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Attack the Messenger: How Politicians Turn You Against the Media (American Political Challenges) [Hardcover]

Craig Crawford
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 24, 2005 0742538168 978-0742538160
Politicians and the media are natural enemies, but in recent times, the relationship has exploded into all-out war. Think about bimbo eruptions, DUI arrests, cocaine parties, National Guard service records, Swift Boat veterans. Think about two generations of Bush presidents up against Dan Rather. Think about who lost.

Craig Crawford has seen it all up close and personal, and he is disturbed by what he sees. When politicians turn the public against the media, everyone loses—especially unbiased and courageous news reporting. When veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas is banished from her front-row post, as she has been in the current administration—the American public is denied the chance to consider her pointed questions, even if they go unanswered. Worse, when traditional reporters and media are displaced, the pundits and alternative media take over. Rush Limbaugh, The O'Reilly Factor, Comedy Central's Jon Stewart, and the bloggers have their place in American politics, and the 2004 elections showed the incredible power of the Internet. These media, however, are a different breed, as Crawford points out—they serve a purpose, but at a cost. They become "opinion merchants," bartering outrageous assertions for audience appeal with little attention to the truth. These days, the truth is hard to find. If the press is not believed—or believable—because politicians have turned the public against it, then the press is not free, but under the thumbs of politicians. Without a free press, there is no democracy. That, says Crawford, is where we find ourselves today. If you don't like the news, attack the messenger, and it will go away. Going, going, gone.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1988, Vice President George H.W. Bush successfully evaded Dan Rather's questions about his Iran-Contra affair involvement by going on the attack in a live interview on CBS. Crawford, a TV pundit and Congressional Quarterly columnist, identifies this event as the turning point in the media's relationship to both politicians and the nation. In this impassioned dissection of the rapid devolution of the media's power in today's political environment, he asserts that the public's distrust of the news media has reached at a high point, an issue he considers one of "the most hazardous political challenges now facing Americans." Politicians—liberals and conservatives alike (though Republicans bear the brunt of Crawford's ire)—have deflected criticism and convinced the public to blame the media. Though Crawford makes no startling observations or conclusions, he marshals convincing evidence for his argument, from the decline of PBS's editorial independence to the "televised smack-downs" between reporter Helen Thomas and former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer during the lead-up to the Iraq War. Slim as Crawford's book may be, it does a decent job of pulling together the principal moments of the ongoing struggle between the press and the government. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


I have covered many a presidential campaign with Craig Crawford, and I can honestly say that, of all the so-called 'political experts' out there, he definitely consumes the most cheeseburgers. (Dave Barry)

Craig Crawford has written a definitive book that throws new light on the roles of the press and officialdom with sparkling anecdotes that prove his point. He doesn't spare either side, but the First Amendment comes out a winner in this scintillating book. (Helen Thomas, Dean, White House Press Corps, Hearst Columnist)

How lies are made into the truth, and truth made into lies; how the liars come to be perceived as victims and the truth-tellers, evildoers. A cautionary story for those of all political stripes, to say nothing of journalists and those who consume information today, and Crawford's nailed it. (Keith Olbermann, MSNBC)

It's all here—the good, the bad, and the ugly . . . and cable, too—all compiled by a political pro with a jeweler's eye for detail and the distance vision of a fighter pilot. Craig Crawford knows his beat. (anchor and managing editor, NBC Nightly News)

Craig's book made me alternately squeal with delight at the media's arrogance and curse his mother, Toby, for giving him life where he reveals the complicity of politicians in the contemporary degradation of political/press affairs. But Attack the Messenger is not about assigning blame; its an inspiration to stop the madness for democracy's sake. The media must stop presuming all politicians are corrupt, egomaniacal liars, and we pols have to consider the possibility that not all media are evil, self-serving, out-of-touch cynics. Both professions are anchored in ideas, populated with idealists who all rue their tradecrafts have degenerated to a point that devalues both their noble worlds and worse—the public they both long to serve. (Mary Matalin, Republican political consultant)

With wit and insider knowledge, Craig Crawford identifies America's Most Wanted: the con-men, spinners, character assassins, electronic demagogues, greedy bottom-liners, and barefaced liars who—with rather too much help from sloppiness in the media—are destroying public faith in the institution of a free press. This is a timely and entertaining book—which is more than I can say for most of the people in its gallery. (Tina Brown, Washington Post columnist and author)

Impassioned dissection of the rapid devolution of the media's power in today's political environment...pull[s] together the principal moments of the ongoing struggles between the press and the government. (Publishers Weekly)

Crawford . . . is a Washington insider, a purveyor of inside wisdom and a collector of mind-numbing detail. (David Shribman St. Petersburg Times)

Provocative. . . . Mr. Crawford's book serves as a useful introduction to the issue at hand, providing a persuasive sketch of how the current White House, with assists from its two predecessors and a changing media landscape, has worked to undermine the mainstream press. (Michiko Kakutani, Books of the Times Editor The New York Times)

Crawford often writes engagingly and has his moments of perceptiveness and clarity. (Margaret Sullivan, editor-in-chief, The Buffalo News Washington Monthly)

Product Details

  • Series: American Political Challenges
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (August 24, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0742538168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0742538160
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,815,251 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Craig Crawford ( was born in 1956 in Owensboro, Kentucky at Davies County Hospital (which happens to be the same facility where actor Johnny Depp took human form some years later). His parents, Bill Crawford, a road builder, and Tabitha ("Toby") Craig, a school teacher, gambled on a new life in Florida when Craig was three years old. To this day, the family calls Orlando home, although work requirements mostly keep Craig and David Blank, his domestic partner since 1987, stuck in the belly of the beast, Washington, D.C. Craig is a blogger, news commentator and author of three books: "Attack the Messenger," "The Politics of Life," and "Listen Up, Mr. President." Follow Craig on Twitter at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a fantastic book! September 10, 2005
By Marisa
Once I picked it up I didn't want to put it down again. Craig Crawford has provided compelling and insightful criticism of the role of politicians and the press in the erosion of public trust in the media. A sobering look at the intersection of politics and media as it exists today. A must read for consumers of news and information, but should be of particular interest to students of Journalism, Public Policy and Political Science.

Craig offers much needed historical context for the breakdown in trust between the politicians, the press and the public. He makes an eloquent case for the importance of a free press to a healthy democracy. We all benefit when the press is free to serve its ultimate purpose of watchdog and informant for the public, and we all suffer when that process is eroded. Everyone should read this book.

Buy this book! Buy this book! Seriously, you'll be glad you did.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Needed Debate September 16, 2005
By C. Todd
Crawford brings to the mainstream a debate that's been taking place among journalists for years. As citizen journalism grows, the power of the "MSM" will only grow as someone will always be looked to, to call "balls and strikes." This means the strategy of politicians (no matter their party) attacking the media will continue. (The Clintons were just as bad about attacking the media, er, messenger, as the Bushes) And this book details just how harmful the discrediting of journalism is to the Republic.

Crawford has a unique ability to see things with a vision most in DC don't have. It helps that Crawford never forgets his roots, something that's always refreshing during his must listen to appearances on "Imus." He's never a "conventional wisdom" rehasher.

Crawford also brings to light the debate about "bias." He correctly reminds readers that all journalists have bias. Sometimes the bias is for an ideology, sometimes for a person and sometimes for an issue. A good journalist is "Fair and Biased."

Bottom line, whether you are a casual follower of politics or an up-and-coming journalist/blogger, this is a must read book. You won't be disappointed.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Attack the Messenger October 15, 2005
Mr. Crawford's pulling back the curtain that surrounds the media/political world that is Washington DC is both compelling and more then a little scary.

His examples of how the First Amendment is damaged by the constant battling between the press and polaticans are troubling for all that believe that a free press is the only tool Americans have to protect our freedoms.

Crawford's insights are sharp and unique and therefore a must read for anyone that's interested in the present art of "the spin" and how it's used for both good and evil.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Vote! It Just Encourages Them! October 17, 2005
With a sardonic wit rarely heard in today's vacuous media echo chamber, MSNBC-CBS-Imus-CQ political pundit Craig Crawford provides an erudite treatise on why political journalism is in such turmoil. His analysis is as clear as Ketel One vodka on the rocks; his interpretation of the new media's impact on political coverage is as meaty as a triple-decker club sandwich. In this era of gotchya journalism and the politicians who hate it, Crawford provides a scholarly take on the hows and whys on the modern blabbocracy.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fair and Balanced for Real October 16, 2005
Crawford tells it like it is - even if it exposes George W. Bush for railroading the country into war or Bill Clinton for lying about a more personal faux pas. He even shares his own hate mail, being upfront about what some of his critics are thinking. But in the end, we get a fair look at how it is from the media's point of view...why what looks like a rude follow-up question from a reporter was actually necessary to avoid a politician's attempt to dodge and spin. Crawford's examples from recent history tie it all together.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Attack the Messenger Attacks the Problem September 18, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm going to buy Christmas copies of "Attack the Messenger" for several friends on both sides of the political aisle. It's a no nonsense, non-partisan examination of how the public has been being sold anti-media Kool-Aid for decades. Because I haven't always agreed with Mr. Crawford, I always figured he was a fair-minded journalist whose only agenda was the truth. And I appreciate the fact that he points out this glaring truth: it's not "spin" -- it's propaganda. Unless we Americans stop allowing ourselves to be dumbed down, whether it is through the damning of the media, of intellectualism or of diversity, we will find ourselves in a world we neither recognize nor respect. But one that we may deserve. As Crawford points out, "It is time for the bewildered herd to get a clue."
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This book analyzes in detail how politicians manipulate the media by attacking journalists who ask tough questions. It traces this technique back to the first Bush administration which adopted it as its primary means of dealing with the media.

Craig Crawford is both a journalist and a lawyer and he makes his argument by citing specific evidence at each step. The book is concise and focused and the topic is an important one. If we are to preserve democracy we must not allow politicans to escape scrutiny by shifting the debate to the alleged bias of the press.

This book should be recommended reading for all political science and journalism students and anyone else who cares deeply about a free press.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars How Lame
His assertion is that democracy is threatened because people don't believe the press. And people don't believe the press because politicians have been attacking it. How lame. Read more
Published on May 6, 2011 by David A. Hall
1.0 out of 5 stars THE BIG LIE
You need to write another book this next one about 9/11 how the media and politicians were coerced by the corporate rich to make it happen.
Published on February 26, 2010 by Michael Jourdan
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Done
Craig Crawford is a political commentator who appears regularly on MSNBC and other news shows, he is also a fine and reliable writer at Congressional Quarterly. Read more
Published on October 14, 2007 by Aging Hipstorian
5.0 out of 5 stars political and economic pressures make it hard to find the truth
This is a well written and extremely important book. If I had to summarize it in a few words, it would be, in Craig Crawford's own words:

"Today's media is as bullied... Read more
Published on September 19, 2006 by edevere
4.0 out of 5 stars Perceptive but not book worthy
I agree with the other reviewers who praised Craig Crawford for his views but felt they could have been summed up in a magazine piece rather than a book. Read more
Published on August 6, 2006 by Brian M. Ayres
4.0 out of 5 stars good stuff
I was drawn to this book by Crawford's unbottled on-air personality -- he's one of only two political commentators (Howard Fineman is the other) I'll always stop and listen to... Read more
Published on May 8, 2006 by Ronnoe Konnoe
3.0 out of 5 stars Should Have Been Condensed to a Magazine Article
"If the press is not believed because politicians have turned the public against it, then the press is not free, but under the thumbs of politicians. Read more
Published on March 22, 2006 by Loyd E. Eskildson
4.0 out of 5 stars Posturing Politics.
Crawford has managed to rationilise the rivalry of the White House and government with that of the media. It truly is a war of words and subterfuge that renders the public mute. Read more
Published on October 16, 2005 by The Blue Henry
2.0 out of 5 stars The messenger commits suicide.
While I don't always agree with his TV analysis, I enjoy Mr. Crawford's commentaries. His book, however, is surprisingly shallow and can be summed up in one chapter with footnotes. Read more
Published on October 14, 2005 by Mary McFadden
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