MSNBC's Shuster Claims Fox More Conservative Than MSNBC Liberal

Near the end of the 10AM ET hour on MSNBC Thursday, anchor David Shuster criticized Fox News anchor Bret Baier for having "interrupted the President numerous times" in a "contentious" and "heated" Wednesday interview. Shuster later accused the network of bias: "Fox is far more – far more conservative overall than MSNBC could ever be liberal."

Shuster brought on left-wing Mother Jones editor David Corn and David Freddoso of the Washington Examiner to discuss Baier's interview with Obama. He asked Corn if Baier's questioning was "inappropriate," Corn didn't think so, but joked: "I was just disappointed overall, though, because there were no questions about where the President was born." Freddoso thought Baier got "bogged down" asking the President about the controversial 'deem and pass' procedure possibly being used to pass ObamaCare.   

Turning to Freddoso, Shuster cited former White House Communications Director Anita Dunn claiming that Fox News is the "communications arm of the Republican Party." Freddoso discounted that criticism: "You can call names and sling mud. I mean, Fox News definitely – it has more of a center-right perspective than MSNBC, which generally has more of a center-left, political perspective." Prompting Shuster to reply: "But the difference is that – and I've worked at both places – and you can find this from every sort of media analyst who's objective, Fox is far more – far more conservative overall than MSNBC could ever be liberal. It's not a question of their – one's five points to the right and one's five points to the left. It's not like that at all."

Freddoso responded to Shuster's accusation by observing: "I don't know exactly how you would measure – how you would quantify that. I watch MSNBC all the time. I think it's – I think it definitely has a very liberal lean." Though he added: "But it's not, you know, to the point where it's off-putting, it's something you expect."

Shuster cited an example of supposed Fox News bias: "Today we've seen my colleagues...on Fox, repeatedly said 'how can they have a vote on health care reform, how can they pass this without having a vote?' We know there's going to be a vote. It may not be the vote on the Senate bill that they want" Apparently, questioning Democrats on their efforts to shove through massive legislation on a little-known parliamentary procedure is a sign of bias.

David Corn then decided to chime in: "I think the point is that Fox often absorbs the talking points and language that the Republican Party and conservatives are pushing, you know. And if you look, I don't think there's anyone – you know, you can talk about Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, they're certainly liberals. I don't think they're as far to the left or as far off the charts, whatever you want to call it, as, say, Glenn Beck is."

Corn went on to claim that unlike conservative Fox hosts who only throw "softballs" at Republicans, liberal MSNBC personalities like Rachel Maddow "interview people who are Democrats and [are] not as soft on that." Maddow certainly wasn't tough on then candidate Obama in an October 30, 2008 interview, in which her first question to the Senator was why he hadn't be tougher on Republicans.  

Shuster was following similar talking points voiced by Hardball host Chris Matthews, who on Tuesday declared "there's absolutely no debate" of Fox News, unlike on MSNBC and CNN.

Here is a full transcript of the Thursday MSNBC segment:
10:52AM:

DAVID SHUSTER: The broadcast world is buzzing today over a contentious interview President Obama had yesterday with Fox. It got pretty heated when Bret Baier interrupted the President numerous times. Take a listen.    

[CLIP OF BAIER QUESTIONING OBAMA IN FNC INTERVIEW]

SHUSTER: Wow. Joining us in the studio, David Corn, Washington editor for Mother Jones magazine and blogger for Politics Daily, and David Freddoso, online opinion editor for the Washington Examiner. David I'll start with you, was that inappropriate?

DAVID CORN: Well, I don't think it's inappropriate for a journalist ever to press the President hard. As we know, Fox News didn't always press George Bush that hard or Dick Cheney. I mean, I was just disappointed overall, though, because there were no questions about where the President was born.

[LAUGHTER]

SHUSTER: David Freddoso, your view?

DAVID FREDDOSO: It struck me when Baier was asking about process, that he was trying to get the President to own the deem and pass process. And President Obama basically said, 'okay, I'll own it. If they vote yes, they're voting for my bill, if they vote no, they're voting against it.' And it seemed a little bit like Baier wouldn't take yes for an answer. He kind of kept pushing. I mean, I have to agree, I don't think there's anything wrong with interrupting the President during an interview. That particular part, at least, I thought, you know, it sort of made me think, 'ooh, you know, can we move this along? It's getting a little bogged down.'

CORN: Well he, you know, Bret said – and I like Bret – Bret said that, you know, they had gotten 18,000 questions in and he was going to read a few. And they all seemed to deal with deem and pass and process issues. I mean, I think the President got better when he said I get 40,000 e-mails a day, and they deal with substance.

SHUSTER: Yeah, the President, I think, won that particular exchange. But David Freddoso, Anita Dunn has said that Fox News is the 'communications arm of the Republican Party.'

FREDDOSO: I mean that's, you know, fine. You can call names and sling mud. I mean, Fox News definitely – it has more of a center-right perspective than MSNBC, which generally has more of a center-left, political perspective.

SHUSTER: But the difference is that – and I've worked at both places – and you can find this from every sort of media analyst who's objective, Fox is far more – far more conservative overall than MSNBC could ever be liberal. It's not a question of their – one's five points to the right and one's five points to the left. It's not like that at all.

FREDDOSO: I don't know exactly how you would measure – how you would quantify that. I watch MSNBC all the time. I think it's – I think it definitely has a very liberal lean. But it's not, you know, to the point where it's off-putting, it's something you expect.

SHUSTER: But here's an example. Today we've seen my colleagues, counterparts, news anchors during the day on Fox, repeatedly said 'how can they have a vote on health care reform, how can they pass this without having a vote?' We know there's going to be a vote. It may not be the vote on the Senate bill that they want, but-

CORN: I think the point is that Fox often absorbs the talking points and language that the Republican Party and conservatives are pushing, you know. And if you look, I don't think there's anyone – you know, you can talk about Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, they're certainly liberals. I don't think they're as far to the left or as far off the charts, whatever you want to call it, as, say, Glenn Beck is. And when, you know, and when you have Sean Hannity doing interviews with Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin, again, and again, and again, you see softballs, softballs, softballs. I've seen Rachel interview people who are Democrats and she's not as soft on that. So I do think there are some – you know, these are object – not objective judgments. They're subjective judgments. You line up the list, and I think overall the atmosphere there is far to the right than to the left. But nevertheless, Bret can be judged as a news person and that's-

SHUSTER: Look – and look, I give Bret credit. I actually – I liked the interview. I agree with you. I think it is fine when the President isn't answering a question, you follow up, I think the issue Fox may have, is that when they start looking back at previous interviews Bret did, they'll find a very different style towards George W. Bush than he displayed with President Obama. But that's an issue for media critics to deal with. David Corn, David Freddoso, thank you both so much for coming in. Great discussion. Fascinating issue in the world of broadcasting.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC