Toasting Cronkite and Koppel Bias On A Left-Leaning Edition Of CNN's "Reliable Sources"

Like some of the other shows, it seemed a little unanimous on CNN's "Reliable Sources" today. They began with a panel of raving leftist New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, liberal historian Robert Dallek, liberal CNN correspondent Bruce Morton, and UPI Pentagon correspondent Pam Hess, who must qualify as the most conservative one on the panel. Krugman muffed it early when host Howard Kurtz asked if Walter Cronkite could galvanize the anti-war movement today by saying we've lost, we should withdraw: "If Walter Cronkite were alive -- sorry, he is alive. If Walter Cronkite were on the news today, if a Walter Cronkite equivalent were on the news, he would -- immediately after that broadcast we just saw, he would have been called a traitor."Krugman repeatedly insisted the news has been a completely one-sided pro-Bush megaphone until about now. Call him Rip Van Krugman. Kurtz asked:

KURTZ: Paul Krugman, you wrote recently -- I want to read this quote -- "After 9/11, the media eagerly helped our political leaders build up a completely false picture of who they were. So the long nightmare won't really be over until journalists ask themselves, 'What did we know, when did we know it and why didn't we tell the public.'" Are you suggesting this was deliberate on the part of the press? KRUGMAN: I guess it depends on the meaning of the word "deliberate." Did people say, ooh, let's join in the vast right wing conspiracy? No. Did journalists say, you know, the public wants to hear good stuff about Bush, they want to hear that we have a great leader, they want to hear favorable things about the administration, and did they then hide what they knew was not favorable? Yes, there is a lot of that. I don't know how many times I've talked to, you know, professional journalists, major people, whose private views of what happened even, you know, beginning within days of 9/11, are completely at odds with what you could have read in a major newspaper or seen on TV until, you know, just about now.

Near the end, Kurtz went to the same well again and received pretty much the same answer:

KURTZ: Paul Krugman, I've got probably about half a minute. Do you see signs that the press coverage is starting to turn on Iraq and that we are moving away from this period that you referred to as the media kind of building up the Bush administration? In fact, some would say it's the other way, that now it's open season on the Bush administration. KRUGMAN: There's -- there's clearly a lot of -- there was a lot of pent-up frustration. I mean, people -- you know, you knew, I knew that Bush was politicizing, was exploiting 9/11, within days. You have to have known that. I certainly did. And -- but no one would dare say it for four years. And now, yes, there is a certain sense of payback. Now we can finally tell the truth.

Here's the pure Krugman rant in the segment: "Look, there's been a lot of intimidation of the media. People are really afraid of being accused of undermining the troops. And particularly, a lot of people remember what happened in Vietnam, which was the public turned against the war, the media turned against the war, and the Democrats and liberals have been paying the price for having been right ever since."In the second segment, Ted Koppel's legacy was assessed with great reverence by former "Nightline" reporter Jeff Greenfield, Mark Jurkowitz of the countercultural Boston Phoenix, and Philadelphia Inquirer TV writer Gail Shister. Greenfield boasted: "He was smart, he disdained hype, he trusted the intelligence of the audience. His questions were brief and to the point. He was not a showboat, but he had a wonderful BS detector. You put those things together, and despite the hair, you've got one hell of an anchorman." If a conservative were sitting there, he could have said Ted had a very biased BS detector, and went incredibly soft on politicians he liked (Bill Clinton) and could give very long lectures to guests he disdained (for example, Craig Fuller appearing to defend Dan Quayle's draft record).Or take this puffy sample from Jurkowitz: "I think that he and the late Peter Jennings sort of both branded the ABC News product. They were both smart, they were both urbane and cool, but they were both very knowledgeable about the world as sort of the global entity, and I think the two of those guys together sort of made ABC for years its sort of the leading sort of smart image in terms of a news product." Yike. What you had there were two unofficial Secretaries of State, telling the world that America was a big clumsy ox that needed to be caged and branded.Kurtz did put on Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds together with Arianna Huffington in the last interview segment. He had a nice moment when Kurtz asked about coverage the woman he called "Mean Jean" Schmidt. Reynolds said: I think we're seeing very little political courage on the part of Democratic politicians. A lot of them supported the war early on because they thought it was the politically smart thing to do. Their antiwar fund-raising base now is pushing the other way. And so they're, in essence, making up this argument that they were fooled, which seems to me to be kind of a weak position. You know, vote for me, I'm gullible. But that's been basically the effort to sort of pull back from the war."

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