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Brown's CNN Role: A Matter Of Opinion
Brown made headlines last month with a persistent interview of McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds, in which she kept challenging him to name one decision Palin had made as commander of Alaska's National Guard. The McCain camp promptly canceled the candidate's scheduled appearance on Larry King.
Her self-described "rant" about Palin came on Sept. 24, when the campaign tried to keep reporters out of the Alaska governor's photo ops with world leaders at the United Nations: "I have had enough of the sexist treatment of Sarah Palin. . . . I call upon the McCain campaign to stop treating Sarah Palin like she is a delicate flower who will wilt at any moment."
On Oct. 6, Brown said it was "just outrageous" for Palin to say, of Obama's past contacts with onetime Weathermen bomber William Ayers, that he "pals around with terrorists." But she said that "Obama's hands aren't clean, either," noting that he had released a Web video about McCain's role in the Keating Five scandal after saying the issue was "not germane."
Two days later, Brown admonished McCain for "inciting crowds" against Obama and accused two of his surrogates of "race-baiting" for calling the Democratic nominee Barack Hussein Obama.
Nicolle Wallace, a senior McCain adviser, says that when she was at the Bush White House she "admired" Brown's approach but now believes the anchor is one-sided. "I find her work at CNN a stunning departure from journalism in the tradition of tough, smart women like Andrea Mitchell, Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric, to something that looks and feels a lot more like commentary in the mold of Keith Olbermann," Wallace says.
Brown says the campaign has not offered specifics to back up its complaints about her supposed bias. "That as a journalist I dared to ask them to explain what Governor Palin's foreign policy credentials were? That I dared to ask the campaign to give journalists basic access to their vice presidential candidate? This is why they are lashing out? Give me a break."
Obama spokesman Bill Burton calls Brown "very tough" on his side. While chiding both candidates for being vague about their economic proposals last week, Brown said Obama's answers "sound like they are coming from someone living in la-la land."
Brown says she operates on a case-by-case basis. "You're never going to hear me say, 'Well, I've been critical of Obama five times so now I need to be critical of McCain five times.' That is a false equivalence, and that's what I think is wrong with journalism."
But she has evolved since saying in an interview last year that "I'm not going to do opinion. That's not who I am." Now that she is taking a more aggressive stance, Brown has decided to use her new slogan as the name of her post-election show. It will be dubbed "Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull."
"As silly as slogans and catchphrases are," Brown says, "ours defines what we're going through here."
Howard Kurtz hosts CNN's weekly media program, "Reliable Sources."