NPR's Media Reporter Studies Months of Bret Baier Show to Expose Fox's Conservative Tilt

You would think after the Juan Williams debacle, NPR would keep away from bashing Fox News again. But even as NPR's liberal bias remains controversial in Congress, NPR is still waging war on Fox. It's apparently the only national news outlet worth questioning. On Thursday night's All Things Considered, NPR media reporter David Folkenflik profiled Bret Baier, but delighted liberals by announcing that he had studied six months of guest lists for Special Report with Bret Baier, and he insisted liberals were underrepresented: 

FOLKENFLIK: I reviewed six months' worth of Baier's panels, and the same mix typically prevailed: two clear-cut conservatives and one other analyst, sometimes a Democrat or liberal but usually a journalist from a non-ideological news outlet. As I told Baier, that would seem to under-represent the left and also to cast reporters as though they're surrogate liberals.

BAIER: I understand your point. I think numerous people can make the case of what the administration is trying to do, trying to say, that provides a perspective, not perhaps advocating for that position but analyzing it.

Folkenflik said the night he was allowed in to observe, the panel was Stephen Hayes of "the conservative Weekly Standard," plus "a conservative who's a former senior aide to President George W. Bush, and a political reporter for the Washington Post. I asked Baier how that lineup reflected the fairness that he promises." The Post is a "non-ideological news outlet"? See the arrogance of media liberals on display. Fox is a right-wing propaganda house, but NPR and The Washington Post are meticulously "non-ideological."

Notice how in his complaint that Fox is casting reporters as "surrogate liberals,"  Folkenflik never suggested in this piece that one of the Baier regulars is NPR's own Mara Liasson -- perhaps because NPR's liberal listener base hates NPR people "dignifying" Fox with their liberal presence. Why Fox News would allow NPR in, considering their recent record in whacking Fox, is a mystery. 

Folkenflik did allow former CNN Pentagon reporter Jamie McIntyre to praise Baier when they each worked at the Pentagon: "I remember thinking that if you took the average Bret Baier report at the end of the day, and you took mine, and you stripped the names out so you didn't know who was producing them, I'm not sure you could tell which report was generated by CNN and which report was generated by the Fox News Channel."

But the overall impression Folkenflik left was that Baier is struggling to maintain his position inside a right-wing opinion channel.   Anchor           Michele Norris introduced the piece: "As NPR's David Folkenflik reports, the 40-year-old Baier is at the forefront of a younger generation of stars at Fox News, but he inherits some lingering questions about the network." NPR always has "lingering questions" about Fox. The story began:

FOLKENFLIK: If all you knew about Bret Baier was that he was a Fox News anchor, the moment that might stick in your mind would be his interview a year ago with President Obama the day before the vote on the landmark health care bill.

BARACK OBAMA: So the notion...

BRET BAIER: You guarantee that they're going to be able to keep their doctor.

OBAMA: Well, you've got to let me finish my answer.

BAIER: But sir, I know you don't like to filibuster, but...

OBAMA: Well, I'm trying to answer your questions...

FOLKENFLIK: Fox's often caustic conservative opinion hosts have had tough words for Democrats and their liberal allies, but the network's executives say their news programs are fair and balanced, as the slogan goes. Nonetheless, Baier's intense back-and-forth with Mr. Obama has been added to a list of complaints that Fox's hard news reporting is often unfair to Democrats, too. Baier tells me he was promised a 30-minute interview that got whittled to 20 minutes and then 15 just as he sat down.

BAIER: So we started, and there was a White House aide over my camera, in the distance, holding an iPhone that was clicking back from 15 minutes over the camera. So I asked the first question, and the president kind of gave this stump answer that I'd heard earlier in the week about health care that was taking a long time.

FOLKENFLIK: That wasn't combativeness, Baier says, just an anchor's need to get the questions out in the time allotted.

See the transcript here if you want to assess how Baier did last year. Liberal media analysts were upset that Obama would be interrupted, when the usual Brian Williams approach is to allow him to speak for as long as he wants – after you’ve praised him in your question.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis