Vittert: Jan. 6 panel acknowledges hearings are a TV show

On Balance with Leland Vittert

(NewsNation) — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riots finally acknowledged today what we’ve told you all along — it’s a TV show.

The hearings are driven by ratings, not an independent, bipartisan fact-finding mission of patriots.

How do we know this? Well, Chairman Bennie Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney on Tuesday made the following statement:

“In light of Hurricane Ian bearing down on parts of Florida, we have decided to postpone tomorrow’s proceedings. We’re praying for the safety of all those in the storm’s path. The Select Committee’s investigation goes forward and we will soon announce a date for the postponed proceedings.”

Again, thank you for telling the truth.

The committee acknowledged the obvious — we would all rather talk about a hurricane than another hearing. When they suddenly had competition on cable TV, they canceled.

Maybe MSNBC and CNN told the committee they would air the hurricane since it rates, and the committee bailed. Call me cynical, but that’s how these things work.

In fact, up until the email, MSNBC had a promo on the screen for hours, promising wall-to-wall coverage of the hearing that was scheduled for Wednesday.

You have no idea how happy Rashida Jones, the president of MSNBC, is that she doesn’t need to make the decision between covering the hurricane and ratings versus airing another episode of the hearings.

In other words, the hearings are must-see TV until there is something else to see. The hearings aren’t hearings — in the words of George Will, they are tellings or showings.

They are TV shows produced by the former head of ABC for maximum effect. As far as we know, there are no Florida-based witnesses unable to attend Wednesday.

No, the committee realized that whatever big news they had wasn’t going to compete with a hurricane.

To be fair, the committee did find a lot. They proved what everybody long knew — former President Donald Trump tried to overturn the election. Trump whipped up the crowd on Jan. 6 and did nothing to stop the riot. I can go on. The committee did good and important work.

They just didn’t produce good TV. And Wednesday was going to be the last hearing before the election. The closer they got to the election, the more nakedly political the committee’s TV episodes looked.

That brings us to what Jen Psaki said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: The more Democrats can make the midterms about Trump, the better for them.

But now the committee can air their final episode closer to the election without looking political. Just wait for the release next week: We hoped to do this in September, but the American people deserve answers before they vote, so we are going to hold our last hearing in mid-October.

To be fair, if they held the hearing Wednesday, the right would call the committee callous and uncaring for airing an episode during the hurricane. The left would be angry the committee wasted a final chance to convince voters about how dangerous Trump is. And the center would not notice or care.

So perhaps in this case, not only did the committee tell the truth, but they will be rewarded for it.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not of NewsNation.

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