MSNBC's Martin Bashir, who previously compared Rick Santorum to genocidal murderer Joseph Stalin, on Wednesday mocked the concept that MSNBC could be biased against Republicans. A network graphic dismissed, "Paranoia? Romney: More Media Should Be as 'Fair' as Fox News."
After playing clips of Mitt Romney decrying liberal media bias, Bashir huffed, "This is pretty rich from a man who hasn't appeared on Meet the Press, whose spokesman won't even accept an invitation to appear on this broadcast." Why would Republicans come on Bashir's show? In addition to comparing Santorum to a dictatorial mass killer, this same anchor linked Newt Gingrich's political comments to the murder of a British teen. [See MP3 audio here.]
Who did Bashir turn to about this crazy idea of media bias? Democratic strategist Julian Epstein, liberal journalist Joe Williams (who once compared Rush Limbaugh to a serial killer) and Michelle Cottle of the left-wing Daily Beast. Who better to determine the reality of the liberal media?
According to Cottle, Romney's comments are part of a clever strategy to dupe journalists: "...I've written about this over the years how this turns around and you actually wind up with the media being harsher on the Democratic candidates a lot of times in their efforts to over compensate, so it is actually a pretty good strategy if you can make it work."
A transcript of the April 18 segment, which aired at 3:43pm EDT, follows:
MSNBC GRAPHIC: Paranoia? Romney: More Media Should Be as 'Fair' as Fox News
MITT ROMNEY: Many in the media are inclined to do the President's bidding.
MARTIN BASHIR: Let's go back to our panel. Julian Epstein, Joe Williams and Michelle Cottle. So, there you have it, Michelle, a vast left wing conspiracy as told to a radio man for the late Andrew Breitbart just before this morning's interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham. You may be able to find the link somewhere, I think, on the Drudge Report. But, this conspiracy is obviously vast and left-wing.
MICHELLE COTTLE (Newsweek/Daily Beast): Absolutely. And I think we all know how well it went over when Hillary Clinton mentioned the vast right-wing conspiracy. So, he was kind of chuckleing when he said that. I hope he gets that it's a little bit silly. But, he was talking about if I remember the media and this is just the favorite refuge of people who aren't doing that well in the polls or think they should be doing better. It's always the media that is out to get them.
MARTIN BASHIR: Julian, Mitt Romney was asked about the fair and balanced network today by a conservative host, of course, and here is what he had to say. Listen to this.
MITT ROMNEY: I realize, of course, that Fox has a lot of independent voters, a lot of Democrats that watch. Our message, in a network that is fair and balanced, our message gets a good fair play but there are some networks that do not give us a fair play.
BASHIR: This is pretty rich from a man who hasn't appeared on Meet the Press, whose spokesman won't even accept an invitation to appear on this broadcast.
JULIAN EPSTEIN (Democratic strategist): Yeah. Well, look, it is like the losing team in a sports match blaming the ref. And this is what he is doing. He is working the ref and this is the strategy you employ when two out of three Americans has an unfavorable point of view of you. But, the fact of the matter is this, Pew Research did a study of this back in October of last year, they found by far and away Obama was getting the most negative coverage of any of the presidential candidates, that four out of five stories of the period they surveyed were actually negative for Obama, and Romney got as many as three times as many favorable stories as did Obama. So, you know, the fact of the matter is Romney has gone down. His personal favorability has gone down for refusal to do things like condemn Rush Limbaugh. That was not an invention of the left-wing media. And just one final point, I mean, the fact we had five days of coverage of something that a Democratic punt not associated with the DNC, the fact that we had five days of coverage should we belie the argument there is some kind of left wing conspiracy out there with the news media. It is hog wash.
BASHIR: And it is also the case and this is the fact that the President has in fact appeared on Fox News on several occasions. But, Joe, you know, anyone else who believes in a vast left wing media conspiracy, Ted Nugent, who wrote in a book, listen to this, I am quoting from the book, he says "Anyone who dismisses such a conspiracy is, quote, "a paid employee of the media or a deaf, dumb and blind fool."
JOE WILLIAMS (Politico): Well, two things: And I always wait for the end of that sentence where he says and I will blow your heads off or the second question is if you're deaf and blind, you will probably be more enjoy Ted Nugent's music. I mean, certainly there are legions of people that believe this and more than happy to be on the right side of the spectrum. That's pretty much a given. But, the problem is that you have a candidate who has been campaigning and even his own campaign reporters, embeds the people that follow the campaign can't get a word in edge wise. Can't get a question to the candidate which is the opposite of a conspiracy. You have people who are actively following you around that want to engage you on the issues, want to give you a fair hearing and you're not even considering what they want to ask. So, certainly he is going to friendlier territory, people that listen to Fox News and who watch Fox News are receptive to this message and people that listen to ted nugent probably receptive to any message particularly coming from some place other than the planet Earth.
BASHIR: So, Michelle, going on from Joe's point, is Mitt Romney basically practicing a form of psychological transferance? I mean, he gives nobody any access to him on the trail. He refuses to appear on Meet the Press, I believe, since 2009, but then he attacks everyone else for running a left wing conspiracy against him.
COTTLE: This is actually not that uncommon a strategy, especially with conservative candidates. You make the media paranoid that they're not treating you fairly and everybody is up in arms, no, a left-wing bias and we need to make sure we don't have a left-wing bias. You know, I've written about this over the years how this turns around and you actually wind up with the media being harsher on the Democratic candidates a lot of times in their efforts to over compensate, so it is actually a pretty good strategy if you can make it work.
WILLIAMS: It intends to work in certain instances, particularly if you have a receptive audience and if you are practicing what I kind of term the Karl Rove political jujitsu where you use an opponent's strength against him. John Kerry became a war coward and President Obama has done nothing to aid the economy. Those are strategy that is resonate with people that want to believe it and get enthusiastic about the campaigns and make a lot of noise about the conspiracy theories
EPSTEIN: Well, you know, to tie some of these ideas together, in 2008 it was the media that hounded on then candidate Barack Obama to distance himself from Reverend Jeremiah Wright because of controversial things that Jeremiah Wright said. That was a standard that Republicans enforced out into the media and the media covered this for months. Now, the question is will they force Republicans to denounce in the same way?
BASHIR: I doubt it very much.