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Maxine Waters Dictates Policy to CBS News

Congresswoman requests—and receives—greater diversity in network’s coverage

By Evan Gahr, January 17, 2019 9:13 am

Rep. Maxine Waters sought answers from CBS News about the makeup of its presidential coverage.

Is there a black way and a white way to cover political campaigns?

California Representative Maxine Waters seems to think so.

Waters yesterday conferred with top CBS News officials following tweeted complaints from her and other luminaries that CBS News has not assigned any black journalists to cover the 2020 presidential campaign.

On Monday, Waters, echoing gripes from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and actress Kerry Washington tweeted “CBS, the efforts on your website about your support for diversity fly in the face of your display of all of the reporters you’ve selected for the 2020 campaign. Not one Black. What’s up with this? An explanation is needed.”

Clearly feeling the heat, CBS then requested a meeting with Waters, the California Globe has learned.

After the Tuesday confab, Waters tweeted out a smiling photo of her with CBS News Vice-President Kim Godwin and Washington bureau chief Chris Isham. Waters triumphantly reported that CBS had promised to hire blacks for its 2020 team. And she vowed to keep pressuring them for more diversity hires.

“UPDATE: Within 24hrs of my Tweet, @CBSNews reps met w/ me on Capitol Hill.

“CBS admitted they had a lot of work to do & committed to including Blacks on their 2020 election team & all other teams.

“True diversity is the inclusion of ALL.

“I won’t let them off the hook!”

She undoubtedly won’t.

But maybe some folks who are so committed to safeguarding journalistic independence against supposedly constant assaults by Donald Trump should find it a bit discomfiting that a congresswoman is now dictating personnel decisions to a news network?

Imagine the ruckus that would ensue if Trump or a Republican congressman started demanding that CBS News hire conservative evangelical Christians for the sake of diversity.

The controversy had developed over the weekend on Saturday when CBS News associate producer Ben Mitchell tweeted out photos of its “political embed unit” for the 2020 campaign: eight reporters and four producers (including Mitchell himself) who go everywhere the leading candidates go.  None of the assembled journalists was black. But according to Variety, four of the reporters were persons of color: Afghanistan native Musadiq Bidar, Alex Tin, Jack Turman and Stephanie Ramirez.

In response to Mitchell’s tweet, Ocasio-Cortez wrote, “This WH admin has made having a functional understanding of race in America one of the most important core competencies for a political journalist to have, yet @CBSNews hasn’t assigned a *single* black journalist to cover the 2020 election.

“Unacceptable in 2019. Try Again.”

Actress Kerry Washington on Sunday rebuked CBS News on Twitter but more gently than Ocasio-Cortez.

“I am encouraged by the diversity you DID include. But when it comes time to discuss the inevitable role that race and racism will play in the election, who will you turn to for a perspective with nuanced & personal understanding of the African American experience?”

Waters’ press secretary did not reply to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, in a telling example of just how slothful many reporters are these days, most coverage of the meeting did not say when it occurred or provide the names of the CBS officials that Waters summoned to the meeting.

The Hill, for example, simply said obliquely that she met with “representatives” from CBS–basically re-writing the congresswoman’s tweet that she met with “reps.”

Who? What? When? Where?

Once upon a time these questions were staples of news stories. And nothing would be published without the answers. Now they seem like mere afterthoughts in the rush to accumulate pageviews.

Evan Gahr

Evan Gahr was the Washington Gadfly columnist for the Daily Caller and press critic for New York Post editorial page editor Eric Breindel.
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