Former Washington Post reporter John Harris, now editor-in-chief of the political newspaper The Politico, engaged in an interesting blog debate yesterday with his Politico colleagues Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei about whether or not journalists lose their impartiality by voting. Harris insisted that having opinions or voting “does not compromise me as a journalist,” and that the key requirement is “self-discipline in the public expression of those opinions so as not to give sources and readers cause to question someone’s commitment to fairness.”
“As to whether I and other reporters and editors really are fair, the only test of that is the work itself,” Harris insisted.
Over the years, MRC has caught numerous instances in which Harris has seemingly tilted in ways pleasing to either Bill or Hillary Clinton. Back in February 1999, Harris suggested the Wall Street Journal was behaving as a partisan in reporting the on-the-record charges of a woman who said Bill Clinton raped her two decades earlier. “I think we need to be highly skeptical of the story,” Harris announced on PBS’s Washington Week in Review. The next day, Harris’s Washington Post joined the Journal in reporting Broaddrick’s story.
Doesn’t look like an olive branch to me. Writing in today’s (Tuesday's) Wall Street Journal, novelist and sometime Republican activist Mark Helprin (not to be confused with Time magazine’s Mark Halperin) takes a series of insulting personal shots at the radio talk show hosts who’ve criticized John McCain for his numerous anti-conservative positions.
Helprin, whose last big political job was working as an advisor to Bob Dole in 1996, calls hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity “hairdressers [who] can talk all day long to one client as they snip...the depth of their thought is truly Oprah-like,” even as Ann Coulter is “relentlessly crocodilian.” For what it's worth, Helprin’s Wikipedia entry calls him a “conservative commentator.”
After months of improving security in Iraq, the big network morning shows on Friday cited one horrific suicide bombing as proof that “mayhem and misery are back in Baghdad,” as CBS correspondent Mark Strassmann put it. But over the last five months, the broadcast networks have consistently reduced their coverage of Iraq, as if the story of American success in Iraq is less worthy of attention than their old mantra of American failure in Iraq.
Media Research Center analysts tracked all coverage of the Iraq war on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts from September 1 through January 31, and we documented a steady decline in TV coverage of Iraq that has coincided with the improving situation in Iraq. Back in September, the three evening newscasts together broadcast 178 stories about the war in Iraq; in January, that number fell to just 47, a nearly fourfold decrease. (See chart.)
In her “Katie Couric’s Notebook” video posted on CBSNews.com on Wednesday, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric mourned the loss of John Edwards from the Democratic race, citing an array of liberal issues as proof the ex-candidate “deserves credit for pushing tough issues,” and applauding Edwards for “speaking honestly about why he wanted to raise taxes.”
Exactly 20 years ago tonight, January 25, 1988, millions of Americans saw one newsman’s liberal agenda laid bare, as CBS anchor Dan Rather attempted to ambush then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, in a live TV interview on his CBS Evening News. But Bush held his own during the on-air confrontation, and the lasting effect was to reveal how Rather was driven by his personal biases, at one point lecturing the Vice President: “You’ve made us hypocrites in the face of the world.”
CNN senior political analyst (and U.S. News & World Report editor-at-large) David Gergen scolded GOP candidate Mitt Romney on Monday’s Anderson Cooper 360 for daring to suggest that the health of the American economy is as important as fighting climate change. Gergen likened that to the "divisive" debate on race among Democratic candidates and called it a “very dangerous” argument for Republicans to make: “If Romney wins, and that becomes the message of the Republican Party, we are going to have two huge clashes in this country between needs on the economy vs. needs to deal with climate change. And it’s a very dangerous place for the Republican Party to go.”
Romney’s chief rival in today’s Michigan primary, Arizona Senator John McCain, has consistently pushed the liberal side of the climate change debate. In a speech in Kalamazoo yesterday, McCain sounded a lot like Al Gore: “I believe there's scientific evidence that drastic things are happening to our planet. If I'm wrong and we move ahead with green technology, the only downside is leaving a cleaner world for our children.”
Instead of scolding McCain for embracing a liberal position in a Republican primary, Gergen faulted Romney for not following suit. Because of his past service in the Reagan and Ford administrations, Gergen is often cast as the conservative counter-balance in roundtables; last night, for example, he appeared with reporter Candy Crowley and liberal CNN contributor Roland Martin. But with Gergen (who also worked for Bill Clinton) making liberal points, too, there’s no conservative to offer an alternative opinion.
Appearing on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal this morning, longtime CNN correspondent Charles Bierbauer, who’s now the senior contributing editor to SCHotline.com, a South Carolina political news site, equated a proposed fence to deter illegal immigration from Mexico with the Berlin Wall that prevented Germans from fleeing East Germany’s communist dictatorship during the Cold War.
Oddly, Bierbauer claimed that the Berlin Wall “didn’t work,” even though tens of thousands raced past the checkpoints to West Berlin the moment the East German dictatorship opened the gates. Referring to proposals to build a U.S.-Mexico fence, Bierbauer argued: “I’ve seen walls around other countries, most notably East Germany and East Berlin, and they didn’t work. In fact, they became symbols of oppression rather than anything positive.”
Writing on Newsweek's Web site, Jonathan Alter offers up three "pop psych theories" as to why Hillary Clinton won in New Hampshire when the media establishment (Alter included) unanimously predicted an Obama victory. To Alter, the mystery is why women voters flocked to Hillary in such large numbers, and his theories range from the patronizing (discounting her First Lady "experience" as irrelevent supposedly "reminded many women of how their own contributions at home have been under-appreciated") to the absurd ("as in any high-school election, the studious girls who show up to vote might harbor a few resentments about the boys").
And Alter makes no effort to square his theories about superficial women voters being moved by esoteric personality issues with the never-ending media mantra about New Hampshire voters being the most sophisticated and probing in the nation (which is why we must take their judgements so seriously). Yet their choice for President supposedly came down to thousands of beleaguered Democratic women who projected their problems in life onto a crying Hillary?
It’s not just the national media that’s got the ear of New Hampshire voters in the days before their first-in-the-nation primary tomorrow. Local newspapers are filled with stories about the various candidates, and The Concord Monitor (which reaches about 20,000 weekday readers in and around the state’s capital city) has had a spate of stories favorable to Barack Obama since Thursday’s Iowa caucuses.
What makes that all the more interesting is that the generally liberal newspaper endorsed Hillary Clinton back on December 30, saying the former First Lady “has the right experience, the right agenda and the know-how to lead the country back to respect on the world stage and meaningful progress on long-neglected problems.”
Are we seeing some fractures in the liberal media? Talking about Senator Obama’s surge to the lead in New Hampshire polls on Monday’s ‘Morning Joe’ on MSNBC, Hardball host Chris Matthews asserted that the “establishment press” would be part of Hillary Clinton’s resurgence. “There’s an establishment press — which is just as establishment as the establishment of the Democratic party — who can’t wait to write that fawning piece, ‘Here come the Clintons again.’”
Upon hearing that, ex-CBS anchor Dan Rather suggested that the media is really anti-Hillary right now: “I think they’re waiting to write the obituary....They’re just waiting to write ‘finis’ to the Clintons.”
In science, it’s called the “observer effect” — the very act of observing a phenomenon changes the phenomenon. And if journalists are simply supposed to “observe” and report on our presidential elections, they are in fact exerting a tremendous effect over the entire process.
For example, imagine two small states, both holding caucuses to pick their delegates to the presidential nominating convention this summer. Because they are so small, neither state delegation will be especially meaningful to the actual outcome, but the caucuses in State A are given saturation attention by the world’s media, while the caucuses in State B are ignored by the media.
Well, no need to imagine. Yesterday, the Iowa caucuses chose a relatively inconsequential 40 delegates to the GOP convention, but the tremendous media attention given to those results has already scrambled the Republican presidential race. Tomorrow, Wyoming Republicans will pick 12 delegates — but the media won’t be there. So it’s essentially a non-event.
Indeed, today’s Wyoming Tribune-Eagle notes how state Republicans “want the event to end by 3 p.m. so the state can get a mention in the Sunday New York Times.”
On this morning’s Today show, NBC’s David Gregory challenged Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards about his vote for the Iraq war, his relative lack of experience, and his divisive us-vs-them rhetoric. But Gregory had absolutely no reaction when Edwards grandly claimed that his phone call to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in the hours after the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto “was a calming influence” that helped stabilize an “international crisis” and was proof he is “ready for the Presidency.”
“We just had this, this international crisis in Pakistan that is still ongoing. And my response to that was to speak directly to President Musharraf, to urge him to do a series of things that would move the country toward democracy, that would allow international inspectors into the country and to proceed with the elections in an open, fair, verifiable and secure way. And I believe was a calming influence in a very volatile situation.”
Does Edwards really think that in the turmoil following Bhutto’s killing his phone call was of any consequence whatsoever? Or is this just another display of Edwards’ knack for grotesque overstatement, as when in 2004 he claimed that “when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve are going to walk, get up out of that wheelchair and walk again.”
As you’ve already been told a thousand times, with only a day to go before the Iowa caucuses, the polls are showing a statistical three-way tie between Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards atop the Democratic field, and a similarly close two-way race between Republicans Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney.
But the polls are probably wrong. Or maybe they’re right -- we won’t really know until Thursday night when the actual results are announced. And that’s the problem -- the media have given the polls so much emphasis that the actual results will only matter to the extent that they differ from the media’s pre-election expectations, i.e., only to the extent that this week’s polls are inaccurate.
In just the last month, RealClearPolitics has posted the results of 55 pre-Iowa caucus polls (27 for the Republicans, 28 for the Democrats). These are mostly media-generated polls, with a few conducted by universities. It’s because of these polls that reporters think they know who is and is not a frontrunner, who is and is not rising and/or falling, and who is and is not hopelessly behind.
On Sunday’s The Chris Matthews Show, the host used one of Mike Huckabee’s Iowa photo-ops as an excuse to launch into an elitist attack on Republicans and hunters. “Who made killing small animals the test of Republican manhood?” Matthews challenged at the top of his show. Over a clip of a vintage Looney Tunes cartoon, Matthews further upped the ante: “Who declared war on Bugs Bunny?!”
Later with his panel, an appalled Matthews noted how Huckabee “told a reporter that he loved to bag squirrels because he fried ’em up and ate ’em with biscuits and a Coca-Cola. What have we come to!”
Noticing how NBC News chief foreign correspondent Andrea Mitchell was squirming, Matthews asked her, “Are you upset by this Andrea? You must be!”
“Absolutely,” Mitchell confirmed, adding a unique sexist angle: “You don’t see any women out there with a gun.”
The 28 Iowa Republican assembled by pollster Frank Luntz for today’s GOP debate had various opinions about the candidates, but were virtually unanimous in panning the performance of Des Moines Register editor and debate moderator Carolyn Washburn, calling her “boring,” “antagonistic,” and “like paint drying.”
In the debate, Washburn frequently cut off exchanges between the candidates, and at one point sparked a mini-rebellion when she asked for a show of hands on the issue of climate change. When former Senator Fred Thompson said he preferred a minute to explain his position, Washburn told him no.
During live coverage on the Fox News Channel a few minutes after the debate ended at 3:30 ET, Luntz turned to his focus group: “How many of you thought that this was a good moderator? Raise your hands.”
Back in September, when General David Petraeus reported that the surge in U.S. troops had improved the security situation in Iraq, the big three broadcast networks were openly skeptical.
"Insurgent attacks are down from 170 in January to 120 in August," ABC's Terry McCarthy noted on the September 9 World News Sunday, the day before Petraeus testified before Congress. "But that is still four attacks a day, on average. Iraq remains a very violent place....Life in central Iraq is still deadly dangerous."
Are U.S. journalists missing the news right in front of their eyes? Even as the violence ebbs and Iraqi refugees are returning home by the thousands, a new survey of Iraq war correspondents finds most are still deeply pessimistic about conditions in Iraq, with one in six (15%) saying that they believe news coverage "makes the situation look better than it is," compared to just three percent who think news reports have been inordinately negative.
The poll of 111 U.S.-based journalists who are now covering the Iraq war or who have been posted there over the past four-and-a-half years was conducted over the past several weeks by the Pew-funded Project for Excellence in Journalism, which promises to release a content analysis of the media's Iraq war coverage later in the year. At the same time, polls show the public is having growing faith in the success of the war effort.
Former ABC News anchor Carole Simpson suggested she endorsed Hillary Clinton for President of the United States last month because she couldn’t think of anything else to say when the Democratic candidate called on her at a political event. “I kept trying to get her attention,” Simpson told the Boston Globe’s Peter Schworm. "When I did, I realized I didn't have anything to say. I felt like a deer in headlights."
So rather than tolerate a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, Simpson told Clinton: “I want to tell you tonight, because I happen to be here with my students, that I endorse you for president of the United States.”
Would the Democrats have been better off if Fox News had run their debate? The candidates are boycotting Fox as a way to please their far-left base, but Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace on this morning’s Fox & Friends criticized how CNN’s Wolf Blitzer repeatedly interrupted exchanges among the candidates last night (“It reminded me of Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon 2.”) and forced candidates like Joe Biden and Dennis Kucinich to beg for airtime.
“Fox, I have to say, I think we’re smarter,” argued Wallace, who has moderated a couple of GOP debates this year and would presumably play a role in a Democratic debate on FNC if the candidates dropped their boycott. “We let the guy talk for a minute. At the end of the minute, the bell rings, and that’s it. You’ve got a minute, and you can do with it what you want. But instead we have Wolf Blitzer every 30 seconds going, ‘Okay, okay, okay.’ It reminded me of Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon 2.”
A Pew Research Center poll released late last month found that while four out of five American adults (81%) could name one of the Democratic presidential candidates, far fewer (just 59%) could recall any of the GOP candidates. Even among self-described Republican voters, Pew found “Clinton and Obama are much more visible than Giuliani or any other GOP presidential candidate.”
One reason may be that the big broadcast networks have treated the Democratic frontrunners like celebrities worthy of intense coverage, while the Republican candidates have received far less TV time. A new Media Research Center study of the ABC, CBS and NBC morning news shows has found that in the first 10 months of 2007, the networks spent more time covering the Democratic race and spent far more time interviewing the Democratic candidates than the Republicans. And those interviews were much friendlier to the Democrats, with the morning show anchors emphasizing a predominantly liberal agenda.
Back in the 1990s, TV journalists worried that Bill Clinton wasn’t getting enough credit for the wonderful things that happened while he was President. NBC’s then-White House correspondent Andrea Mitchell whined on CNN’s Larry King Live back on August 18, 1994 that her fear was that Clinton “doesn’t get credit for a lot of the good, positive things he’s done.... The economy is in better shape....He should be getting some credit for the economy.”
Now that a tax-cutting Republican is in the White House, however, big media types are working to bury the news of America’s strong economy. Today’s Investor’s Business Daily has a fine summary of recent good news in an editorial headlined, “The Media’s Blackout on the Boom.” Here’s a key excerpt:
Friday's employment report, showing a much-higher-than-expected increase of 166,000 in nonfarm payroll jobs, was only the latest in a spate of remarkable reports showing the economy's stunning resilience.
According to a new study, those news organizations that hold themselves up as the most neutral and professional — big newspapers, the broadcast networks and taxpayer-subsidized National Public Radio — are actually producing campaign stories that are the most tilted in favor of Democrats, while online news and talk radio have actually been the most balanced.
The study, released Monday from the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) and Harvard’s Shorenstein Center, found newspapers and broadcast TV outlets devoted far more time to covering the Democratic candidates than the Republicans and that the tone of those stories was much more favorable to the Democrats, mirroring the results of a Media Research Center study released in August.
To commemorate the Media Research Center’s 20th anniversary this month, we’ve just published a special expanded edition of our ‘Notable Quotables’ newsletter with more than 100 of the most outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes we’ve uncovered over the past 20 years. To wrap up this week’s posts, I thought I’d list a few of the most outrageous or moronic quotes we’ve come across since 1987.
For sheer wackiness, it’s hard to top then-CNBC anchor Geraldo Rivera, who sang his disdain for independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr during the height of the Lewinsky scandal, July 21, 1998, on his Rivera Live program, to the tune of “Twinkle, twinkle, little star.”
To commemorate the Media Research Center’s 20th anniversary this month, we’ve just published a special expanded edition of our ‘Notable Quotables’ newsletter with more than 100 of the most outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes we’ve uncovered over the past 20 years. Earlier this week, I presented quotes showing the media’s hostility towards Ronald Reagan and other conservatives, and sycophantic coverage of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Today’s installment: America the Awful. On Monday, I recounted how many journalists offered sympathetic coverage of totalitarian communist regimes. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, too many journalists opted to take a harsher approach with their own country. In a commencement address at the State University of New York at New Paltz back on May 21, 2006, New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., exposed his extreme left-wing agenda as he railed against everything he saw as wrong with America:
To commemorate the Media Research Center’s 20th anniversary this month, we’ve just published a special expanded edition of our ‘Notable Quotables’ newsletter with more than 100 of the most outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes we’ve uncovered over the past 20 years. Earlier this week, I presented quotes showing the media’s sympathy towards totalitarian communism and hostility towards Ronald Reagan and other conservatives.
Today’s installment: The media’s love affair with Bill and Hillary Clinton. For 15 years, liberal reporters have made themselves looked like the sycophants they are, as they made excuse after excuse for the Clintons’ moral failings even as they applauded the couple’s supposed greatness. But perhaps no one looked sillier than Dan Rather on May 15, 2001, when the then-CBS News anchor was asked on Fox’s The O’Reilly Factor if he thought Bill Clinton was honest.
To commemorate the Media Research Center’s 20th anniversary this month, we’ve just published a special expanded edition of our ‘Notable Quotables’ newsletter with more than 100 of the most outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes we’ve uncovered over the past 20 years.
Yesterday, I wrote about the liberal media’s softness when it came to totalitarian communism. Today’s installment: The liberal media vs. Ronald Reagan and the GOP. TV reporters regularly condemned Reagan for his supposedly ruinous conservative policies, but it’s still astonishing to hear then-ABC reporter Richard Threlkeld castigate the Gipper on his last day as President, January 20, 1989.
To commemorate the Media Research Center’s 20th anniversary this month, we’ve just published a special expanded edition of our ‘Notable Quotables’ newsletter. This issue contains more than100 of the most outrageous, sometimes humorous, quotes we’ve uncovered over the past 20 years.
Over the next few days, I’ll be writing about some of the more obnoxious quotes we’ve uncovered over the years. To read the full issue, and watch any of the 50 video clips that accompany the issue, please visit www.MRC.org.
Today’s installment: The liberal media and communism. Probably the most sickening display of pro-communist propaganda to air on an American network was the seven-hour series ‘Portrait of the Soviet Union,’ produced by (you guessed it) Ted Turner. It aired back in March 1988 on Turner’s TBS, and was narrated by ‘Jaws’ actor Roy Scheider. Here are a few excerpts from the first night’s installment:
Saturday’s Good Morning America kept up the applause for Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize award, featuring a completely one-sided report from correspondent Bill Blakemore -- who said that scientists were “joyous” over the award to Gore because “scientists have been far more worried than anyone about global warming, finding it's far more dangerous, coming much quicker, than they expected” -- followed by an equally slanted interview with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who lectured an admiring Bill Weir that the media have failed to suppress any disagreement with his liberal views “because of a massive propaganda campaign by the Exxon corporation.”
Kennedy claimed: “In the scientific community, there was literally zero dissent. But at the same time, in the United States press, over 60% of the newspaper stories and, particularly, the television stories published, expressed some doubt about this issue. Why is that? The reason is because of a massive propaganda campaign by the Exxon corporation and by others -- but largely funded by Exxon -- that has been very, very successful at persuading the media not to cover this issue seriously and reporters simply don't go read the science.”
In a week when Democratic senators tried to intimidate executives at Clear Channel Communications based on a false interpretation of Rush Limbaugh’s “phony soldiers” comment, MSNBC host Chris Matthews on Thursday decried what he said were complaints from the Bush White House to MSNBC executives about the content of his show. “They will not silence me!” Matthews declared at a celebration of the 10th anniversary of his "Hardball" show, the (Washington, D.C.) Examiner reported.
Talking about the Democrats’ threats to silence Limbaugh on Tuesday, Matthews put all of the onus on Limbaugh’s speech, not liberals’ attacks on the First Amendement. “Do you think that Rush Limbaugh was right to call people who oppose the war who have served ‘phony soldiers?’” Matthews demanded of a panelist, distorting the facts. “So we’re agreed, so we all disagree with Rush Limbaugh,” he later claimed.