Here is a transcript of recorded remarks by former Vermont governor and Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean to a public audience of about 150 people at Williams College on Thurs., Jan. 12, 2017, at Williamstown, Mass. These remarks about the media were part of question-and-answer period which followed a lecture by Dean on recent presidential campaign and public participation in democratic institutions. (Read full story speech).
QUESTION: You mentioned standing up. What upset me about the so-called press conference yesterday, not the cheering section in the background, and not so much Trump — I mean there is not much you can say about him. But not one single fellow reporter came to the defense of the CNN reporter. Not one reporter said, excuse me but before you answer my question, you just disrespected him, you insulted him, this is not a game show, you are soon to be president of the United States. Not one of them. That scared me 10 times more than anything he did. Because we can’t control what he did. But the press was shameful, I thought.
LINK: Trump berated a CNN reporter, and fellow journalists missed an opportunity, from Columbia Journalism Review.
Mr Dean replies:
The press I think is a failed institution and they are going through a long learning process. I think they’ve finally been confronted with what they did.
So I will share a little story with you which some of you will be amused by because some of you will have seen this. During the debates, Trump had the habit of going [Dean twice loudly sniffs his nose near the microphone] all the time. And so I tweeted out, “Coke habit?” or something like that [audience laughs]. It got 50,000 re-tweets and a rebuke from the law firm that I consult for [more laughter].
But I actually did it on purpose. The reason I did it on purpose was not to be snide and snotty and make unsubstantiated remarks about Trump. It was to do what the media – what Trump had been doing – since June 15 of 2015 which the media never call him on. I knew they’d be all over me. And I though, we’ll you’re all over me for putting out innuendo when I had no proof whatsoever. I accept that.
What did you do when Donald Trump did that? Did you call him on it? No, you didn’t call him on it and the reason you didn’t call him on it was because of money. I asked the producers of some of the shows I’m on, “Why do you have this guy on, this is a liberal station?” Because our ratings go through the roof. CBS, one of the most disgraceful and embarrassing person I have ever seen anyone associated with the media say, Les Moonves, the president of CBS said, “It may not have been good for America but it was great for CBS.” If that’s what you think when you’re running a business you ought to go over, move that business to Moscow because you’d fit in better with the government philosophy over there. [applause]
So, the media is learning. The media has gotten to get away with all kinds of stuff, the crappy, and I’m not talking about the Breitbart News and the neo-Nazis or whatever. I’m talking about the main stream media and they put opinion — and I share this with conservatives. If you read the New York Times, which is a liberal paper, by the third or fourth paragraph the reporters are putting in their own opinion as a substitute for news without identifying it. They are lazy, intellectually, they work hard, they are intellectually lazy, they write stories they don’t research, the notion that too good to fact check has now insinuated itself away from reality television into what used to be the most respected [news] organs in the country, if not the world.
Why? It’s all about money. A lot of it is the corporatization of the media. I’m not a conspiracy theorist so I don’t give a damn who owns the media. But here’s what happened. With the exception of Rupert Murdoch, who actually does tell his editors what to put on, Viacom doesn’t care what the hell CBS puts on the news. Walter Cronkite used to be the most respected person in America when he was the anchor and there were two other anchors at major networks and 90 percent of the people got their news that way. And Bill Paley, who ran CBS, used to lose money every time Walter Cronkite got on the air because the news didn’t make any money. But he made it all back on The Price is Right or whatever the next following show was, right? And he had the most respected news program in the country. Here’s what happened when the corporations bought it. The corporations are about making money. They didn’t give a damn about the news content. All they wanted to do was make money. And since all those places lost money they cut the hell out of the news staff over the next 20 years, and if they didn’t’ make money they were gone.
So to me, if that’s what your metric is for your employees, guess what, they are going to make money because otherwise they lose their job. So then, instead, John Edwards “love child” was never going to get on the air on the evening news when Walter Cronkite was running it. Why? Because it had nothing to do with the defense of the country. It had nothing to do with the economy. It didn’t have to do with anything that anybody gave a damn about except for all of us who read the National Enquirer for news of the week or whatever on the newsstand – those are the largest-selling newspapers in America, right? All of us are human beings, we have a great nose for gossip. It’s oh my God I can’t look but I’m going to [laughter].
So that’s what the news is because it sells. The news used to be an education program. Now if it bleeds it leads. That is what has happened. So I think the news, the media is now going through this incredible period of self examination. And I think it’s a good thing. I really do. I actually think the best solution to the news problem is the free market. Because I think there is a hunger. First of all it is all going out on line so the whole fundamental nature of the news business and with that kind of change that fast a lot of people are going to go broke because they can’t adapt to being on the net fast enough. I eventually think there really is an appetite out there for smart news that is mostly truthful, ex reporters’ honest mistakes and of course everybody makes mistakes, including reporters.
So I think what you’re actually seeing is a tremendous transition in the business and a lot of that’s because of Donald Trump. Because they know what they did. They gave this guy a platform because they could make a lot of money. Now they’re all tough as hell on him. They’re subjecting him to all this scrutiny and talking about what he said that wasn’t true. Well where the hell were they 18 months ago when this guy was running for president [isolated clapping] and knocked off 16 Republican candidates, several of whom were very legitimate candidates for president of the United States. Where were they? They were cranking up the cash and they didn’t give a damn.
Now, in retrospect, I think if he does that again you will see reporters do something like that. I think it really shook them up. Like every group of people sometimes you need a good kick in the you know what in order to get yourself changed. I do think that most reporters are hard working and want to do the right thing. But I think there is so much pressure to do the wrong thing, particularly in the editor’s office. I can tell you horror stories from when I was running for president of stuff people put in the paper they knew was wrong and I would say how can you put that in and they would say, “Oh, my editor made me.” Come on here.
But I have some optimism. If you see that happening, the description you gave of what they didn’t do, if you see that happening that means the institution is continuing to change and evolve and I think that’s positive.
(Transcribed by Bill Densmore from the audio recording.)