There’s some bull in Campbell Brown’s “”No Bias, No Bull” Election Center

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Campbell Brown anchors CNN's Campbell Brown: Election Center

No, it wasn’t the “No Bias, No Bull” segment in Thursday’s ‘Campbell Brown: Election Center show on CNN.

I actually enjoyed that segment by CNN correspondent Tom Foreman.  It took to task some of the less than factual comments Barack Obama and John McCain made about each other in Wednesday’s presidential debate.

What was disingenuous about the Campbell Brown show was it’s chronic  teasing of a report on Joe the plumber.  He’s the Ohio man both candidates referred to 26 times in the presidential debate.  His real name is Joe Wurzelbacher and he questioned Obama’s tax break proposal during an Obama campaign swing through northwest Ohio on Sunday.

“And, then, of course, there is Joe the plumber,” said Brown in the first few minutes of her show Thursday. “How did a bald guy from Toledo become the star of the presidential campaign? And is he even a plumber at all? We are going to have all the answers for you tonight.

Joe, your 15 minutes just started. The clock is ticking.”

Wurzelbacher spoke with Obama Sunday when the Democrat visited Toledo.  Wurzelbacher told Obama that the candidate’s tax plan would keep him from buying the business that currently employs him.

Sensing an opening in Wednesday’s presidential debate, McCain cited that exchange when the candidates were asked to explain why their economic plans are better than their opponent’s.  McCain said Obama’s plan would stop entrepreneurs from investing in new small businesses and keep existing ones from growing.

Before another commercial break, Brown teased Joe the plumber again.

“And then, later, the star of last night’s debate — they mentioned Joe the plumber’s name 26 times. Well, now the media has found him.”

And later in Brown’s show this tease-

“And, then, later, the star of last night’s debate, Joe the plumber, suddenly thrust into the national spotlight. We are hearing, the plumber sprung a few leaks. For starters, he doesn’t actually have a plumber’s license.”

A few more minutes-

“Last night this time, it sometimes felt like we were trapped in a Home Depot commercial, “Joe the plumber” this, “Joe the plumber” that. But who is this guy? You might say he’s the Britney Spears of politics. Really. He says so himself. This guy is on one very strange ride right now.”

And this-

“The guy who was the star of last night’s presidential debate stepped into the spotlight today. The candidates couldn’t stop talking about Joe the plumber. Today, the cameras and microphones couldn’t stay away. You’re going to want to hear this.”

And this-

“Still ahead, the guy McCain and Obama keep talking about during the debate. Guess what? Joe the plumber’s 15 minute of fame are not up. We’ll be back.”

And this-

“When we come back, the biggest instant celebrity in politics, Joe the plumber speaks out. How does he feel about his sudden fame and what about the reports that apparently he’s not even registered to vote? I don’t think that’s true.”

And finally, during the waning minutes of Brown’s show-

BROWN: No matter whether you’re going for McCain or Obama, you don’t need a flash poll or room full of pundits to know who won last night’s debate. It was a guy whose name was mentioned 26 times. So who is Joe the plumber? Mary Snow went to Ohio to find out.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is what Joe the plumber’s life looks like right now, and this is what happens when your name is mentioned more than 20 times by both candidates in the final presidential debate.

The media has been parked out here. His phone has been ringing off the hook. Neighbors have been selling Joe the plumber t-shirts.

Wurzelbacher was angered after reading blogs that questioned a number of things about him, including whether or not he was even registered to vote. He says he is. Now all this attention started when Barack Obama campaigned here in this middle-class community on Sunday and Wurzelbacher asked him a question and challenged him on his tax plan for small business owners.

JOE WURZELBACHER, “JOE THE PLUMBER”: I asked a question. Obama messed up in answering a little bit, you know, said they’re redistributing some wealth. And so, everyone’s kind of picked up on that.

And so, they’re using it, just anybody, to drive home a point. But I mean, it’s a valid point, though. So I don’t mind being used in that area.

SNOW: Wurzelbacher won’t disclose how he’ll vote, but when I asked him what he thought about the political process after he gained so much attention so quickly, he says it scares him.

Mary Snow, CNN, Holland, Ohio.  (Complete show transcript)

For the record, local election officials confirmed to other news media who actually did some digging that Wurzelbacher is registered to vote.  They said he was incorrectly registered as Samuel Joseph Worzelbacher and that he voted for the first time in Ohio’s Republican March primary.

As for all those “Joe the Plumber” teases during Brown’s program; It’s a worn and shabby way producers try to string an audience along, hoping they’ll view a program until the very end.

That’s where the “Joe the Plumber” report finally appeared. When the much hyped moment finally arrived, we learned little about Wurzelbacher that the Internet, television stations and cable networks hadn’t already reported on Thursday.

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, answers a question from plumber Joe Wurzelbacher in Holland, Ohio, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2008. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, answers a question from plumber Joe Wurzelbacher in Holland, Ohio, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2008. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Snow’s Joe the plumber report never answered the questions Brown raised about whether Wurzelbacher was a licensed plumber (he’s not) or  a registered voter (he is).

Lots of hype. Little substance.

Brown and the producers of her show disrespected the viewers who stuck around expecting to hear more and getting less.

I wonder what other viewers might think of Campbell Brown and CNN?  They often do a good job of identifying the hype associated with negative campaign ads and some of the candidates claims that have spilled from the 2008 presidential campaign.   Somehow thoiugh,  Brown and CNN can’t get a handle on their own hyperbole.

Maybe not a big deal now.  In the end though, stunts like that erode credibility.

In a recent New York Times article, David Doss, senior executive producer of “Election Center,” said Ms. Brown can be as relentless with colleagues as she is with a reluctant guest.

Viewers of the program might wish Ms. Brown were more relentless with content instead of the hyper-bull-ee they saw on Thursday’s program.

About Bernard McCoy

My views are my own and not a reflection of my employer. I'm a professor of Journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I've also been a working journalist for the past 29 years. I have covered news stories in war zones, reported on human and natural disasters, presidential conventions, a presidential inauguration and the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. My career experiences include work as an award-winning documentary producer, television news reporter, photographer, producer, and anchor. I worked at WIBW-TV, Topeka, KS., KCTV, Kansas City, MO, WKBD-TV, Detroit, MI., WILX-TV, Lansing, MI. and WBNS-TV, Columbus, OH. I have also worked as a contributing reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, Associated Press, CBS, CNN, the Ohio News Network and lecture at the Kosovo Institute of Journalism and Communications. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in telecommunications management from Michigan State University.
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2 Responses to There’s some bull in Campbell Brown’s “”No Bias, No Bull” Election Center

  1. Sukanya says:

    Thank you very much for your article. I thinks it ok.

  2. Pingback: Enslaved Press attacked by one of their own -

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