One of the worst ways that the lack of ideological diversity in America's newsrooms shows forth is in the media's treatment of sensational accusations against the current president.
Oftentimes, explosive allegations against presidents are either untrue or drastically overstated: George W. Bush deliberately lying to get the U.S. to war so he can cash in or deliberately ignoring Hurricaine Katrina due to his hatred of black people (a la Kanye West), Bill Clinton's supposed involvment in the drug trade, truthers, birthers, so on and so forth.
Journalists do the public a service by rebutting absurd conspiracy theories and wacko charges. In recent memory, though, they have taken a much greater zeal toward stamping out allegations against Democrats, particularly President Obama, a stark contrast to the kidglove or even promotional attitude they took toward books by liberal authors alleging all sorts of anti-Bush absurdities.
World Net Daily-affiliated author Aaron Klein recently discovered this when he sent his new book, "The Manchurian President," to members of the media he hoped would review it. He got some very angry responses. Here are some of the more colorful ones:
"Never, ever contact me again," wrote Time Magazine senior writer Jeffrey Kluger.Say what you will about this book's claims -- its sub-header claims to expose "Barack Obama's Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists" -- but some of these reporters' publications had no such qualms reviewing, and occasionally endorsing, the far-left's radical anti-Bush claims during the last administration, even when they were backed by unreliable sources, or by no sources at all.
Newsweek deputy editor Rana Foroohar quipped,"This is sensational rubbish that is of no interest to any legitimate publication."
"Absolute crap," replied Evelyn Leopold, a Huffington Post contributor who served for 17 years as U.N. bureau chief for Reuters until recently.
Nancy Gibbs, editor-at-large for Newsweek, fired, "Remove me from your list."
David Knowles, AOL's political writer, responded, "seriously, get a life."
Ben Wyskida, publicity director for The Nation, claimed Klein's book is "so offensive" and "so far afield."
The Nation and the Huffington Post were perhaps more predictably hypocritical. Both jumped at the opportunity to bash the Bush administration for supposed misdeeds, even when the facts supporting those claims were sketchy at best.
Take Seymour Hersh's infamous 2007 New Yorker column, "The Redirection," which claimed that the United States was funneling money to terrorist groups. The story's most inflammatory charges were based on hearsay: Hersh heard it from another journalist, who had heard it from the founder of a decidedly anti-Bush organization, who had heard it "from all kinds of people."
Both HuffPo and the Nation touted Hersh's claims as fact, despite the exceptionally weak sourcing that undergirded his most damning claims.
Huffington Post contributor Scott Thill wrote that Hersh's column "is a f**king doozy, and not just because it boasts research deeper than Wikipedia."
"Hersh," Thill continued, "has uncovered how the Bush administration's strategic shifting in Iraq has betrayed both its motivations for invading the country, and how dependent they are on the economic influence of Saudi Arabia." He regurgitated a few more left-wing talking points about Bush and the Iraq war, and concluded that "support for this war, for this president, for this administration, is an implicit rubber-stamp for the murder of our own."
The Nation also trumpeted Hersh's dubious claims that the United States was indirectly funding terrorist groups as fact. Under the byline "The Nation," its website claimed the Bush administration was "running an updated version of Iran-Contra (without the CIA) out of the Vice President's office."
The more traditional news outlets that condemned Klein's book did not give such ringing endorsements to equally sketchy claims, but many of them came close, or at the very least reported on such misinformation rather than dismissing it outright.
Time Magazine, for instance, used J.H. Hatfield's thoroughly-debunked book "Fortunate Son" to fact-check -- and find factual -- parts of Oliver Stone's Bush-bashing movie "W". For those who don't remember, "Fortunate Son" alleged that Bush had been arrested for cocaine possession and had his record expunged upon his father's request. Publishers recalled most of the books when it became apparent that Hatfield had made up most of his claims.
Time also published a lengthy review of Kitty Kelley's salacious book, "Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorized Biography". Kelley's book, by Time's own account, "is so slanted that its credibility is called into question at every turn. She uses a variety of techniques that would not pass muster with most reputable news organizations."
Yet despite this admission, Time touts elements of the book that are, it claims, accurate or revealing:
The book is exhaustively researched, packed with quotes (a surprising number of them with names attached), anecdotes and detail. To be sure, much of this is not new: Kelley mixes original quotes indiscriminately with recycled material from other books and articles, and fudges the notes at the end so the reader often cannot tell which is which. Still, much of the portrait -- Nancy's difficult relationship with her children, her obsessive attention to detail as a White House hostess -- rings true. Treated simply as a compendium of all the scraps a team of diligent researchers could gather about Nancy Reagan, it serves at least one historical function. It reveals that many, many people didn't like her.If Time was willing to sift through the sea of shoddy journalistic practices that comprised much of the book to find the "historical function" it serves, could't it have done the same with Klein's book?
To its credit, Newsweek declined a review of another Kelley book, "The Family," saying the magazine was not "comfortable with a lot of the reporting." That book claimed that George Bush had done cocaine at Camp David, and arranged an illegal abortion for an ex-girlfriend. Still, Newsweek's statement was a far cry from "sensational rubbish that is of no interest to any legitimate publication."
Taken together, these double standards reveal a liberal media paradigm that at least tolerates and discusses -- and occasionally endorses in strong terms -- unreliable and slanderous books that paint Republicans in less-than appealing terms, while rejecting out of hand any book that makes damning allegations about President Obama.