Bozell Column: Media Scandals on the Left

Ever since George W. Bush was elected in 2000, the left-wing media have developed a taste to expose episodes of media corruption. No, not their corruption. Conservative media corruption.

The liberal media made loud grunts and noises over columnist Armstrong Williams, who didn’t tell readers of his column that he had a public-relations contract with the Department of Education to sell the “No Child Left Behind” legislation. If a columnist is working for a government program or entity, it’s always best to disclose to readers your involvement, so they can judge your point of view more fully.

The latest example arrived with columnist Doug Bandow’s inexcusable back-door acceptance of cash from Jack Abramoff for columns promoting his clients’ interests. Williams and Bandow both could argue they were only promoting conservative causes they would support anyway. But the exposures of what they wouldn’t disclose had the opposite effect. It emits the odor of corruption. It made them look like they were primarily advancing conservative issues through columns because there was personal profit involved.

But where is that media-ethics crowd erupting with the same outrage when liberal journalists – even major liberal journalists – cut ethical corners and feather their own political nests? The major example of this is PBS omnipresence Bill Moyers. In 1999, Knight-Ridder reporter Frank Greve revealed than in his moonlighting job as the president of a liberal foundation (the Florence and John Schumann Foundation), Moyers was funding left-wing activists for campaign finance “reform”– and then interviewing them on his show, giving them national exposure at taxpayer expense, with no disclosure.

In June of 1999, Moyers hosted a PBS show ironically called “Free Speech for Sale,” and he opened with the views of three "reformers" -- Burt Neuborne of the Brennan Center for Justice, Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity, and Bob Hall of Democracy South. But as Greve reported, Moyers "never revealed that their organizations have received a total of $2.6 million from the Schumann Foundation in the last five years."

In 2003, Steve Hayes reported on the pattern again for The Weekly Standard, finding that the Moyers-led foundation had dealt $4.8 million dollars to 16 leftist groups that also received free PR on “Now with Bill Moyers” in the previous 16 months without any bothersome disclosure to PBS viewers. The list included Friends of the Earth, Public Citizen, the Sierra Club, and The Nation magazine. Does anyone remember the outrage over these cozy little corruptions?

The New York Times put the Doug Bandow story on the front page on December 23, but back in 1993, they, too, were abusing PBS with a private agenda. PBS welcomed the end of the Reagan-Bush era with a documentary titled “James Reston: The Man Millions Read,” another forum for cliched liberal attacks on conservative politicians. The program lionized Reston, the veteran Times reporter and columnist, for his role as a Washington power broker, and featured only Reston and a few of his Times colleagues. Why? Because the show was produced and funded by The New York Times. At the time, public-broadcasting analyst Laurence Jarvik noted that PBS violated its own underwriting guidelines, which forbid underwriters "having a direct and immediate interest in the content of a program."

There are other little cozy arrangements that no one seems to notice. When Time magazine named Bill and Melinda Gates (and rock star Bono) as their Persons of the Year, deep in the story, Time admitted the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation “was a major sponsor of the Time Global Health Summit, held in New York City in November.” A Time press release before the summit claimed the Gates group was “the major supporter,” not merely “a” major supporter.

Gates not only funded the conference, but was hailed as a global philanthropic hero on the summit’s “keynote panel.” Time managing editor James Kelly paired him with another liberal hero, Bill Clinton, who didn’t stop oozing over how ridiculously “modest” Bill Gates was and how “thrilled” he was over how “well-organized” the Gates Foundation was, and how Gates and his wife were “going all over Hell’s half-acre” to help the poor.

Doesn’t that fawning event and the Time “Person of the Year” honors look like a big thank-you card to the Gates Foundation for their financial support? Nobody who fulminates against Doug Bandow or Armstrong Williams has been heard from on Time magazine’s back-scratching payoffs.

I’m sure Time magazine would argue that they organized a Global Health Summit because it fit with their humanitarian beliefs. But if Williams and Bandow are to be condemned because the perception of their financial intake corrupted an ideological cause, the same can, and should, be said of Time magazine and all other liberal entities participating in similar questionable pay-for-play monetary relationships.

Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell
Brent Bozell is the Founder and President of the Media Research Center