going to pat myself on the back. I opened today’s show with John Fisher Burns out of London, the New York Times Bureau Chief, Leon Aron is on, Andrew McCarthy, John Hinderaker, you. I’m trying to find people who have interesting perspectives, and especially specialists who during, can provide background to this incredible drama which, you know, you really can’t figure out what’s going on until it’s done. But you can certainly provide context for understanding it. And I don’t see any of the networks doing much of that at all. Do you?

RG: No, you’re exactly right, and what’s sad is that there are experts out there that can give some sort of perspective. You know, I think it’s really important that we hold back a little until we get the facts, and then we have a public discussion of what the facts mean. You know, already people are very hypersensitive about saying Islamic radicals, and somehow, you’re impugning all Muslims by saying that. And I think quite the contrary. I mean, all the Muslims that I know, they want there to be a known entity called Islamic radicals so that they aren’t part of that group. So I think that’s a really important point. I think you know, sitting at the U.N. for eight years, which I did, I heard the Russians over and over and over talking about Chechnya, and talking about Chechens as terrorists. And we saw the radicalization of many Chechens developing in the Moscow Theatre takeover. There was 170 killed. And this has been happening. And frankly, Hugh, in all honestly, as we, the United States, would bring up al Qaeda and try to add different offshoots of al Qaeda to international terrorist lists, the Russians were constantly at the U.N. trying to bring up Chechens. And we didn’t really pay enough attention to that. And I think the fact is that we assumed that they were just bringing up Chechnya because they were having this separatist problem. And I think we all need to look at the facts, including everyone in the United States, when we look internationally, and figure out who are the radicals, and how do we stop them. And we need to have that conversation.

HH: Now earlier today, you pointed me via Twitter to Leon Aron, who I’ve never heard of before. I mean, just completely not on my radar. I used to know something about Russia, but I really stopped studying it. And he’s coming up after you. I am curious if you think most of American media has given up even the appearance of attempting to study up beyond the headline grab and the standing around, because that three shot at the corner of Boylston and State is what’s going to define CNN for a long time with Chris Cuomo looking at his cell phone and not saying anything. It’s really kind of crazy what they’ve done.

RG: Yeah, I totally agree. There are experts right in New York, blocks away from CNN, that have worked for a very long time on these issues, some of them journalists for, you know, Raghida Dergham, who is a journalist for al-Hayat, she’s based at the U.N., and she understands the Middle East like no one else. She’s an American citizen, she is actually Lebanese-American, and she’s someone that has never been tapped into by these networks to get her expertise on truly understanding the game there. We can just point to Syria. We have done a terrible job of trying to figure out early on in Syria who were the non-radicals, who were the ones that really just wanted greater freedom. We should have been supporting them a year and a half to two years ago. We didn’t, and now what we’re seeing is al Qaeda take over Syria. That is a lack of American leadership, and that squarely falls at Barack Obama. But yet, he is going to be allowed by the American media to pretend like he didn’t start another war.

HH: Now I do want to credit and distinguish Tapper. I have been watching Tapper a lot, and it seems to me that last night, especially, he brought a distinctively different tone to the CNN coverage that has been dominating most of their day parts. And I think maybe that’s his job, and that they made him stay up all night just to add a different level. And his show has opened up in the first few weeks of The Lead with that kind of an emphasis. But it does mean getting producers who aren’t 22 with some breadth and depth of knowledge. And I’m curious from your years at the U.N, have you noticed that the producer, the booker side of the business is getting younger, less experienced, and less interested in anything other than, I don’t know, demograph…

RG: Their career.

HH: Yeah.

RG: Their career.

HH: Their career. Go ahead.

RG: Yeah, it is getting younger, and some of that is, you know, due to the fact that they want two and three producers, because they’re going 24 hours a day and they’re trying to charge so hard. So they would rather pay multiple people than one really experienced one. But clearly, you know, Jake Tapper, I completely agree. He’s very interested in the world, and he seems very fair. I think Erin Burnett is another one at CNN who is very fair.

HH: Yes, I didn’t see her much, though.

RG: CNN does have some people, but they keep getting rid or pushing people out, because that culture of CNN is an extremely left culture within the producers and the assignment editors.

HH: Okay, now putting them to one side and moving over to the politicization of every story, MSNBC, Fox has not really been a player in this story to the extent that I don’t see much of their work being referenced for good or for bad. And when we come back after break…MSNBC and NPR and Salon, they’re really gone crazy on this stuff, Richard Grenell.

RG: Yeah, there’s no question. NPR, I was listening to them, and they’ve got expert after expert trying to tell us that it all depends on how these two were radicalized, and that if it was through the internet home grown, that’s much better than if they were overseas with an imam. And you know, my first reaction is good Lord, are you kidding me? The internet is everywhere. If they can be radicalized simply without a network by clicking, we are in a bigger problem than what we thought.

HH: Richard Grenell, come back and talk to me again next week, I hope. Thanks for spending time on a busy Friday from the Capitol Media Group. Thank you.

End of interview.

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