No one was more over the top in praising ABC's Martha Raddatz as debate moderator than her colleagues at ABC. Former ABC News president David Westin -- the man so deeply biased to the left that he declared a journalist can't judge if the Pentagon is a legitimate target for a terrorist attack -- honored Raddatz on The Huffington Post with an article titled "Why and How Martha Won the Debate -- Over Media Bias."
He said the public reaction was "overwhelmingly favorable," and then guess who he quoted? "I vote for Martha Raddatz to moderate all the debates," from Roger Ebert. "Everyone seems to agree that @martharaddatz is the star of this debate," from Charlie Rose. Liberal opinion equals public opinion?
Then he admitted:
Still, overall and based on my un-scientific sample (as well as the morning-after summaries and analysis), Poynter got it just about right when it tweeted: "Vice Presidential Debate Winner: Martha Raddatz."
What Martha really won last night with her masterful handling of the debate was an important victory over those who find media "bias" in just about every nook and cranny of the news. We're told that the political reporters are biased, that the polls are biased, that reporting on the killing of U.S. diplomats in Benghazi was biased, and that reporting on the U.S. economy right here at home is biased. Is it any wonder that Americans reportedly trust the news media less than they ever have before?
Westin thinks Raddatz shut all that down in about 90 minutes of epic fairness and balance:
On the eve of the debate, some tried to drag her into the bias swamp. Matt Drudge featured front and center a link to The Daily Caller claiming that Raddatz had a conflict of interest because over 20 years ago private citizen Barack Obama attended her wedding to one of Obama's best friends -- a man from whom she was divorced 15 years ago. To their credit, several conservative commentators dismissed the charge out of hand.
Much more important than what anyone said was what Martha did -- and what it shows all of us about how best to refute claims of media bias. Throughout the debate, she was fearless in holding both Vice President Biden and Representative Ryan to account. She asked the vice president pointedly whether the initial reports out of Benghazi weren't "a massive intelligence failure."
Stop,stop, stop. Let's take another look at how Raddatz asked that first question and how "pointed' it was: "The State Department has now made clear, there were no protesters there. It was a pre-planned assault by heavily armed men. Wasn't this a massive intelligence failure, Vice President Biden?" This does not imply that the State Department offered false information for weeks, until the night before House Republicans held a hearing.
Raddatz is letting the State Department be the authoritative source of information, and does not imply it misled the public. During his tenure, President Bush could say our intelligence failed on weapons in Iraq, as did all the intelligence agencies of Europe, and the liberal media still pounded away at Bush as a liar and bungler. Raddatz clearly could have suggested that the Obama administration is doing a terrible job -- as if it weren't the news media's job as well -- to offer the most basic information on how the Americans died and why. Raddatz didn't mention the families of the dead as deserving of more.
By contrast, Raddatz turned to Ryan and bluntly suggested Romney was rude to say anything criticial in mid-crisis: "Right in the middle of the crisis. Governor Romney — and you're talking about this again tonight — talked about the weakness, talked about apologies from the Obama administration. Was that really appropriate right in the middle of the crisis?"
The opening question to Biden also was not as demanding or as exasperated as Raddatz was to Ryan on a budget plan: "You have refused yet again to offer specifics on how you pay for that 20 percent across-the-board tax cut. Do you actually have the specifics, or are you still working on it, and that's why you won't tell voters?" She's demanding a better answer.
But Westin was only interested in circling the wagons and doing a Superiority Dance:
When he claimed that "not a single thing [Representative Ryan] said is accurate," she curtly said [to Biden]: "Be specific." She pressed Congressman Ryan to tell us "what's worse... another war in the Middle East, or a nuclear-armed Iran?" And she pressed him on his criticism of the stimulus, asking: "You did ask for stimulus money [for your district], correct?"
Martha challenged both candidates directly and forcefully. But her questioning was far more powerful because she knew the facts. She didn't let the debate turn into a mere exchange of opinions and quips and "zingers." She forced the discussion to specifics because she had done the reporting -- and had the experience to back up that reporting -- to take it past the first question or even the second.
I'd like to say that Martha's master class in journalism put an end to all the talk about bias -- at least as it applied to her. Or at the very least as it applied to her work as moderator of this important debate. But it didn't. Sean Hannity suggested that "next time @PaulRyan should invite her to his wedding."
Like many liberal media elitists, Westin doesn't want to consider the arguments of liberal media bias. He wants everyone to dismiss them out of hand, because journalists are "objective" and commentators like Hannity only have "opinions."