Shoot the messenger – yet again

The Julian Assange saga brings to mind another truth-teller who had to go.    

    Remember Ashleigh Banfield, the former ‘next big thing’ in cable news? Her reporting from the Twin Towers on 9/11 (she personally pulled an injured cop out of harm’s way fer Elvis sake!) and then from Afghanistan and briefly from Iraq was substantial, exciting, fiercely honest.

Banfield in Tora Tora with Afghan fighters

That was then. In April of 2003, a month after we invaded Iraq, in a speech at Kansas State, she criticized the news coverage of Iraq and how news out of Afghanistan had dropped off the radar. She said news coverage of the wars was shallow.

She was of course yanked off the air. MSNBC, her employer, made her wait out her contract in a back room without any reporting or on air assignments. The point was to keep her out of sight until her star faded. The point was punishment. It worked. Banfield now works  as co-anchor on some Court TV show.

Here are some outtakes from that speech. The whole thing is here.






There was just a memorandum that came through saying we’re closing the Kabul bureau. The Kabul bureau has only been staffed by one person for the last several months, Maria Fasal, she’s Afghan and she wanted to be there, otherwise I don’t think anyone would have taken that assignment. There’s just been no allotment of TV minutes for Afghanistan.
And I am very concerned that the same thing is about to happen with Iraq, because we’re going to have another Gary Condit, and we’re going to have another Chandra Levy and we’re going to have another Jon Benet, and we’re going to have another Elizabeth Smart, and here we are in Laci Peterson, and these stories will dominate. They’re easy to cover, they’re cheap, they’re fast, you don’t have to send somebody overseas, you don’t have to put them up in a hotel that’s expensive overseas, and you don’t have to set up satellite time overseas.

Very cheap to cover domestic news.  



 This TV show [the three weeks of reporting from Iraq] that we just gave you was extraordinarily entertaining, and I really hope that the legacy that it leaves behind is not one that shows war as glorious, because there’s nothing more dangerous than a democracy that thinks this is a glorious thing to do.

War is ugly and it’s dangerous . . .Cable is for entertainment, as it’s turning out, but not news.

I’m hoping that I will have a future in news in cable, but not the way some cable news operators wrap themselves in the American flag and patriotism and go after a certain target demographic, which is very lucrative. You can already see the effects . . . and you can already see that flag waving in the corners of those cable news stations where they have exciting American music to go along with their war coverage. . . I do urge you to be very discerning as you continue to watch the development of cable news, and it is changing like lightning. Be very discerning because it behooves you like it never did before to watch with a grain of salt and to choose responsibly, and to demand what you should know.

After that, she knew she was finished in her chosen field. She took the bullet.

15 responses to “Shoot the messenger – yet again

  1. So that’s what happened to her! I remember noticing that she dropped off the radar very quickly, but I wasn’t really following her. Good for her for standing up. We need more of that everywhere.


  2. Poor people getting fooled into the idea that the first amendment allows to tell things as they are without consequences.


    • The first amendment doesn’t apply to private entities. They can pretty much tell you to get lost anytime they want, albeit they may use sneaky ways to do it in order to avoid other legal prohibitions.


      • I slighty disagree. It applies to them. But most can outspend anyone suing them for what whey said. Money works so well with justice.


        • The first amendment reads “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech”. A corporation you work for can abridge your free speech – if you wear an Obama T-shirt to your job in a Koch brothers factory they can send you home, fire you, whatever. Most employment in the States is at will: they don’t need a reason to fire you. And like you said, you can sue, but they’ve got the bucks, and the Supreme Court ruled that money is speech and can therefore be used without limit to crush freedom, liberty, democracy, what have you. No more do we hear the ringing tones of Patrick Henry or Daniel Webster or Abraham Lincoln. All we hear now is the clink of coin and the rustle of dollars.

          Not wanting to argue constitutional law with you. I’m not qualified.


    • I think Ric’s right on this jean-philippe, and I think most people understand that there are consequences to whatever you say. All the First Amendment guarantees is that the government can’t stop you or come after you for your speech. MSNBC could do whatever they wanted. Creepy of them, but she knew that.


      • My impression is that individuals sue more over this kind of job termination in Canada. Our culture is less tolerant over corporations punishing people expressing their opinion. Because we see our government as a referee between capitalism and people. Your governement, to stay in the sport analogy, is capitalism’s cheerleader. It’s pretty much the same laws but not the same culture…


        • Agreed, not the same culture. I envy you that; people do sue on this issue a lot, and in fact there has been some movement in how freedom of speech is defined, but not much. Basically in this country unregulated capitalism and its crony cheerleaders rule. It’s almost un-American to want to give more than you take (unless of course it’s to your deity in the sky). We moved away from the ‘we’re in this together’ mindset thru most of hte 20th century (Teddy Roosevelt to Jimmy Carter) but then it all began to change with the arrival of Reagan in ’80. I feel that we have since regressed and become a meaner people.


          • I wanted to throw myself out a window when Jimmy Carter said to Bill Maher that he installed solar panels on the roof of the White House and the first thing Reagan did when he got in was to them because “we don’t need to save energy”.

            REMOVING a solar panel to prove a point…!!

            We never even see the bloody roof of the White house… There could be naked chicks painted and we would never know (unless Google build a device using satellite and call it Google maps).


          • j-p…

            Ronnie Raygun was probably acting on the advice of his astrologer when he had the WH maintenance staff tear down the solar panels.


  3. The brave part is that she knew she was committing professional suicide when she said those things.


  4. She got her start down here in Texas. I remember watching her on the morning news for Dallas/Fort Worth. Fox 4. This was back in the early 90’s. I thought she was a rising star and we have not had anyone like her since she left.


  5. Meant to say late 90’s.


  6. Oh, I switched to Firefox, and have yet to sign in.


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