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Tim Robbins censored on The Today Show (NBC)

I’m tiring of posting negative stuff lately, but this is just too weird to pass up. I was reading Jen’s blog this morning, and came upon this entry from April 14 (her archives aren’t working, so I can’t link to the exact post):

Just as I was leaving for work today, I caught the first half of “The Today Show” interview between Matt Lauer and Tim Robbins, who came on the show to discuss his affiliation with the Baseball Hall of Fame. Predictably, the discussion turned to politics. Lauer and Robbins debated back and forth for a few minutes until it was obvious the censors were going to unleash their cruel powers. Just as Robbins started, “And what about the war in Afghanistan? Did we all forget about that?” the bad theme music interjected and the program segued into commercial.

Robbins has already made the news recently when Dale Petroskey, president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and a former Reagan aide, cancelled a 15th anniversary celebration of the movie “Bull Durham“, scheduled for 26-27 April. The reason for cancelling, according to Petroskey, was that the Hall is not a place for pro- or anti-war statements, and that given Robbin’s and Susan Sarandon’s track record of criticizing the Bush administration, the Hall didn’t want the take the chance that one or both of them might actually say something in an anti-war vein. (Robbins responded, noting that he was looking forward to “a weekend away from politics and war.” Also, baseball writer Roger Kahn cancelled an appearance at the Hall in protest of Petroskey’s actions.)

But getting back to the Today show incident, here’s the weird part: try searching for reports on this incident – there’s nothing out there. I searched Google News, Poynter/Jim Romenesko, I Want Media,, CNN, Reuters, AP, Drudge, NYTimes, etc etc etc., to no avail. Are news reporting agencies self-censoring this story? Is there collusion? When is it going to warm up in Edmonton?

The day after he was censored while being interviewed on live television, Robbins spoke to the National Press Club in DC.

9 Responses to “Tim Robbins censored on The Today Show (NBC)”

  1. Keith Says:

    Although the United States boasts of being the “land of the free”, it has less tolerance for what can be said than some of the supposedly horrible countries that they claim are non-democratic.

  2. Sean Engmann Says:

    This “news” story of Tim Robbins being censored on The Today Show is as bogus as it gets. The “story” broke over the weekend as the result of a piece by one Steve Rosenbaum, a TV producer for the prestigious Rock and Rap Confidential. “Not in Our Name” picked up the story, and without checking up on the facts, decided to run with it. The story is now permeating through college campuses as professors recklessly read Rosenbaum’s account verbatim to classes and send out a copy via e-mail.

    Upon first reading the story, I was skeptical, particularly since, if NBC censored Robbins, it would logically have been a major news story on every other network. Also, had Robbins been cut off on the April 14th Today Show, surely he would have brought it up in his remarks to the National Press Club in his April 15th speech regarding what he perceives to be an erosion of his 1st Amendment rights. There was not one mention of any wrongdoing by Today in his entire speech (though he did attack other networks, such as FOX News quite pointedly). My skepticism led me to search for the streaming video of the interview, which MSNBC has available at:

    As you’ll see in the video, much of the content described here by Rosenbaum is discussed, however, there is clearly no evidence of any censorship whatsoever. The fact that people are giving such extremists credibility shocks me. This story continually gets passed along by chain e-mail, distorting the views of many, with a reckless disregard for the truth. Anyone sending out this story should be ashamed of themselves as it is a blatant power grab by extremists. These people send out a classic piece of propaganda, in which they have the audacity to claim that the media itself is being used as a propaganda tool by the Bush Administration. I guess the best way to get away with a lie is to be overt about it, and accuse others of doing what you are. Shameful.

  3. randy Says:

    Interesting bit of information, Sean, thank you. If what you have reported is correct, this would explain the lack of any news about it anywhere. What’s odd, of course, is that I don’t doubt what Jenny saw in NYC that morning – note that I quoted her, but cannot link to the specific entry. Given what you’ve written, and the link to the clip, what am I to conclude? Assuming Jen is telling it straight (and I have no reason to doubt her), do we conclude that NBC in NYC went to commercial at the moment Jen describes? I note that Jen mentions that she saw the first half of the interview. The streaming video you found seems to be the second half of the interview (2 min 15 secs or so). Might this have happened at the end of the first half?

    I wasn’t aware of the Rosenbaum piece. My only source was Jen’s blog, as she reported it there, i.e., reported what she saw.

    I’m surprised that people would think the Bush administration would be using the media as a propoganga tool. These days, the media are primarily to the right anyway, so Bush and his cronies have little need to use them as such – the media is doing fine on his behalf by themselves.

  4. Jeremiah Says:

    I saw the interview with Tim Robbins live on the Today Show. He was obviously in the middle of a sentence (not to mention a train of thought) when the music began to play and the picture awkwardly faded to black and commercial. Someone got trigger happy. Maybe he wasn’t offended by it. Maybe it was truly some sort of accident and he was informed of it afterward. But it certainly appear to me as I watched it live that he had been cut off.

  5. randy Says:

    Jeremiah: Many thanks for being the “fact-checker” on this one. Perhaps the whole incident was in error, we’ll probably never know. But your comment is good enough for me, and simply verifies what Jenny said happened (see the entry for 10:06 am).

    Sean did the right thing in seeking out and finding the streaming video of the interview. My guess, however, is that MSNBC posted the second half, and not the first, probably because he was indeed cut off.

    Man, isn’t this a load of fun??

  6. Jenny Says:

    It seems to be the case that NBC taped the entire interview (as I’ve said before, maybe for their records?) but, for public broadcast, truncated the latter half in the event that Robbins’ words would offend some viewers. Jeremiah’s absolutely right in saying that the interruption was very awkward, and if for some reason Robbins doesn’t seem affected by it, perhaps it’s because a) it truly was an accident on NBC’s part, or b) he has become used to this type of censorship because of his willingness to express his political concerns. Just a thought.

  7. Jim Says:

    So come on, folks, isn’t there SOMEone out there who actually VCR’d/DVR’d the show as it aired? Maybe some Tivo or Replay owner who banked them while at work… let’s have a look at the thing we’re really talking about.

    Meanwhile, Jenny will be glad to know NBC’s “Want to voice your opinions on NBC shows?” link no longer points to that unbuilt site. Instead, it goes to a page that invites you to take a survey and become a “panel member” for NBC. If you decline, you’re offered a link “[f]or other feedback or to email NBC”, which leads you right back to the Contact Us page, where you can re-enter the loop.
    ( We used to let computers execute the infinite loops for us, but now they’re too busy putting you on hold and clerking the online stores, so humans have to do it instead 🙂

  8. Wendy Says:

    Is anyone keeping track of the growing list of fired and censored news reporters and celebraties? It ought to be posted like a war memorial wall and sent to congress people and the silent editors everywhere with the message “shame on you.”

  9. HH Says:

    Huh? Robbins was “used to it” yet he complained about censorship the very next day? If he believed he had been censored by NBC, we would have heard about it then.

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