Chavez Revisited: MRC Study on 'Hugo the Boss'

With Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan strongman and "sulfur sniffer," at the top of the news this week, it's high time to revisit the Business and Media Institute's Special Report on "Hugo the Boss." It can't be argued that the media cheered along with his remarks calling Bush "the devil." But the media's past record certainly underscores that Hugo hasn't exactly been presented as the far-left anti-American agitator now displayed on the world stage. BMI's Dan Gainor assembled a substantial study of TV coverage, and found it very soft:

The Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute looked at all 139 news and news-related stories on the broadcast networks about Hugo Chavez since he took power in 1998. Here are some of the conclusions:
  • ‘Left-leaning’ Like John Kerry: The media downplayed the radical politics of Chavez by using the same terms they used for Democratic presidential candidates John Kerry and Walter Mondale. Few stories even acknowledged the anti-American nature of Chavez’s regime.
  • The Man Behind Citgo: Chavez exerts complete control over the state oil company which, in turn, owns one of America’s most famous gasoline retailers – Citgo. That amounted to $785 million in profits for Venezuela in 2005. Only four stories (3 percent) acknowledged the connection with Citgo.
  • Wrongs Not Rights: None of the networks paid any significant attention to the many human rights abuses of the Chavez regime. Left-wing groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch complained about murders, detentions, assaults on press freedom and control of the judiciary, but only 10 percent (14 out of 139) of the news stories made any mention of any violations. The phrase “human rights” was used in only one story about Chavez’s regime.
  • Turning Up the Heat on Bush: Each of the broadcast networks did a story about Chavez’s oil “gift” to America’s poor. Each one managed to find a Democratic spokesman and a recipient, who were happy to ignore Chavez’s politics. That low-cost aid, handled through Citgo, is now being looked into by Congress.

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