Media: Report

Media Research Center


Still Liberal, Still Biased: How Big Media Helped the Left and Hurt the Right in 2003 (040100)

Section 1

Section 2

Section 3

Section 4

Section 5

Section 6

SUMMARY: MRC’s New Study of 2003 Coverage Proves Media as Liberally Biased as Ever (040124)

EXCERPT of the Report (040126)

NBC Forces Out Bob Arnot Who Delivered Upbeat Stories from Iraq (040220)

Special Edition: The Liberal Media vs. The GOP (040913)

Rather’s Game is Over (040921)

By 12-to-1! Washington Reporters Prefer Kerry Over Bush (040802)

The Media vs. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (040800)

One Economy, Two Spins (Media Research Center, 041014)

“Surprise” at How “Moral Values” Top Issue, Admit Out of Touch (041104)

Fourth Poll Finds Public Recognized Media Tilt Against Bush (Media Research Center, 041118)

Apple: Religious See NYT and WPost as “Arms of Democratic Party” (050510)





Still Liberal, Still Biased: How Big Media Helped the Left and Hurt the Right in 2003 (040100)


By Tim Graham and Rich Noyes

January 2004


Executive Summary


According to a growing number of journalists, the media’s liberal bias — a trait that most reporters refuse to acknowledge — is no longer a problem. Pointing to the commercial success of conservative talk radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, plus the Fox News Channel’s dominance of cable TV, many media liberals insist the news industry has all of the fairness and balance it needs.


“It took conservatives a lot of hard and steady work to push the media rightward. It dishonors that work to continue to presume that — except for a few liberal columnists — that there is any such thing as the big liberal media,” Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne argued late in 2002. Dionne, formerly a top political reporter for both the Post and the New York Times, asserted that the media are actually “heavily biased toward conservative politics and conservative politicians.”


But as a new election year begins, the news organizations who truly dominate the media landscape — such as the Big Three broadcast networks and influential papers like the New York Times — remain what they have been for decades: allies of liberalism and enemies of conservative policies. All last year, Media Research Center analysts documented the media’s coverage of a variety of social and political issues, and found that the Big Media in 2003 reliably reflected the liberal mentality that Dionne and others argued was a thing of the past:




Economic Policy: All year, the media waged a campaign against taxpayers while pushing for ever-expanding government spending. TV gave three times more airtime to liberal arguments against President Bush’s tax cuts than conservative rebuttals, emphasizing how “big” and “huge” those cuts were. But when the subject was a much larger federal handout for senior citizens, the same network correspondents found critics who charged the giveaway of at least $400 billion was “still not enough.”




Foreign Policy: The media showered skepticism on the elected defenders of American liberty, not the tyrants and terrorists who threatened us. Before the war in Iraq, journalists such as ABC’s Peter Jennings advertised their open hostility to President Bush’s policies. During the war, NBC had to fire one of its correspondents for appearing on enemy-controlled Iraqi TV to declare the “failure” of the American war plan. After the war, journalists equated the alleged “quagmire” in Iraq to the failed U.S. effort in Vietnam two generations ago. The networks delighted in bad news — on the day of Saddam’s capture, Jennings pessimistically declared that “there’s not a good deal for Iraqis to be happy about at the moment.”




Social Issues: The media marginalized believers in traditional values and celebrated the counter-morality of secular progressives. On the 30th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, TV virtually ignored the well-attended annual March for Life. Supreme Court reporters contrasted “conservatives” with those supporting “gay rights,” as if conservatives are against “rights.” The networks also portrayed Gene Robinson, the first gay Episcopalian bishop, as a courageous pioneer.




Politics: The media showed extreme reluctance to portray liberal Democrats as ideologues and revealed their double-standard on character issues. Although his presidential campaign is based on absolute opposition to the war in Iraq and reinstating the high tax rates of the Clinton era, numerous journalists rejected the notion that Howard Dean is liberal. As the California recall approached, reporters like Tom Brokaw — who refused to detail Juanita Broaddrick’s sexual assault charges against Bill Clinton — hypocritically confronted Arnold Schwarzenegger with last-minute groping allegations. “In many states, what you did would be criminal,” Brokaw lectured the GOP candidate.


The following month-by-month review shows how liberal bias contaminated the coverage of the major news stories of 2003, even as so many reporters continue to deny such bias exists. As the 2004 presidential campaign gets underway, the media elite — the Big Three networks, CNN, major newspapers and newsmagazines, wire services and taxpayer-subsidized public broadcasting — will surely be the Democrats’ greatest asset, as they twist their stories to boost liberals and thwart conservatives.




Section 1


According to a growing number of journalists, the media’s liberal bias — a trait that most reporters refuse to acknowledge — is no longer a problem. Pointing to the commercial success of conservative talk radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, plus the Fox News Channel’s dominance of cable TV, many media liberals insist the news industry has all of the fairness and balance it needs.


“Today you have broadcast journalists who are avowedly conservative,” CBS’s Lesley Stahl insisted in a January 18, 2003 interview on FNC’s After Hours with Cal Thomas. “The voices that are being heard in broadcast media today are far more — the ones who are being heard — are far more likely to be on the right, and avowedly so.” Stahl, however, could not name a single conservative journalist working at CBS News.


When it came to the war, journalists wished their brethren had been even more critical of the Bush administration. “Certainly television and, perhaps to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News,” CNN’s Christiane Amanpour claimed in a September appearance on CNBC. Amanpour said a “climate of fear and self-censorship” kept network journalists from truthfully reporting.


There wouldn’t be liberal bias when it came to the 2004 presidential election, either. “It took conservatives a lot of hard and steady work to push the media rightward. It dishonors that work to continue to presume that — except for a few liberal columnists — that there is any such thing as the big liberal media,” the Washington Post’s E. J. Dionne argued in a December 2002 column. He found that traditional news sources are “under constant pressure to avoid even the pale hint of liberalism....What it adds up to is a media heavily biased toward conservative politics and conservative politicians.”


These liberal journalists may have correctly sensed that they can no longer get away with the egregious bias that was possible before Limbaugh, before the Internet, before Fox News and before the MRC began documenting the media’s twisted take on the news. But in spite of these beneficial alternatives, the really Big Media — the powerhouse news organizations that produce what most Americans see, hear and read each day — retain a liberal perspective that continues to warp the news.


Although their audiences are steadily shrinking, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts still reach 25 million people, far more than any program on the Fox News Channel. And when the media pack goes looking for story ideas, they are far more likely to parrot the predictable analysis of the New York Times or the Washington Post than repeat the insights of talk radio’s conservative stars.


All last year, the Media Research Center’s news analysts documented the media’s liberal spin on a variety of social and political issues, ranging from the war in Iraq to the presidential election, tax cuts, the welfare state, abortion and the elevation of a gay bishop by the U.S. Episcopalian church. On these issues and many others, the media reliably reflected the liberal mentality that Dionne, Stahl and others have insisted was a thing of the past.


The following month-by-month review of the media elite’s performance in 2003 shows that liberal bias is still very much with us. And that bias is not just of academic interest: As the 2004 presidential campaign gets underway, the media elite — the Big Three networks, CNN, major newspapers and newsmagazines, wire services and taxpayer-subsidized public broadcasting — promise to be the Democrats’ greatest asset, as they twist the news to boost liberals and harm conservatives.




Reporters Pushed Spin of Anti-Tax Cut Liberals: On January 7, President Bush proposed a new round of tax cuts designed to boost the beleaguered stock market and provide a stimulus to the slow-growing economy. In spite of the weak economic environment, an MRC study found network reporters displayed their classic bias against tax cuts by emphasizing the arguments of tax cut opponents.


Media Research Center analysts studied all 28 tax cut stories on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts from January 2 through January 15, 2003, the two weeks surrounding the new tax cut plan’s debut. The study found ABC, CBS and NBC gave three times more airtime to liberal arguments against Bush’s tax cut than to the conservative arguments for it.



Liberal arguments

Conservative arguments














There were three main elements to liberals’ critique of Bush’s tax cut plan. First, they argued that tax cuts were a poor way to stimulate the economy. Second, they claimed that tax cuts would worsen the budget deficit. Lastly, they condemned the tax cut for supposedly only aiding the rich.


The three evening newscasts showed 58 sound bites from politicians, activists or others making one of these three liberal attack points, compared with 27 sound bites from conservatives rejecting these assertions, a greater than two-to-one liberal skew. When TV correspondents themselves weighed in, they sided with liberals another sixteen times, while only one journalist offered an argument supportive of the tax cuts.


The lonely dissident was CNBC’s Ron Insana, who told NBC’s John Seigenthaler on the January 4 Nightly News that “there are some elements of this package that could, in fact, encourage business leaders to spend more on new plant and equipment [purchases], and that is what has been missing in this economic recovery.”


Network correspondents were most likely to repeat the liberal view that the tax cuts benefited the rich, a point reporters asserted 10 times during the two week study period. “The bigger your wallet, the bigger the benefit,” CBS Evening News reporter Byron Pitts insisted on January 6 as he presented the tax cut as liberals wished, in terms of dollars saved, not the percentage tax reduction each family would receive. Emphasizing percentages would have showed the benefits were larger for lower-income families.


Pitts played a soundbite from an “expert” source, an accountant who proclaimed, “If you were to summarize this tax proposal as we see it today, the winners are the wealthy.” Pitts failed to tell CBS viewers that the accountant, Avery Neumark, was a longtime contributor to liberals like New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler as well as the Democratic National Committee.


Reporters could have balanced their coverage by citing statistics placing liberal claims in context. Using IRS figures, the Tax Foundation showed how the tax code punishes the rich: the top 10 percent of Americans (those earning over $92,114) account for 46 percent of all income earned in the U.S., but pay 67.3 percent of income taxes. The top half of earners (those making over $27,682 a year) pay nearly all of the nation’s income taxes. Just two NBC reporters — Campbell Brown and Lisa Myers — told viewers (in general terms) that the rich pay a far higher share of federal income taxes. ABC and CBS completely omitted this basic fact.


And because Bush’s proposal envisioned moving many lower income families into the ranks of non-taxpayers, the rich would wind up paying an even greater share of the income taxes. As Washington Post reporters Dana Milbank and Chris Jenkins noted January 10, “Treasury figures show the share of the tax burden borne by those earning more than $100,000 would rise from 72.4 percent to 73.3 percent” if the whole tax cut passed Congress. But not one network reporter hinted at this further skewing of the tax code against the rich.


TV Treats Pro-Life Marchers as Irrelevant: Despite the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, the networks studiously ignored the well-attended annual March for Life on January 23 – a stark contrast with the amount of publicity heaped on a well-attended left-wing, Bush-bashing protest against the approaching war in Iraq that occurred just four days earlier.


ABC, CBS, and NBC aired 26 segments on the anti-war march, 14 of them before the rally began, stories which emphasized the protesters’ diversity, including political diversity. “Braving frigid temperatures,” ABC’s Lisa Sylvester proclaimed on the January 19 World News Tonight, “they traveled across the country — black and white, Democrat and Republican, young and old.”


On CBS that night, Joie Chen sounded similar notes: “Young, old, veterans and veteran activists united in the effort to stop the war before it starts.” The coverage, print and broadcast, excised speeches from the podium, from rally organizer Ramsey Clark’s call for President Bush’s impeachment to a man decrying the Bush administration as “greedy imperialist murderers.”


The networks were much less interested in reporting on the March for Life. While they offered nine stories (four of them pre-rally) on the wider news angle of the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, stories made only oblique references to marches around the abortion issue. Not one network news story had the pro-life demonstrations as its central topic, in contrast to 26 that featured left-wing anti-war protesters.


While both the anti-war and the pro-life rallies were organized to demonstrate a tide of public opinion for their cause, network anchors blurred the tens of thousands of pro-lifers in Washington into the tiny bands of pro-abortion protesters (a midday Planned Parenthood rally was estimated by Reuters at 150). Before the march, NBC’s Lester Holt explained: “Rallies are scheduled in many places including Buffalo, New York.” That evening, Dan Rather obscured the counts this way: “Tens of thousands of demonstrators on both sides of the issue filled the streets of Washington today.”


In fact, the pro-life side consisted of tens of thousands, while the pro-abortion side could only muster a few tens.


Reporters failed to describe the pro-lifers marching in Washington as a diverse collection of young and old, Republican and Democrat. Instead, reporters highlighted the most extreme elements. Both NBC’s Today and the CBS Evening News filed reports from Buffalo, where NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reported on a “crowd” that was later described as “a dozen or so” by the Buffalo News: “Today, supporters of James Kopp the man who confessed to the killing [of abortionist Barnett Slepian in 1998], have come to Buffalo to claim the shooting was justified.” On CBS, reporter Jim Axelrod held up the “small number of demonstrators” as “telling,” since the Slepian shooting was “an example of how abortion is redder than any other red meat social issue in America. It’s the one producing the most violence.” Axelrod spoke over video of a bomb going off.


This stark contrast in microcosm was best demonstrated by ABC’s Nightline. On January 22, ABC split the program roughly in half between abortion advocates and foes. Reporter Dave Marash suggested the country might be better off without a national abortion discussion: “The year 2003 looks like both a crucial and a cruel one for America’s harshest political debate.”


By contrast, on January 16 Nightline had devoted most of its program to promoting the anti-war movement, and worrying about how it could broaden its appeal. Instead of showing both sides, Ted Koppel interviewed two leftists: Vietnam War protester Tom Hayden and Rep. Dennis Kucinich. Koppel began: “Thousands of anti-war demonstrators will take to the street this weekend and their message is clear...But is America really listening? Tonight, ‘The Movement,’ struggling to be heard.”


If it were up to the networks alone, only the pro-life movement would need to struggle to be heard.




Peter Jennings Emphasized Anti-War Voices: Liberal revisionists now insist the news media meekly went along with the Bush administration’s so-called “rush to war,” but in the weeks preceding military action many journalists expressed deep skepticism of the President’s tough stance against Saddam Hussein. Although all of the broadcast networks portrayed protesters from the anti-war Left as respectable and mainstream, ABC’s Peter Jennings was the most supportive of their message, and he routinely tilted his newscasts in favor of their complaints.


On his February 7 World News Tonight, for example, Jennings excitedly reported how “the Iraqis appear to be making some concessions.” He concluded that night with a slanted preview of the upcoming week: “The UN weapons inspectors go back to Baghdad this weekend. They have not been happy with Iraqi cooperation so far. We’ll see if the Iraqis do any better — and if that means anything to the Bush administration.”


Exactly one week later, during live coverage of a debate at the United Nations, Jennings continued to paint the administration as obstinate and destructive. “I think a lot of people got the impression this week that maybe the Bush administration doesn’t mind if the Western alliance as we’ve known it in the post-war period breaks up,” he remarked to White House correspondent Terry Moran.


Five days later, Jennings was still at it. “We’re going to begin this evening with the Bush administration and its allies. It is quite clear in Washington tonight that the administration is prepared to jeopardize its relations with several of its oldest and best friends in order to get its way about Iraq,” he intoned on the February 19 World News Tonight.


Most of the networks offered indulgent coverage of anti-war marches on February 15 and 16 — CNN even gave the protesters their own two-hour special, Voices of Dissent. But only Jennings was still beating the anti-war drums three days later. While the other anchors had moved on to fresh news, Jennings on the February 19 World News Tonight, celebrated that while the “the enormous anti-war demonstrations” have not “changed” President Bush’s “mind about Saddam Hussein,” they “have certainly given Mr. Bush’s opponents some sense that they have momentum.”


On February 26, Jennings tried to make the gimmicky “virtual” march of electric complainers sound impressive: “Thousands of people opposed to war against Iraq bombarded the Senate and the White House with phone calls, faxes and e-mails. They called it a virtual march on the Capitol. Communications were virtually paralyzed in the Senate for a while. Many congressional phone lines were jammed for several hours and one Senator reported 18 times more e-mail than usual.” Protesters did not even have to take the trouble of flying or driving to an actual demonstration to make it onto ABC’s airwaves.


But was the protest movement a political powerhouse? It’s fair to describe a protest of 100,000 strong as “massive,” but at the same time tens of millions of Americans were supporting the idea of a war with Iraq. And ABC doesn’t always go out of its way to celebrate passionate minorities. Harry Browne, the Libertarian candidate, received more than 384,000 votes in the 2000 presidential campaign, but it’s fair to say ABC never described that campaign as a political juggernaut.


Dan Rather Panders to Saddam Hussein: While his coverage of the subsequent war with Iraq was far better than that of his ABC colleague, Texan Dan Rather seemed interchangeable with Canadian Peter Jennings on one Wednesday in February.


In retrospect, it’s easy to express relief that Saddam Hussein was deposed in April and captured in December. On both occasions, newscasts briefly underlined how Saddam had been the force behind brutal torture and the filling of mass graves. But on February 26, CBS’s 60 Minutes II devoted an hour to the anchorman’s interview with Saddam, a murderous dictator for whom Rather gave more respect than he has offered to some elected American leaders.


Many Americans remember Rather yelling at then-Vice President George H. W. Bush about Iran-Contra on January 25, 1988: “Can you explain how — you were supposed to be the — you are — you’re an anti-terrorist expert. We — Iran was officially a terrorist state....Mr. Vice President, the question is, but you, made us hypocrites in the face of the world!...How could you sign on to such a policy?”


Not only did CBS submit itself to humiliating conditions they would never accept from an American politician — being driven around town for hours on end before the interview, ceding control to Iraqi translators, Iraqi camera operators, and Iraqi minders reviewing the tape afterwards. During the interview, Rather politely referred to the dictator as “Mr. President,” sitting calmly and quietly as Saddam repeated the absurdity that he had received 100 percent of the vote in Iraqi “elections.”


Rather also spent several minutes entertaining Hussein’s gimmick of an international TV debate with President Bush, as if Saddam gained his office with debating skills. He prompted Hussein to expound on his propaganda: “What’s the most important thing you want the American people to understand at this important juncture of history?” He followed up with questions about the logistics and who would moderate.


Rather called it “surprising” and “new,” and CBS plugged it relentlessly. But the tape from August 29, 1990 — Rather’s last exclusive sit-down with the dictator — quickly revealed an identical offer from Saddam Hussein to debate George H. W. Bush or Margaret Thatcher.


Rather dramatically concluded the interview by expressing concern that “given the sober moment and the danger at hand, what are the chances this is the last time you and I will see each other?”


In the end, the interview was a ratings success, with 17 million Americans tuned in. But CBS wasn’t the only happy participant. On Fox & Friends February 28, reporter Greg Palkot relayed: “Last night, Iraqi state television ran in its entirety that interview that CBS News’s Dan Rather conducted with the Iraqi president earlier this week. Our contacts in Baghdad tell us that this is an indication that the regime was very pleased with how the interview went, and they felt that it effectively got across the points the government there wanted to get across.”




Section 2




Peter Arnett Comforts a Dying Dictatorship: As a CNN reporter during the first Gulf War back in 1991, Peter Arnett transmitted Saddam Hussein’s lies to an international audience. Before this year’s Gulf War, MSNBC and NBC chose to give Arnett, technically a correspondent for National Geographic Explorer, a starring role in their war coverage. As he had a dozen years before, Arnett’s war stories often parroted the propagandistic claims of Iraqi officials without a trace of professional skepticism.


On the Today show on March 26, for example, he told Matt Lauer a horrifying — and false — story about the U.S. using cluster bombs on civilian targets in Baghdad: “We traveled down a wide road, and we got to the scene, and shops on both sides of this highway had been destroyed, Matt, and there was smoldering, 20 or so smoldering vehicles in the street. Residents said that 11 o’clock this morning, local time, two missiles came in, exploded, and the first journalists there earlier said they counted 15 corpses. It was smoldering on the road. We saw body parts being handed around by people and it was, later the Information Minister, Mr. al-Sahaf, complained that the U.S. has started using cluster bombs in the Baghdad area.”


An hour later, Arnett dutifully repeated the Information Minister’s claim about “cluster bombs,” again without any skepticism or doubt. NBC finally summoned its Pentagon correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski, who told Today’s audience the claim was highly dubious, that cluster bombs are normally used against troops in the field, not urban areas. Miklaszewksi explained: “It would be very unusual if, in fact, cluster bombs were used inside Baghdad. And if you look at pictures...a cluster bomb would create a Swiss-cheese effect, thousands and thousands of holes in the target, and we don’t see that.”


Peter Arnett’s worst treachery came March 30 when he appeared on Iraqi state television and praised the “determination” of Iraq’s army, declared the U.S. war plan a “failure” and arrogantly proclaimed that he had warned the Bush administration that Iraq wouldn’t be a pushover. Even though three U.S. journalists were missing in Iraq and feared kidnaped by the Hussein regime, Arnett mindlessly gushed: “I’ve met unfailing courtesy and cooperation, courtesy from your people and cooperation from the Ministry of Information.” Arnett then bucked up Iraqi morale, opining that their “resistance” had caused the initial U.S. war plan to “fail” (see box).


For that, NBC and MSNBC correctly decided to cease using Arnett’s reports, and National Geographic Explorer fired him. But in ending his contract, NBC said nothing about the substance of what he said and only cited how it “was wrong” to do the interview with Iraqi TV and “was wrong for him to discuss his personal observations and opinions in that interview.”


After a farewell interview on Today, co-host Matt Lauer told Arnett, “Peter, at the risk of getting myself in trouble, I want to say I respect the work you’ve done over the last several weeks and I respect the honesty with which you’ve handled this situation. So good luck to you.”


Within a day, Arnett had begun writing for Britain’s far-left, virulently anti-American Daily Mirror newspaper. In an essay about himself, Arnett claimed that he had lost his job because the U.S. government and “right-wing media” feared his “truth” telling.


Arnett asserted in his story in the April 1 edition of the tabloid: “They don’t want credible news organizations reporting from here because it presents them with enormous problems.” And why, Arnett not so humbly wondered, was “my successful NBC reporting career...turned to ashes?” His answer: “Because I stated the obvious to Iraqi television; that the U.S. war timetable has fallen by the wayside.” Arnett elaborated on the conspiracy against him: “The right-wing media and politicians are looking for any opportunity to be critical of the reporters who are here.”


Reporters Worry They Are Too Pro-Bush? As the “rush to war” approached an end after eight months, some reporters grew frustrated that the media was not stopping it. After a March 6 White House press conference failed to shake public confidence in President Bush, ABC reporter Terry Moran made waves by telling the New York Observer newspaper that Bush left his colleagues in the press corps “looking like zombies.” Observer columnist Matt Taibbi suggested reporters were routed, like Texans at the Alamo: “The entire White House press corps should be herded into a cargo plane, flown to an altitude of 30,000 feet, and pushed out, kicking and screaming, over the North Atlantic.”


By October, Bill Moyers told the left-wing web site that “Matt Taibbi wrote in The New York Press at the time that it was like a mini-Alamo for American journalism. I’d say it was more a collective Jonestown-like suicide. At least the defenders of the Alamo put up a fight.”


In reality, reporters had challenged the President with tough questions. CNN’s John King cited Ted Kennedy’s belief that “your fixation with Saddam Hussein is making the world a more dangerous place.” Ed Chen of the Los Angeles Times demanded to know that if Bush “trusted the people” with their tax cuts, why not trust them enough to give them an estimate of the war costs? Bob Deans of Cox Newspapers even suggested that the Vietnam War was unjustified since Vietnam hasn’t directly threatened American security in 30 years.


For his part, Moran lectured the President that he had “generated opposition from the governments of France, Russia, China, Germany, Turkey, the Arab League, and many other countries, opened a rift at NATO and at the UN; and drawn millions of ordinary citizens around the world into the streets and anti-war protests. May I ask what went wrong that so many governments and peoples around the world now not only disagree with you very strongly, but see the U.S. under your leadership as an arrogant power?” Afterward, Peter Jennings praised it as “a fairly straightforward question.”


On the evening news shows preceding the prime-time event, Jennings asked Secretary of State Colin Powell: “So many people don’t understand why you shouldn’t let the inspections continue if they are accomplishing anything....Most people think they’re doing a reasonably effective job at the moment.” Over on NBC, Ron Allen was reporting from Iraq that “Tonight, word of America’s new deadline and threat of war fazed no one at this Baghdad café.” Allen then cited an Iraqi man: “America is a terrorist country, he says.”


That morning, as the White House press corps prepared to pepper Bush with questions about his “arrogant...obsession” with Saddam Hussein, ABC’s Good Morning America was marveling at Saddam’s popularity. Diane Sawyer revealed: “I read this morning that he’s also said the love that the Iraqis have for him is so much greater than anything Americans feel for their President because he’s been loved for 35 years, he says, the whole 35 years.” From Baghdad, reporter Dan Harris seconded Sawyer: “He is one to point out quite frequently that he is part of a historical trend in this country of restoring Iraq to its greatness, its historical greatness. He points out frequently that he was elected with a hundred percent margin recently.”


If the press were to be accused of acting like “zombies,” it was more plausible to argue they were zombies for Saddam than they were zombies for President Bush.




Media Champion Free Speech - But Only for the Left: Before, during, and after the war, celebrities complained that their courageous anti-war stances would be met with harsh punishment in a dissent-hating America. But the networks love famous faces, and celebrities were being courageous all over the television dial, even as CNBC anchor Brian Williams was suggesting “what some say is a war on free expression in the United States.” But when a Republican Senator used his free speech to protest a forthcoming Supreme Court decision on homosexuality, reporters went from championing the intimidated to championing the intimidators who wanted the Senator to resign.


On NBC’s Today on April 14, Matt Lauer awarded actor Tim Robbins with two segments to unfurl his opinions. On CBS’s The Early Show on April 18, his wife Susan Sarandon claimed “over the next ten years two hundred and some billions of dollars” will be “cut” from veterans’ benefits, even as Congress was planning a 12 percent increase. Actress Janeane Garofalo popped up almost everywhere on the TV networks.


But on the April 16 World News Tonight, ABC’s Peter Jennings warned: “When we come back this evening, being against the war and in show business – and the people who want to punish you for that.” Tim Robbins gave a speech to the National Press Club complaining about the “chill wind” blowing against Hollywood peaceniks, and ABC’s Jim Wooten suggested, “All this has reminded some of the McCarthy era’s blacklists that barred those even accused of communist sympathies from working in films or on television.”


Wooten reported on how anti-war entertainers like the Dixie Chicks had been boycotted by war supporters and how Robbins and Sarandon had been cancelled from an appearance at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Sean Penn sued producer Stephen Bing after he was dropped from a movie. That was the extent of the “oppression” on display. ABC did not note any Hollywood hypocrisy, since Robbins led members of the Screen Actors Guild in a 2000 strike of advertisers seeking higher payments. When actress Elizabeth Hurley accidentally crossed the picket line by making an Estee Lauder ad, Robbins suggested her SAG membership should be stripped, ruining her acting career.


Not all political marches were promoted. ABC ignored a pro-troops rally in New York on April 10 that drew an estimated 15,000 people. On April 12, an estimated 5,000 gathered in Washington for a pro-troops rally on the same day that 40 people protested the Masters golf tournament. ABC covered the puny Masters protest, but not the DC rally. NBC devoted a story to the Masters protesters, but gave the DC rally a few seconds in passing.


In April, it did appear dissent had its limits in America — when Associated Press editors and reporters tried to force Republican Senator Rick Santorum into resignation for suggesting that an absolute right to privacy would invalidate not only laws against sodomy, but laws against bestiality and other abhorrent sexual practices. Daily AP dispatches pounding Santorum appeared throughout the week of April 20 until polls showed his Pennsylvania constituency was supportive.


NBC promoted the Santorum “scandal” with relish. On the April 23 Today, NBC’s Joe Johns reported: “Some conservatives and religious groups applauded Santorum’s comments. Leading Democrats were appalled, calling Santorum’s remarks out of step and backward,” but conservative spokesmen were not given soundbites in Santorum’s defense.


Johns followed the liberal playbook by comparing the flap to Trent Lott’s Dixiecrat flap: “Only months ago Senator Trent Lott lost the top leadership job for racially-charged remarks. Now gay-rights groups want the party to take a stand on Santorum.” Johns aired a clip of Elizabeth Birch of the Human Rights Campaign, who wanted Santorum stripped of his leadership post. A Johns report also aired on that night’s Nightly News.


The next morning on Today, Johns was back with another story that mentioned conservative support, but didn’t air it. Senator John McCain and political analyst Stu Rothenberg were awarded soundbites to express concern over Santorum’s political appeal. Then Couric interviewed NBC’s Tim Russert for emphasis. He, too, put the spotlight on opponents: “And some of the strongest criticism of Senator Santorum has come from within the ranks of the Republican party. You saw Senator Collins and Senator McCain, the Log Cabin Society [sic], a gay-Republican group, a Republican Unity Coalition headed by former President Gerry Ford and Mary Cheney, Vice President Cheney’s daughter, has also called on Senator Santorum to apologize.”


One of AP’s supporters in its journalistic activism was presidential candidate Howard Dean, whose campaign issued a statement declaring that Santorum’s dissenting free speech was intolerable: “Gay-bashing is not a legitimate public policy discussion; it is immoral. Rick Santorum’s failure to recognize that attacking people because of who they are is morally wrong and makes him unfit for a leadership position in the United States Senate.”


CNN Acknowledges They Were Soft on Saddam: On April 10, one day after the liberation of Baghdad, CNN’s top news-gathering executive Eason Jordan admitted to Aaron Brown on NewsNight that the network had suppressed stories about Saddam Hussein’s cruelties out of fear for the safety of CNN reporters and Iraqi citizens who worked for the network.


“The secret police terrorized Iraqis working for international press services,” Jordan elaborated in a New York Times op-ed published the next day. “Some vanished, never to be heard from again. Others disappeared and then surfaced later with whispered tales of being hauled off and tortured in unimaginable ways.”


“I came to know several Iraqi officials well enough that they confided in me that Saddam Hussein was a maniac who had to be removed,” Jordan disclosed. He argued that CNN could not reveal any of their information without putting lives at risk: “An aide to Uday [Hussein, Saddam’s son] once told me why he had no front teeth: henchmen had ripped them out with pliars and told him never to wear dentures, so he would always remember the price to be paid for upsetting the boss. Again, we could not broadcast anything these men said to us.”


“I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me. Now that Saddam Hussein’s regime is gone, I suspect we will hear many, many more gut-wrenching tales from Iraqis about the decades of torment,” Jordan concluded his op-ed. “At last, these stories can be told freely.”


Jordan’s tardy truthfulness validated critics who deplored the sanitized coverage of Saddam’s regime: “Any Iraqi voicing an opinion other than those approved by the state would be vulnerable to arrest, torture and execution. But these were facts rarely mentioned by many reporters,” the New York Times’s John Burns wrote on April 20.


Burns revealed how many Western journalists buried the evil truth about Saddam’s dictatorship just so they could maintain a presence in Iraq: “A tacit understanding, accepted by many visiting journalists, was that there were aspects of Mr. Hussein’s Iraq that could be mentioned only obliquely. First among these was the personality of Mr. Hussein himself, and the fact that he was widely despised and feared by Iraqis, something that was obvious to any visitor ready to listen to the furtive whispers in which this hatred was commonly expressed.”


“The terror that was the most pervasive aspect of society under Mr. Hussein was another topic that was largely taboo,” Burns chastised. “Every interview conducted by television reporters, and most print journalists, was monitored; any Iraqi voicing an opinion other than those approved by the state would be vulnerable to arrest, torture and execution. But these were facts rarely mentioned by many reporters.”


But other reporters indicated that Jordan should have kept his mouth shut. “If you decide to keep that as a secret for yourself to protect those people and to protect the interests of your company, then you probably ought to keep it secret for a long time, because it opens them up now wherever they go, wherever they’re stationed, ‘Well, what are they not telling us now?’” NBC anchor Tom Brokaw suggested during an April 15 appearance on CBS’s Late Show with David Letterman.




Section 3




Reporters Tout Democrat Spin on Lincoln Landing: On May 1, President Bush marked the end of “major combat operations” by landing a plane on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. Later that day, he gave a prime-time address celebrating the end of the war. He praised the American armed forces: “Your courage, your willingness to face danger for your country and for each other, made this day possible. Because of you, our nation is more secure. Because of you, the tyrant has fallen, and Iraq is free.”


But as Americans celebrated, the news media had a different feeling, nervously seeking to avoid looking too favorable to President Bush. Hours before the landing, NBC’s Matt Lauer suggested the White House was in danger of “symbolism overshadowing safety” with Bush piloting a plane. Immediate political analysis agreed that the photo opportunity was “A-plus-plus,” as ABC’s George Stephanopoulos said.


But the images were quickly put through the meat grinder of election analysis. As they discussed how Michael Dukakis drew laughs in 1988 for riding in a tank, Diane Sawyer asked Stephanopoulos: “It sometimes can be tricky to be seen among the military, unless you can carry it off. How could you be sure? Do you think he [Bush] tried on the suit beforehand? Am I being too cynical?” Stephanopoulos replied, “No, I think he probably did.”


By that evening, ABC substitute anchor Claire Shipman was hardly offering campaign ads for the White House: “We’ll have more on the reunion with eager loved ones in just a moment, but these soldiers, of course, are coming home to a sober reality as well. An economy that, if anything, is struggling more than it was when they set sail. The government said today the unemployment rate is up to six percent. More than half a million jobs were lost in the last three months.”


Within a few days, Democratic office holders decided to undermine the aircraft-carrier images, and the networks joined the chorus without any apparent nervous moments about appearing too helpful. On the May 6 World News Tonight, ABC’s Peter Jennings highlighted that “California Congressman Henry Waxman is asking government auditors to figure out how much the trip cost the taxpayers and West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd said on the Senate floor today it was an ‘affront to the Americans killed or injured in Iraq for the President to exploit the trappings of war for the momentary spectacle of a speech.’”


On the May 7 evening shows, CBS, CNN, and CNBC all jumped on the Byrd-Waxman bandwagon. CBS reporter John Roberts highlighted Waxman saying the trip was “a grandstanding cheap shot that wastes taxpayers’ dollars,” as well as historian James Thurber claiming the landing brings up “troubling thoughts about separation of the military from civilian rule.”


On CNN’s NewsNight, anchor Aaron Brown spent 12 minutes on criticism of the Lincoln landing, resurrecting an old anti-Bush line: “Do you think any of the anger, if that’s the right word, that Democrats have, stems from the fact that the President was in the reserves during the Vietnam era and not in Vietnam itself?”


On CNBC, reporter Norah O’Donnell was screening every penny spent on the trip: “Democrats claim the event may have cost up to one million dollars in taxpayer funds, including an estimate that $200 was spent to outfit the President in a custom-fitted flight suit.” Unlike reporters on CBS, CNN, and FNC, O’Donnell failed to relay Navy denials of any cost approaching $1 million.


As the Iraq reconstruction effort has struggled, media outlets have continued to labor to turn around the public-relations value of the Lincoln landing. Time’s October 6 issue blared: “Mission NOT Accomplished: How Bush Midjudged the Task of Fixing Iraq.” But Bush’s “mission accomplished” wasn’t the complete democratic transformation of Iraq, but the successful removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime.


Anchors reported with pounding regularity the death toll since the Lincoln landing. On November 11, Katie Couric announced: “There have been 152 soldiers killed in action since May 1st which was, marked the end of, of major combat operations. Prior to that date, 114 U.S. soldiers were killed in action.” By November, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham predicted: “I think no matter what happens in Iraq, we’re gonna see more of that flight suit in the landing on the Lincoln next year and the Mission Not Accomplished in Democratic ads than Republican ads.”


TV Denounces Bush Tax Cut, Again: Final passage of the President’s tax cut in May was met with network bias on par with the hostile coverage that greeted the plan’s announcement in January. Despite the fact that Congress had reduced the size of the package to a mere $350 billion over ten years, or less than half the size of President Bush’s original proposal, CBS anchor Dan Rather persisted in echoing liberal tax cut critics who insisted it was a “big” tax cut.


“In the U.S. Congress, House and Senate leaders today reached the outlines of what’s called a compromise deal on President Bush’s big tax cut plan,” Rather announced on the May 21 CBS Evening News. What Rather did not say was that $350 billion represented barely a 1 percent reduction in expected tax revenue to the federal government over the next ten years.


Reporters also presented as fact the liberal argument that the tax cut rewarded the wealthy to the detriment of the poor. “Big winners are rich people and families with children,” ABC’s Linda Douglass asserted on the May 22 World News Tonight. “The top five percent of taxpayers would get more than half of the benefits from the tax cut. “


Liberal journalists continued to complain about the tax cut even after President Bush signed it into law on May 28. The next morning, the New York Times published a front-page story that was little more than a press release from the left-wing Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). The group argued that the tax law was flawed and unfair because families earning between $10,000 and $26,000 would not get the increased child care credit from $600 to $1,000 because their tax bills had already been reduced to zero. For such families, any such “tax cut” would have actually been a bonus above and beyond all income tax paid.


A few hours after the Times published its one-sided story, ABC’s Terry Moran sounded like a Democratic spinner as he took up the issue with White House press secretary Ari Fleischer at a televised briefing: “Is it fair to say that the White the end of the day thought that to make progress, the benefit for these 11.9 million children should go in order to, in part, save the dividend benefit for investors?” His equally-slanted follow-up: “I just want to make sure that you are saying that the White House agreed to make the choice to leave these children behind.”


That night, ABC, CBS, CNBC, CNN and NBC all broadcast stories treating the exclusion as evidence of the supposed unfairness of the income tax cut. But CNBC, NBC and CNN never clued viewers in on how those in the affected income range pay little, if any, income tax while ABC and CBS only mentioned that fact late in their stories — after delivering profiles of supposed “victims” who will not get an extra check from the U.S. Treasury.


ABC’s Peter Jennings opened the May 29 World News Tonight by lamenting how “it turns out that a whole lot of people in the country who could use the money are not going to get it.” Linda Douglass presented the new tax law as supremely unfair: “Rhonda Williams is an office messenger raising two children alone. She thought she would be getting some extra money from a tax cut bill. She was wrong.”


“The tax cut the President just signed will not help many who need help the most,” CBS Evening News anchor Jane Clayson fretted before Bill Plante profiled a woman who “earns just above the minimum wage, the kind of taxpayer the President says he wants to help. But she won’t be getting that refund check the President says is in the mail. An eleventh hour change in the tax bill prevents millions of low-income working Americans...from receiving an extra $400 child tax credit.”


Like ABC, NBC made the subject its top story as Tom Brokaw led the NBC Nightly News by insisting that in what “could be an embarrassing omission in his tax cut package, families making between $10,000 and $26,000 a year come up short.” CNBC anchor Brian Williams employed similar language: “We learned today there is an embarrassing omission in what is now the law of the land. Families making between $10,000 and $26,000 a year get left out while critics say many who do not need a tax cut get one anyway.”


One sign of how far out the networks were on this issue was how closely their spin matched that of PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers, whose left-wing sanctimony is made even more obnoxious by the fact that it is subsidized by taxpayers who would never freely support such radical nonsense. Two days after the tax bill became law, Moyers railed against its supposed cruelty on his regular Friday evening newsmagazine, Now.


“It’s the richest Americans – the top one percent – who get the lion’s share of the tax cuts, people like Secretary of the Treasury John Snow, [and] Vice President Dick Cheney,” Moyers pontificated. “Eleven million children in families with incomes roughly between $10,000 and $26,000 a year will not be getting the check that was supposed to be in the mail this summer. Eleven million children punished for being poor, even as the rich are rewarded for being rich.”




Network, Clamor for Even More Spending: Network reporters covering President Bush’s tax cuts were concerned with assessing the high “cost” and spelling out who would most benefit from the changed policy. But as the House and Senate passed bills in June authorizing a massive new pay-out for prescription drugs, the networks displayed little interest in outlining who would pay (those at lower incomes still working) and who would benefit (the elderly, the wealthiest age group). TV correspondents also rarely mentioned the price tag of the expensive new drug benefit, except in the context of amplifying critics who charged it was not nearly “enough.”


As previously noted, Dan Rather on May 21 referred to the compromise tax cut, estimated at $350 billion before it “sunsets” after ten years, as “President Bush’s big tax cut plan.” Less than three weeks later, on June 10, Rather did not mention the cost of the prescription plan or refer to it as “big” although it will cost much more — $400 billion over the first ten years and, because there was no sunset provision, and trillions more thereafter.


Instead of fretting about the price tag, Rather portrayed it as long overdue: “In Washington today, for the umpteenth time, there’s talk of a possible compromise deal to provide at least some prescription drug coverage for people on Medicare. CBS’s Joie Chen reports what’s different this time as millions of older Americans wait for action.” Chen chronicled how paying for prescriptions is a “daily concern” at senior center before she trumpeted how “some badly needed help may be on the way, a $400 billion plan outlined today would give all seniors a prescription drug benefit.”


The next morning on Today, NBC’s Campbell Brown stressed the plan’s inadequacies: “The cost of the plan, $400 billion. But advocates for seniors, like the powerful American Association for Retired Persons, say it’s still not enough.” So did ABC’s Linda Douglass that night on World News Tonight: “Senators voted earlier this year to limit the cost of any plan to $400 billion over 10 years....Democrats complain that a third of seniors will still be stuck with big bills.”


As the bill moved to the Senate the following week, the networks ignored conservative critics who opposed the expensive new entitlement. Instead, TV coverage contrasted supporters of the new giveaway with detractors who wanted an even larger handout. “The Senate begins debate today on what would be the biggest expansion of Medicare benefits in its history,” NBC’s Ann Curry summarized on the June 16 Today. “If the bill passes prescription drugs would be subsidized for all 40 million members for the first time. Critics say the drug benefit isn’t enough.”


On Good Morning America the same day, ABC’s Tony Perkins shared Curry’s agenda when he interviewed Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson: “Some have said this bill doesn’t go quite far enough — it’s more of a start than a long-term solution. Do you agree? How do you address those concerns?”


Not even Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy was generous enough for CNN’s Judy Woodruff. Interviewing the legendary liberal on June 18, she suggested he was shortchanging old people: “I began by asking him about his signing off on a plan that would leave some seniors with less drug coverage than they need and whether he undercut those seniors.” She also reprimanded Kennedy for supposedly aiding a conservative: “At a time when the Democrats are trying mightily to carve out distinct positions for themselves against a very popular Republican President,” she scolded, “what you have done is helped a Republican President take a very controversial issue off the table.”


Woodruff was no doubt pleased that Kennedy opposed the final Medicare reform bill passed by Congress in November.


Network reporters took their cue from liberal groups who wanted an even more expansive program. On NBC Nightly News June 23, Norah O’Donnell showed a complaining John Rother, Policy Director for the American Association of Retired Persons: “People are disappointed that there isn’t more of a benefit here. And sometimes they’re mad. Sometimes they think, well, at least it’s a first start. But everyone is disappointed.”


Then, O’Donnell fleshed out Rother’s argument by displaying a victim: “Like 77-year-old Pat Roussos of Connecticut, who suffers from arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure. Her out-of-pocket drug costs now, as much as $6,500 a year.” The story then included a soundbite from a pessimistic Pat Roussos: “It’s only a start, and I’m not convinced it’s going to go very far.”


NBC failed to tell viewers that Roussos was not a random senior citizen, but is the Connecticut Community Coordinator for AARP, the official who oversees the state’s 72 local chapters. The next night, CBS echoed the same complaint, that the $400 billion price tag was just too small to provide proper relief to senior citizens (see box).


Where were the critics arguing that the entitlement’s projected $400 billion cost was too much of a burden on taxpayers? The Heritage Foundation’s Stuart Butler described the bill as “an impending disaster for all Americans” in a June 13 research memo. And in a June 24 Wall Street Journal op-ed, economists Andrew Rettenmmaier and Thomas Saving estimated that “the new benefits will create an unfunded liability of $7.5 trillion, or almost twice the current debt held by the public.” But the budgetary implications of such massive spending was apparently not “newsworthy” to the same network reporters who worried about how much the tax cut would increase the deficit.


Media See Legal Battle as Conservatives vs. “Rights”: As the supposedly Bush-favoring, conservative-tilting Supreme Court came to the end of its term in June, the headline-grabbing decisions were more pleasing to liberals — even though the networks didn’t seem to find anyone who fit that label.


On June 23, the Court ruled largely in favor of allowing the use of racial criteria in admissions at the University of Michigan, both for undergraduates (the Gratz case) and law school applicants (the Grutter case), but no one called the racial-quota supporters “liberals.” It helped that military officers and corporate chieftains — each seen as stereotypically right-wing — filed supportive briefs in favor of, to use the media code word, “affirmative action.” Liberals favored “affirmative action,” while conservatives were often cast as “opponents of affirmative action.”


During live coverage of the decision, ABC’s John Cochran relayed from the White House that the two sides of the debate were “conservatives,” and on the left, “civil rights supporters.” He explained that President Bush took “the side of the white plaintiffs in this case. That angered many civil rights supporters around the country and it pleased very much a lot of conservatives. However, when the administration actually filed its brief, it was much narrower than conservatives have wanted.”


That approach was also employed in dividing the Court. On CNN, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin explained “Affirmative action has become a mainstream cause, and that’s why Sandra Day O’Connor, a mainstream justice, voted the way she did.” On CBS’s The Early Show the next morning, reporter Bob Orr found an unlabeled Sandra Day O’Connor voted for a “narrowly tailored” use of race, but “the Court’s conservatives dissented.”


On June 26, the Supreme Court voted 6-3 in Lawrence v. Texas to strike down state laws against sodomy, and again, the networks split the case into “gay rights activists” and “conservatives” — or worse.


ABC led off with Jackie Judd, who found “activists literally cried for joy,” while “social conservatives mourned today’s ruling.” Legal reporter Cynthia McFadden followed suit: “Those in favor of gay rights considered the opinion a triumph...while on talk radio, conservatives called the decision a travesty.” McFadden concluded: “Gays and lesbians are clearly encouraged, but given some of the ferocious language on the other side, full equality may be a good ways off.” The next morning, Good Morning America reran the Judd story, but anchor Dan Harris added an introduction also pitting “gay rights activists” against “conservative groups.”


On CBS, reporter Richard Schlesinger said the gay Texas plaintiffs were “reluctant symbols for gay rights activists who are ecstatic with the decision....Conservative groups quickly condemned the decision.” In a second story, reporter Bob McNamara described talk show host Marlin Maddoux as one who has “championed conservative causes for years, and he concluded that “conservatives” were already promising to “undo the controversial ruling.”


On NBC, legal reporter Pete Williams led off with how “Gay rights groups were jubilant,” while “Conservative groups today roundly criticized the ruling as overreaching.” Next, reporter Roger O’Neill found only one fringe: “On the extremes, Rush Limbaugh lambasting the court, agreeing with Justice Anthony [sic] Scalia’s dissenting opinion that the court has taken sides with gays in America’s cultural wars.”


These legal controversies underline how the media slants its coverage of social issues. On the epic political battles of our time, the sides are portrayed as the civil rights activists versus the “ferocious” conservative opponents “on the extremes.”




Section 4




Media Suggest Sixteen Words Undermined Entire Iraq War: The White House acknowledged in July that President Bush had overreached in his State of the Union address when he cited a British report that Iraq had sought enriched uranium in Africa. Those 16 words: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” Some of the documents that supported such a conclusion turned out to be forgeries, and administration officials regretted that Bush overreached. But the media also overreached in concluding that this sentence qualified as a “vital argument” for the war.


PEW Research on July 13:


Liberal bias

Conservative bias














“There is other reporting to suggest that Iraq tried to obtain uranium from Africa. However, the information is not detailed or specific enough for us to be certain that attempts were in fact made,” the White House said in a statement quoted in the July 8 editions of the New York Times.


But reporting that same night on the White House’s admission, ABC and NBC themselves overreached in broadly asserting that the concession undermined a “vital argument” for the war against Saddam Hussein. Over the next few days, the media perpetuated a self-fulfilling storyline, that the Bush administration was “being pressed to defend” its case for war, even as the press did most of the pressing.


“On World News Tonight,” Peter Jennings teased at the top of his July 8 broadcast, “the Bush administration admits that a vital argument for going to war against Iraq was not true.” At the same time, NBC’s Tom Brokaw announced: “Coming clean. The White House admits for the first time the President’s State of the Union claim about Iraq’s nuclear program might in fact be wrong.”


The day Senator Edward Kennedy questioned whether the war was “based on deliberate deception or outright lies,” Jennings expressed disappointment in what he saw as Democrats holding back their attacks, and rued how the public’s support of Bush limited the damage he might suffer: “Under certain circumstances this admission by the administration might have serious political consequences, but this is a popular President.”


But as David Martin pointed out on the July 8 CBS Evening News, while the specific example Bush cited may have been faulty, that did not mean that the Iraqis were not cheating: “Both [Colin] Powell and the CIA believed then and believe now there is plenty of other evidence to show Saddam was still pursuing a nuclear weapon.”


Martin reminded viewers: “An Iraqi scientist has led the CIA to his rose garden where twelve years ago he buried the plans and some of the parts needed to make bomb-grade uranium, convincing evidence Saddam intended to revive his nuclear weapons program.”


Other reporters refused to let the Bush-bashing moment pass so easily. On July 9, Jennings topped his newscast with the media’s questioning of the President: “On World News Tonight, the Bush administration is obliged again to defend its case for war in Iraq — from Africa to Capitol Hill....Good evening, everyone. We begin tonight with the Bush administration’s credibility. Today in Europe and Africa and in the Congress, the administration is being pressed to defend its public justification for going to war in Iraq.”


On July 10, the CBS Evening News hyped a report that substitute anchor John Roberts suggested proved Bush’s mendacity: “President Bush’s false claim about Iraqi weapons. He made it despite a CIA warning the intelligence was bad.” CBS’s own Web site took the irresponsible accusation even further: “Bush Knew Iraq Info Was False,” declared the headline over a posting on In the actual story, CBS’s David Martin reported something far short of the “Bush knew” claim or that the CIA said “the intelligence was bad.”


But most journalists weren’t hunting for nuance. On Friday, July 11, NBC’s Brian Williams kept up the drumbeat as he led off the Nightly News by smarmily linking the error with America’s war dead: “It was just one sentence in a long State of the Union speech that the President delivered in January. But it was a major accusation, one part of the President’s case for possible war with Iraq. The facts have turned out differently. The accusation was wrong. And now, with 148,000 Americans on the ground there, with over 200 dead and over a thousand wounded, the questions for this White House are heating up.”


Over on ABC, Jennings was peddling a poll which reflected how effectively the media had spun the issue: “An ABC News/Washington Post poll which has just been finished, finds that 52 percent of Americans, a majority for the first time, find the level of U.S. casualties in Iraq unacceptable. And 50 percent of Americans believe the Bush administration in arguing for the war intentionally exaggerated the evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.”


That weekend, Time put a photo of Bush delivering his State of the Union speech on the cover with the condemnatory headline, “UNtruth & Consequences.” On Saturday’s World News Tonight, ABC anchor Claire Shipman declared: “The firestorm over false intelligence that President Bush used to help justify war in Iraq is intensifying.” The next day, July 13 CBS’s John Roberts announced: “The White House tried to lay to rest today the swirl of controversy over whether it knowingly put dubious intelligence into this year’s State of the Union address....But as Joie Chen reports, the issue refuses to go away.”


“The issue refuses to go away”? Or the media refused to let it go?


Media Make “Centrist” Dean the Latest Craze: By mid-summer, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s campaign was on fire in the media. As Dean’s trial balloon swiftly rose, reporters acknowledged his heightened chances by avoiding or rebutting the idea that he was liberal, let alone ultra-liberal.


As the year began, Howard Dean’s presidential campaign was seen as a left-wing lark, an implausible dark-horse candidacy. In January, the New York Times asked: “Why should anyone take him seriously?” He appeared to be what political reporters call “out of the mainstream.” Dean told abortion advocates that partial-birth abortion was “an issue about nothing. It’s an issue about [pro-life] extremism.” In Vermont, Dean signed a bill in 2000 installing “civil unions” for gay men and lesbians. He proposed repealing the Bush tax cuts to fund more socialized-medicine schemes like Hillary Clinton’s. Most dramatically, he opposed military action against Saddam Hussein, saying on the April day Baghdad was liberated, “I suppose that’s a good thing.”


But Dean’s Vermont record was regularly promoted as moderate. CBS Early Show co-host Hannah Storm told Dean: “You have opposed the war on Iraq. You oppose the President’s tax-cut package, and yet you are [sic] a centrist governor.” On ABC’s This Week July 6, reporter Michel Martin replied to Paul Gigot’s insistence that Dean was driving the other contenders left by claiming, “The irony being, of course, that he wasn’t a terribly liberal governor. He was, in fact, a moderate.”


This same pattern extended to national newspapers and magazines. A July 6 front-page Washington Post profile by Evelyn Nieves was headlined “Short-Fused Populist, Breathing Fire at Bush.” The word “liberal” did not appear until three-fourths the way into the story, and then only in a quote of denial: “‘His being called a liberal is one of the great white lies of the campaign,’ said Tom Salmon, a fellow Democrat and governor of Vermont for two terms during the Nixon-Ford era. ‘He’s a rock-solid fiscal conservative.’” Nieves allowed Dean to deny the tag. “‘I think it’s pathetic that I’m considered the left-wing liberal,’ Dean said.”


Time magazine suggested Dean’s supporters aren’t ideological, just “a seam of online middle-class resentment...made up of passionate and often disgruntled believers.” Newsweek’s Howard Fineman wouldn’t describe Dean as liberal, but he did pronounce him a sage: “As an early foe of war in Iraq, he made acerbic comments that now look prescient.”


When Dean hit the big time in early August —with cover stories in Time and Newsweek and a major inside spread in U.S. News & World Report —he was introduced as a centrist. Time’s John Cloud insisted “he is a rock-ribbed budget hawk, a moderate on gays and guns, and a true lefty on only a few issues, primarily the use of U.S. military power.” Cloud also asked: “So is he a liberal, a conservative, or something in between? The answer is, all of the above.” Dean’s plan to create universal socialized medicine is “modest by Democratic standards.” Dean’s civil-unions law was somehow “a moderate compromise.”


Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter tried an old trope: “The old labels are increasingly useless. Dean, for instance, is hardly an old-fashioned big-spending liberal. As governor from 1991 to 2002, he repeatedly balanced the budget, though Vermont is the only state that doesn’t require him to do so by law.” Alter explained, he “developed a reputation as a centrist.” Alter added that in Vermont, “Dean focused on fiscal responsibility” and unbelievably, considering the “civil unions” bill, suggested “On social issues, he resisted most liberal blandishments.” In a related Web chat, Alter aggressively defended Dean: “On fiscal issues, he’s far to the right of [Ted] Kennedy.”


U.S. News political writer Roger Simon located those who “find Dean’s style invigorating,” including self-declared Republican Joe Mathews, who says he’ll vote for Dean “because he admires the fiscal conservatism Dean displayed in 11 years as governor. Matthews added: “ Dean is not particularly left wing. And as far as checkbook issues, he is to the right of George Bush, because if it isn’t in the bank, Dean doesn’t spend it.”


Media outlets did not balance the “rock-solid fiscal conservative” angle with the the report from the Cato Institute’s annual report card on state fiscal performances. Cato gave Governor Dean a “D” for fiscal matters in 2002. They noted: “He supports state-funded universal health care, generous state subsidies for child care, a higher minimum wage, liberal family leave legislation, and taxpayer-financed campaigns....After 12 years of Dean’s so-called ‘fiscal conservatism,’ Vermont remains one of the highest taxing and spending states.”


Reporters wishfully confused a balanced budget — which could entail massive government spending, balanced by massive taxation — with the word “conservatism,” which should be defined as a preference for small and limited government, or at the very least static spending levels.




Presenting Gay Bishop as a Courageous Pioneer: Religion is hardly a favorite topic for a largely secular media elite, especially news from within the potpourri of Protestant denominations — unless the topic is sexual. In August, U.S. Episcopal Church leaders voted to accept the election of an openly gay bishop from New Hampshire, Gene Robinson.


True to the secular liberal vision that making homosexuals part of the Christian clergy is merely the latest “civil rights” barrier to be broken by a courageous pioneer, Canon Robinson was the center of televised attention. A head count of guests included ten from the Robinson camp, one opponent, and one official spokesman for the Episcopal Church USA.


Between them, the networks’ daily and Sunday morning programs gave Canon Robinson six unopposed interviews to promote his gay-left platform. NBC’s Today gave Robinson four interviews (June 10, August 4, August 6, and November 4, the last one featuring his partner Mark Andrew and his delighted daughter Ella). ABC’s programs had two (the August 6 Good Morning America and the October 26 This Week with George Stephanopoulos), and CBS’s The Early Show had one (also August 6).


Only two segments featured opposing sides. On August 5, NBC’s Today featured two other Episcopal bishops — Robinson supporter M. Thomas Shaw of Massachusetts and Robinson opponent Edward Salmon of South Carolina. On the same day, ABC’s Good Morning America featured Rev. Susan Russell, a Robinson supporter, and Daniel England, a church spokesman, who didn’t oppose Robinson, but neutrally explained church procedures. Both of these interviews came on a morning when Robinson was being investigated briefly for inappropriate touching, charges the church dismissed.


Not only did Robinson and his partisans get the lion’s share of interviews, CBS and NBC never described Robinson’s partisans as liberals, while reporters regularly tagged his opponents as “conservative.” On the August 6 World News Tonight, substitute anchor Elizabeth Vargas framed the two sides as being either “inclusive” or “conservative.” She relayed: “Some conservative Episcopalians say homosexuality is contrary to scripture and therefore totally unacceptable. But supporters of the decision call this a step toward a more open and inclusive church.”


The same insistence upon labeling only one side of the debate occurred earlier that day on the morning shows:


* ABC’s Good Morning America. Claire Shipman: “After weeks of lobbying and controversy, the Episcopal Church has elected its first openly gay bishop, and some conservatives are threatening to leave the church rather than accept the Reverend Gene Robinson.


* CBS’s The Early Show. Cynthia Bowers: “The vote was close and, as anticipated, a group of conservative bishops walked out saying they cannot abide by this decision.”


* On NBC’s Today. Ann Curry pounded home the imbalance: “ Shockwaves from the vote are deeply dividing the Church with conservative, conservatives, rather, saying their grief is quote, ‘too deep for words.’ NBC’s Jim Avila reports.”


Later that morning, Curry did it again: “Conservative members had threatened to leave the Church if Robinson was elected. Well, earlier on Today, Matt asked Bishop-elect Gene Robinson about that rift....But conservative bishops unhappy about last night’s vote are asking the Archbishop of Canterbury to intervene.” She repeated in another news update: “Conservative bishops who oppose the confirmation are now asking the Archbishop of Canterbury to intervene. Robinson was elected after being cleared of last minute allegations of sexual misconduct.”


On ABC, Tamala Edwards did use the L word in two stories. On the August 3 World News Tonight/Sunday, Edwards reported “Conservatives argue that most Episcopalians, who are part of the world’s 75 million Anglicans, believe the Bible condemns homosexual behavior as a sin....A split could cause the church to lose members and influence around the world. Church liberals are hopeful they will win, and that the church will stay united.” On the next night, as the charges against Robinson surfaced, Edwards concluded: “Now, no matter how this turns out, it appears the dividing lines have grown only deeper between church liberals and conservatives.”


The most interesting double standard that emerged in the Robinson story comes from his encounters with God’s will. Over the years, reporters have mocked religious-right figures like Pat Robertson for describing how God sent them a message — as in Robertson’s declaration that God told him President Bush will be easily re-elected. But Canon Robinson can say God is guiding him, and liberal media figures don’t blink.


On CBS’s Early Show, Robinson declared, “I felt this calling from God for a long time, and now I have been honored by being called by the people of New Hampshire to the office of bishop.” He later added: “I do believe that God is doing a new thing in the world, both in the — in the culture and in the church. And I think this is but a momentary blip on an ever-increasing inclusiveness in the society, and an acceptance of gay and lesbian people as full members of society and full members of the church, including its leadership.”


When God is seen as embracing the progressive view, His presence is somehow never in doubt.


TV Presents Environmentalists as Nonpartisan Truthtellers: When the Bush administration changed an EPA rule to let older power plants undertake some beneficial modernization without having to install complete air scrubbing devices as required by the Clean Air Act, the networks all emphasized the denunciations of liberal environmentalists. On August 27, CBS’s Wyatt Andrews gave the left-wing Natural Resources Defense Council’s John Walke a forum to attack the President’s policies, and Walke relished the moment.


“Today is the worst assault on clean air and the biggest enforcement scandal ever to rock EPA,” he declared.


“Ever?” Andrews helpfully asked.


“Ever,” Walke continued. “A gaping loophole has been carved out of that program and the public will suffer.”


Walke showed up on NBC, too, where correspondent Robert Hager broadcast his claim that “this action will result in hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks, bronchitis attacks, heart disease, strokes and heart attacks among senior citizens, as well as Americans dying early from air pollution.”


In fact, the old EPA rule discouraged plants from introducing some less-polluting new equipment because any plant that did so was obligated to completely revamp its entire systems. Therefore, by making modernization easier and less expensive, the Bush action would result in less pollution-related disease, not more.


But the media took their cue from Bush’s liberal opponents. On August 31, CBS revisited the issue on Sunday Morning. After showing Bush stating his goal of protecting the environment, reporter Jerry Bowen undermined the President: “As he spoke, Mr. Bush had already rejected the Kyoto Treaty for controlling global warming, had weakened levels on arsenic in drinking water before reversing the decision under public pressure. He would try and fail to open ANWR, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to oil drilling to meet America’s energy needs.”


The networks’ generosity towards left-wing environmental activists echoed another media-hyped flap that occurred in June, when ABC, CBS, CNBC, CNN and NBC all treated the changing of a sentence in an upcoming EPA report, which few ever heard of and fewer ever would have read, as a major scandal worthy of full stories on their evening newscasts. The network stories all presented liberal stand on global warming as sacrosanct, and implied that only those who challenged it were playing politics.


On June 19 the New York Times ran a politically-loaded front page story by Andrew C. Revkin with Katharine Q. Seelye, based on internal documents fed to them by a disgruntled bureaucrat. Their lead sentence: “The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to publish a draft report next week on the state of the environment, but after editing by the White House, a long section describing risks from rising global temperatures has been whittled to a few noncommittal paragraphs.”


According to the Times, environmentalists were mad that a sentence in the EPA report which read, “climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment,” was replaced with,”the complexity of the earth system and the interconnections among its components make it a scientific challenge to document change and diagnose causes,” a perfectly reasonable summary of why scientists continue to disagree about the causes and severity of any warming.


Networks committed to balanced environmental coverage would have interviewed one or more of the many respected scientists who dissent from the liberal line on global warming. But that night, all of the networks except the Fox News Channel sided with activists and treated the shift in EPA language as a major scandal. Aside from CNBC’s Forrest Sawyer, none of the networks questioned the assumptions of environmentalists, and all of them excluded scientists who disagree with the liberal global warming line.


CNN’s Aaron Brown even attempted an historical analogy to show how Bush’s EPA was trying to punish unpopular but correct scientific dissidents. “Once upon a time,” Brown told his NewsNight audience on June 19, “a scientist named Galileo said the Earth was round, and the political leaders of the time said, ‘No, no, Galileo it’s flat,’ and Galileo got life under house arrest for his little theory. Today, the vast majority of scientists will tell you the Earth is getting warmer and most would agree that industry is at least in part to blame. So far nobody’s gone to jail for saying that, which doesn’t mean the idea isn’t squarely at the center of a political dust up — and not an insignificant one at that because, if the charges leveled against the White House are true, an important environmental question is being twisted or ignored for the sake of politics.”


But Brown’s analogy fell flat on two accounts. First, Galileo’s true heirs in this debate are climatologists such as Patrick Michaels and Fred Singer, who challenge the left-wing orthodoxy that global warming is largely man-made, extremely dangerous, and can only be cured by a massive curtailment of modern industry.


Second, Galileo was born long after Magellan sailed completely around the globe, demolishing once and for all the idea that the world was flat. Galileo was actually punished by the Catholic Church for saying the Earth revolves around the sun. CNN viewers have yet to hear Brown’s correction.




Section 5




Spinning Iraq as Vietnam-Like Quagmire: In a televised address to the nation on September 7, President Bush asked Congress for $87 billion to continue military operations in Iraq and to begin rebuilding the country’s damaged infrastructure. Bush’s desire to spend the resources required for a successful outcome prompted a rise in the number of media mavens who sought to detect a comparison between the liberation of Iraq and the failed mission in Vietnam that cost tens of thousands of American lives in the 1960s.


The Vietnam analogies did not start with Bush’s budget request, of course. CBS’s Jim Acosta, on the July 19 CBS Evening News, suggested that the President was an LBJ-style liar: “This is not the first time the U.S. has gone to war based on facts that later turned out to be questionable. Almost 40 years ago, President Johnson pointed to unconfirmed reports of attacks on American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin to convince the Congress to widen the war in Vietnam.”


A couple of days before Bush spoke, Dan Rather interviewed the general running the military mission in Iraq, Ricardo Sanchez. In excerpts of the interview shown on the September 4 Evening News, Rather confronted Sanchez with the defeatist Vietnam analogy: “A woman in South Carolina is quoted today as saying, ‘We’ve got a tar baby on our hands.’ Others have used the word ‘quick sand’ and ‘quagmire’ out of the Vietnam era.”


To his credit, Rather then asked the general to point out “the biggest mistake or inaccuracy that the press in general is making about the situation here?” Sanchez told Rather that the biggest problem was “the fact that the press does not focus at all on the successes of our great American soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines that are operating here in this country.”


After Bush’s speech, many in the media wrung their hands raw worrying about another Vietnam. On CNN’s NewsNight, Brian Cabell noted that “It’s an argument that seems likely to become louder in the months ahead: Is this truly a continuation of the war against terrorism, or is it possibly another drawn-out, inconclusive Vietnam War in the making?”


On ABC’s Nightline on September 25, Ted Koppel advertised his bias when he asked retired General Anthony Zinni, a critic of the war, whether “the whole notion of the weapons of mass destruction, the connection with al-Qaeda...was [that] as phony as the Gulf of Tonkin resolution?”


Perhaps the most ridiculous attempt to link Iraq and Vietnam came on September 14 with the debut of the newly-revamped This Week with George Stephanopoulos, which featured a gimmicky new feature called “The Briefing.” Stephanopoulos announced: “We begin our morning briefing examining something that’s being heard more and more — that Iraq is starting to look like Vietnam.” He insisted, before George Will was allowed to undermine the premise: “There are also some striking similarities between the speeches of Lyndon Johnson and George Bush.”


ABC viewers were then treated to a series of back-to-back clips of Presidents Lyndon Johnson (in black and white) and George W. Bush, with no dates noted for either set of clips, in order to suggest eerie similarities. In fact, the clips showed only the superficiality that passes for real thinking at ABC. The three pairs of clips:


* President Johnson: “The result would be increased unrest and instability and even wider war.”

President Bush: “Retreat in the face of terror would only invite further and bolder attacks.”


* President Johnson: “World War II was fought in both Europe and Asia and when it ended we found ourselves with continued responsibilities for the defense of freedom.”

President Bush in his September 7 address: “Following World War II, we lifted up the defeated nations of Japan and Germany and stood with them as they built representative governments. We committed years and resources to this cause.”


* President Johnson: “For our part, I will ask the Congress to join in a billion dollar American investment in this effort as soon as it is underway.”

President Bush: “I will soon submit to Congress a request for $87 billion.”


That last one is a real plum — Stephanopoulos or someone else at ABC must think it’s telling to point out that both Presidents asked for money from Congress. Didn’t Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, FDR and Truman also ask for appropriations for military adventures that turned out to be successful?


And since when do liberals like Stephanopoulos think that money equals failure?


Recall, Part I: No Scrutiny of Democratic Frontrunner: When California’s recall election was certified on July 23, the first few weeks of media coverage focused on the “circus.” CBS’s Early Show invited on joke candidates like child actor Gary Coleman, and ignored more serious candidates like conservative state senator Tom McClintock. By September, national news reports focused on a few potentially electable candidates, with liberal Democratic Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante in the lead. But the networks applied no scrutiny to the then-frontrunner, despite his well-known racial controversies.


In 2001, Bustamante said “n-gg-r” when he said he meant to say “Negro” in the title of a black labor organization. In college, Bustamante was an active member of MEChA (the Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan), whose symbol is an eagle clutching a dynamite stick and a machete-like weapon in its claws. Their motto: “For the Race, everything. For those outside the Race, nothing.” The group believes in reclaiming the mythical land of Aztlan, or most of the southwestern United States, for the “bronze race.”


Neither ABC nor NBC mentioned Bustamante’s MEChA ties, even though both interviewed him at length. When CBS’s Bob Schieffer and Los Angeles Times reporter Doyle McManus grilled Bustamante on the August 31 Face the Nation, they both skipped MEChA. Instead, Schieffer invited the frontrunner to pile on second-place GOP candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger for his raunchy comments in a 1977 issue of the pornographic magazine Oui. (See box.)


CBS’s Hattie Kauffman was the only network reporter to raise the MEChA issue, when she questioned Bustamante on the September 3 Early Show. After mentioning Schwarzenegger’s 26-year-old Oui interview, Kauffman added: “There are ghosts in Bustamante’s past as well. He was once a member of a radical group called MEChA. This was a Chicano student group that advocated a separate nation for Mexicans in the American Southwest. Did you know that when you joined?” Bustamante avoided a direct answer and would not disavow the group.


Instead, all the scrutiny was applied to Schwarzenegger. On the September 9 CBS Evening News, reporter Jerry Bowen suggested why Arnold was lagging: “The poll shows he trails Democrat Bustamante among women voters by 13 points, a gender gap aggravated perhaps by his past comments on sex and women that have drawn protesters to his campaign headquarters...And now in an Esquire magazine interview Schwarzenegger gave last spring, in which he expressed interest in the governorship, he remarked how bodybuilders are often thought to be dumb because of their appearance, same for women, he suggested.”


Bowen brought on Katherine Spillar of the Feminist Majority Foundation to denounce Arnold, never noting whether her group was more partisan than principled. On April 2, 1998, Spillar showed a different take when the target was Bill Clinton, telling the Washington Post there was nothing to the Paula Jones allegations: “We have said all along that we thought it was a weak case.”


Network reporters also had a tendency to only label conservatives, especially Senator McClintock. On September 25, Bowen described a TV debate: “The other three candidates —conservative Republican Tom McClintock, the Green Party’s Peter Camejo and Democratic Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante — were subdued by comparison.”


This labeling imbalance was strange, since the views of Bustamante and Camejo on many matters was the polar opposite of McClintock’s positions. Two days earlier on ABC’s World News Tonight, reporter Linda Douglass noted: “Schwarzenegger is also battling another Republican, conservative state senator Tom McClintock. If Davis is recalled and they split the vote, Democrat Cruz Bustamante could win.”


But the liberal policies that actually overturned Gray Davis were rarely a focus of national network scrutiny. ABC, CBS, and NBC never did a morning or evening news story on the tripling of the car tax. On ABC, reporter Jake Tapper made a passing reference to how Tom McClintock “protested the recent tripling of the state car tax.” CBS was silent on the issue until October 1, when reporter Jerry Bowen noticed “the struggling governor is a victim of self-inflicted wounds. Signing a bill to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants backfired. And long lines yesterday punctuated his problems. Motorists registering their cars ahead of today’s tripling of the car tax, a budget-balancing tool that’s infuriated voters.” Of the Big Three, only NBC reported one story on Gray Davis moving to give illegal aliens driver’s licenses.




Recall, Part II: Massive Scrutiny of Republican Frontrunner: As the October 7 election date in California drew near and polls showed Gov. Gray Davis sinking and Arnold Schwarzenegger rising, something less than unexpected intervened to threaten the dynamic: the Los Angeles Times. In the last days of the 1992 election, the Times declined to investigate sexual allegations against Bill Clinton, describing them as “toxic waste.” But five days before the election, the Times published a story using two on-the-record women and four off-the-record women claiming the movie star had groped them, with some of the claims reaching back into the mid-1970s.


By the weekend, Arnold was granting interviews to network anchors, who are not in the habit these days of interviewing governors or gubernatorial candidates. The anchors were remarkably harsh in their questioning, especially in light of the dramatically different standard for sexual scrutiny they set for President Clinton in the last century. Peter Jennings asked: “It cannot be easy to spend the last few days of this campaign having to deal constantly with being called a serial groper or a serial abuser of women and...your admiration for Hitler. Is that tough?”


What Arnold didn’t know before answering is that a Nexis search couldn’t find the words “serial groper” or “serial abuser of women” in the archive of ABC News transcripts at any time during the Clinton years. That would include the occasions on which Jennings interviewed Bill Clinton.


NBC’s Tom Brokaw lectured: “A lot of these women have made very specific accusations about grabbing them sexually and making lewd suggestions. You described it as playful and rowdy and the kind of mischief that you engaged in when you were a younger man. But based on their descriptions, in many states, what you did would be criminal, it would be a sexual assault of some kind.”


This exchange marked a glaring and dramatic political bias, since in 1999, far from any Election Day, Brokaw refused to run a story on NBC’s Nightly News about Juanita Broaddrick. In the story’s only mention — a brief plug for the Dateline interview — Brokaw only referred vaguely to “controversial accusations.” President Clinton was never required to provide any specific answers about those allegations.


On CBS, Dan Rather did not conduct a pre-election interview with Schwarzenegger, but the Evening News did pound on the story from Thursday night to Monday night. Back in 2001, Rather told FNC’s Bill O’Reilly that he didn’t want to touch the Broaddrick allegations because “when the charge has something to do with somebody’s private sex life, I would prefer not to run any of it.” On the night before the election, CBS at least highlighted the hypocrisy of feminist groups which defended Clinton on sexual allegations but attacked Schwarzenegger.


As the race staggered to an end, descending Governor Davis was offered life-raft questions by the networks. On the Friday before the election, ABC’s Brian Rooney was advising Davis to get harsher with the GOP: “He denied some of it, admitted some of it and apologized. He may have admitted some things that are a criminal offense — it’s sexual assault.” When Davis suggested they wait for more proof, Rooney urged: “Back in August, Schwarzenegger’s campaign chief told the Sacramento Bee that this is not a position election, this is a character election. If they established it as a character race, why not meet them on those terms?”


On Monday, October 6, NBC’s Campbell Brown gave Davis easy inquiries: “Can you state, unequivocally, that no one in your campaign, no one in the Democratic party, that you’re aware of, is behind these stories?” And: “Schwarzenegger also told Tom Brokaw, in this interview, that he would not respond to specific allegations until after the election. What do you think about that?”


ABC’s Linda Douglass lobbed the nastiest mudball on the October 2 World News Tonight when she misquoted Schwarzenegger as saying once of Adolf Hitler, “I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for what he did with it,” even displaying the offensive quote on the screen.


It soon emerged that George Butler, the source of the quote, said Arnold had said “I don’t admire him for what he did with it.” The New York Times, which ran the same bad quote in its early Friday editions, rapidly corrected the error after talking to Butler. But Douglass let the smarmy charge linger, ignoring the error in her story for the next day’s World News Tonight. On the October 5 This Week, Douglass refused to acknowledge an error, only noting that Butler had a less anti-Arnold interpretation and not hinting at her own faulty reporting.


TV Won’t Blame Big Spending for Big Deficits: When the final figures on the federal government’s 2003 overspending were released on October 20, both NBC and CBS carried reports on the $374 billion budget deficit, with NBC ominously warning that the deficit for the following year promised to be even greater. TV reporters seldom linked the huge increases in spending over the past several years with those supposedly deplorable deficits. Indeed, the broadcast networks frequently featured horror stories about the harm that would come to citizens if politicians could not spend all that they wished.


“The federal budget deficit hit a record of $374 billion this fiscal year,” anchor Tom Brokaw announced as he blamed everything but the high rate of federal spending: “The tax cuts, the war on Iraq and a weak economy are the main reasons for the red ink which is expected to be even higher next year — as high as $500 billion, another record.”


In October, MRC researchers studied 108 federal deficit stories plus another 64 stories on state government deficits aired between October 1, 2002 and September 30, 2003 (the federal fiscal year) on ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News.


The study found the networks usually cited President Bush’s tax and war policies as causing the federal deficit, while they largely exonerated state government policies, as TV reporters blamed the states’ budget shortfalls on the slow-growing U.S. economy. Overspending was rarely cited as a cause of either the federal or state budget gaps.


Crunching the numbers, a total of 66 network stories linking the federal budget deficit to the tax cuts, followed by 45 that blamed the war on terrorism, homeland security costs or the war in Iraq. (Some stories suggested more than one cause.) Only 12 stories mentioned non-war related federal spending as a reason for the rising red ink, even though such spending has risen sharply in the past three years.


Indeed, an August 2003 report by the Cato Institute’s Veronique de Rugy and Ted DeHaven, for example, unfavorably compared Bush’s budget requests with those of Ronald Reagan.


The scholars found that Bush’s requests for new spending were hardly limited to the war on terrorism: “While Reagan attacked the ‘destructive pattern of runaway spending,’ as he called it in his second budget, Bush has expanded a wide array of ‘compassionate’ welfare state programs,” they wrote. “Real spending in nearly every department has increased substantially, sometimes exorbitantly, under Bush.”


But while network reporters were aggressive at faulting Bush’s conservative tax-cutting policies, they rarely spotlighted his more liberal record on domestic spending. As far as the networks were concerned, deficits weren’t caused by politicians who spent too much, but by politicians who confiscated too little from taxpayers.


ABC’s Peter Jennings reflected the media mentality perfectly on December 9, 2002 when he remarked of the new Treasury Secretary John Snow, “He is said to be in favor of further tax cuts, but against deficits. Doesn’t one lead to the other?”


The media’s fixation on tax cuts was misplaced, according to free market experts. In a Heritage paper published in June, budget analyst Brian Riedl calculated “the 2001 recession and new government spending caused 78 percent of the declining surplus projection,” with tax cuts accounting for just 22 percent of the shortfall.


While the networks blamed Bush for the federal shortfall, state governments were victims of happenstance. Few stories about the federal deficit (just 4 out of 108) mentioned the recession as a cause, but the weak economy was the most often cited reason for state budget gaps (14 out of 64 stories, or 22 percent). “A faltering economy has left state budgets deep in the hole,” ABC’s John Berman announced on November 3, 2002. That same slowdown hurt federal receipts, too, but the networks rarely said so.


Only nine of 64 stories cited high spending as a cause of state budget woes. One of those was on January 11, when ABC’s World News Tonight reporter Judy Muller, in a story on California’s budget problems, ran a sound bite from economist Peter Navarro: “The Davis administration and the Democratic legislature spent like drunken sailors.”


But in other instances, reporters gave state officials a pass by euphemistically referring to “rising costs,” as if politicians played only a passive role in the budget-busting process. Muller on June 30, for example, referred to “states hit by the double whammy of a huge increase in required health care costs and a huge revenue loss from the collapse of the high-tech economy.”


Instead of exposing the state’s profligate spending, network news often featured alarming anecdotes to illustrate the horrors of budget cuts. On February 8, ABC’s Muller told viewers that “for a snapshot of the budget crisis facing almost every state, look at Oregon.” She then played a sky-is-falling soundbite from an Oregon health official: “It’s a catastrophe. It’s a catastrophe for people with chronic illness, poor and vulnerable populations, and most of all, for the frail elderly.”


“And they’re not the only ones,” Muller continued. “In addition to slashing health care and welfare, Oregon is drastically cutting school funds.” Then, a soundbite from a student: “The education in Oregon is, you know, completely dwindling, it’s fading, it’s anexoric.” Maintaining her fearful drumbeat, Muller added: “Jails are releasing nonviolent offenders as a cost-saving measure. And the Oregon state police laid off 20 percent of their troopers.”


According to Muller, the cause of those agonizing spending cuts was greedy taxpayers: “The $315 billion in budget cuts were ordered after Oregonians rejected a ballot measure calling for an income tax increase....Health officials in Oregon warn that cutting so close to the bone will soon cause very real pain.”


But a February 2003 Cato Institute study by Chris Edwards, Stephen Moore and Phil Kerpen documented how state governments took in more than enough tax revenue during the 1990s. “Between fiscal years 1990 and 2001, state tax revenue grew 86 percent — more than the 55 percent of inflation plus population growth,” they calculated. “If states had limited spending growth to that benchmark, budgets would have been $93 billion smaller by FY01, representing savings roughly twice the size of today’s spending gaps.”




Section 6




Journalists Mourn CBS’s “Censorship” of The Reagans: With their heavy emphasis on popular entertainment, the broadcast network morning shows — NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America, and CBS’s The Early Show — often bear more resemblance to Access Hollywood than the evening news. But when the New York Times revealed October 21 that the script of CBS’s then-upcoming mini-series The Reagans was loaded with cheap shots against the ailing former President and his caretaker wife, none of the morning shows found that show-biz controversy worth reporting, and none of the shows acknowledged the copious complaints from Reagan’s allies that accumulated over the next two weeks.


The morning shows delayed their reporting until November 4, when CBS’s owner Viacom announced the movie was being moved to the pay cable network Showtime. As the morning hosts told the story, however, the controversy was not the mean-spirited content of the movie or the appropriateness of its timing. They seemed far more appalled by the idea that a network had agreed with the complaints of Ronald Reagan’s family, friends, and supporters.


But this liberal spin was undermined when the movie finally aired on Showtime on November 30. Just as conservatives had feared, it denigrated Ronald Reagan as a vapid dolt who was manipulated by his wife and scheming advisors, while Nancy was portrayed as mean and neurotic. The film gave short shrift to President Reagan’s many accomplishments, while the Iran-contra scandal and AIDS epidemic got top billing.


“Upon seeing the finished product, I felt the movie was quite biased against the Reagans,” CBS Chairman Les Moonves, a liberal, told a Yale University audience on November 5.


In the immediate aftermath of Viacom’s decision, disgruntled journalists portrayed it as a free-speech controversy, not a matter of political bias and poor taste. On ABC’s Good Morning America November 5, co-host Charles Gibson asked Ronald Reagan’s son, Michael: “Your dad comes, came from the Hollywood community, and he knows what the issues of artistic freedom are. How do you think he’d react?”


Recalling past movies about Presidents, Gibson inquired: “Is a different standard being applied?” Then, referring to a widely-reported quote from the original script that wrongly implied that Reagan was a hateful homophobe, Gibson rationalized: “A lot of people feel, for instance, that your dad was slow to recognize the AIDS crisis, that it had festered for quite a period of time before he addressed it. So if you fictionalize that, is that necessarily wrong?”


That same day on the Early Show, CBS’s Harry Smith mimicked using a TV remote control as he suggested to Michael Reagan that those who complained were just thin-skinned: “Why the vehemence, why the anger? I mean, we live in a, hang on, we live in this multi-channel, digital universe of hundreds and hundreds of choices. All you have to do is go like this, if you don’t like it, you just go like that.”


Smith also gave air time to some whining from Barbra Streisand, as he asked Syracuse University professor Robert Thompson: “Barbra Streisand said today marks a sad day for artistic freedom. Do you think CBS allowed themselves to be bullied by this?”


The drumbeat continued the next day on Today, as Katie Couric framed the debate this way: “Is Ronald Reagan untouchable?”


“While he was in office, he was known as the Teflon President, Ronald Reagan,” Couric pronounced at the start of the program. “Now that CBS has pulled a controversial miniseries about him, some are wondering if the former President is totally off-limits to criticism these days.” In a later interview, she challenged former Reagan aide Ed Rollins: “Does it bother you at all, that, that one group in America or many Americans...can basically exert this kind of political pressure and create an environment where, perhaps, free speech is not exercised?”


The anger that The Reagans had been taken off CBS’s schedule was not confined to morning television. On CNBC November 4, future NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams blamed “mostly Republican pressure groups” for the movie’s cancellation, asking former Reagan aide Mike Deaver whether CBS’s decision was “dangerous.” He asked New York magazine’s media critic Michael Wolff, “Do you believe what has happened here with this mini-series on CBS amounts to extortion?”


“Certainly capitulation,” Wolff agreed, warning: “There is no group as well-organized as the right wing in America at this point in time.”


A November 5 New York Times editorial accused Reagan supporters of creating a “Soviet-style chill.” The Times, with a sudden concern for communist-like oppression, worried, “His supporters credit him with forcing down the Iron Curtain, so it is odd that some of them have helped create the Soviet-style chill embedded in the idea that we, as a nation, will not allow critical portrayals of one of our own recent leaders.”


Philadelphia Daily News TV critic Ellen Gray voiced her disgust to the Washington Post’s Lisa de Moraes in a quote that appeared November 4. Referring to CBS’s May mini-series on the Nazi dictator who killed millions, Gray grumbled, “If Hitler had more friends, CBS wouldn’t have aired [its Hitler mini-series] either.”


“Gutless CBS,” read the headline over an online piece by Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter who complained: “It’s a big victory for the ‘Elephant Echo Chamber,’ the unholy trinity of conservative talk radio, conservative Internet sites and the Republican National Committee.”


USA Today’s Robert Bianco argued: “If nothing else, this act of creative sabotage should put to rest the idea that the media are liberal.” But if the media were not liberal, CBS would never have produced such a derogatory biography of Ronald Reagan. It’s more logical to argue that CBS’s cancellation is the exception which proves the rule.


Indeed, the Chicago Tribune’s Vincent J. Schodolski, John Cook and Frank James reported the day after the decision: “A CBS executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the liberal political views of most CBS executives blinded them to the possibility that Reagan supporters might latch on to the movie as a political issue. ‘I don’t think most people saw it coming,’ the executive said. ‘It’s part of the bubble that we live in.’”


A bubble that apparently includes Bianco, Alter, the New York Times and a host of network journalists.


When the re-edited version of the movie finally aired on Showtime, its anti-Reagan agenda was evident to all but the most ardent leftists. (See box.) Showtime hosted a panel discussion about the movie on December 1, during which two former liberal reporters, Marvin Kalb and Lou Cannon, denounced the unfair and inaccurate portrayal.


Cannon, a former Washington Post reporter Lou Cannon, who penned several biographies of Ronald Reagan, argued that “it’s hard to imagine a cartoon that could be that bad....Remember the famous debate where Lloyd Bentsen says to Dan Quayle, you know, ‘I know John F. Kennedy and you’re no John F. Kennedy’? Well, I do know Ronald Reagan. This isn’t Ronald Reagan.”


“Turkeygate” - Reporters Mar Bush’s Baghdad Trip: Faced with a traditionally slow news day on Thanksgiving, President Bush surprised everyone but the Secret Service and a small press pool by showing up in Baghdad to celebrate the holiday with the troops in Iraq. Like Bush’s plane landing in May, the immediate reaction was electric and positive, which the media elite then felt compelled to drown out with Democratic attack lines.


By Friday morning, the three network morning shows were sharpening their knives for National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, demanding to know about the trip’s political motivations and implications. They began with how the secret trip was accomplished, but then turned tougher. ABC’s Charles Gibson insisted: “Dr. Rice, there’s obviously great symbolism to this trip. Because it is important for a Commander-in-Chief to come and see his troops. But so is there symbolism that the things are so unstable that he had to sneak in, in darkness, that, that he never left the airport, that could only stay two and a half hours.”


Gibson followed up: “I guess I’m asking, isn’t there symbolism in the fact that it points up that not much has changed in eight months?”


CBS’s Harry Smith stated as fact that there was no connection between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein, and implied there are no terrorists in the world who want to kill Americans other than the ones who attacked on 9/11, as he challenged Rice: “Certainly the soldiers that were interviewed said it was a major morale boost, to have the President, have the Commander-in-Chief there. But you brought something up, an interesting point, why they’re there. The President said during his remarks to the troops, he said: ‘You’re defeating terrorists in Iraq so we don’t have to face them in our own country.’ Now, there’s no connection between Iraq and 9/11. Why does the President persist in tying those two together?”


Over on NBC’s Today, Matt Lauer suggested dark motives: “Let’s talk about some criticism that’s been leveled at President Bush as of late, Dr. Rice. And that is that because he did not attend any of the funerals of the fallen soldiers in Iraq, some family members felt he was not showing compassion or a connection to the suffering that they have felt as a result of this war. Was this trip an effort to blunt that criticism?”


In the week that followed, some network reporters tried to turn the trip into a controversial moment. Presidential press secretary Scott McClellan was hounded about inconsistencies in the early versions of how the trip happened and which planes had made contact with Air Force One. NBC’s Norah O’Donnell suggested “Do you think, though, that this third revision of this story now, takes some shine off the President’s surprise visit to the troops?”


CBS’s John Roberts added: “What are the legalities of filing a fraudulent flight plan?”


As with May’s “Mission Accomplished” speech, CNN’s Aaron Brown was one of the most enthusiastic pseudo-scandal manufacturers. When Washington Post reporter Mike Allen wrote that the turkey that President Bush held up for cameras was a roasted display turkey that was not eaten, Brown invited Allen to discuss the less-than-Earth-shaking matter on CNN.


Leading off two segments lasting eight minutes, Brown joked: “The troops didn’t get a taste of it, and so tonight we ask: does this constitute, get ready, Turkeygate?” Brown pressed former Bush aide Mary Matalin: “Do you worry that, when the White House at one point said, well, when the President flew to the aircraft carrier, he had to fly in a jet, and then later had to retract that, that it raises questions about the veracity of the White House itself, not just the President?”




Saddam Captured, But Reporters Still Gloomy: Americans woke up on Sunday, December 14 to the shocking news that Saddam Hussein had been captured alive, found in a tiny “spider hole” with a few candy bars. Iraqis waved red flags in the streets and celebrated. It was a great moment of achievement for the military, but not a great moment for the media.


In their perpetual attempt to see only problems, even in the midst of a dramatic solution, ABC News quickly identified the headaches to come. At 8:10 in the morning, little more than an hour after Saddam’s capture was announced, ABC’s Terry Moran was finding the dark clouds, with no silver linings:


“What happens to Saddam Hussein now becomes an international political problem for this administration in two ways: First, Saddam Hussein was at the heart of Iraqi politics for 30 years really. He was President since 1979, but really in power before then. And for about 15 of those years the United States had an interesting relationship, to say the least, with the Iraqi government. Secretary Rumsfeld was over in Baghdad meeting with Saddam Hussein years ago. There are allegations that the United States provided weapons to Saddam Hussein’s regime during the Iran-Iraq war. And all that could spill out in a big show trial.” Moran’s line of impending U.S. embarrassment was repeated on ABC’s Good Morning America and Nightline.


This talk of the U.S. relationship with Iraq in the 1980s “spilling out” is a very odd formulation, since ABC — and the other networks — worked very hard in 1992 to blame the Reagan and Bush administrations for building Saddam up, leading to the first Gulf War. On October 28, 1992, six days before the presidential election, ABC Nightline host Ted Koppel declared that 18 months of ABC’s searching had revealed a series of “legal and illegal technology transfers” to Iraq.


Koppel began by underlining the massive legwork the major media had done to expose the Bush administration: “It’s a story that Nightline has revisited repeatedly over the past year and a half. The Los Angeles Times reported today that they have done more than 100 stories on the subject, over 90,000 words. This week’s New Yorker did a massive report. New York Times columnist William Safire has been relentless in pursuing the issue.”


Nightline aired at least eight shows on the Reagan-Bush tilt toward Iraq. ABC was quite involved in “spilling” on this story. Stuart Taylor, a legal analyst now with Newsweek, denounced these stories in 1994, finding “there wasn’t much beef in this gigantic scandalburger...This edifice of innuendo was erected on a foundation of factual errors and distortions that spread like a contagion.”


But the oddest denial of the capture’s meaning came on ABC’s prime-time special on Saddam’s capture. In Baghdad, reporter Martin Seemungal relayed how many Iraqis were joyful, but others were muted: “They feel cheated. They’re essentially saying that it would have been much better, they would have been happier to see him fight because it would have justified the fear that they had for him for these so many years.”


Without explaining his personal contact with Iraqis during the day, Jennings asserted: “On the other hand Martin, as people have suggested to us today, there’s not a good deal for Iraqis to be happy about at the moment. Life is still very chaotic, beset by violence in many cases, huge shortages. In some respects, Iraqis keep telling us life is not as stable for them as it was when Saddam Hussein was in power. Is that a factor today?”


To Jennings, “stability” under a tyrant who tortured and killed opponents was more desirable than the hard work of overcoming him.


Another strange moment came that night on CBS, when 60 Minutes star Lesley Stahl interviewed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Stahl worried about the hospitality Saddam would receive: “Let me raise the whole question, for lack of a better term, torture. Let’s say he’s not forthcoming. Would we deprive him of sleep, would we make it very cold where he is, or very hot? Are there any restrictions on the way we treat him to get him to cooperate more than he has been?”


When Rumsfeld insisted we would we follow the Geneva Conventions, that wasn’t good enough for Stahl who pressed: “Sleep deprivation, that kind of thing. You’re ruling it completely out, is that what you’re telling us?”


The next morning, Reuters correspondent Joseph Logan opened a dispatch from Baghdad: “Joy at the capture of Saddam Hussein gave way to resentment toward Washington Monday as Iraqis confronted afresh the bloodshed, shortages and soaring prices of life under U.S. occupation.”


Talking Heads Celebrate “Reform” but Demand Even More: In covering the Supreme Court’s December 10 ruling upholding the McCain-Feingold campaign finance “reform” law, network stories matched the liberal agenda of campaign regulation advocates. Instead of showing any concern for the diminution of free speech rights, the networks presumed there’s too much money in political campaigns, and ignored how the media remain exempt from the speech restrictions which regulate everyone else.


Indicating how some journalists may wish for still more restraints on other people’s free speech, a number of reporters rued how “special interest money” will still be a factor in campaigns despite the law and court ruling.


ABC and CBS failed to even mention the limits on political ads 60 days before an election, a limitation which protects incumbents from speech they don’t like.


While CBS, NBC and CNN at least cited dissenting Justice Scalia’s free speech concerns, ABC didn’t mention the views of the minority. Instead, World News Tonight held itself to a short item read by anchor Peter Jennings, who approvingly cited the Court’s warning: “The majority warned that the law is not a cure all, saying that ‘money, like water will always find an outlet.’ And ABC’s John Cochran reports the big money is already flowing and outside groups are preparing to spend large amounts of money to influence the next campaign.”


The spin was the same on CBS. “The Supreme Court rules on campaign finance reform. The controversial law stands, but we’ll show you the loophole where big special interest money can still get through,” Dan Rather warned in teasing the December 10 CBS Evening News.


Wyatt Andrews warned: “Anyone who thinks this ruling ends soft money in politics is wrong. Political groups called 527s, tax-exempt groups not aligned with the political parties, are already organizing in droves to, guess what, raise unlimited soft money, mostly for ads. One left-leaning 527,, is using soft money for this anti-Bush ad in four states. And this....anti-Dean ad is sponsored by a right-leaning 527, the Club for Growth, again with soft money. Despite the Court’s ruling, unlimited cash will still flow into politics. It just won’t be channeled through the parties.”


NBC’s Tom Brokaw opened his December 10 newscast by making the case for the so-called “reform” bill that five Justices had approved. “Many worry,” Brokaw argued, that American politics “has been corrupted by the massive amounts of money pouring into campaigns, the single-minded pursuit of money by politicians and the advantages all of that money brings to the wealthy and the special interests, especially so-called soft money which was unregulated.”


Naturally, Brokaw did not worry about the “special interests” NBC News is able to promote or denigrate, but how the rules benefit President Bush did worry him: “This ruling doesn’t remove the place of money from campaigns — far from it. In fact, many believe it will only help President Bush who has the built-in advantage of the White House for fundraising and the sky’s the limit because he chose not to accept the restrictions that come with federal matching funds for the campaign.”


On CNN’s Inside Politics, anchor Judy Woodruff celebrated with Senator Russ Feingold and then pressed him on whether McCain-Feingold’s restrictions on free speech were stringent enough: “Already you have these independent third-party groups, so-called 527 committees, that are out there raising money, putting money into this presidential campaign, both on the left and on the right, in effect, you know, making what the court decided today, you could argue, meaningless because money is finding its way back into these campaigns in an unregulated way.”


Over the past several presidential campaigns, network reporters in particular have sought to counter candidate advertising, attempting to negate its effect with “Ad Watches” and other editorial devices. At the same time, journalists became open cheerleaders for the types of campaign regulation embraced by McCain-Feingold, which restricts candidates, political parties, and other interest groups but not the media.


Reporters like Woodruff regularly describe the freedom to participate in the political process by giving money, forming groups and sponsoring their own advertising as some kind of “loophole” begging to be closed by new laws. Perhaps journalists’ itch to “reform” the political process won’t be completely satisfied until the media elite again dominate the political debate, as they did before conservative media watchdogs like the Media Research Center documented how their supposedly objective “news” was just so much liberal bias.




SUMMARY: MRC’s New Study of 2003 Coverage Proves Media as Liberally Biased as Ever (040124)


ALEXANDRIA, Va. --- A year-long study of the national media released today by the Media Research Center titled Still Liberal, Still Biased finds that the national media were as liberally biased as ever in 2003.


“As a new election year begins, the news organizations that truly dominate the media landscape – such as the Big Three networks and influential newspapers such as the New York Times – remain what they have been for decades: allies of liberalism and enemies of conservative policies,” said Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center.


“The Al Frankens and Eric Altermans of the world made a lot of money last year selling the myth that the national media are not biased,” Bozell said. “This month-by-month review lays out in stark detail how wrong they are.”


Key Findings In The Year-Long Study Still Liberal, Still Biased


* Economic Policy: All year, the media waged a campaign against taxpayers while pushing for ever-expanding government spending. The networks gave three times more airtime to liberal arguments against President Bush’s tax cuts than conservative rebuttals, emphasizing how “big” and “huge” those cuts were. But when the subject was a much larger federal handout for senior citizens, the same networks found critics who charged the giveaway of at least $400 billion was “still not enough.”


* Foreign Policy: The media showered skepticism on the elected defenders of American liberty, not the tyrants and terrorists who threatened us. Before the war in Iraq, journalists such as ABC’s Peter Jennings advertised their open hostility to President Bush’s policies. During the war, NBC had to fire one of its reporters for appearing on enemy-controlled Iraqi TV to declare the “failure” of the American war plan. After the war, journalists equated the alleged “quagmire in Iraq to the failed U.S. effort in Vietnam two generations ago. On the day of Saddam Hussein’s capture, Jennings pessimistically declared that “there’s not a good deal for Iraqis to be happy about at the moment.”


* Social Issues: The media marginalized believers in traditional values and celebrated the counter-morality of sexual progressiveness. On the 30th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, TV virtually ignored the well-attended March for Life. Supreme Court reporters contrasted “conservatives” with those supporting “gay rights,” as if conservatives were against “rights.” The networks also portrayed Gene Robinson, the first homosexual Episcopalian bishop, as a courageous pioneer.


* Politics: The media showed extreme reluctance to portray liberal Democrats as ideologues and revealed their double-standard on character issues. Although he’s absolutely opposed to the war in Iraq and wants to reinstate the high tax rates of the Clinton era, numerous journalists rejected the notion that Howard Dean is liberal. As the California recall election approached, reporters such as Tom Brokaw – who refused to detail Juanita Broaddrick’s sexual assault charges against President Clinton – hypocritically confronted Arnold Schwarzenegger with last-minute groping allegations.




EXCERPT of the Report (040126)


Exclusive to CyberAlert, Rich Noyes provided this month-by-month rundown of the two key findings for each month:




+ Reporters Push Spin of Anti-Tax Cut Liberals: Media Research Center analysts studied all 28 tax cut stories on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts from January 2 through January 15, 2003, the two weeks surrounding President Bush’s proposal for new tax cuts to stimulate the economy. The study found that news stories gave three times more airtime to liberal arguments against the tax cuts than conservative arguments for it.


+ TV Treats Pro-Life Marchers as Irrelevant: ABC, CBS and NBC practically ignored the well-attended March for Life held on January 23, 2003, the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. In stark contrast, those same networks heaped publicity on Bush-bashing anti-war protests held just four days earlier, extolling the diversity and idealism of the left-wing demonstrators.




+ Peter Jennings Emphasizes Anti-War Voices: Although all of the broadcast networks portrayed protesters from the anti-war Left as respectable and mainstream, ABC’s Peter Jennings was the most supportive of their message, and he routinely tilted his newscast in favor of their complaints.


+ Dan Rather Panders to Saddam Hussein: During his hour-long interview with Saddam shown on 60 Minutes II February 26, the CBS anchorman gave the murderous dictator more respect than he has offered to some elected American leaders. Rather politely referred to the dictator as “Mr. President,” and sat quietly as Saddam repeated the absurdity that he had received 100 percent of the vote in Iraqi “elections.”




+ Peter Arnett Comforts a Dying Dictatorship: As he had a dozen years earlier during the first Gulf War when he worked for CNN, Peter Arnett’s reporting from Baghdad consisted of transmitting the propagandistic claims of Iraqi officials without a trace of professional skepticism. Arnett, whose reporting aired on NBC and MSNBC, ended up being fired after he appeared on Saddam-controlled Iraqi TV and pronounced the U.S. war plan a failure.


+ Reporters Worry They Are Too Pro-Bush: Reporters criticized each other for failing to demolish President Bush’s arguments for confronting Iraq during a prime time press conference on March 6. ABC’s Terry Moran complained that his brethren looked “like zombies,” although a review shows reporters challenged Bush with many tough questions.




+ Media Champion Free Speech -- But Only for the Left: Before, during, and after the war, leftist celebrities complained they were being punished for their courageous dissent. In reality, TV networks invited these anti-war liberals onto their airwaves and touted their contrary opinions. But when a GOP Senator dissented from the liberal orthodoxy on homosexuality, the media went from championing the dissenter to championing those who wanted to smother his views.


+ CNN Acknowledges They Were Soft on Saddam: On April 10, one day after the liberation of Baghdad, CNN’s top news executive Eason Jordon admitted on NewsNight that his network had suppressed stories about Saddam’s cruelties out of fear for the safety of CNN’s reporters and Iraqi employees of the network. Jordan’s tardy truthfulness validated critics who deplored the sanitized coverage of Saddam’s regime.




+ Reporters Tout Democratic Spin on Lincoln Landing: Even before President Bush’s May 1 landing on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, the news media raised objections, hoping to avoid looking too favorable. But when Democratic officeholders such as Robert Byrd and Henry Waxman sought to undermine the images, the news media made no attempt to avoid looking too favorable to the Democratic partisans, and became willing channels for their complaints.


+ TV Denounces Bush Tax Cut, Again: Final passage of the President’s tax cut in May was met with network bias on par with the hostile coverage that greeted the plan’s announcement in January. Despite the fact that Congress had cut the size of the tax cut in half, CBS’s Dan Rather persisted in echoing liberal critics who insisted it was a “big tax cut plan.”




+ Networks Clamor for Even More Spending: While network reporters frequently called the $350 billion tax cut “huge,” the media mantra on the $400 billion prescription drug handout was that it was “still not enough.” Referring to the fact that not every penny of seniors drug costs would be paid for by taxpayers, CBS’s Joie Chen explained, “with only $400 billion to spend, there just isn’t enough money to fix it.”


+ Media See Legal Battle as Conservatives vs. “Rights”: After two liberal rulings by the Supreme Court -- one upholding affirmative action and another overturning anti-sodomy laws - - the networks juxtaposed “conservatives” upset with the decisions and “rights advocates” who were pleased. After the sodomy ruling, ABC’s Cynthia McFadden tagged conservatives as extremist: “Gays and lesbians are clearly encouraged, but given some of the ferocious language on the other side, full equality may be a good ways off.”




+ Media Suggest 16 Words Undermined Entire Iraq War: After the White House acknowledged that President Bush had overreached in his State of the Union when he cited a British report that Iraq had sought uranium in Africa, the media overreached in declaring that the one sentence qualified as a “vital argument” for the Iraq war. Journalists perpetuated a self-fulfilling storyline, that the administration was “being pressed to defend” its case, even as the press did most of the pressing.


+ Media Make “Centrist” Dean the Latest Craze: As Howard Dean’s anti-war, pro-abortion, pro-higher taxes presidential campaign swiftly rose, reporters acknowledged his heightened chances by avoiding or rebutting the idea that he was a liberal. Newspaper profiles championed Dean’s “fiscal conservatism,” while Time magazine labeled Dean “a rock-ribbed budget hawk, a moderate on gays and guns, and a true lefty on only a few issues.”




+ Presenting Gay Bishop as a Courageous Pioneer: The U.S. Episcopalian church’s elevation of an openly gay bishop was cheered as an advancement for civil rights by the secular liberal media. On weekday and Sunday morning interview shows, ten guests were brought on to champion Canon Robinson’s cause, compared with only one guest who opposed the church’s decision. Robinson’s opponents were frequently labeled as “conservative” but his advocates were not labeled as “liberal.”


+ TV Presents Environmentalists as Nonpartisan Truthtellers: As they had with a global warming controversy in June, in August the media invited partisan environmental activists to the airwaves to denounce the Bush administration’s clean air policies. Reporters frequently echoed liberal talking points, as CBS’s Jerry Bowen rued how “Mr. Bush had already rejected the Kyoto Treaty for controlling global warming, [and] had weakened levels on arsenic in drinking water before reversing the decision under public pressure.”




+ Spinning Iraq as Vietnam-Like Quagmire: Many media mavens sought to find a comparison between the liberation of Iraq and the failed mission in Vietnam that cost tens of thousands of American lives in the 1960s. On ABC’s Nightline on September 25, Ted Koppel advertised his bias when he asked retired General Anthony Zinni, a critic of the war, whether “the whole notion of the weapons of mass destruction, the connection with al-Qaeda...was [that] as phony as the Gulf of Tonkin resolution?”


+ Recall, Part 1: No Scrutiny of Democratic Frontrunner: By September, national news coverage of the California recall election focused on a few potentially electable candidates, with liberal Democratic Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante in the lead. But the networks applied no scrutiny to the then-frontrunner, despite his well-known racial controversies.




+ Recall, Part 2: Massive Scrutiny of Republican Frontrunner: As the October 7 election date neared, the national anchors harshly questioned GOP frontrunner Arnold Schwarzenegger about last-minute allegations he groped women. NBC’s Tom Brokaw, who refused to detail Juanita Broaddrick’s sexual assault charges against President Clinton, lectured Schwarzenegger: “In many states, what you did would be criminal.”


+ TV Won’t Blame Big Spending for Big Deficits: MRC researchers studied 108 federal deficit stories aired between October 1, 2002 and September 30, 2003 (the federal fiscal year) on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts. Reporters seldom linked the huge increases in spending over the past several years with the supposedly deplorable record budget deficits, instead zeroing in on policies liberals deplored: tax cuts and war spending.




+ Journalists Mourn CBS’s “Censorship” of The Reagans: After the New York Times revealed that the script of the upcoming CBS mini-series was loaded with cheap shots against the ailing former President, none of the network morning shows acknowledged the many complaints from Reagan’s supporters. But when CBS decided not to air the objectionable movie, morning TV pounded the notion that “artistic freedom” had been jeopardized by conservative “bullying.”


+ “Turkeygate” -- Reporters Mar Bush’s Baghdad Trip: Like the President’s aircraft carrier landing in May, the media chose to drown out the positive reaction to Bush’s surprise trip to Baghdad with Democratic attack lines. Two weeks after the trip, CNN’s Aaron Brown devoted eight minutes to the fact that the Thanksgiving turkey Bush displayed for a photo was not eaten, a would-be scandal Brown dubbed “Turkeygate.”




+ Saddam Captured, but Reporters Still Gloomy: In their perpetual attempt to see only problems, even in the midst of a dramatic accomplishment, some journalists zeroed in on a few pessimistic talking points in the hours after Saddam Hussein’s capture. “As people of suggested to us today, there’s not a good deal for Iraqis to be happy about at the moment,” ABC’s Peter Jennings asserted during a prime time special December 14.


+ Talking Heads Celebrate “Reform” but Demand Even More: In covering the Supreme Court’s December 10 ruling upholding the McCain-Feingold campaign finance “reform” law, network stories matched the liberal agenda of campaign regulation advocates. Instead of showing any concern for the diminution of free speech rights, the networks presumed there’s too much money in campaigns and ignored how the law exempts the media from the restrictions on political activity.


A year packed with liberal bias.




NBC Forces Out Bob Arnot Who Delivered Upbeat Stories from Iraq (040220)


A week before NBC News President Neal Shapiro hired Rick Kaplan, a Friend of Bill, to take over MSNBC, the New York Observer ran a story by its “NYTV” columnist, Joe Hagan, who recounted how at the end of last year Shapiro did not renew the contract for Dr. Bob Arnot, who contributed positive stories from Iraq. Hagan relayed how “Arnot called NBC News’ coverage of Iraq biased” and he, Hagan summarized, “wondered why the network wasn’t reporting stories of progress in Iraq, a frequently heard complaint of the Bush administration.” Hagan quoted from a letter Arnot sent to Shapiro: “‘As you know, I have regularly pitched most of these stories contained in the note to Nightly, Today and directly to you,’ he wrote. ‘Every single story has been rejected.’”


Hagan reported how “Dr. Arnot said he knew for ‘a fact’ that Mr. Shapiro’s problem with his reporting was that ‘it was just very positive.’” Indeed, “NBC sources said that when the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled in Baghdad, Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw declined to put Dr. Arnot on the air, even though he was the sole NBC reporter on the scene.”


While NBC News may have been resistant to Arnot’s reporting, last November, MSNBC’s Hardball featured his upbeat stories for a week, in a series titled, “Iraq: The Real Story.” The two CyberAlert items on his efforts:


-- November 12 CyberAlert: Bob Arnot, who rarely appears on NBC News programs, popped up Monday night on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews to contradict the image of chaos in Iraq hyped by the media. Launching Hardball’s week-long series, “Iraq: The Real Story,” Arnot recounted the challenges faced by troops in hostile areas, but countered the negative image of the Iraqi situation he knows Americans get from TV news. Arnot argued: “The fact is in 85 percent of the country, it’s calm, it’s stable, it’s moving forward.” Touring a shopping area, Arnot relayed how, “from what you see on TV from Baghdad you’d think that, with the mortars and rockets, that this was a city under siege.” In fact, he contended, “nothing could be further from the truth in many neighborhoods.”


For the CyberAlert item, which features a still shot of Arnot:


-- November 14 CyberAlert: U.S. TV network news about Iraq as distorted as al-Jazeera? Checking in from Iraq on Wednesday’s Hardball, Bob Arnot highlighted a Muslim ayatollah in Iraq who “is furious at the press coverage. He says not only American television, but Arabic satellite TV, such as Al-Jazeera and the Abu Dhabi station, have mis-portrayed the great success that is Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein.” The night before, Arnot contrasted the negative TV news image of widespread destruction and disgust for Americans with the reality he sees of Iraqis who “love the Americans and their President for cleaning up their streets, providing clean water, opening the schools.” See:


Now, an excerpt from Hagan’s piece in the February 16 New York Observer, a weekly newspaper, “Dr. Bob Arnot’s Parting Shot.”


Bob Arnot, the medical doctor turned foreign correspondent for MSNBC and NBC News -- the onetime chief medical correspondent “Dr. Bob” on NBC News, who has been filing prickly, Geraldo-like dispatches from Iraq -- has been conspicuously absent from TV lately. Dr. Arnot’s contract was up at NBC in December 2003 and, according to the network, won’t be renewed in the foreseeable future.


Dr. Arnot did not leave willingly.


Although personal, his departure has also exposed the divides over TV coverage of the war in Iraq.


In a 1,300-word e-mail to NBC News president Neal Shapiro, written in December 2003 and obtained by NYTV, Dr. Arnot called NBC News’ coverage of Iraq biased. He argued that keeping him in Iraq and on NBC could go far in rectifying that. Dr. Arnot told Mr. Shapiro that NBC had alienated the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad since it shot and then aired footage of correspondent Jim Miklaszewski at the scene of the November bombing of the Al Rashid Hotel, in which a C.P.A. staffer was shown injured. That incident, he wrote, “earned the undying enmity of the C.P.A.”


“We’ve been at a significant disadvantage given NBC’s reputation in Iraq,” Dr. Arnot wrote Mr. Shapiro. He argued that due to his excellent relationships with military and C.P.A. personnel, NBC News could repair its standing with government authorities by airing more of his material.


“I’m uniquely positioned to report the story,” he wrote. “NBC Nightly News routinely takes the stories that I shoot and uses the footage, even to lead the broadcast,” but “refuses to allow the story to be told by the reporter on the scene.”


In other words, he suggested, NBC News did not like putting him on the air.


Dr. Arnot included excerpts from an e-mail from Jim Keelor, president of Liberty Broadcasting, which owns eight NBC stations throughout the South. Mr. Keelor had written NBC, stating that “the networks are pretty much ignoring” the good-news stories in Iraq. “The definition of news would incorporate some of these stories,” he wrote. “Hence the Fox News surge.”


Reached for comment, Mr. Keelor said that he was “not lambasting anyone” and that NBC News “indicated they were sensitive to the issues.” But he added, “Of course it’s political. Journalism and news is what unusual [events] happened that day. And if the schools are operating, they can say that’s usual. My response to that is, ‘The hell it is.’ My concern there is that almost everything that has occurred in a Iraq since the war started is unexpected.”


That pretty much summed up Dr. Arnot’s attitude as well. In his letter to Mr. Shapiro, he wondered why the network wasn’t reporting stories of progress in Iraq, a frequently heard complaint of the Bush administration. “As you know, I have regularly pitched most of these stories contained in the note to Nightly, Today and directly to you,” he wrote. “Every single story has been rejected.”


Reached at home in Vermont, Dr. Arnot said Mr. Shapiro was no longer interested in his kind of coverage. “On the MSNBC side, they’ve been very generous and they want me back,” he said. “But from the NBC vantage point, Neal neglected to put any money into the pot, and that’s the reason I’m not back in Baghdad.”


Did Mr. Shapiro respond to his e-mail? “That particular e-mail, I didn’t get any response,” he said. “There was an earlier e-mail, and the response said, ‘We’re just too strapped. We don’t have the money to be able to afford the editorial oversight.’”


Dr. Arnot said he knew for “a fact” that Mr. Shapiro’s problem with his reporting was that “it was just very positive.”


Mr. Shapiro responded by e-mail, saying that NBC News had re-evaluated its coverage for 2004, determined that “we were in the post-war period in Iraq” and shifted its resources to political coverage....


A number of high-ranking military officials contacted by NYTV complimented Dr. Arnot’s superior reporting skills, especially in light of what they perceived as the chronically negative war reporting on TV in the United States....


Maj. Clark Taylor e-mailed NYTV from Baghdad to state that Dr. Arnot “highlighted what is really happening over here....He generally reported positive things because, generally, that is what is happening. Of course there are occasional bad things...and he reported those as well. The fact was, he reported what he saw—which generally was positive.”


“As you probably know, he is quite a renaissance man (doctor, athlete, TV journalist, etc.),” wrote Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus in an e-mail, “and the ‘Screaming Eagles’ (the nickname for the 101st’s soldiers) really took to him. Our soldiers and leaders were particularly pleased that he demonstrated so much interest in the nation-building endeavors that were carried out by our troopers and our many superb Iraqi partners.”...


In his e-mail to Mr. Shapiro, Dr. Arnot argued that his relationships with the authorities earned him access to stories that other reporters couldn’t get.


“I was the only reporter to be shown the actual list of terrorists found in Saddam’s briefcase,” he wrote. “The military even let me witness the capture of one of the leaders of the insurgency … a major general in the Baathist military wing.”


And Mr. Shapiro had a number of complimentary things to say about Dr. Arnot, calling him an “intrepid live reporter.”


But in the halls of NBC News, a number of insiders at the network said, Dr. Arnot was seen as a cheerleader for the military and the C.P.A. Some questioned his accuracy as a reporter.


In 1998, Mr. Arnot’s best-selling book, The Breast Cancer Prevention Diet, came under intense scrutiny from medical watchdogs for its broad claims—so much so that both the American Cancer Society and Memorial–Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City complained of inaccuracies and misstatements in Dr. Arnot’s book. “In the end, there were no technical faults with the book,” said Dr. Arnot.


In 2001, Dr. Arnot—then chief medical correspondent for NBC’s Today show and for Dateline NBC—gave up his stethoscope and donned a flak jacket for some foreign adventures....


[Arnot in e-mail to Shapiro] “What happens if NBC is wrong[?]” he wrote. “What happens if this is a historical mission that does succeed...that transforms the Middle East...that brings peace and security to America. What if NBC’s role was like that of much of the media in general...allowing the terrorists to fight their war on the American television screen, where their stories of death and destruction dominate rather than that of American heroes?”...


NBC sources said that when the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled in Baghdad, Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw declined to put Dr. Arnot on the air, even though he was the sole NBC reporter on the scene. Instead, Mr. Brokaw aired a British reporter from a news agency called ITN. “They used ITN, their British affiliate...rather than someone on the NBC payroll,” said the NBC staffer. “They don’t use his reporting because they don’t trust his reporting.”...


Dr. Arnot was not the first NBC employee to complain about coverage in Iraq. In fact, Noah Oppenheim, the producer of the Hardball series, a self-identified neoconservative and onetime producer for Scarborough Country, wrote an article for The Weekly Standard upon his return from his three weeks in Iraq, asserting that reporters rarely got out of the so-called Green Zone in Baghdad, and that they cribbed wire reports. Mr. Oppenheim left MSNBC when Nightly News executive producer Steve Capus and anchor Tom Brokaw complained openly that the article was unseemly coming from a NBC-affiliated news producer.


While Dr. Arnot’s fitness as a reporter may be under scrutiny, his criticism of NBC News does go to the heart of an ongoing issue in this election season, the media perception of the war in Iraq. On Sunday, Feb. 8, when Tim Russert asked President Bush on NBC’s Meet the Press if the administration had miscalculated “how we would be treated and received in Iraq,” Mr. Bush’s responded that he disagreed with the premise of the question: “Well, I think we are welcomed in Iraq. I’m not exactly sure, given the tone of your questions, we’re not.”


The exchange showed the distance between the White House and the media on how the war had been presented to Americans. They were two men watching different TV shows -- Mr. Bush had his sources, and Mr. Russert saw what he saw.


And so did Dr. Arnot.


END of Excerpt


The New York Observer has not yet placed this February 16 story in its archive, but when it does it should be listed here:


The December 10 CyberAlert ran an excerpt from the Weekly Standard article by MSNBC producer Noah Oppenheim, who we’ve now learned from Hagan, was forced out of NBC News because of it. CyberAlert had related: A month ago MSNBC producer Noah Oppenheim traveled to Iraq to “find out if things had really gone as horribly wrong as the evening newscasts and major print dailies reported.” In the latest Weekly Standard, he recounted how found that “the mounting body count is heartbreaking, but the failure of American journalism is tragic.” Oppenheim discovered that “America has brought to Iraq the notorious Red State-Blue State divide. Most journalists are Blue State people in outlook, and most of those administering the occupation are Red.” Since “most journalists did not support this war to begin with,” Oppenheim observed, they “feel vindicated whenever the effort stumbles.”




Special Edition: The Liberal Media vs. The GOP (040913)


GOP “May Be Right” About Bias


Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham: “The work of the evening, obviously, is to connect George W. Bush to the great war leaders of the modern era. You’re going to hear about Churchill projecting power against public opinion....”

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews: “But Iraq was a popular cause when he first started it. It wasn’t like Churchill speaking against the Nazis.”

Meacham: “That’s not the way the Republican Party sees it. They think that all of us and the New York Times are against them.”

Matthews: “Well, they’re right about the New York Times and they may be right about all of us.”

– Exchange shortly after 8:30pm EDT during MSNBC’s live convention coverage, August 30.


Beware of Angry Republicans


“Democrats might now question their strategy of having been polite to the President at their convention, for Republicans showed no such reluctance last night. The keynote speaker, Democratic Senator Zell Miller....Miller all but questioned Kerry’s patriotism, citing Kerry votes against weapons systems....The Vice President, in his acceptance speech, was milder by comparison, but just by comparison....The Vice President and Senator Miller pounded and pounded and pounded. It may have been very effective politics; it was not subtle.”

– ABC’s Charles Gibson on Good Morning America September 2, recounting the speeches from the night before.

“The Vice President was very, very tough, but Zell Miller was on a tirade. I mean, he was red faced, red meat for the red states.”

– ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on the same program a few moments later.


“They’re having all these moderate speakers, but the moderate speakers, we discussed last night, aren’t giving moderate speeches, they’re giving speeches in which they’re echoing a lot of this red meat. This is a very angry convention, it’s a very belligerent convention. I mean, I’ve covered 16 conventions....I’ve never heard such an angry speech [as Zell Miller’s].”

– CNN political analyst Bill Schneider on NewsNight with Aaron Brown, September 1.


GOP’s Convention “Con Game”


“The President’s team knows that it can’t get back to the White House by taking only hard right turns, so it has, as three of its featured speakers, Republicans who have been successful by navigating the middle of the road as well the right-hand side: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rudy Giuliani and Senator John McCain who often calls himself John Kerry’s best friend in the U.S. Senate. Streetwise New Yorkers may call that the political equivalent of a popular con game in this tough town - three-card monte. But then, that’s a game in which the dealer almost always wins.”

– Tom Brokaw ending the August 29 NBC Nightly News.

“The Republican convention opens in New York to renominate George W. Bush and showcase the party’s, quote, ‘moderate side.’ Will voters buy it?”

– Dan Rather opening the August 30 CBS Evening News.


“Even as the cast members swing to the right, Republicans will carefully keep the script aimed straight down center stage, a production critics say is meant to mask the deeper plot line of this Republican show – a party platform calling for constitutional amendments against both abortion and same sex marriage, a ban on so-called ‘civil unions’ for gays, and limits on stem cell research.”

– CBS’s John Roberts on the Sept. 1 Evening News.


“What you won’t see from the stage tonight is the unhappiness of some of these delegates over the party’s platform on gay marriage and civil unions.”

– NBC’s Tom Brokaw on the August 31 Nightly News.


“In prime time this week, what one GOP insider calls its moderate stars – McCain, Giuliani and Schwarzenegger. All have huge public approval ratings, but all sharply disagree with the party’s platform on issues like abortion, stem cell research and gay marriage. Democratic critics say the President is using these moderates to pull a fast one on middle-of-the-road voters.”

– NBC’s David Gregory on the August 30 Nightly News.


“Can the Republicans get away with putting these moderate speakers up there?”

– CNN’s Judy Woodruff on Inside Politics, August 31.


Bush Omits Osama, Compassion


“He hopes to rekindle his year 2000 mantra of compassionate conservatism, a goal his critics say would be a stunning feat given his record of the past three years.”

– John Roberts previewing President Bush’s convention speech, September 2 CBS Evening News.

“You’re also going to hear the words ‘compassionate conservative’ escape the President’s lips for the first time in quite a while. That was the mantra that he wore in the 2000 election, a mantra that he believes helped him win that election, so he is going to try to adopt that again in the 2004 campaign, though some critics would probably say it’s a mantra that rings pretty hollow considering some of the policies that his government has pursued.”

– Roberts during CBS’s live coverage, September 2.


“It is interesting to note though, Dan, he seems to have completely forgotten about Osama bin Laden who remains at large. There was no talk about him. Also no talk about a couple of the other great challenges facing America on the international stage, and those are the problems with nuclear programs in both Iran and North Korea.”

– Roberts a few moments after Bush’s speech, Sept. 2.


“No Place” for Moderate Women


“You and Olympia Snowe, the other Senator from Maine, are known as moderate Republican women. You have no place in this convention. The platform does not seem to speak to a lot of women in this country. It’s anti-abortion, it does not expand stem cell research, on other social issues in which women have some interest, for example, gay unions, is formally opposed to that. Do you think that this platform and this party is doing enough to reach out to moderate women across the country?”

– NBC’s Tom Brokaw to Senator Susan Collins on his 4pm EDT MSNBC show Brokaw in New York, August 31.

Moderator Tim Russert: “Harry Truman said it this way: ‘To me, party platforms are contracts with the people, and I always looked upon them as agreements that had to be carried out.’ There’s no possible way that you, or the Mayor of New York, or the Governor of New York, or John McCain or Arnold Schwarzenegger, the prime-time speakers, agree with this party platform, which led the head of the Log Cabin Republicans to say this: ‘You can’t craft a vicious, mean-spirited platform, then try to put lipstick on the pig by putting Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger on in prime time.’”

Rudy Giuliani: “Which am I, the pig or the lipstick?”

– Exchange on NBC’s Meet the Press, August 29.


Compassion = Liberal Position


“There are moderates in your party who say, here we are at a convention where tonight the theme is compassion and we’re talking about banning gay marriage. Is that a compassionate stance?”

– MSNBC’s Chris Jansing to a GOP delegate, August 31.


Disdaining Dark Dick Cheney...


“One of the obstacles for Dick Cheney tonight is the fact that he has become a dark figure....There are those who believe that Dick Cheney has led this administration and this President down a path of recklessness, that maybe his approach, his dark approach to this constant battle against another civilization, is actually the wrong approach for ultimately keeping America safe.”

– NBC White House reporter David Gregory during live convention coverage on MSNBC about 8:30pm EDT on September 1, about two hours before Cheney spoke.


...And Apoplectic Over Angry Zell


“As he was talking, I was getting e-mails saying, you know, this reminds me of Houston, 1992 – Pat Buchanan. Now, Zell Miller is no Pat Buchanan, but it was a very, very hot speech, not likely to convince, as I said before, many of the unconvinced.”

– George Stephanopoulos during ABC’s live coverage, September 1.

“Zell Miller’s speech was a red meat speech, in fact a raw meat speech, which in fact misstates a lot of Kerry’s record, but draws some very tough conclusions.”

– NBC’s Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC, September 1.


Now They Care About Zell’s Past


“Well he was chief of staff to [Governor] Lester Maddox when he was, Lester Maddox is an axe-handle wielding segregationist. He opposed the Civil Rights Act of ‘64, he opposed the Voting Rights Act that came later. He is an old-time ‘seggie’ who has changed like most people. I’m not gonna hold that against him except to say that’s where his roots are.”

– MSNBC’s Chris Matthews during live GOP convention coverage around 7pm on September 1, about three hours before Miller spoke.

“Zell Miller’s speech was a speech of hate, it was a speech of venom. This is a man who started his political career with Lester Maddox and last night he imitated Lester Maddox. Lester Maddox, as we all know, was a segregationist but he was a man of hate. Zell Miller is not a segregationist, not that at all....[But] I grew up in the South, I’ve seen the face of anger, I’ve seen the face of hatred....There are lines in politics and that speech went over the line.”

– U.S. News & World Report Editor-at-Large David Gergen during MSNBC’s live coverage, September 2.


“The big loser was Bob [Novak]’s winner, Zell Miller, whose substantive achievements as Governor in education and the like will be forever overshadowed by the bookends of hatred: His start as a racist in the ‘60s, and that vicious, mean-spirited speech. What’s he so angry about? This is a man who’s really got some trouble. Chris Dodd and his Senate colleagues said, you know, ‘I expected after hearing him for a couple minutes, I thought he’d bring out an axe.’”

– Wall Street Journal Executive Washington Editor Al Hunt on CNN’s Capital Gang, September 5.


No Purple Heart Jokes Allowed


“This is a man [John Kerry] who went and served his country. Do you feel as though you’re making fun of him?...One of the things that the criticism of this is, that there are, you know, kids over in Iraq right now, some of them getting Purple Hearts. Is this defaming of them?”

– CNN’s Candy Crowley to a GOP delegate wearing a band-aid with a purple heart on it, August 30.

“Virginia Republican committeeman and Karl Rove buddy, Morton Blackwell, distributed fake Purple Hearts on the convention floor Monday to mock Vietnam combat hero John Kerry, another saga in a despicable Republican-led effort which, as Senator John McCain says, smears the medals, ribbons and service of all those who fought in that tragic war.”

– The Wall Street Journal’s Al Hunt on CNN’s Capital Gang, September 5. One delegate CNN showed sporting a “Purple Heart” band-aid was Tucker Watkins, a Vietnam veteran who served in the 101st Airborne.


“John McCain has talked about these ads raising allegations about John Kerry’s military service. He’s called it ‘dishonest and dishonorable.’ Why do you think it’s okay to wear a bandage like that?...Do you really believe he didn’t earn his medals or his Purple Heart?”

– George Stephanopoulos to GOP delegate Tucker Watkins during live coverage August 30 on ABC News Now, an all-news service available via cable and the Internet.


Bloodshed Without Victory


“With 9/11, the cause was just: War on terrorism....But ‘overwhelming victory’ remains elusive. The Taliban is still killing Americans, and Osama bin Laden lives to plan another 9/11. In Iraq, a new goal: eliminate weapons of mass destruction the administration insisted threatened America. But there were none. Then the goals started shifting: Get rid of Saddam. And then, something far harder, far fuzzier: Bring democracy to Iraq....The price is being paid in blood – almost a thousand Americans dead, nearly seven thousand wounded....Americans can be forgiven for doubting if the goals are still clear and for worrying that overwhelming victory – indeed, any victory – is something we may never have.”

– Barry Petersen on the Sept. 1 CBS Evening News.

“The fact is, more than 800 Americans have died since the President appeared under that ‘Mission Accomplished’ sign on the aircraft carrier about a year ago or so. Did the President botch the execution of this war?”

– CBS’s Harry Smith to White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett on The Early Show, September 2.


“The day after 9/11, there was never a greater outpouring of support and compassion to the United States than in those days....Here we are three years later, and as I mentioned in parts of the Arab world, polls show we have never been more hated.”

– NBC’s Matt Lauer to President Bush in an interview shown August 30 on Today.


An Economic Record Like Hoover’s


John Roberts: “What the President didn’t say was that the employment numbers in August again fell short of expectations, and it is now certain he will end his first term as the first President since the Great Depression to lose jobs on his watch....The situation is worse than it seems. While the President touts the results of his economic recovery plan– “

Bush: “We have added 1.7 million jobs.”

Roberts: “– job creation hasn’t kept up with population growth. By that measure, experts say, he is several million more jobs in the hole.”

– September 3 CBS Evening News story on the unemployment rate falling to 5.4 percent.

“Today’s job numbers, a smaller than anticipated boost in August, loomed large on the campaign trail today. Mr. Bush argued his tax cuts have led to the creation of 1.7 million jobs since last summer. But that’s far shy of the 2.6 million jobs the administration promised this year alone.”

– NBC’s David Gregory on the Sept. 3 Nightly News.


Maybe He Should Quit Now


“By most accounts, by a lot of accounts, Dan, the numbers are not all that much in President Bush’s favor. You’ve got unemployment. He says 5.5 percent, but the job growth is decelerating. You had more people falling into poverty last year, more people losing health insurance, the stock market’s worth less today than it was four years ago. Can he really run on those type of numbers?”

– NBC’s Matt Lauer to White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett on Today, September 2.


Joe Klein, Democratic Tool


“The President has taken a very strong, uncompromising, stubborn, and in many cases unwise stand in the war on terrorism and they, the Republicans, feel that the only way to defend that stand is to be as strong and as uncompromising as he’s been.”

– Time’s Joe Klein on CNN’s NewsNight, August 30.

“I’ve been doing this for a fair number of years and I don’t think I’ve seen anything as angry or as ugly as [Zell] Miller’s speech....Not only that, it was wildly inaccurate.”

– Klein on CNN’s NewsNight on September 1.


Aaron Brown: “Joe, you’ve great instincts on this. Tell me what you think about the wisdom of Senator Kerry coming out tonight and giving this double-barreled response, if you will, to the attack on him by the Vice President yesterday.”

Time’s Joe Klein: “Well, I think, I think they had to do it. It’s about time they did something real. I mean, this is, this convention this week was the exact opposite of the Democratic convention, which, in which the Democrats almost seemed lobotomized because they never made the case against George W. Bush.”

– CNN’s NewsNight on September 2, shortly before Kerry appeared at a midnight rally in Ohio to declare Bush and Cheney “unfit” for office.


NBC’s Revisionist History


“It is unusual for the opponent to strike back on the night of the acceptance speech of the presidential nominee, but the Democrats I talked to last night, Katie, and this morning through e-mails, they said, ‘Finally.’ This Swift Boat controversy, the attacks on John Kerry’s military record, started one month ago, and Senator Kerry was silent through the month of August.”

– NBC’s Tim Russert on Today, September 3.




Brian Williams: “Decision 2004: John Kerry, stung by attacks by pro-Bush Vietnam vets, accuses the President of letting them do his ‘dirty work.’”

John Kerry: “Well, if he wants to have a debate about our service in Vietnam, here is my answer: Bring it on!”

– Opening tease on the August 19 NBC Nightly News.


Pleading With Laura to Stop Ads


“Now that friends and supporters of the President have raised the issue of John Kerry’s combat record in Vietnam, do you or do you not think it’s fair now for the Kerry people to come back and dig anew into your husband’s military service record?”

“Are you worried about a campaign descending into something so nasty that it’d drive the prairie dogs in your home in West Texas back in their holes?”

– Dan Rather to First Lady Laura Bush in an interview shown on the September 2 CBS Evening News.

“Do you or do you not think it’s fair that those Swift Boat ads should have attacked his [John Kerry’s] combat record, not the stuff after?”

“But I’ve heard you talk in the past about how you’d like the campaign generally, politics, generally, to be more generous and less nasty. As one of the country’s leaders, do you, don’t you have a role in trying to damp it down?”

– Peter Jennings to Laura Bush on ABC’s World News Tonight, September 2.


Horrified at Anti-Kerry “Lie”


“You see a group of people spend, in fact, not very much money, a small amount of money, go to Washington and peddle this story. It then gets picked up, particularly on cable TV....Now, in the last week, we really can pretty much establish that the allegations made in that first ad are nothing more than a lie. In the first ad. They are a lie. But that has not caught up until now and it has done significant damage to the Kerry campaign.”

- NPR’s Nina Totenberg on Inside Washington August 28 discussing the Swift Boat Vets’ ads against John Kerry.


Are Those American Troops?


“Hillary Clinton, who has presidential ambitions obviously as a Senator from New York, is the first Senator from New York to seek a position on the Armed Services Committee....She’s done it effectively. I’ve got to tell you, the rank-and-file military are really happy with her.”

– NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell during MSNBC’s live convention coverage on August 30.


Vote for President Dumb-Ass


“If you want a President who operates on his gut and who operates on instinct and belief, as opposed to facts, and who rarely uses his brain and boasts about not reading anything, and once he makes a decision never varies, then vote for George Bush.”

– Eleanor Clift on the September 4 McLaughlin Group.


Take That, John Ashcroft!


“What they could be charged with, other than political expression, I do not know.”

– ABC’s Peter Jennings commenting on the removal of two anti-war protesters from the Republican convention during President Bush’s speech on September 2.


Dick Cheney, Mortician-in-Chief?


“I read you once took a psychological profile test, and it said the position you’re most suited for is undertaker.”

– ABC’s Claire Shipman to Vice President Cheney in an interview shown August 31 on Good Morning America.


Signs of a Bush Rout?


“The one thing we’ll leave you with tonight was what [Rudy] Giuliani said last night. He, being a great New York Yankees fan, said the Republican Party’s future was like the Yankees. Maybe a little glib to conclude with, but tonight the Yankees got beaten by Cleveland, 22 to nothing.”

– ABC’s Peter Jennings concluding his network’s live convention coverage, August 31.


A Liberal Journalist’s Nightmare


“The small story of the night from our vantage point – we could see the family box where the youngest Schwarzenegger child kept raising a sign and waving it that said ‘Four More Years.’ And if you’re a parent, you know how to discipline a child through clinched teeth. That’s what Democratic mom Maria Shriver was doing throughout.”

– NBC’s Brian Williams reporting on his former NBC colleauge Maria Shriver’s obvious discomfort as her husband, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, spoke at the Republican convention, August 31.




Rather’s Game is Over (040921)


by L. Brent Bozell III


The jig is up. The game is over. CBS tried to energize the country into voting against President Bush by highlighting forged documents it said would prove Bush’s failure to serve honorably in the Texas Air National Guard. The smoking gun went up in smoke. Once caught, CBS and Dan Rather could have responded with a simple apology. Instead, they went ballistic – and now must pay the price for their defiance.


For more than a week, Dan Rather responded like a cornered politician, blaming a vast right-wing conspiracy of “partisan political activists” for unfairly trying to change the subject from Bush’s alleged misdeeds to CBS’s increasingly obvious misdeeds.


In an interview with USA Today, Rather became seriously overwrought, charging that his “partisan” critics want him....dead? What? Look at Rather’s glimpse inside the conservative mind, as he sees it and decrees it: “Because he won’t report it our way, we’re going to hang something bad around his neck and choke him with it, check him out of existence if we can, if not, make him feel great pain.”


Rather’s journalistic defenses weren’t any more effective than his political attacks. First, CBS cited handwriting expert Marcel Matley and Gen. Bobby Hodges to vouch for its documents. But soon, Gen. Hodges had something else to say on the matter: CBS never showed him the documents, and when he finally did see them, he said they were forgeries. Matley also contradicted CBS, maintaining he could not authenticate the documents, because they’re copies. The widow and son of Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, the supposed author of the phony memos, also denounced the documents as fake. The supposed superior pressing on Killian as described in the memos had retired 18 months earlier.


Innumerable news outlets easily found the inconsistencies and untruths within days – even hours – yet CBS, which claims it spent five years on the story, found....nothing wrong?


The real turning point of the Rathergate scandal came when ABC interviewed two document authenticators hired by CBS who said they warned CBS just days before the offending segment aired that they found “red flags” in the documents. The “honest mistake” defense was dead. CBS was now outed as complicit in this very ugly plot.


None of these developments were allowed inside Dan Rather’s hermetically sealed news bubble in his on-air defenses on September 10 and September 14. The ultimate insult to the viewing public came on the next edition of “60 Minutes,” a week after CBS aired the original fraud. The only guest was Marian Carr Knox, a secretary and typist for Lt. Col. Killian. The new CBS line, manufactured after the network flew Mrs. Knox to New York for a sit-down with Rather: Here’s a single guest on camera who says our procured documents are phony, but she says the substance of them are true. And since that’s all that counts, we continue to stand by our story.


What a complete dodge. A fake is a fake. Journalism schools don’t teach that it’s okay to fake a document to smoke out a larger “truth.” (Would CBS endorse police departments planting evidence on criminal suspects who they believe are guilty for the larger “truth”?)


They may still pretend to dismiss conservative critics, but CBS and others will probably pay the most attention to the bottom line, and that broadcast news ratings meltdown continues. In 2001, the American Journalism Review reported the “CBS Evening News” lost half its viewership from 1981 to 2001. Last week, the show averaged 6.7 million viewers, which is still looks powerful next to everyday cable news ratings, but hardly represents the old hegemony of the Big Three over the political process.


When I titled my book “Weapons of Mass Distraction: The Coming Meltdown of the Liberal Media,” I had no idea Dan Rather and CBS would provide such a blatant show-and-tell to prove my point. In its early days, the Big Three ruled the roost, and critics were treated like gnats, a small annoyance, easily ignored.


After decades of liberal media arrogance and abuse, a conservative media counterculture has arisen in cable news, talk radio, and the Internet. The conservative counterculture buzzes daily about the misinformation the liberal media tries to feed the people. Media accountability to their audience is now coming directly from the audience. Democracy has arrived at the CBS door. No wonder Dan Rather came unglued.




By 12-to-1! Washington Reporters Prefer Kerry Over Bush (040802)


By a one-party state-like overwhelming margin, political reporters who are covering the presidential campaign think John Kerry would make the better President, New York Times reporter John Tierney discovered in taking an informal survey of 153 journalists at a press party during the Democratic convention last week in Boston. “When asked who would be a better President,” Tierney relayed in his Sunday news section “Political Points” column of tidbits from the campaign trail, “the journalists from outside the Beltway picked Mr. Kerry 3 to 1, and the ones from Washington favored him 12 to 1.”


12 to 1! That’s Soviet-era support for one candidate. Does Castro do that well in Cuba?


Extrapolating from additional numbers cited by Tierney, he got his 12-to-1 ratio from a fairly substantial sample size: At least 48 DC-based journalists. (He reported that “about a third” of the 153 were from Washington and how, by 27 to 21 with a few no opinions, most of the Washington-based journalists would prefer to cover Kerry than Bush.)


Greg Pierce, writer of the “Inside Politics” for the Washington Times, highlighted te Tierney item in his Monday column ( )


An excerpt from Tierney’s column, “Finding Biases on the Bus,” in the August 1 New York Times:


As John Kerry celebrates his nomination with a coast-to-coast bus trip (this may be the first time the word “celebrates” has appeared so close to “coast-to-coast bus trip”) conservatives are complaining about his good press. They say that journalists’ liberal bias has colored the reviews of the Democratic convention and his speech.


But do journalists really want John Kerry to defeat George W. Bush? It depends where they work and how you ask the question, at least according to the unscientific survey we conducted last weekend during a press party at the convention. We got anonymous answers from 153 journalists, about a third of them based in Washington.


When asked who would be a better president, the journalists from outside the Beltway picked Mr. Kerry 3 to 1, and the ones from Washington favored him 12 to 1. Those results jibe with previous surveys over the past two decades showing that journalists tend to be Democrats, especially the ones based in Washington. Some surveys have found that more than 80 percent of the Beltway press corps votes Democratic.


But political ideology isn’t the only possible bias. Journalists also have a professional bias: they need good stories to make the front page and get on the air.


So we asked our respondents which administration they’d prefer to cover the next four years strictly from a journalistic standpoint. We expected the Washington journalists to strongly prefer Mr. Kerry, partly because they complain so much about the difficulty of getting leaks from the Bush White House, but mainly because any change in administration means lots of news.


Sure enough, the Washington respondents said they would rather cover Mr. Kerry, but by a fairly small amount, 27 to 21, and the other journalists picked Bush, 56 to 40. (A few others had no opinion.) The overall result was 77 for Bush, 67 for Mr. Kerry...


Liberals complained in 2000 that Mr. Bush got off easy because he was better than Al Gore at charming reporters. So we tried to test for a likeability bias. With which presidential nominee, we asked, would you rather be stranded on a desert island? Mr. Kerry was the choice of both groups: 31 to 17 among the Washington journalists, and 51 to 39 among the others.


“Bush’s religious streak,” one Florida correspondent said, “would drive me nuts on a desert island.”


END of Excerpt


For Tierney’s piece online:


Tierney’s finding matches what Evan Thomas, Assistant Managing Editor of Newsweek, observed on the July 10 edition of Inside Washington: “There’s one other base here: the media. Let’s talk a little media bias here. The media, I think, wants Kerry to win. And I think they’re going to portray Kerry and Edwards -- I’m talking about the establishment media, not Fox, but -- they’re going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic and all, there’s going to be this glow about them that some, is going to be worth, collectively, the two of them, that’s going to be worth maybe 15 points.”




The Media vs. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (040800)


Even before John Kerry used his Vietnam record to vault to victory in the Iowa Democratic caucuses, the national media frequently touted the Massachusetts liberal as a decorated, thrice-wounded war hero. But apart from interviewing the small group of Vietnam veterans who have campaigned with Kerry over the last two decades, national reporters did not seek out others to confirm or challenge the tales of Kerry’s valor and heroism.


Then in May, a group of more than 250 Vietnam veterans — including Kerry’s superior officers and many who served with him when he was a Swift Boat commander — launched a public challenge to Kerry’s version of Vietnam. At a press conference, they charged Kerry had greatly embellished his military record and betrayed his fellow Swift Boat veterans when he went before the Senate to make sweeping charges of American war crimes in Vietnam. Based on this record, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth declared Kerry “unfit” to serve as Commander-in-Chief.

Yet the national media still offered little scrutiny of either Kerry’s service or his anti-war rhetoric. Not until Kerry himself attacked the credibility and integrity of his fellow veterans, however, did the liberal media jump on the story. But most of their scrutiny was reserved for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, not the candidate seeking the highest office in the land.      

NBC News portrayed the ad as the scurrilous work of anti-Kerry “hit men” exploiting a loophole.




Networks Hype Kerry Defenders, Hide Kerry Critics

The Saturday, August 22 CBS Evening News could not wait to tell viewers how the next morning’s Chicago Tribune included a first-person account by a former swift boat commander, William Rood, defending Kerry’s account of how he won the Silver Star. But the next Friday, August 27, when the Chicago Sun-Times interviewed retired Rear Admiral William Schachte, who challenged another part of Kerry’s story (the first Purple Heart), CBS failed to utter a single word about it.

(CyberAlert Morning Edition, August 30, 2004)


Networks Reward a Democratic Stunt

On August 25, ABC, CBS and NBC all rewarded the the Kerry campaign’s stunt of sending former Senator Max Cleland to Crawford, Texas to protest the Swift Vets’ anti-Kerry ads. Perpetuating a Democratic myth, NBC’s Tom Brokaw claimed that Cleland “lost his Senate seat after an ad campaign questioning his patriotism.” CBS’s John Roberts was even more ludicrous, asserting that Cleland’s “Vietnam record was attacked by Republicans two years ago” in that losing Senate race. Meanwhile, the Associated Press and CNN hyped the idea that Kerry accuser John O’Neill himself “lied” about being in Cambodia.

(CyberAlert, August 26, 2004)


NBC’s Myers Outlines Anti-Kerry Case

On August 24, NBC Nightly News finally got around to actually detailing the recollections of a member of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as Lisa Myers compared the claims of Larry Thurlow to those of Kerry-backers. Myers even pointed out how in one of the medal instances “there also are inconsistencies in Kerry’s version of events.” But on CBS’s Early Show, Harry Smith interrupted Swift Vote spokesman John O’Neill with protests (“hang on a, no, no, you listen for a second”).

(CyberAlert, August 25, 2004)


Networks Dissatisfied with Bush, Not Kerry

Aligning themselves with the Kerry campaign spin line, ABC and NBC on August 23 were dissatisfied that President Bush condemned all 527 groups, not just the one they detest. “President Bush today condemned the ads,” ABC anchor Charles Gibson noted before he fretted, “but he only condemned the way such ads are financed, paid for by independent groups. He avoids condemning the specific content of the ads, and that infuriates Democrats.” Over on CNN, Aaron Brown helpfully concluded that “the available official record is unambiguous: John Kerry was a war hero.”

(CyberAlert, August 24, 2004)


Bob Schieffer’s Double Standard

On CBS’s Face the Nation on August 22, host Bob Schieffer empathized with John Kerry’s daughters (what is it like to be out there when you hear these attacks on your dad?) as he asked Republican officials why President Bush would not “condemn this ad specifically.” But in February when Democrats baselessly charged Bush with being AWOL, Schieffer waded into the details: “Was the President not at these Guard meetings? Is there actual proof of that?”

(CyberAlert, August 23, 2004)


TV Focuses on Kerry’s Spin, Not Kerry’s History

John Kerry’s Vietnam history might seem central to the campaign, but an MRC review found that ABC, CBS and NBC morning shows did not bring aboard a single member of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT) for an on-air interview until Tuesday, August 24. Up to that point, the network morning shows focused not on scrutinizing the contradictions in Kerry’s war stories, but promoting Kerry’s spin lines.

(Media Reality Check, August 23, 2004)


Kerry Attacks, Networks Jump On Board

On August 19, after John Kerry attacked the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as an insidious tool of the Bush campaign, all of the networks offered coverage. ABC’s World News Tonight, which ignored the May 4 press conference by the anti-Kerry veterans and hadn’t since mentioned their charges or early August ad, led with how, as anchor Elizabeth Vargas framed the matter: “John Kerry fights back against charges he lied about his war record. He accuses a veterans’ group of doing the President’s ‘dirty work.’”

(CyberAlert, August 20, 2004)


No Respect for Swift Boat Vets

Back in February, the three broadcast networks were obsessed with the story of President Bush’s National Guard service, making it the focus of 75 evening news stories, according to an MRC study. But in May, when John Kerry’s former Navy colleagues from Vietnam went to the National Press Club to charge that Kerry’s tales of heroism as a Swift Boat commander were highly exaggerated, those same networks acted as if their job was to bury the news, not report it. Through August 18, ABC, CBS and NBC had aired only nine stories mentioning the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth charges against Kerry.

(Media Reality Check, August 18, 2004)

ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC Ignore Kerry’s Cambodia Backtrack

On August 11, the Kerry campaign backtracked from John Kerry’s oft-repeated claim that he was in Cambodia on Christmas Eve 1968, in what would have been a violation of international law by the U.S., but only FNC cared and ran a full story on the admission prompted by John O’Neill’s book, Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry.

(CyberAlert, August 12, 2004)          

ABC, CBS and NBC all failed to report how Kerry backed off his tale of Christmas in Cambodia.


NBC & MSNBC Team Up to Repress Kerry Ad

Unencumbered by any restrictions on their free speech, NBC’s Tom Brokaw and Andrea Mitchell and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann on August 6 launched their own independent attack on the Vietnam vets who are detractors of John Kerry in order to discredit those with a viewpoint NBC/MSNBC apparently wants to keep hidden from the American people. “They may get away with it,” Mitchell fretted.

(CyberAlert, August 7, 2004)

CBS Tries to Smear Anti-Kerry Vets

ABC and NBC ignored the May 4 press conference by a group of Vietnam veterans who say John Kerry is unfit for the presidency, but the CBS Evening News that night tried to smear the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth by impugning them as partisan activists tied to the Bush campaign. Dan Rather claimed that veterans “allied with the Bush campaign attacked Senator Kerry today more directly and more personally” than had President Bush. Rather deplored how “their tactic was to depict Kerry, a wounded, highly-decorated Vietnam combat veteran, who eventually became a vocal opponent of that war, as unpatriotic and not a worthy leader.”

(CyberAlert, May 5, 2004)    

Instead of scrutinizing John Kerry, CBS’s Byron Pitts smeared Kerry’s critics.


Additional coverage of Kerry’s Vietnam record, and how the media approach to that story was very different to their coverage of the Bush National Guard story can be found in the August 12 CyberAlert.

(CyberAlert, August 12, 2004)




One Economy, Two Spins (Media Research Center, 041014)


Economic Conditions Portrayed as Positive During Clinton Presented as Negative for Bush


Executive Summary


The media gave President Bush consistently negative press about perceived poor job creation and unemployment in the summer of 2004 but their reports were overwhelmingly positive when President Clinton ran for reelection in the summer of 1996 under similar economic circumstances. The media have consistently criticized the Bush record, minimizing 13 straight months of positive job creation, more than 1.5 million new jobs in 2004 and an unemployment rate that dropped from 6.3 percent to 5.4 percent. In contrast, the media consistently hailed the Clinton record of seven straight months of positive job creation, more than 2 million jobs in 1996 and an unemployment rate that dropped from 5.8 percent to 5.2 percent.


The analysis was completed by the Media Research Center’s Free Market Project. It focused on TV news coverage the day of or newspaper coverage the day after the release of unemployment and job creation reports during the summer reelection season in 1996 and 2004. (The 10 EMPLOYMENT SITUATION reports, five from May through September each year, came out the month following their survey date.) FMP researchers analyzed ABC, NBC and CBS, CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times. Their findings include:




Clinton Good; Bush Bad: Stories about jobs during Bill Clinton’s reelection campaign were positive 85 percent of the time – more than six times as often as they were for Bush, despite similar economic data. Reporters praised the Clinton unemployment rate of 5.6 percent as “low,” but they downplayed a 5.4 percent rate under Bush and called job growth “anemic.”




Good News Becomes Bad News: Under Bush, reporters presented good economic data as bad news stories by minimizing positive achievements and emphasizing people who might be out of work or regions of the U.S. that were still “struggling.” The opposite approach was taken under President Clinton. Then, reporters explained away a 0.2 percent rise in unemployment as minor or, “not necessarily bad news.”




Ignoring Job Impact from the 9/11 Attacks: The media we examined never quantified the more than one million jobs that were lost due to the 9/11 attacks. Only six of the stories dealing with jobs during the study period (13 percent) discussed terrorism or 9/11. No story detailed the enormous job losses as a result of the attacks.




CNN the Best; CBS the Worst: No network has been consistent in its coverage of Clinton and Bush. CNN did the best job covering jobs and unemployment. The network was balanced in its coverage of the Clinton economy and did characterize one month under Bush as positive. CBS was the most unbalanced in its coverage. After the five Employment Situation reports in the summer of 2004, the network didn’t find any good news to report. CBS didn’t air any negative job creation and unemployment stories during the Clinton months. CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather merits criticism. He handled an unemployment increase during Clinton by downplaying it. Then the reporter covering the story claimed it wasn’t even bad news.


The Free Market Project offers a series of recommendations for the media in an effort to help journalists provide more balanced reporting on unemployment and job issues. Those recommendations include:




Urging the media to report stories that actually reflect the data and to find a consistent way to cover the monthly release of labor data so that it isn’t spun any direction.



Encouraging the media to help the public understand unemployment rates and job creation.



Suggesting the media find a way to make balanced news coverage an ongoing priority.


Along with these recommendations, this study includes a commentary by Dr. Gary Wolfram, a George Munson Professor of Political Economy at Hillsdale College. Wolfram explains that the media should look at the existing employment picture from a more informed view and understand “when one compares the current unemployment rate of 5.4% to historical levels, it is quite low.”




“Surprise” at How “Moral Values” Top Issue, Admit Out of Touch (041104)


Out of touch media. Many in the media admitted their “surprise” at how the exit poll discovered that the most called “moral values” the “most important issue” in determining their vote. On Wednesday’s Good Morning America, ABC’s Diane Sawyer asserted that the exit poll had “some surprises” and Robin Roberts began with how “our polling unit was out asking thousands of voters what mattered most to them, and the number one response from voters across the country, cited by 22 percent, ‘moral values.’” Over on CBS’s Early Show, Julie Chen asked: “What was the surprise of the day?” John Roberts replied that the moral values finding was “the real surprise of the day.” Dan Rather teased the CBS Evening News, “Moral values. We’ll give you a look at the surprise issue that trumped the war, terror and the economy...” ABC’s Peter Jennings insisted that “this question of moral values is a surprising one to show up on exit polls” and George Stephanopoulos described it as “an amazing result.”


In the afternoon, just before John Kerry’s concession speech, ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin acknowledged how many journalists are out of touch with the values of Bush supporters:

“Most members of the establishment media live in Washington and New York. Most of them don’t drive pickup trucks, most of them don’t have guns, most of them don’t go to NASCAR, and every day we’re not out in areas that care about those things and deal with those things as part of their daily lives, we are out of touch with a lot of America and with a lot of America that supports George W. Bush.”


-- ABC’s Good Morning America. About 14 minutes into the 6am EST hour on a GMA which started an hour early, Diane Sawyer noted: “We wanted to know why Americans voted the way we all did at the polls? What are the reasons? What about those issues like moral values? Was it on terrorism? Was it on the economy? We got Robin Roberts. We’re going to bring her in now. She’s been looking through the exit polls and she’s got some surprises. Robin?”

Roberts, sitting in front of a big map with states in red and blue, confirmed, over a matching bar graph: “Yeah really, Diane. Our polling unit was out asking thousands of voters what mattered most to them, and the number one response from voters across the country, cited by 22 percent, ‘moral values’ was number one. 22 percent said moral values. 20 percent cited the economy and jobs. 19 percent named terrorism and 15 percent said Iraq. Now if you look deeper inside those numbers, those voters who cited moral values as their number one issue, overwhelmingly voted for President Bush by nearly 80 percent.”


After Roberts recited how single woman backed Kerry while married women voted for Bush, Sawyer opined: “Interesting about the number one issue there. Okay, let’s head off to the weather and Tony Perkins.”


-- CBS’s Early Show at about 7:45am EST. Julie Chen wondered: “What was the surprise of the day?”


John Roberts, standing in front of a video screen with a bar graph, answered as if it were still night and restricted his numbers to those in the “Midwest” though they were identical to the overall numbers: “The real surprise of the day actually was the fact that the war or terror and the economy was not the top issue for people in the Midwest. 22 percent of them said ‘moral values’ was the top issue, two percent more than the economy or jobs and three percent more than terrorism. Some folks around our election data center tonight were saying that the Midwest is shaping up to be the new South in terms of the alignment of both religious and moral attitudes.”


-- NBC’s Today, 6:45am EST. The MRC’s Geoff Dickens caught this question from Katie Couric to Kerry biographer Douglas Brinkley: “But getting back to the moral issues, does this election indicate that, that this country has become much more socially conservative in your view?”


-- CBS Evening News, November 3. Dan Rather teased: “Moral values. We’ll give you a look at the surprise issue that trumped the war, terror and the economy as the decisive issue in the election.”


Rather introduced the subsequent story, as taken down by the MRC’s Brad Wilmouth: “An estimated 120 million Americans voted in this election, the highest number ever. There were many issues that motivated people to go to the polls. CBS’s Lee Cowan reports on the number one issue.”


Cowan explained: “In the end, it wasn’t the clatter of the war, it wasn’t the thud of the economy, it wasn’t even the rantings of the world’s most wanted terrorist. In the end, what voters say brought them to the polls was much more quiet [video of people in church]. The number one voter motivator: Morality.”

Unidentified woman: “America is going down hill morally, period.”

Cowan: “National exit polls showed that 22 percent of voters claimed moral values was their chief concern, more than those who list the economy or terrorism.” [table on screen]

Unidentified man: “My moral stance and my position will always override any other issues.”

Cowan, over video of Bush leaving a church: “It had been a strategy of the Bush camp all along -- instead of reaching out to undecided voters-”

Unidentified man in audience, to Bush: “This is the first time that I have felt that God was in the White House.”

George W. Bush: “Thank you.”

Cowan: “-the President courted his predominantly white evangelical base. And it worked.”

Professor Larry Sabato, University of Virginia: “Bush lost the popular vote in 2000 because three or four million fundamentalist Christians stayed home. Well, guess what, they turned up in 2004.”

Cowan: “And he got more help than he bargained for after the Mayor of San Francisco began allowing same-sex marriages. It produced such an uproar among conservatives, 11 states put a constitutional amendment on their ballot to ban same sex marriages. It pulled conservatives to the polls in droves, and the bans passed in all 11 states.”

Sabato: “George W. Bush is the inheritor of the Reagan conservative movement on social and cultural issues.”

Cowan: “Which has Democrats concerned, not because morals are making headlines, but because morals, some say, are being used.”

Very Rev. Tracey Lind, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral: “What this campaign played on were the politics of fear and the politics of scarcity and the politics of good and evil.”

Cowan concluded: “For those who thought morality was a sleeper issue during the campaign, most analysts agree it will not be that way during a second term. Supreme Court nominations could soon take center stage, and for conservatives, the highest voter turnout in decades could be an answer to their prayers. Lee Cowan, CBS News, Cleveland.”


-- ABC’s World News Tonight. Peter Jennings: “After such a long campaign, we look to see what matters most to the voters. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos is with us. We look, of course, George, to the exit polls. And this question of moral values is a surprising one to show up on exit polls.”


Stephanopoulos, at the anchor desk with Jennings, agreed though the term confused him: “It sure did. It showed up at the top. But, Peter, it’s hard to know exactly what it means, moral values, when it’s stacked up against other concrete issues like jobs and taxes and health care and the war. But I do think that one of President Bush’s strengths was his ability to frame issues in moral terms, right and wrong, good and evil, as Terry Moran just said, using the language of faith.”

Jennings: “There is some suggestion in the country today, including among Democrats, that Democrats are out of touch with the culture of much of the country.”

Stephanopoulos: “And perhaps that John Kerry, as a messenger, didn’t have a good cultural fit with the rest of the country. You saw him try to make up for it. You saw the pictures of him hunting. He emphasized that he was a church-going Catholic, but that didn’t make up for, it appears, the fact that he was from Massachusetts, married to a billionaire, a little bit out of touch.”


-- ABC’s Halperin: Journalists out of touch. During ABC’s live coverage of Kerry’s concession speech, at about 1:54pm EST Wednesday before John Edwards spoke, this exchange took place amongst Peter Jennings, George Stephanopoulos and Mark Halperin as they all sat together at ABC’s Manhattan studio.


Jennings: “I don’t think at the end of the campaign, George, that this notion of 9/11 and the President’s greatness -- I think everybody would agree -- at the time of 9/11, was resonating as loudly in the community as it turned out to.”

Stephanopoulos: “Well, you know, for the last six months, you know, we’ve done a lot of back-and-forths like this, and what do we say all the time? We said the three big issues are war in Iraq, the war on terror and the economy. What happened last night? Voters who went to the polls came back and said the number one issue, plurality, was moral values -- 22 percent. It was an amazing result....”

Jennings: “Mark, our challenge, as the national press, is to cover the whole country, and I wonder whether or not, looking back on this, we in the establishment media will think that we’ve missed something in the country that we should have paid more attention to.”

Mark Halperin, the ABC News Political Director who had urged a closer scrutiny of Bush’s clams than of Kerry’s charges, suggested: “Well, look there’s a built-in problem. Most members of the establishment media live in Washington and New York. Most of them don’t drive pickup trucks, most of them don’t have guns, most of them don’t go to NASCAR, and every day we’re not out in areas that care about those things and deal with those things as part of their daily lives, we are out of touch with a lot of America and with a lot of America that supports George W. Bush.”


Jennings soon wondered: “...There is some question, I know, as we talk about, you know, what led to this defeat for Mr. Kerry and this victory for Mr. Bush, as to whether or not we’ve got this whole notion of moral values right. And today and in the days ahead, we’re going to have to be very careful, I think, to try to enumerate what it is we think it means so we don’t mislead people with something that it turns out not to be.”

Halperin: “Well, I’ll tell you one thing. I think the President infuses his words about the war on terrorism with a sense of moral values. It works well for him and I think for some voters, when they say ‘moral values and the President,’ they mean the fight that he casts as a fight between good and evil against terrorism.”

Jennings: “But the question, as [ABC News polling chief] Gary Langer points out, and which was included, asks people about the most important issues in their vote: taxes, education, Iraq, terrorism, economy, jobs, moral values, health care. We really hadn’t wanted ‘moral values’ on the list for some reason, some of our pollsters, right?”

Halperin: “It’s kind of a nebulous issue because it means so many different things.”


Or is simply too foreign to out of touch journalists?




Fourth Poll Finds Public Recognized Media Tilt Against Bush (Media Research Center, 041118)


In the fourth survey in the past few weeks to have found more of the public perceived the media as biased in John Kerry’s favor over President George W. Bush, a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press poll, released on Thursday, pegged the percent of voters who believed Bush’s press coverage was “unfair” at nine points higher than for John Kerry while the percent who thought Bush’s coverage was “fair” was lower by the same gap -- 9 points.


Pew’s November 11 report, “Voters Liked Campaign 2004, But Too Much ‘Mud-Slinging’; Moral Values: How Important?” gave short shrift to the media bias question, but the MRC’s Rich Noyes noticed the two paragraphs on it in the poll “conducted among 1,209 voters who were originally interviewed in October.” Pew found:

“Voters are increasingly troubled by what they see as the media’s unfair treatment of the candidates. While a majority (56%) view press coverage of Bush’s campaign as fair, four-in-ten [40%] think it was unfair, up from 30% four years ago.

“Significantly more voters (65%) believe the press was fair in its coverage of the Kerry campaign. However, a growing minority also views this coverage as unfair -- 31% say that now, compared with 24% who faulted press coverage of Al Gore’s campaign four years ago.”


For Pew’s rundown in full of its poll:


As noted above, this was the fourth poll in two weeks to discover that the public recognized the media’s anti-Bush/pro-Kerry tilt:


-- By 46 percent to 42 percent, those who voted on election day in 12 “battleground” states, believed “that the media’s coverage of this year’s presidential election was biased towards one candidate or party,” a survey conducted by Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates determined. Within the 46 percent, more than twice as many, 32 percent of the total number of those polled, saw a tilt in favor of Kerry and Democrats than in favor of Bush and Republicans, 14 percent. By 30 percent to 12 percent, independents saw the bias going in Kerry’s direction. Of those who saw bias, 68 percent perceived more than in past election years. See the November 9 CyberAlert:


-- Two polls released the week before the election found that more people perceive the media tilting coverage in favor of Democrat John Kerry than in favor of Republican President George W. Bush. Gallup determined that 35 percent think coverage has tilted toward Kerry compared to just 16 percent who said it favored Bush. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press discovered that “half of voters (50 percent) say most newspaper and TV reporters would prefer to see John Kerry win the election, compared with just 22 percent who think that most journalists are pulling for George Bush.” While 27 percent described Kerry coverage as “unfair,” 37 percent labeled Bush coverage as “unfair.” Pew also learned that “voters who get most of their election news from CNN favor Kerry over Bush, by 67 percent-26 percent.”




Apple: Religious See NYT and WPost as “Arms of Democratic Party” (050510)


R.W Apple     In a May 4 Washington Post op-ed, “When Columnists Cry ‘Jihad,’” former New York Times reporter John McCandlish Phillips, who recalled that “I was the only evangelical Christian among some 275 news and editorial employees,” charged that “in more than 50 years of direct engagement in and observation of the major news media I have never encountered anything remotely like the fear and loathing lavished on us by opinion mongers in these world-class newspapers [Times and Washington Post] in the past 40 days.” Asked about the allegation that night on MSNBC’s Hardball, New York Times veteran R.W. “Johnny” Apple conceded to Chris Matthews: “I think both papers tend to be secular in their approach. Yes, I do. They serve largely secular audiences” and “like it or not, religious people, particularly in the Midwest, the mountain states, and the south, think that the Democratic Party is anti-religious. And, of course, they consider the New York Times and the Washington Post as arms of the Democratic Party.”


Back in late March on CNN’s Reliable Sources, Steve Roberts, who noted how he “worked for the New York Times for 25 years,” revealed: “I could probably count on one hand, in the Washington bureau of the New York Times, people who would describe themselves as people of faith.” That disconnect hurt the media, Roberts suggested, in how “there was so much attention...on the rockers and the sports celebrities who were registering voters.” Roberts asked: “And how many stories did we see about that compared to the pastors and churches in Ohio who were registered ten times as many voters?” For more, go to:


An excerpt from “When Columnists Cry ‘Jihad,’” an op-ed in the May 4 Washington Post by John McCandlish Phillips, a New York Times reporter from 1955 to 1973:


I have been looking at myself, and millions of my brethren, fellow evangelicals along with traditional Catholics, in a ghastly arcade mirror lately -- courtesy of this newspaper and the New York Times. Readers have been assured, among other dreadful things, that we are living in “a theocracy” and that this theocratic federal state has reached the dire level of -- hold your breath -- a “jihad.”


In more than 50 years of direct engagement in and observation of the major news media I have never encountered anything remotely like the fear and loathing lavished on us by opinion mongers in these world-class newspapers in the past 40 days. If I had a $5 bill for every time the word “frightening” and its close lexicographical kin have appeared in the Times and The Post, with an accusatory finger pointed at the Christian right, I could take my stack to the stock market.


I come at this with an insider/outsider vantage and with real affection for many of those engaged in this enterprise. When the Times put me on its reporting staff, I was the only evangelical Christian among some 275 news and editorial employees, and certainly the only one who kept a leather-bound Bible on his desk....


The opening salvo of the heavy rhetorical artillery to which I object came in on March 24, when Maureen Dowd started her column in the Times with the declaration “Oh my God, we really are in a theocracy.” While satiric, as always with the ever-so-readable columnist, it was not designed to be taken lightly....


Three days later Frank Rich, an often acute, broadly knowledgeable and witty cultural observer, sweepingly informed us that, under the effects of “the God racket” as now pursued in Washington, “government, culture, science, medicine and the rule of law are all under threat from an emboldened religious minority out to remake America according to its dogma.” He went on to tell Times readers that GOP zealots in Congress and the White House have edged our country over into “a full-scale jihad.” If Rich were to have the misfortune to live for one week in a genuine jihad, and the unlikely fortune to survive it, he would temper his categorization of the perceived President Bush-driven jihad by a minimum of 77 percent. If any “emboldened minority” is aiming to “remake America according to its dogma,” it seems to many evangelicals and Catholics that it is the vanguard wanting, say, the compact of marriage to be stretched in its historic definition to include men cohabiting with men and women with women. That is, in terms of the history of this nation, a most pronounced and revolutionary novelty.


From March 24 through April 23 (when The Post twinned Colbert I. King’s “Hijacking Christianity” with Paul Gaston’s “Smearing Christian Judges”), I counted 13 opinion columns of similarly alarmist tone aimed at us on the Christian right: two more in The Post by the generally amiable and highly communicative Richard Cohen headlined “Backward Evolution” and “Faith-Based Pandering”; one by his colleague, the urbane Eugene Robinson, “Art vs. the Church Lady” (lamenting that “the pall of religiosity hanging over the city was reaching gas-mask stage”); and three by Dowd, two by Paul Krugman and three by Rich in the Times.


In “What’s Going On” [March 29], Krugman darkly implied that some committed religious believers in our nation bear a menacing resemblance to Islamic extremists, by which he did not mean a few crazed crackpots but a quite broad swath of red-staters. In “An Academic Question” [April 5], Krugman, conceding the wide majority of secular liberals over conservatives on the faculties of our major universities, had the supreme chutzpah to tell us why: The former, unfettered by presuppositions of faith, are free to commit genuine investigative work and to reach valid scholarly conclusions, while the latter are disabled in that critical respect by their unprovable prior assumptions. So they are disqualified as a class from the university enterprise by their unfortunate susceptibility to the God hypothesis.


Yet most of what became the great East Coast universities (Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton, Columbia and Yale among them) were, in cold fact, founded by men of faith and prayer for purposes that were informed and motivated by explicitly biblical principles....


In the long journey from the matchless moment when I became “born again” and encountered the risen and living Christ, I have met hundreds of evangelicals and a good many practicing Catholics and have found them to be of reasonable temperament, often enough of impressive accomplishment, certainly not a menace to the republic, unless, of course, the very fact of faith seriously held is thought to make them just that....


MRC Study: Six Times More “Conservative” than “Liberal” Labels on Network News Since Election Day


Extreme Conservatives vs. Unlabeled Liberals


In the six months since November’s elections, network reporters have zeroed in on “conservatives” — especially “religious conservatives” — as an energized and unwelcome force in American politics. As TV told it, George W. Bush won re-election because of strong support from “social conservatives” and would pack the courts with “conservative” judges. It was “conservatives” who pushed Terri Schiavo’s right-to-life case, and “conservatives” like Tom DeLay and John Bolton were embroiled in controversy.


It’s true conservatives have been making a lot of headlines, but even as the networks painted the right side of the spectrum as ideological, and even a tad fanatical, reporters rarely used ideological terms to define liberals. Since Election Day, network reporters branded politicians or groups as “conservative” 395 times, compared to 59 “liberal” labels, a greater than six-to-one disparity. Our last review in 2002 (using the same methodology, but looking only at evening shows) found a four-to-one skew.


As before, MRC analysts used the Nexis database to examine each use of “liberal” and “conservative” on ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news programs from November 3 through May 2. We rejected labels that weren’t political (a “conservative investment”) or outside the U.S. context (all those labels of Pope Benedict XVI, for example). We also excluded labels applied by a news source rather than the network reporter.


CBS provided the fewest labels (95) but the worst bias: just seven liberal tags, compared to 88 conservative ones, more than a twelve-to-one skew. NBC, whose three-hour Today spends more time on politics than other morning shows, had the most labels (193), but only 26 liberal modifiers. ABC had the most “balanced” approach — 140 conservative tags vs. 26 liberal labels, a five-to-one disparity. A few examples:


An Imbalanced Approach: On the April 26 Today, Katie Couric introduced a debate segment by branding just one side: “Dee Dee Myers was President Clinton’s first White House press secretary, and Tucker Carlson is a conservative commentator and host for MSNBC.” Were we supposed to believe Myers is non-ideological?


On the March 2 NBC Nightly News, David Gregory talked about “the conservative group USA Next” and the “senior lobbying group AARP,” ideological opposites in the Social Security debate. On all four occasions the networks mentioned USA Next by name, they correctly called it “conservative,” but not once during the six-month study period did a network reporter describe the AARP as “liberal.”


Angry Extremists: On the April 25 Early Show, CBS’s Joie Chen portrayed conservatives as an angry mob: “Thousands of Christian conservatives gathered in Kentucky, seething over what they call the ‘filibuster against faith,’ and spoiling for a political fight.” Shortly after the election, on the November 8 Good Morning America, reporter Manuel Medrano trotted out an extreme label: “Arch-conservatives worry that [new Attorney General Alberto] Gonzales may not be conservative enough on hot-button issues.” On the November 4 World News Tonight, ABC’s Linda Douglass warned viewers that “the Senate has gotten much more conservative. One new Senator wants the death penalty for people who perform abortions.”


It’s not that network reporters misuse the “conservative” label. Rather, journalists systematically fail to identify those who seek a secular society and a strong, government-controlled, social welfare system as ideologues of the Left. The media’s labeling scheme presents “conservatives” as less mainstream than their ideological adversaries, even as election returns show that it’s liberals who need to start swimming back to the center.

— Rich Noyes


Good Democrats, Evil Republicans


“I believe it is true that a significant chunk of the press believes that Democrats are incompetent but good-hearted, and Republicans are very efficient but evil.”

— Wall Street Journal political editor John Harwood on the April 23 Inside Washington.