Media Blog

More on Richard Wolffe and the MSNBC Flap

Over at The New Republic, Gabriel Sherman has a good piece on the Richard Wolffe/MSNBC saga, including information on a new book on President Obama, An excerpt:

Wolffe has come under fire in recent days for wearing two hats: that of a journalist and a corporate flack. Last Friday, he filled in for Keith Olbermann on “Countdown,” prompting protestations from bloggers and media reporters. “Having Richard Wolffe host an MSNBC program–or serving as an almost daily ‘political analyst’–is exactly tantamount to MSNBC’s just turning over an hour every night to a corporate lobbyist,” wrote Salon’s Glenn Greenwald on August 1. Two days later, MSNBC told Politico that the network should have divulged Wolffe’s corporate affiliations to its viewers, and will do so in the future. Writing in the Daily Kos yesterday, Olbermann also admitted to being “caught flat-footed” and remarked that “what appears to be the truth here is certainly not what Richard told us about his non-news job.” (Wolffe joined Public Strategies, Inc., in March. He is not technically a lobbyist.)

Wolffe’s new book is seeking to go deep inside the White House. According to a source with knowledge of the proposal, Wolffe would write chapters about the following topics: the President, the Inner Circle, National Security, the Economy, the East Wing, the Executive Mansion, the Communications Shop, Domestic Policy, the Travel Office, and the Vice President’s office. Without mentioning Bob Woodward by name, Wolffe hints in his proposal that the style of an all-knowing omniscient narrative account is dead, and that he would reinvent the genre with in-the-room access to the top players. The reporting would take place at the beginning of 2010. Crown, which published Wolffe’s Renegade, is also the publisher of Obama’s bestsellers The Audacity of Hope and Dreams of My Father. A spokesperson for Crown did not return multiple calls by deadline. Sean Desmond, Wolffe’s editor who worked on Renegade, did not respond to calls, nor did Tina Constable, Crown’s publisher.

News of Wolffe’s Obama book is problematic for the White House. Of course, Washington is populated with journalists who have worked in politics, but granting deep access to a writer whose day job is to advise corporations is far less orthodox. Further complicating any decision to cooperate with Wolffe is Obama’s signature campaign pledge to curtail the influence of special interests in Washington.

Yes, but Obmama’s campaign pledges, as Jim Geraghty would say, all come with an expiration date, so, I doubt that a fawning book on the administration by Wolffe would be too problematic for this administration.

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