Stahl, Who Derided Reagan, Hypocritically Lectures Dobbs for Criticizing the President

CBS's Lesley Stahl, in a 60 Minutes profile of CNN's Lou Dobbs aired Sunday night, expressed indignation over how Dobbs violates the supposed “fair and balanced” rule of journalism by revealing his disdain for President Bush, but Stahl has a long history of announcing her personal political views, including scorn for President Reagan and adulation of Hillary Clinton.

When Dobbs confirmed he's “not a fan” of Bush -- “No, I'm not. Whether it’s outsourcing, the war in Iraq, just disregard for our middle class” -- Stahl jumped in: “I'm sitting here saying to myself, 'This man runs a news show?' And you can just tell me you don’t like the President. Woo.” Yes, she really said “woo.” Dobbs explained: “I, matter of fact, insist that the audience know where I come from.” To which Stahl, an advocacy journalist long before Dobbs (see this 1991 MediaWatch critique), wondered: “What about fair and balanced?”


Back in January of 1989, when Reagan was still in office, Stahl told NBC's Bob Costas: “I predict historians are going to be totally baffled by how the American people fell in love with this man [Ronald Reagan] and followed him the way we did.” Five years later, on the old America's Talking cable channel, in an interview with Roger Ailes, she was appalled by how people were fooled by Reagan: “Here's a guy who fooled most of the people most of the time....He was a person who didn't understand the issues at all, and we know that for a fact....It's scary, because he led us off in the wrong direction.”

Days after Reagan died in 2004, on CNN'sLarry King Live, her 60 Minutes colleague Mike Wallace was curious about “when was the last time we had a President Americans loved?” Stahl doused the admiration of Reagan: “And of course, not all Americans loved him, Mike.”

Stahl hasn't hesitated to hail Hillary Clinton. In 1999, Philadelphia Inquirer TV columnist Gail Shister relayed how, “when it comes to Hillary Clinton, CBS's Lesley Stahl makes no pretense of objectivity.” Indeed, the former White House reporter told Shister: “I'm endlessly fascinated by her...She's so smart. Virtually every time I've seen her perform, she has knocked my socks off.”

Humorously, in a January of 2000 interview with FNC's Bill O'Reilly, Stahl insisted: “I had my opinions surgically removed when I became a network correspondent.”

And Stahl hardly showed much respect for President Bush in a 2004 interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews in which she asserted that “we all suppose and assume” that Vice President Cheney “is sitting in the room and kind of hand-signaling to the President about what he's supposed to do.”

From the end of the May 6 60 Minutes piece on Dobbs:

Lesley Stahl: “Given his family [married to a Mexican-American], the crusade against illegal immigrants may seem like a disconnect. But Lou is full of contradictions: he’s pro-abortion rights, but against gun control; a fiscal conservative who supports government regulation. He was a registered Republican.”



Stahl to Lou Dobbs: “George Bush, not a fan?”

Dobbs: "No, I'm not. Whether it’s outsourcing, the war in Iraq, just disregard for our middle class. I cannot-"

Stahl: “I'm sitting here saying to myself, 'This man runs a news show?'”

Dobbs: “I do.”

Stahl: “And you can just tell me you don’t like the President. Woo."

Dobbs: "I, matter of fact, insist that the audience know where I come from."

Stahl: "What about fair and balanced?"

Dobbs: "I've never, Lesley, found the truth to be fair and balanced. I’ve found it to be-”

Stahl: “But, that’s, but wait, what’s the definition of 'journalism?' That that's in there. That has to be part of what a journalist is, is fair and balanced."

Dobbs: "I truly believe there’s a non-partisan, independent reality."

Stahl: "But, it’s your reality."

Dobbs: "It is my reality."

Stahl: "But, it’s not 'the' reality."

Dobbs: "Well, how so?"

Stahl: “Dobbs scoffs at suggestions that his 'advocacy' tarnishes his credentials as a journalist.”

Dobbs: "The idea that a reporter should be disqualified because he or she actually cares, actually isn't neutral about the well-being of the country and its people, that’s absurd."

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center