Thursday, April 26, 2007

Dean: "Bar media and candidates will talk"


The head of the Democratic Party said Wednesday that the best way to get presidential candidates to talk frankly about issues is to lock out the media.

During the Mortgage Bankers Association conference, a banker expressed frustration with candidates who only talk in sound bites and wondered how that could be changed. Howard Dean, once a presidential candidate, offered a simple solution.

"I suggest you have candidates in to meetings like this and bar the press," Dean said.

The Democratic National Committee chairman criticized media coverage, arguing that networks such as CBS used to put content first and didn't mind losing money for the prestige of delivering a quality news report. Dean said the days of Walter Cronkite are gone and the corporatization of the media has led to a desire to boost profits.

"The media has been reduced to info-tainment," Dean said. "Info-tainment sells, the problem is they reach the lowest common denominator instead of forcing a little education down our throats, which we are probably in need of from time to time."

National Press Club President Jerry Zremski lashed out at Dean for suggesting barring the media.

"Has Dean read the First Amendment? The Founding Fathers knew that a free press is central to the free flow of information to the citizenry — and that the free flow of information is the very foundation of a democracy. Repressing media is a tactic one expects from totalitarian regimes, not democracies," Zremski said.

Dean was considered a strong contender for the 2004 Democratic nomination, but after finishing third in the Iowa caucuses, he gave a speech that included a rant punctuated by a scream. The clip was shown repeatedly on television and became the subject of late-night jokes.

Dean said politicians live in fear that their words will be twisted for the sake of headlines.

"Politicians are incredibly careful not to say anything if they can possibly help it, except if it is exactly scripted. And if you want to hear anybody's true views, you cannot do it in the same room as the press," Dean said. "If you want to hear the truth from them, you have to exclude the press."

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