‘Friday Night Lights’ Author Buzz Bissinger: Media Colleagues Outraged That I’ll Vote Romney

For a political perspective that claims to love peace and tolerance, left-wing Democrats sure seem to be a rather angry lot. We saw it last week during the explosion over a black actress endorsing Mitt Romney for president. History repeated itself just a few days later when outraged Democrats lashed out at journalist and author Buzz Bissinger for doing the same thing.

Things were a bit different this time because in addition to people savaging him on Twitter, Bissinger also found himself being called a “traitor” by his supposedly objective media industry colleagues. The experience appears to have taught Bissinger the reality of left-wing media bias and he repeatedly admitted as much during an interview with CNN’s Howard Kurtz.


While Bissinger was invited on Kurtz’s Sunday Reliable Sources program to discuss the aftermath of his endorsement of Romney on Twitter, the discussion quickly turned to the subject of media. The veteran sports writer took to the topic with ease, clearly discomfiting his host.

 “Among friends it [the reaction] wasn’t as vitriolic but there was this sense of ‘How dare you! You’re a traitor! I mean you’re a writer, you’re a journalist, how can you possibly come out in favor of this man?’” Bissinger said. “You are simply not expected when you are a journalist and a writer to endorse a Republican.”

Of course, journalists who claim to be objective are not supposed to endorse anyone but that hasn’t stopped many of them from flocking to work for President Obama. By our count, there have been over a dozen, including high-profile ones like Linda Douglass of ABC News who left the network to sell Obamacare to Americans, Carole Simpson of ABC News who endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2007, or CNN’s Sanjay Gupta who auditioned to be President Obama’s Surgeon General. (For a full list, please see our “Revolving Door” topic.) No similar exodus of journalists has ever been observed toward Republican presidents.

The extraordinarily negative reaction from his media industry colleagues also proved for the Friday Night Lights author that journalists are not really able to set aside their own opinions in their news coverage. The “life-long Democrat” Bissinger even admitted that he himself had not always been able to do so.

“There is no doubt in my mind that there is a definite liberal bias in the mainstream media,” He asserted. “I mean look at the New York Times, you look at their editorial today on Afghanistan, you would feel it was the Republicans’ fault that we’re still there but that’s Obama’s decision. It does seep in and I know because as a journalist, it seeped in what I wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer.”

This proved too much for Kurtz to take. The former Washington Post columnist and current editor at Newsbeast took exception as he incorrectly accused Bissinger of claiming that literally every journalist in existence skews coverage.

“There are a lot of journalists who cover politics, I mean I can toss off a lot of names—Wolf Blitzer, Dan Balz from the Washington Post, Candy Crowley, Chuck Todd—I don’t know what they think about politics,” Kurtz said. “I think they’re fair to both sides, whatever their personal views. It seems to me that you just decided that everybody tilts to the left and that it shows in their work.”

With the exception of Todd, the names Kurtz listed are more fair than many in the media industry, however, anyone who cares to know for certain can easily click through the links in the previous paragraph to see that Kurtz is mistaken. While he did not address the individuals Kurtz mentioned specifically, Bissinger refused to fall for the CNN host’s apologetics. His response is quoted in full below:

Listen, I tend to paint with a broad brush, I know that. But look at the coverage of the drone attacks by Obama. I guarantee you, whoever it is, if it was a Republican president doing it, reporters would be all over that story. As it is, there was a public ombudsman column in New York Times. It's not being covered. David Rhodes, who was kidnapped by the Taliban, who now comments for Reuters, has said the same thing.

Certain reporters try to call it down the middle, or try, but even then I still think there is, it can be subtle or it can be not subtle. I do think there is a liberal bias. Now, granted, I'm judging, you know, from friends, but they were outraged. It was ‘How dare you, how can you support a Republican’— and granted some journalists may be better at hiding it than others.

As a veteran media reporter and critic, Kurtz knows full well that America’s elite press corps has little ideological diversity. He even will admit it once and a while. What he seems to have trouble understanding is that while a reporter can certainly try to prevent his political viewpoints from influencing his reporting, this task is much more difficult when everyone else he works with shares the same opinions. In an ideologically homogeneous environment, it can become difficult to know where the facts end and where political opinion begins. People are human beings after all and therefore are fallible.

Bissinger also took aim at liberals generally for claiming to be tolerant but being anything but when confronted with opinions different from their own.

“Liberals have this sense of themselves, but 90 percent are as nasty, as vitriolic, as vicious as the conservatives they say are. They are vicious, nasty people are saying ‘I’m not going to read your books.’ They say ‘go "f" yourself.’ ‘You’re a baby killer.’ ‘You’re a traitor,’ ‘you are a scum,’ I mean, on and on and on,” he said.

“I thought liberals were supposed to be open-minded. I thought they were supposed divergent viewpoint to at least say, ‘Everyone in America has a right to an opinion,’ but it is really about ‘I love free speech as long as it’s the free speech that I want.’”


The full transcript of Bissinger and Kurtz’s discussion is below.

HOWARD KURTZ: Buzz Bissinger is best known as a sports writer. Boy, did he kick up a political fuzz this week by announcing in "The Daily Beast" that he will vote for Mitt Romney. Even his wife thinks he's lost it. But what's really telling is what happened next.

The author of "Friday Night Lights really lit it up over Twitter, getting all kinds of abuse over his political stance, and Buzz Bissinger joins me now from Philadelphia. Buzz, welcome.

BUZZ BISSINGER: Thank you, Howie. You know, I think I feel at this point I was up in the space capsule with that guy. I think that’s where I need to be, at least the witness protection program given the reaction.

KURTZ: We’ll put a—

BISSINGER: Thousands of comments.

KURTZ: We will obscure your face for television purposes. So you write at the Daily Beast, where I work, that you’re a lifelong Democrat, you’re voting for Romney and you got savaged. Talk about the reaction to your sharing your political opinions.

BISSINGER: Well I would say between Daily Beast comments, Twitter comments, Facebook comments, roughly I would say 4,000 comments. I would say I ran about 6 to 1 against. And it wasn’t just ‘I disagree with you,’ it was the f-word, it was ‘you’re a baby killer.’

And it was even friends, among friends it wasn’t as vitriolic but there was this sense of ‘How dare you! You’re a traitor! I mean you’re a writer, you’re a journalist, how can you possibly come out in favor of this man?’ Although the column, you could feel the anguish, you could perhaps feel the sense of—traitorship. I am a lifelong Democrat so this is a one-shot deal.

KURTZ: What does it mean when friends of yours, and many of your friends are journalists, what does it mean when they say you’re a traitor and they are coming down on you for, you know, going through an honest assessment of who you think would be the best president in the next four years?

BISSINGER: Well, I mean what it says to me is that there is no doubt in my mind that there is a definite liberal bias in the mainstream media. I mean you take out Fox and you take out MSNBC which have staked out the right and the left, there is a liberal bias. You are simply not expected when you are a journalist and a writer to endorse a Republican. And don’t tell me it does not seep into the coverage.

I mean look at the New York Times, you look at their editorial today on Afghanistan, you would feel it was the Republicans’ fault that we’re still there but that’s Obama’s decision. It does seep in and I know because as a journalist, it seeped in what I wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer. It wasn’t—

KURTZ: But there—

BISSINGER: It wasn’t shocking but it confirmed things to me.

KURTZ: But there I think you’re being a little unfair or at least painting with too broad a brush, Buzz because you said ‘When I was a reporter, my own personal opinions seeped in’ and you’re making the automatic assumption that this is true for everybody. And there are a lot of journalists who cover politics, I mean I can toss off a lot of names—Wolf Blitzer, Dan Balz from the Washington Post, Candy Crowley, Chuck Todd—I don’t know what they think about politics. I think they’re fair to both sides, whatever their personal views. It seems to me that you just decided that everybody tilts to the left and that it shows in their work.

BISSINGER: Listen, I tend to paint with a broad brush, I know that. But look at the coverage of the drone attacks by Obama. I guarantee you, whoever it is, if it was a Republican president doing it, reporters would be all over that story. As it is, there was a public ombudsman column in New York Times. It's not being covered. David Rhodes, who was kidnapped by the Taliban, who now comments for Reuters, has said the same thing.

Certain reporters try to call it down the middle, or try, but even then I still think there is, it can be subtle or it can be not subtle. I do think there is a liberal bias. Now, granted, I'm judging, you know, from friends, but they were outraged. It was ‘How dare you, how can you support a Republican’— and granted some journalists may be better at hiding it than others.

KURTZ: And you say of these friends, Buzz Bissinger, most of them were offended and outraged by you saying you're going to support Romney to the point where my relationship with them will never be the same again, and I think that is a mutual feeling. So this is really damaging some of your personal relationships.

BISSINGER: Well, it is. I mean, it is damaging my personal relationships. It's not apocryphal that my wife and I can simply not discuss politics. It has created some tension and marital spats, but I thought the reaction—Look, I thought liberals were supposed to be open-minded. I thought they were supposed divergent viewpoint to at least say, ‘Everyone in America has a right to an opinion,’ but it is really about ‘I love free speech as long as it’s the free speech that I want.’ And I will not feel the same way as these people—

KURTZ: You say of liberals, you say of liberals that 90 percent are every bit as nasty and vitriolic as the conservatives that they rightly condemn for being nasty and vitriolic. So it sounds like you’ve been surprised at the intensity of the heat that you've gotten from people, journalists and others, on the left side of the spectrum.

 

BISSINGER: I have, and I stick to that statement. Liberals have this sense of themselves, but 90 percent are as nasty, as vitriolic, as vicious as the conservatives they say are. They are vicious, nasty people are saying ‘I’m not going to read your books.’ They say ‘go f yourself.’ ‘You’re a baby killer.’ ‘You’re a traitor,’ ‘you are a scum,’ I mean, on and on and on.

And Howie, if you read the column, it was anguish. It’s a one-shot deal. It is an emotional decision based on a performance by Obama in that debate that said to me he's flat, he's aloof, he does not really want to be president. I'm not the only one. Look at the bounce he got in the polls. He got a 12 point bounce from Pew.

KURTZ: I know, he did.

BISSINGER: And I know people say that polls are skewed, but I'm not the only one who thought that.

KURTZ: You are not exactly a defenseless guy. You went on Twitter and you were swinging at those critics, you were dropping f-bombs yourself. Why did you take such a, shall we say, an aggressive stance in responding to some of these critics?

BISSINGER: Because I've been on Twitter since day one, I've taken an aggressive stance about everything.

KURTZ: That's an understatement.

BISSINGER: Whether it’s right or wrong, because my vernacular probably uses the word f-bomb too much. Trust me, I have been bleeped out on the radio show I do probably a dozen times because it slips out. I’ve always been aggressive. I don't like taking crap, and I don't like taking abuse when I feel it’s misplaced.

You know, a commenter said, ‘Well, he is a low information voter.’ That's absolutely incorrect. I may be a misinformed voter, but I am not a low information voter. I know the pitfalls of Romney, I know the strengths of Obama. I said in the column he is a principled man, but maybe he's too principled, because he has a problem crossing the aisle.

But I feel this country is in a malaise and it needs to be jump-started. The fact that Romney is moving to the center, I would think people think is a good thing.

KURTZ: All right, got to go.

BISSINGER: Remember, Bill Clinton was famous for it.

KURTZ: You've certainly triggered quite a debate here. And thank you for helping us get through this segment without having to bleep you. Buzz Bissinger, great to see you this morning.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013