NB Interview: John Ziegler Discusses 'Media Malpractice' Re-release, Palin, Obama and Tea Party

NewsBusters readers should be quite familiar with John Ziegler, the independent filmmaker that produced the spectacular documentary about the 2008 presidential campaign "Media Malpractice: How Obama Got Elected and Palin was Targeted."

In the past few weeks the film has been re-released using a different marketing format, and Ziegler was kind enough to answer some questions about this and other media bias issues via e-mail:

NEWSBUSTERS:  What made you think of doing a re-release of Media Malpractice? What makes the timing right and what's different about this strategy than what you did last year?

JOHN ZIEGLER: There are many reasons why we decided to re-release Media Malpractice. First, our initial distributor was very limited in its reach and we were really only able to preach to the conservative choir. This release is by a nonpolitical distributor and has a far far greater reach, especially to the mainstream, by being available on virtually every video on demand outlet in the country and in many major stores.

Now that attention starts to turn to 2012 and it seems highly likely that both Barack Obama and Sarah Palin will play central roles and this is the very last chance to correct the historical record and alter the narrative about what really happened in 2008.

NB: Why do you think people will be more interested in the 2008 presidential campaign's media bias now than they were when the film was first released last year? Do you think Obama's sagging popularity will spark interest?

JZ: Well, Obama coming back to earth is what has allowed us to go this route in the first place. There is no way the mainstream stores we are currently in would have accepted us if he was still highly popular. As for the public, there is no doubt that a lot of people feel duped by Obama and are far more open to the truth of this film.

NB: It's been two weeks since the re-release started. How are sales going?

JZ: Hard to say. With so many outlets, we don't get reports for several weeks. Unfortunately, we having some difficulty getting the conservative media to understand what a big deal this is and what an amazing opportunity for the movement this is, even after Palin herself has gone out of her way to promote it via her kind words on a radio show and her Facebook page.

NB: You've added 45 minutes of new footage from the original film. What can viewers expect?

JZ: We took a lot of the episodes that occurred in relation to the film after its original release and I provide commentary of what really happened behind the scenes. We show clips and I tell some great stories involving Matt Lauer, Barbara Walters, Joy Behar, Norah O'Donnell among others. We also tell the real story of what happened when I was arrested at the USC journalism award ceremony where Katie Couric was honored for her bogus Sarah Palin interview.

NB: You had an interesting interview with Kathleen Parker and Eliot Spitzer last week. Tell us about that.

JZ: Very bizarre. I called Parker out on her "endorsing" Obama and she flat out lied and claimed she never did so. That kind of shocked me, but not as much as what happened when I also called her out on being part of the "assassination" of Palin 1.0 as I refer to her pre-Fox persona. She was so off guard that I think she panicked and made the really strange statement that she "led" the assassination of Palin. She practically bragged about it, which is stunning considering she is supposedly the only full-time "conservative" on CNN, which says more about the inherent bias in the media than just about anything else.

NB: How do you think the coverage of Sarah Palin has changed since the 2008 elections?

JZ: Well, among certain circles, mostly on MSNBC and in the entertainment world, it has actually gotten worse as the dam has totally broken and it has become accepted that all bets are off when it comes to attacking her.

But the most important change is that Palin and the media now have a weirdly symbiotic relationship wherein they need each other. If the entire media complex decided tomorrow to stop covering her, she would have greatly reduced impact, but they would never do that because she is so good for their ratings.

I also think the success of Bristol on Dancing with the Stars has changed things a bit, once again to her advantage, as millions of nonpolitical people get to see the Palins in a mostly positive light.

NB: How do you think the coverage of President Obama has changed since the 2008 elections?

JZ: Not nearly as much as his approval ratings have. The love affair has certainly lost much of its heat, but the devotion is still there. Like any marriage going through tough times, the passion wanes, but if things improve in the economy at all I can assure you that the magic will return. Obama will not have to worry about having what happened to Bush 41 in 1992 happen to him. The media not only won't ignore signs of recovery as they did then, they will take out a microscope to find them.

I really think the most influential media when it comes to deciding presidential elections these days is the entertainment/comedy media and for the most part they have still gone way out of their way to be nice to Obama, especially in comparison to Bush 43. Until that changes, it will be fairly easy for Obama's poll numbers to improve dramatically if the economy does.

NB: What are your thoughts on how the Tea Party has been covered?

JZ: My views on this are rather nuanced and easily misunderstood. There is no doubt that the obvious attempt to label the Tea Party as racist was politically motivated and largely without merit. However, I actually think the Tea Party, depending on how you define it, has actually, in totality, faired a lot better with regard to the media than it could have.

First of all, the movement easily could have been ignored, which would have made it much more difficult for it to grow. So, in that sense, the coverage was actually good.

Secondly, there are several elements of the Tea Party hierarchy that are blatantly corrupt and only have an interest in making money and don't care at all about the cause. I have been amazed that these scandals have mostly not been exposed by the media as of yet.

NB: Do you see any similarities between how Palin was covered in 2008 and how female Republican candidates like Whitman, Fiorina, O'Donnell, Angle, and McMahon were covered during the midterms?

JZ: Yes and no. Obviously the most common comparison is between Palin and O'Donnell, but I don't think it is a good one. The media myth that Palin is an idiot has been built almost entirely on fabrications. However, with O'Donnell much of the negative coverage was based on very credible questions about her qualifications and background.

Just because a female Republican gets bad media coverage doesn't mean they are getting that coverage because they are a female Republican, though there is no doubt the media jumped on O'Donnell largely because she is attractive and therefore good for ratings.

NB: The media's conventional wisdom at this point is that if Palin runs for president in 2012, she'll easily win the nomination but get crushed by Obama in the general election. What is your view on this?

JZ: Obviously we don't even know if she is running. I am still not convinced she is, but publicly things are certainly pointing in that direction. If she does, I think she is one of three or four people who could win the nomination and, if she ran the right kind of campaign, would probably win it, though it would not be a run away.

As for a general election, if the economy improves, ANY Republican would get crushed by Obama. If it does not get better, or at least give the media the chance to claim it is better, then Obama is beatable, especially if anything bad happens on the national security front. Right now, thanks to the media's unfair destruction on her, Palin would indeed get crushed by Obama, but 2012 is a long way away and Palin has shown that she should not be underestimated. On paper though, she would certainly appear to be a longshot.

NB: Anything else you want to tell NewsBusters readers?

JZ: I have devoted almost two years of my life, spent over 300,000 dollars of my own money, suffered numerous indignities, and greatly jeopardized my career all so that the historical record off what really happened in the 2008 election. The film is now finally in a unique position to do that and I hope your readers help us spread the word of this incredibly important development. All the information about the re-release can be found here.

Thanks, John, and good luck with the film.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.