PBS's Smiley Laughably Insists the Media Always Favors Whoever is President

Remember the media’s love affair with George W. Bush during his first term? Me neither. But PBS’s Tavis Smiley and Rolling Stone journalist and author Michael Hastings recall such a scenario. According to Hastings, the media loved President Bush from 2001 to 2005, just as they love President Obama now: “...if you look back at the first four years of the Bush administration, the media – same sort of dynamic. There was a lot of love for George W. Bush. Remember they hated Al Gore, and Bush was their favorite. And things didn’t really go south for Bush with the media until Katrina happened, and, you know, an unpopular war.”

Hastings concluded that media bias always favors the sitting president: “So the bias - the media bias is always towards power; it’s always towards whoever’s in the White House.” Smiley seconded that notion, saying, “I’m glad you said it, and I would have said it if you didn’t, which is that there is a bias toward power.” [See video after the jump. MP3 audio here]

Give Hastings and Smiley partial credit. They at least acknowledged that the media have been soft on Obama. But the media were not exactly soft on Bush during his first term. According to Smiley, “Obama’s gotten away with not being asked a lot of tough questions, but Bush got away with WMDs. He got away with lying, quite frankly, about why we’re going to Iraq.” Bush only “got away” from those things with a severely damaged reputation, which was partly the liberal media’s work. For the duration of Bush’s term, the media never stopped slamming him for the failure to find WMDs in Iraq. They never stopped portraying him as a dimwit. The media never had a love affair with Bush, even if they eased off of him for the first few months subsequent to 9/11.

Smiley’s discussion here about Bush somehow “getting away” with things is really laughable considering that he hated the former president from day one, even going to far as to denounce him as a “serial killer” for enforcing the death penalty and then later falsely denying he had said it when confronted by NewsBusters.

Similarly, the media disdained Ronald Reagan when he was president. They routinely characterized him as incompetent, old-fashioned, out-of-touch with the problems of lower-class Americans, and a trigger-happy loon eager to mix it up with the Soviets. The idea that the media is biased toward the White House is pretty farfetched. Media bias does not favor the president; it favors the Left. 

Below is a transcript of the segment:

 


MICHAEL HASTINGS: Well, you know, this idea– because if you look back at the first four years of the Bush administration, the media – same sort of dynamic. There was a lot of love for George W. Bush. Remember they hated Al Gore, and Bush was their favorite. And things didn’t really go south for Bush with the media until Katrina happened, and, you know, an unpopular war. So the bias - the media bias is always towards power; it’s always towards whoever’s in the White House. I think it is fair to say that President Obama has had an easier go of it in the media. I think there’s definitely - journalists feel much more comfortable about being blatantly, openly pro-Obama than they have about any other president that I’m aware of - certainly Clinton, or H.W...

TAVIS SMILEY: I’m glad you said it, and I would have said it if you didn’t, which is that there is a bias toward power. Obama’s gotten away with not being asked a lot of tough questions, but Bush got away with WMDs. He got away with lying, quite frankly, about why we’re going to Iraq. And, you know, we’ll get in trouble for saying that, at least I will.

HASTINGS: No, you’re totally right.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.