CBS Hypes Michelle Obama for 'Praising Free Speech,' Skips Press Blackout of Her China Trip
Ignoring the most important part of the story, CBS This Morning reporter Jan Crawford hyped Michelle Obama for promoting free speech in China. Yet, Crawford never mentioned that American journalists weren't allowed to travel with the First Lady on her trip. With no sense of irony, Crawford touted, "Michelle Obama hit a hot button issue in China by praising freedom of speech in America." [MP3 audio here.]
The journalist played a clip of Mrs. Obama trumpeting, "My husband and I are under plenty of questioning and criticism from our media and our fellow citizens...But we wouldn't trade it for anything in the world." Wouldn't this have been a good point to stop and inform viewers that the First Lady did just that? Crawford even used Michelle Obama to report on Michelle Obama.
Since American journalists weren't allowed to travel with Obama, Crawford substituted, noting that visiting the Great Wall was "an experience she blogged about on the White House website."
Viewers then saw official WhiteHouse.gov video. Obama blandly lectured, "It's day three of our trip. It's in Beijing. The length of the great wall of China is approximately 13,000 miles."
Crawford included another government-run clip of Obama talking about physical fitness: "Students here are encouraged to stay fit, just as we are trying to do for our children in the United States through Let's Move."
Neither Crawford, nor any of the hosts mentioned the irony of supporting free speech in China while stifling access for American journalists.
Co-host Charlie Rose described what the First Lady did as "explaining why press freedom makes a difference for us."
On Saturday, ABC and NBC followed a similar course of action, ignoring the press blackout.
The same thing happened on Friday.
A transcript of the March 24 segment is below:
CBS GRAPHIC: Speaking Freely: In China, First Lady Praises Freedom of Speech
CHARLIE ROSE: That news comes with First Lady Michelle Obama in China this morning. She is catching some by surprise after taking on another heated technology issue. Jan Crawford reports from the White House on a diplomatic detour. Good morning.
JAN CRAWFORD: Well, good morning. You know, the First Lady is in the middle of this week-long trip to China. She's there with her two daughters. They're there on spring break this week and her mother. She was really expected to avoid any controversial topics. In fact, that's something that she had actually been criticized for. But over the weekend, she took an indirect swipe at China's media's censorship. In a country with some of the tightest internet restrictions in the world, a statement like this comes across as bold.
MICHELLE OBAMA: It's so important for information and ideas to flow freely over the internet and through the media.
CRAWFORD: Michelle Obama hit a hot button issue in China by praising freedom of speech in America.
MICHELLE OBAMA: My husband and I are on the receiving end of plenty of questioning and criticism from our media and our fellow citizens. And it's not always easy, but we wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. Because time and again, we have seen that countries are stronger and more prosperous when the voices and opinions of all their citizens can be heard.
CRAWFORD: So far, it's the only contentious topic the First Lady has addressed. She was dispatched to work on relationship-building between the two countries and the photo-ops have been abundant. Over the weekend, the First Lady took in the Great Wall of China with her daughters Sasha and Malia, an experience she blogged about on the White House website.
OBAMA: It's day three of our trip. It's in Beijing. The length of the great wall of China is approximately 13,000 miles.
CRAWFORD: She's met with the Chinese president and first lady, is visiting schools.
OBAMA: I wouldn't be where I am today won't my parents investing and pushing me to get a good education.
CRAWFORD: And is taking up student exchanges between the U.S. and China. She watched ping-pong class and even played. An opportunity the First Lady used to promote physical fitness on her blog.
OBAMA: Students here are encouraged to stay fit, just as we are trying to do for our children in the United States through Let's Move.
CRAWFORD: The reception from the Chinese has been positive. They praised her clothing and public interactions. One newspaper said the visit would help U.S./China relations. And on China's Twitter equivalent, Michelle Obama became one of the most searched terms.
OBAMA: The relationships between the United States and China couldn't be more important.
CRAWFORD: Now today, which is already this evening in China, big crowds continue to greet the First Lady. In fact, at one point she even accepted an invitation to jump rope. Now the first family will be in China until Wednesday and then they'll be returning back here to the White House. Charlie, Clarissa, Gayle.
GAYLE KING: All right. Thank you, Jan Crawford.
ROSE: It's an interesting way to express what she wanted to say by not criticizing them, but explaining why press freedom makes a difference for us.
CLARISSA WARD: The Chinese will not be happy with that comment.
ROSE: Yeah, but It could have been worse.
WARD: It could have been worse.
KING: And they're paying attention to everything she says and does. Playing ping pong. I like it. Jan Crawford, we thank you.
— Scott Whitlock is Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Scott Whitlock on Twitter.