Talk show hosts come under fire for Kerry ties

“Crossfire” hosts James Carville and Paul Begala often pose tough questions to guests on the air, but now they are taking fire for giving advice to John Kerry’s campaign.

Carville and Begala, two Democratic strategists, host “Crossfire” at GW alongside Republican journalists Tucker Carlson and Robert Novak. The two liberal hosts, who often give advice to politicians on the show, announced last week that they would be informal advisers to the Kerry campaign.

Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for President Bush’s re-election campaign, said two weeks ago that Begala and Carville’s dispensing of advice to the Democratic presidential candidate means their show is biased.

“It seems highly irregular that CNN would tolerate two employees’ openly working and advising and appearing on behalf of the John Kerry for President campaign,” Schmidt told the New York Times on Sept. 10.

The Bush campaign did not return phone calls from The Hatchet last week.

But Republicans are not the only ones questioning the actions of Carville and Begala. Rem Rieder, editor and senior vice president of the American Journalism Review, said that a news network should not employ anchors that are involved in a political campaign.

“I think it’s an outrageous conflict of interest and it’s a real problem,” he said.

Reider added that the number of politically motivated individuals entering the field of journalism has been slowly increasing.

Begala and Carville previously worked on former President Bill Clinton’s campaign, helping him win his first term in 1992. They are the focus of the 1993 documentary “War Room,” which chronicled the behind-the-scenes effort to get Clinton into the White House.

“This takes it to a whole new level, and it’s a profoundly bad idea,” said Reider, referring to the anchors’ advice to Kerry.

CNN officials are standing behind their hosts, saying that people know that “Crossfire,” which is taped in GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs building, is a politically charged debate show.

“Most of our viewers understand that Begala and Carville are two of the best known Democratic strategists in the country,” said Edie Emery, a CNN spokeswoman.

Emery added that most people do not view “Crossfire” as a hard news show and understand that viewpoints are expressed during political debates. She also pointed out that Begala and Carville are not being paid by the Kerry campaign for their advice.

A press release from James Carville’s office two weeks ago said that the Louisiana native’s official title is “CNN Crossfire host and Democratic strategist.”

“In addition, he has no official role with the Kerry/Edwards Campaign,” the release stated.

Mike Freedman, GW’s vice president for Communications, who worked to bring the political debate show to campus, said the Democratic consultants are the right men for their job.

“CNN Crossfire is designed as a lively political debate and discussion, not a network newscast,” Freedman wrote in an e-mail last week. “Our students know and understand the significant difference.”

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