This page was last updated on August 2, 2010.
For this paper I could simply call your attention to the “news” coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign, but that would be taking the easy way out.
When I refer to media bias, I’m referring to bias in news reporting, not the content of editorials or articles on the opinion pages. Under the disguise of “analysis,” you’ll also see opinion pieces on the news pages. Increasingly, though, we’re also seeing opinion sneak into the everyday news report.
Bias in the news is its most dangerous when you don’t know the bias exists. When you accept as fact the content of a biased news story, you’re likely to conclude conflicting reports are lies. That’s why getting your news and opinion from sources with different views is so important.
Most news outlets lean to the left.1, 2 Before all you leftists pooh-pooh the notion of liberal bias, even Walter Cronkite conceded its existence. The following quote came from his first column for King Features Syndicate.
“I believe that most of us reporters are liberal, but not because we consciously have chosen that particular color in the political spectrum. More likely it is because most of us served our journalistic apprenticeships as reporters covering the seamier sides of our cities---the crimes, the tenement fires, the homeless and the hungry, the under clothed and undereducated.
“We reached our intellectual adulthood with daily close-ups of inequality in a nation that was founded on the commitment to equality for all.”3
It’s interesting to note that firemen, policemen, and EMT personnel tend to see far worse far more often than reporters do yet they tend to be more conservative. So much for Walter Cronkite’s explanation.
Helen Thomas was a long-time White House correspondent for UPI. Here’s what Ms. Thomas said during a CBC interview.
“I’m a liberal, I was born a liberal, I’ll be one ‘til I die, what else should a reporter be when you see so much and when we have such great privilege and access to the truth?” In response, the interviewer said, “Well, you know, it’s interesting because I’m sure that if somebody from the right was sitting here they would say … if you ask the question what should a reporter be they will say, ‘Oh, I don’t know, how about objective?’” Ms. Thomas replied, “You’re not asking people not to think not to care are you? But you are asking them to give a fair reporting both sides and so forth and I did it for 57 years I was never, never accused of bias in my copy. But I had a right to be angry and unhappy at the trend that I saw in my country that I was close enough to see.”20
During a May 2010 conversation between Ms. Thomas and a rabbi, she said Israel should “get the hell out of Palestine” and Jews should return to Poland, Germany, “and America and everywhere else.” Ms. Thomas retired as a result of the furor raised by her comments.
Consider this excerpt from a piece on ABCNews.com.
“Like every other institution, the Washington and political press corps operate with a good number of biases and predilections.
“They include, but are not limited to, a near-universal shared sense that liberal political positions on social issues like gun control, homosexuality, abortion, and religion are the default, while more conservative positions are ‘conservative positions’.”4
In early 2004, the National Press Foundation (NPF) selected Brit Hume [Fox News Channel (FNC)] as “Broadcaster of the Year.” In response, Geneva Overholser, a former ombudsman of The Washington Post, resigned from the NPF saying Mr. Hume practiced “ideologically committed journalism.”
Previous recipients of the award were “moderate” <g> Dan Rather, fired (because of the Jayson Blair scandal) New York Times editor Howell Raines, leftist Ted Turner, and NPR bias legend Nina Totenberg, who wished AIDS on conservative Jesse Helms – or one of his grandchildren – in a TV appearance.5
Ms. Overholser is the same person who wrote in 1992:
“All too often, a story free of any taint of personal opinion is a story with all the juice sucked out. A big piece of why so much news copy today is boring as hell is this objectivity god. Keeping opinion out of the story too often means being a fancy stenographer.”6
Apparently Ms. Overholser meant only opinions with which she agrees. Don’t leftists claim to be the tolerant guys?
About the only persons who deny a leftist media bias also probably believe the Earth is flat. Here’s a local leftist’s take on the media. “Media, is owned by extreme right wing corporations. There is no way that ‘left wing bias’ would be permitted to flourish at all. The very idea, is silly. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with corporations having their voice, but there is something wrong when the corporate media is so all complete. And the myth of ‘left wing bias’, is an idea seemingly deeply believed by the poor misguided citizens.”19 Keep in mind the author made this comment on the website of a newspaper that consistently and regularly bashed former President George W. Bush for just about everything and supports just about every leftist position that comes down the pike. In any case, the lefty made these claims and – not surprisingly – provided no supporting evidence. When another person asked the author for evidence to support his position, the lefty wrote, “Adequate ‘proof’ has already been shown to you.” In other words, the lefty considered his claims to be “proof.” I’ve communicated with this gentleman on other subjects and, yes, he appears to believe this stuff.
As Walter Cronkite, I believe bias in the news is not always intentional. Whether intentional or not, reporting bias is dangerous, however.
Leftists point to Fox News Channel and conservative talk radio programs as “proof” of a conservative bias in the media. Leftists would have us believe most news outlets are conservative or unbiased.
Most of us learned responsible journalism meant objectively presenting all the facts – who, what, when, where, how – so the reader could make an informed decision. Unfortunately, this is a utopian view. In reality, many alleged news pieces present only one side of the story. If the other side is presented, it is usually relegated to the end of the article in an abbreviated or distorted form.
Brian O’Neill of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote, “The journalist’s credo is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”7 The first part of the credo is fine, but why should the press “afflict” you because you are “comfortable?” This opinion reflects the leftist idea that personal success is bad.
Bias must be subtle to be effective. Below are some examples.
· How often have you heard or read something like the following, “John Doe admitted today that …?” By using “admitted” instead of “said,” the sentence plants the idea of wrongdoing even if no one did anything wrong.
· During the Clinton impeachment hearings, one network introduced Republican senators with lead-ins similar to “the conservative senator from here” and “the staunchly right senator from there.” Senate Democrats were introduced simply as “the senator from here.” The intent was to convey the ideas that Democrats were “like you and me” and that Republican senators would not be fair.
· In an article covering the 2003 Bush tax rate cuts, a newspaper chronicled how low-income households would not benefit because they would not get an income tax “refund” check. It wasn’t until the very end of the article the author noted these households already paid zero income taxes. The article also failed to note the tax cuts added millions of low-income households to the zero liability club. Finally, the article failed to mention that many low-income households get enough in so-called refundable “tax credits” (refunds for taxes they didn’t pay) to more than offset their payroll taxes (Medicare and Socialist Security). Therefore, in addition to getting a free ride with respect to the income tax, many low-income households get a free ride for Medicare and Socialist Security plus unearned income in their pockets.8
· In December 2004, we heard stories stating Halliburton overpaid for fuel delivered in Iraq, though Halliburton didn’t profit from the overcharging by its supplier. It was the lead story on all networks and on the front page of most newspapers. In nearly all cases, Halliburton was identified in the first sentence as the former company of then-Vice President Dick Cheney. One month later, the Army cleared Halliburton of any wrongdoing. The clearing didn’t make the lead story on any network and wasn’t even covered in some cases. For newspapers, if the story was covered, it appeared deep in the paper, not on page one as was the allegation of impropriety. Almost none of the “oops, never mind” stories mentioned Mr. Cheney.
· Katie Couric (then with NBC) called “candid” former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill’s contributions to the book The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, The White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill. When George Stephanopoulos wrote his book about the Clinton administration, Ms. Couric said “a lot of people” viewed him “as a turncoat.” Apparently to Ms. Couric, “kiss and tell” books about then-President Bush were factual while similar books about former President Clinton were traitorous.
· Too often there is less than full disclosure about interviewees. When the Medicare prescription subsidy was big news, two networks interviewed a woman described as a typical “victim” of high prescription costs. Neither network mentioned the woman was an activist for AARP (formerly American Association of Retired Persons).
· Many news outlets simply don’t report “inconvenient” news. For example, if you don’t believe there were ties between Iraq and terrorism, don’t present stories that may indicate a link existed.
· Another example was post-war Iraq. For the longest time, all we heard about were dead U.S. soldiers and continued violence by Hussein regime “dead-enders” and foreign terrorists. While these were important stories, what these brave Americans died for was not reported. Some observers (some of them Democrats) who visited Iraq said they didn’t recognize the country based on one-sided negative reporting they heard and read in the United States. Afterward, many outlets began reporting some of the good things going on as balance to the not so good things.
· Consider the 2009 ACORN scandal. The mainstream media refused to cover the story until it got so bad Congress defunded ACORN. At that point, the press had no choice but to cover the scandal.
· During President Clinton’s 1996 reelection campaign, CNN reported unemployment “was an already-low 5.6 percent.”9 In President George W. Bush’s reelection year, the mainstream media outlets talked about 5.4% unemployment in Great Depression-like terms. The same CNN article said, “The vast majority of the jobs added were in the service industry, including restaurants, bars, and agencies that place temporary workers” with no other comment. Today, the press derisively refers to these as “McJobs.”
· During February and March 2004, CBS Evening News reported the results of two CBS polls showing Sen. Kerry leading President Bush. When the poll showed President Bush had taken the lead, CBS Evening News didn’t report that outcome. Likewise, CBS Evening News reported when Mr. Bush’s approval rating dropped below 50%, but ignored it when his rating went back up over 50%.
· More recently look at the coverage of Arizona’s anti-illegal immigration law (SB 1070). How many “news stories” have you heard/read/seen label people who oppose illegal immigration as “anti-immigrant?” How many “news stories” have you heard/read/seen refer to “undocumented immigrants” instead of illegal aliens? How many “news stories” have you heard/read/seen label the Arizona immigration law which mirrors federal law as “controversial,” “tough,” et cetera? How many “news stories” have you heard/read/seen claim the Arizona immigration law allows police officers to “walk up to anyone and demand to see their papers?” As a reminder, the law clearly states a person can be questioned about their immigration status only when stopped for some other lawful reason, like speeding, before he can be asked to provide proof he’s in the U.S. legally. Even then, the officer must have reasonable suspicion the person is an illegal alien before making the request. This approach is similar to PA’s seatbelt law. If anyone in your car isn’t wearing a seatbelt, you can’t be charged unless you’re stopped for some other lawful reason. On ABC’s Good Morning America, I saw news anchor Juju Chang assert, “The law would allow police to question anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.” Heck, even President Obama spoke that lie. All of this is bias intended to shape your opinion and position.
· Voter intimidation in Philadelphia in 2008 by the New Black Panthers caught on video is an example of bias by omission. In summary, the DOJ received a summary judgment against the NBP members and all that remained was sentencing. At that point the DOJ dropped the case. In protest, a DOJ attorney (J. Christian Adams) working the case resigned. In response, the Civil Rights Commission launched an investigation and held hearings. Despite all of this, outside of Fox News Channel the story received no coverage. During an interview with AG Eric Holder, CBS’s Bob Schieffer didn’t ask about the case. When questioned about this omission, Mr. Schieffer said, “This all really became a story when the whistleblower came out and testified that he’d had to leave the Justice Department and so on. And, frankly, had I known about that, I would have asked the question. I was on vacation that week. This happened -- apparently, it got very little publicity. And, you know, I just didn't know about it.” A U.S. representative made a similar comment. When Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) was questioned at a town hall meeting about the case, he initially answered, “I’m sure it may say that somewhere on the Internet, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. The -- as to the Black Panther Party, I’m simply not aware of that case.” In a press release issued a few days later, Mr. Sherman said, “A review of major sources of information which I rely upon most during the month prior to my July 11th Town Hall Meeting shows the following mentions of this issue.” The list of Mr. Sherman’s “major sources of information” included Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, The Economist, Newsweek, Congressional Quarterly, and National Journal Magazine. The total number of mentions Mr. Sherman claims were in those publications was one (in an op-ed piece).
I’m not throwing rocks at any particular outlet. All outlets do this regardless of their beliefs, but you can’t form reasoned opinions if you don’t know this stuff is going on.
Sometimes the bias is not subtle. One example was the 9/11 Commission. Richard Clarke was a high-ranking counter-terrorism officer for four presidents, including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Mr. Clarke wrote a book bashing the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism efforts prior to 9/11. The book was originally scheduled to come out during late April 2004. Instead, it was published just a couple of days before Mr. Clarke gave public testimony before the 9/11 commission. Mr. Clarke even got 26 minutes on CBS 60 Minutes (March 21st) during which Lesley Stahl lobbed him soft questions and Ms. Stahl never questioned an answer. Ms. Stahl never mentioned the same company as owns CBS, Viacom, owned Clarke’s publisher. A producer later said this was an oversight. 60 Minutes made the same oversight earlier in the year when Bush basher Paul O’Neill was “interviewed.”
Later in the week, Fox News Channel distributed an audiotape and transcript10 of a briefing by Richard Clarke during August 2002 while he still worked for the Bush administration.11 On just about every major point, it refuted the claims Mr. Clarke made in his book and his public testimony. Most of us would have considered this damning evidence of lying, either in the 2002 briefing or in his testimony before the commission. Incredibly, a Democrat commission member chastised FNC for producing the transcript! Further, applause broke out in the hearing room! Let’s be clear; some commission members and members of the press covering the hearing were upset that a news organization produced relevant evidence that a major player may have provided false sworn testimony.
Though about four other news organizations participated in the briefing, none of them came forward. They possessed proof of conflicting testimony and they “spiked” it. The only conclusion you can draw is that previously respected “news” organizations had a vested interest in Richard Clarke’s anti-Bush claims.
Locally, the Beaver County Times12 and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette13 buried mention of the 2002 briefing deep in their coverage, giving it no more than a couple of sentences in long articles. The minor mention in the Post-Gazette wasn’t until the 21st paragraph out of 28. These papers focused on the anti-Bush commentary by Mr. Clarke.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review14 carried the same AP story as the Times with a few differences. The Trib version included an example of the differences between the 2002 briefing and Clarke’s current story. I don’t know if the Times cut these paragraphs from the AP article or if the Trib added them. When the Times continued the story on page A8, the headline was “Terrorism: Adviser bashes Bush’s policies.” The Trib continuation headline on page A10 was “White House reveals Clarke praised Bush’s efforts.”
The Post-Gazette news reporting allowed it to write in an editorial, “Mr. Clarke’s presentation points up the extremely high value of truth-tellers to America.”15 If Post-Gazette news reporting had more than trivially acknowledged Mr. Clarke gave diametrically opposed accounts of what happened, the editorial could not have concluded he was a “truth-teller.”16 This is how editorial policy crosses over into news reporting. It is also an example of the point I made above about downplaying or not reporting inconvenient news.
Editorially, the Beaver County Times tends to take positions even further to the left than the Post-Gazette. Not all Times positions are leftist, but that’s its strong tendency. In addition, local Times columnist Gino Piroli (retired Aliquippa postmaster) occasionally submits opinion pieces even more partisan and leftist than the editorials. J.D. Prose wears two hats for the Times, one as a political opinion columnist and one as a reporter covering political stories. Ask yourself this. When a pundit gives his political opinions in one part of the paper, can he be trusted to report politics objectively elsewhere in the paper? After all, would a person whose opinion is 1+1 equals 3 report 1+1 really equals 2?
I have to give the Times credit for publishing some letters to the editor that don’t agree with Times positions. They seem to have a thin skin when you point out flawed “analyses,” however.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial opinion FAQ page says, “…it wouldn’t be unfair to describe the Post-Gazette’s philosophy as generally liberal on social issues and more conservative on economic issues.” Despite this claim, don’t believe for a second that “more conservative on economic issues” means the P-G has conservative economic beliefs. The limit of fiscal conservatism tends to be opposition to waste no one could justify.
The Trib editorial pages reflect a mix of conservative and libertarian beliefs. In an op-ed piece the editorial page editor wrote, “God bless us, for we are a conservative (sometimes libertarian) voice.”17 Even so, the editorial pages include opinion pieces from several leftist pundits.
Don’t assume the Trib is a Republican vehicle. For example, the Trib opposed the Iraq War and spoke out against some of then-President Bush’s domestic programs.
The Trib doesn’t appear to have a large Beaver County circulation, probably due to its emphasis on Allegheny and Westmoreland counties and its roots as a Greensburg paper. In its total circulation area (all editions), the Trib has about 88% the circulation of the P-G Monday-Friday and about 68% on Sunday.
I mention FNC because leftists tend to refer to FNC in terms usually reserved for Satan. Based on letters to the editor, leftists in Beaver County believe the real name of FNC is “The Lying Fox News Channel,” “Faux News Channel,” or “GOP-TV.”
I understand why leftists express shock when they view FNC. Though I felt for quite some time mainstream broadcasters weren’t exactly “down the middle,” I didn’t realize the extent of bias. I was surprised how the coverage differed from ABC, CBS, CNN, et cetera when I first viewed FNC in 2001. I was skeptical of the FNC coverage until I did my own research and found FNC presented a far more accurate and even-handed picture than I had known. I can imagine the shock of viewers who had no clue most of the mainstream media was skewing coverage to favor leftism.
Why do leftists have a visceral hate for FNC? I believe it’s because they know their positions can’t stand up under the glare of scrutiny. FNC does more to present both sides of a position than any other outlet and this represents a threat to leftists. For example, political discussions on FNC almost always include credible conservative and leftist contributors. You get only the leftist viewpoint on most other outlets. Those rare times when other outlets do include a conservative viewpoint, I find the presenter often is a boob, apparently chosen to undercut the credibility of the presented position.
I believe FNC leans to the right. However, are we to believe this one outlet offsets the leftist bias of ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, NPR, PBS, and most national news magazines and major city newspapers? As mentioned below, the viewership of leftist outlets dwarfs that of FNC.
How conservative is FNC? The answer depends a great deal on your point of reference or your own beliefs. If you are a leftist or you believe ABC, CBS, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, et al are unbiased, you will believe FNC takes right-wing extremist positions.
If you can see bias where it exists regardless of your beliefs, you’ll probably see FNC is no more conservative than most of the rest of the media is leftist.
There’s got to be a reason FNC viewership is ahead of CNN and MSNBC and pulling away. During the 2004 Republican convention, FNC even out drew all the broadcast networks’ coverage. For the first Bush-Kerry debate, FNC viewership nearly doubled that of CNN and MSNBC combined. When you include the viewers who saw FNC’s debate coverage via Fox Broadcasting stations, FNC came in second only to NBC. FNC wouldn’t be that successful if its only viewers were a small group of “angry white guys.”
Despite FNC’s cable success, it’s important to note that many more people – over 30 times more – get their news from broadcast networks than from cable. The viewership of news on ABC, CBS, and NBC ranges from five to eight million viewers for each network. Though FNC is the runaway leader on cable (#1 for over 100 months and counting), its primetime viewership is only about 1.9 million while MSNBC’s is about 785,000 and CNN’s is about 596,000 as of April 2010.
By now, everyone is familiar with the story CBS 60 Minutes II and Dan Rather ran in 2004 about President Bush’s National Guard service. The core of the story turned out to be what are now generally accepted as forged documents. Even if you give Dan Rather benefit of the doubt – I don’t, Mr. Rather and his team were at least guilty of looking the other way at every step.
· A National Guard officer who died in 1984 allegedly wrote the documents.
· The person who supplied the documents to CBS was a well-known Bush hater, Bill Burkett.
· A condition of receiving the documents was for CBS to put Mr. Burkett into contact with senior Kerry campaign adviser Joe Lockhart. CBS producer Mary Mapes complied with this request.
· CBS never insisted on viewing the original documents. Instead, they relied on a fax of a copy of a copy.
· CBS experts warned the Rather team the documents were suspect before the story aired.
· CBS misled an interviewee. When they contacted by phone a former Texas Air National Guard officer, they told him the documents were in the alleged author’s handwriting. As a result, the officer said something like, “If that’s what he wrote, that must have been what he believed.” As we learned, the documents were not handwritten.
· While CBS gave credence and airtime to people who believed the sentiment expressed in the documents, they ignored and gave no airtime to people who cast doubt on the authenticity of the documents. For example, CBS gave airtime to a Democrat – Ben Barnes – who happened to be vice-chair of Mr. Kerry’s Texas fundraising effort. Worse, until this year Mr. Barnes told a different story than the one he told during the CBS story. CBS did not give airtime to the alleged author’s wife and son who told CBS they didn’t believe the documents were authentic. Why weren’t they in the broadcast story? CBS considered them “too partisan.” A high-ranking Kerry fundraiser was OK but the alleged author’s wife and son were too partisan?
There were too many warning signs for anyone not to see trouble, especially for someone with Dan Rather’s many years of experience. In my opinion, the problem was Mr. Rather wanted the story to be true and – perhaps involuntarily – turned a blind eye toward anything that did not support the story.
To be fair, though the current evidence appears compelling, we can’t be certain the “Rathergate” documents are forgeries until someone brings forth the originals. Not surprisingly, Ms. Mapes still defends the report claiming no one has proved the documents were fakes. The problem for Ms. Mapes and her team is that it’s their job to prove their allegations are true; it’s not our job to prove they are wrong. That’s how it works in our legal system and how it’s supposed to work in the technical world.
Leftists would like us to believe Rathergate was a concoction of the “right wing” and that we’re missing the real story. Unfortunately for Rather apologists, some of the loudest critics have been outlets with a distinctly left “tilt.” It’s not that left-leaning outlets oppose promoting a lie; they hate the incompetence shown by getting caught so easily. That makes it tougher for them to promote their distortions.
After Rathergate, you would assume CBS would tighten its standards. You would be wrong. On September 28, 2004, the “CBS Evening News with Dan Rather” ran a story based on Internet e-mail notes claiming the Bush administration had plans to reinstate the draft if President Bush won. CBS reporter Richard Schlesinger presented a woman interviewed as a normal Republican mother worried about her sons getting drafted. The story had at least two problems. First, the e-mail note cited started circulation in June 2004 and was immediately uncovered as a hoax at that time. The CBS story never mentioned this. Second, the interviewed woman was not just an average “Pennsylvania voter.” As it turns out, Beverly Cocco was an activist working for “Parents Against the Draft” – an affiliate of “People Against the Draft” – and was the contact person for the Philadelphia area. Not only was the group anti-draft, it was “anti-war” – who isn’t? – and advocated an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Though CBS knew about it, the story never mentioned Ms. Cocco’s affiliation with the group. Since CBS apparently never attempted to confirm Ms. Cocco’s claim to be a Republican, we don’t know if that is true. It would not be surprising to learn Ms. Cocco is a leftist regardless of her voter registration. You see, a popular Democrat tactic is to have leftists pose as Republicans and then have them claim some Republican candidate is so bad even “life long Republicans” don’t support him. A number of Republican impersonators write letters to the Beaver County Times.
Finally we have some déjà vu. When asked why CBS cited the e-mails knowing they had been debunked months before, the producer responsible for the story said, “The truth of the e-mails were absolutely irrelevant [my emphasis] to the piece, because all the story said was that people were worried. It’s a story about human beings that are afraid of the draft. We did not say that this (e-mail) was true, it’s just circulating. We are not verifying the e-mail.”18 This is exactly the defense Dan Rather used for Rathergate.
NBC also ran a “Bush equals draft” story, though it mentioned the e-mail notes were an old hoax and quoted a denial by VP Cheney. Even so, that didn’t stop NBC from quoting a University of Arizona student, Jeremy Tor. Mr. Tor said, “You know, to suggest that a draft is going to be instituted, you know, harkening back to the days of Vietnam, which is a scary, scary thought.” Later on the story said, “After looking into it, Jeremy Tor decided the draft scare is a political hoax, but if anything, it still convinced him to vote in November.” The truth is, Mr. Tor decided “to vote in November” – and not for President Bush – long before the e-mail hoax which began in June 2004. You see, NBC didn’t mention Mr. Tor founded the UA group “Students for Edwards” in November 2003.
Leftists try to marginalize the conservative media (print, radio, TV, web) by claiming listeners, readers, and viewers are nothing but a small group of “angry white guys.” If that were true, would leftists be so overwrought at the success of the conservative media?
Talk radio programs are purely opinion and that’s how they are billed. These radio programs do not claim to be news outlets, though they cover topics often ignored or “spun” on mainstream news outlets. Does anyone mistake Jim Quinn, Rush Limbaugh, or Sean Hannity for news reporters?
Though leftists constantly cry conservative media personalities are simply “Republican Party mouthpieces,” there is no connection. The conservative presence is the result of a grass roots effort of many individuals who saw an underserved market. These shows are completely independent of each other and the Republican Party.
The leftist response to the new conservative presence is telling. In 2004, leftists bought a network with captive stations so they could centralize and control the message. Sound familiar? It should; it’s how leftists believe government should work, from the top down. The network was named Air America Radio (AAR) – owned by Progress Media – and was funded by leftists. So much for independent thought like that in the conservative media. AAR (subsequently Air America Media and then simply Air America) filed for bankruptcy in 2006 and was purchased by Green Family Media in 2007. On January 21, 2010, Air America announced it would cease operations and file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. At its closing, Air America claimed to be carried by 66 radio stations, none within 100 miles of Pittsburgh. In comparison, Rush Limbaugh alone is on more than 600 radio stations.
If you listen to Rush Limbaugh, you likely recall him playing montages of the media describing a given story. Invariably the montages show just about all reporters, pundits, and politicians using the same words. Though most of us wrote off that similarity to “copy catting,” some of us would joke about the memos that must go out telling people what to say. With the JournoList scandal, we now know that joke was not far off the mark.
Please be patient as I provide some background before getting directly into Journolist.
You may recall the Armstrong Williams (a conservative pundit) scandal during the Bush administration. The Department of Education contracted with Mr. Armstrong to promote the No Child Left Behind Act. Though the contract was not done in secret, Mr. Armstrong failed to notify his listeners and readers of this fact when he discussed the NCLBA. Correctly, most on the left and right condemned the situation.
Fast forward to January 2009 when we learn George Stephanopoulos (chief political correspondent for ABC News), James Carville (lefty pundit), and Paul Begala (lefty pundit) have daily morning conference calls with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. As noted on Politico.com, “in any given news cycle, it is quite likely that Washington’s prevailing political and media interpretation — at least on the Democratic side — is being hatched on these calls.”
Fast forward again to July 2010 when we learn of Journolist, an Internet-based mailing list started by Ezra Klein (Newsweek and The Washington Post) in 2007 for around 400 leftist journalists, academics, et cetera. Mr. Klein claims “no one who worked for the government in any capacity could join,” though at least one Obama administration employee was allegedly a member. I say “was” because Mr. Klein dissolved Journolist shortly after a bunch of unflattering e-mail notes was published. There’s no way to know definitively who was a member unless Mr. Klein publishes the list and that’s unlikely.
Among the topics discussed were how to blunt Barack Obama’s Jeremiah Wright problem during the 2008 campaign, how to handle Sarah Palin, and if the FCC could pull Fox News Channel’s license when it expires. These lovers of freedom of the press didn’t seem to know the press doesn’t need a license. In the case of Mr. Wright, a member suggested picking someone prominent on the right and baselessly accusing him of racism to deflect attention from Mr. Wright. We won’t know everything discussed unless a former member has a full archive and is willing to share it.
You would be right to say there’s nothing wrong with a bunch of people discussing these topics and you would be right. That said, when journalists get together to strategize and discuss how to treat stories, it stops being simple journalistic bias and becomes collusion.
2. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. In the section entitled “‘Liberal’ Media Image Persists,” poll results show 51% of Americans believe there is a liberal bias in the press vs. 26% who believe the press is conservative. Even a plurality of Democrats (41%) believes the press is liberal. Only 33% of Democrats believe the press is conservative.
8. In a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette letter-to-the-editor (Paperwork obstacles; July 8, 2003), the writer actually claimed she earned the Earned Income Tax Credit. She was put out about new rules requiring EITC recipients to prove they qualified. No one “earns” this so-called tax credit. The EITC is a handout, pure and simple.
11. Because it was a “background” briefing, FNC did not distribute the transcript until it had approval from the National Security Council. The NSC was the agency that originally classified the briefing. FNC also informed the other reporters who participated in the briefing that it was no longer classified. – As reported by FNC’s Jim Angle on Special Report (March 24, 2004). Angle was one of the reporters who participated in the 2002 briefing.
12. Ex-adviser: Terror issue not urgent; Hope Yen (Associated Press); Beaver County Times; March 25, 2004.
16. I don’t know if Richard Clarke lied in the 2002 briefing, or in his book and before the 9/11 Commission. Either way, I wanted to know. We also heard classified sworn testimony by Richard Clarke in 2002 may have conflicted with his sworn 9/11Commission testimony. Despite appearances to the contrary, Mr. Clarke contended all of his accounts were consistent. Unfortunately, many “seekers of the truth” made their decision and were glad to pick and choose the Clarke accounts that supported their political goals.
Perhaps the most important thing about Mr. Clarke’s testimony was almost completely overlooked. The commission asked Clarke if 9/11 could have been averted if the Bush administration had immediately implemented all of his recommendations. Mr. Clarke’s response was a simple “no.” Can we believe that answer?
19. This is an excerpt from a comment posted on the Beaver County Times website by William G. Horter on March 4, 2008, at 10:01 a.m. EST. The comment was in response to the letter Media subverting America written by James T. Flannick (March 4, 2008.)
20. Interview of Helen Thomas on “Sun Day”; Canadian Broadcasting Company; January 18, 2009.