Reuters's Freeland Thinks Paul Ryan's Gotten 'Pretty Fabulous' Media Coverage

In an irony of ironies, a CNN roundtable on media bias featured a liberal figure of the institutional media, Chrystia Freeland, claiming that Paul Ryan has gotten "pretty fabulous treatment" at the hands of the media. Her statement came on Sunday's Reliable Sources.

"I think he's had pretty fabulous treatment in the press and maybe actually a lack of scrutiny of what he's actually saying," Freeland opined, pointing to the "image" of him as "superwonk." She ironically addressed media bias as a liberal member of the mainstream press.

Some of Freeland's worst moments included her praise of "contrite" Congressman Anthony Weiner's press conference that was a "masterful performance," or perhaps when she equated "courage" with raising taxes in the debt debate.

Even The Guardian's Ana Marie Cox acknowledged a pro-Obama media bias. "I think there is a cultural bias towards Obama among journalists," she admitted. National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru chimed in, "I think there is a generic anti-conservative bias on the part of a lot of media institutions, and the people who work for them."

Freeland's dismissal of media antipathy toward Paul Ryan doesn't hold water. As NewsBusters has documented, the press has bludgeoned Ryan plenty of times even before he became the Republican vice presidential nominee. Some notable cases since his VP candidacy began are included below:

When Ryan entered the race, the networks falsely painted him as a spending cutter who would "destroy" Medicare.

Esquire magazine's Charles Pierce called Ryan a "zombie-eyed granny-starver" in an August 11 piece. MSNBC's Chris Matthews said his budget "really screws" the poor. The New York Times's Maureen Dowd labeled him "Scrooge."

Matthews railed that Ryan might be a worse VP candidate than Dan Quayle and "more trouble" than infamous Tom Eagleton who was dismissed from the 1972 Democratic ticket after 18 days.

The New York Times tried to wrap the Todd Akin controversy around Paul Ryan.

The media swarmed to fact-check Ryan's speech at the RNC and nail him for falsehoods, while ignoring key facts.

A media hostile to orthodox Catholicism laughably tried to condemn Ryan as not Catholic enough.

CBS's Norah O'Donnell compared Ryan misstating his marathon time to Al Gore's infamous boast about inventing the internet.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on Reliable Sources on September 30 at 11:05 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

[11:05]

HOWARD KURTZ: Romney's running mate Paul Ryan, he'll face his own debate later in October, was on FOX News Sunday earlier this morning. And anchor Chris Wallace asked him about the media coverage of this campaign.

(Video Clip)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX News: Do you think the mainstream media is carrying water for Barack Obama?

Rep. PAUL RYAN (R-Wisc.), GOP vice presidential nominee: I think it kind of goes without saying that there is definitely a media bias.

WALLACE: Do you think the mainstream media wants Barack Obama to win?

RYAN: You will have to ask mainstream media that.

WALLACE: No. What do you think?

RYAN: I thing most people in the mainstream media are left of center, and therefore they want a very left of center president versus a conservative president like Mitt Romney.

(End Video Clip)

KURTZ: Chrystia Freeland, what do you think of that indictment by Paul Ryan?

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, global editor-at-large, Reuters: Well, I think, first of all, we need to give up talking about the mainstream media. I mean, what is the mainstream media nowadays? A lot of people watch FOX. Is FOX now the mainstream media?

I think the bigger question really is that the media is really polarized and that is why coming back to the debate point, that's why I think it's an interesting opportunity because we can see the two sides. I think if you watch FOX, which a lot of people do, then I think you're watching media which is rooting for Ryan and Romney. If you're watching MSNBC, you're watching media that's rooting for Obama.

KURTZ: But there are a lot of journalists, Ana Marie Cox, who are – style themselves as straight news reporters and they work for The L.A. Times or The Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal, or the The New York Times, or the networks, or CNN, and the implication there from Congressman Ryan is they are in the tank too.

ANA MARIE COX, The Guardian: Well, you've been doing this for long enough that I think you know this main critique of media bias is not about the individual predilections of reporters. It's about the institutional bias for covering interesting races, for making things exciting, for talking about things being a boxing match. For talking about the big moment. For talking about the zingers that get said. That's what's exciting. And also there's I think – I think there is a cultural bias towards Obama among journalists. I think that Mitt Romney's inability to kind of connect with people, you can put journalists in that category as well.

KURTZ: Do you want to jump in here?

RAMESH PONNURU, National Review: Yeah. I would say, look, I think there is a generic anti-conservative bias on the part of a lot of media institutions, and the people who work for them. But I think in addition to that, there's a specific anti-Romney bias, and I think that it would be very hard to devise somebody who's more culturally alien to the culture of most press rooms than a Mormon businessman.

COX: Right.

KURTZ: Okay. So if you look at the Sunday morning papers, The Washington Post has a big headline, "Romney's money trap," going back to the question of his wealth, whether that's a liability. The New York Times has a big front page story about how he was more moderate on energy issues and green, electric cars and so forth when he was governor of Massachusetts. Is that a cultural bias?

FREELAND: Can I answer that?

KURTZ: Go ahead.

FREELAND: Because I was just going to say, this is something that is actually really mystifying to me and says something really interesting about America. Isn't it amazing that America today -- and it's not just the media, but it seems to be American voters -- find Barack Obama, son of a Kenyan, raised all over the place, Indonesia, Hawaii, more relatable than a Mormon businessman? I mean, since when did being, you know, a white conservative, great family man, businessman, become an unrelatable thing to American people and the American media?

PONNURU: Well, I was talking about journalists, not people at large.

(Crosstalk)

FREELAND: No, but that seems to be something that, you know, is reflected in the polls. That people find Romney hard to be the guy they want to have, if not a beer, how about a – what could he drink, a sparkling water with?

KURTZ: Orange juice.

(Crosstalk)

COX: Journalists are particularly frightened of math, maybe not at Reuters. But you know, I think in general. And so, being a businessman is not so – not a connectable thing. But also, he's a particular kind of businessman. Let's not forget that. We're not talking somebody who runs a mom and pop store who became – who was an entrepreneur who built a business that sold things. He moved money around for a living and I think being in finance in that way, being in the transaction business and not being in the making and selling things business, that's a big difference.

And I think that's something that is harder to understand just for normal everyday Americans, and it's a kind of business that we have a bias against these days because that's the kind of business that people see as having played a part in the crumbling of our economy.

KURTZ: But this is a serious charge, Ramesh. You're suggesting that because the average boy or girl on the bus doesn't relate to Romney culturally, most of them are not Mormon, most of them didn't come from the world of finance or have a hard time relating to the world of finance, that they are letting that influence the way they cover him as a presidential candidate when we do have to point out here that he's made a lot of mistakes in the last couple of months, which, of course, should be covered.

PONNURU: And I'm not denying that, but I do think that certain candidates just don't get the positive coverage from the press. They don't get the press cutting them breaks. I think that that personal dislike sometimes, (Inaudible) Democrats. I think Al Gore suffered from that in 2000 also, maybe some of the same traits that arouse that ire, of course, not the exact same ones, but being seen as stiff, being seen as somebody who wasn't friendly to them. And I just think that does – whether or not the reporters are trying, I think it colors the coverage.

(Crosstalk)

FREELAND: I think that it's more about personality really, even than politics, and Paul Ryan actually is the best counter-example, because thanks to the real vividness in his message and also in how he conveys it, I think he's had pretty fabulous treatment in the press and maybe actually a lack of scrutiny of what he's actually saying.

(Crosstalk)

FREELAND: The image of Paul Ryan as superwonk.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014