Hugo Chavez: The Networks' Favorite Dictator

Anti-American Venezuelan dictator and oil strongman Hugo Chavez was rushed to the hospital on September 29, apparently because of kidney problems. He was quick to downplay any reports of serious illness, which should be a comfort to his friends at the networks.

Chavez, a socialist, has long gotten a pass from ABC, CBS and NBC for anti-American rhetoric like calling President Bush a "devil" and predicting: "The United States empire is on its way down and it will be finished in the near future."

The MRC analyzed media coverage of Chavez from 1998 to 2006. The report found that the networks ignored or whitewashed his radical brand of politics completely, refused to cover his threats against the United States, and positively covered his political stunt of giving oil to the American poor.

This habit of Chavez whitewashing is still present at the major networks. The three major broadcast networks still refuse to cover Chavez's anti-American rants and human rights abuses.

Out of 21 stories on Chavez over the last two years (from Sept 29, 2009 to Sept 29, 2011), precisely 3 of them mentioned Venezuela's strained relations with the United States. Only one of them mentioned human rights abuses in Venezuela.

Two of those stories tended towards trivial and unimportant matters. "Nightline" covered Chavez's rant against breast implants on September 21, 2011, and the other story briefly mentioned a meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chavez.

To its credit, CBS Evening News did run one in-depth story on Chavez on July 1, detailing Chavez's troubles with America. CBS guest Juan Zarate said that "He has made common cause with America's enemies and has viewed himself as a revolutionary leader in opposition to American power. And so, if he loses power, either now or in the future, this will be good news for the United States."

Only one story hinted at Chavez's history of human rights abuses. Reflecting the admiration of Hollywood left-wingers like Sean Penn and Danny Glover, filmmaker Oliver Stone praised Chavez for his leadership on CBS and ABC. "Good Morning America's" George Stephanopolous tentatively noted "Even the United Nations has said that Hugo Chavez is not a paragon of free speech in his own country," a claim which Stone dismissed, and Stephanopolous refused to push. The abuses continue; even the leftist organization Human Rights Watch issued a report in 2011 detailing abuses in Venezuela.

The media has little hesitation about attacking dictators it doesn't like. The networks attacked Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi repeatedly for his abuses. Why no similar coverage for Chavez?

Will the networks acknowledge Hugo Chavez as an anti-American dictator, or will they ignore his anti-American ways once again?