Accuracy in Media

Here’s a lesson in media bias: The Washington Post contrasted Vice President Cheney’s use of bad language to Senator Patrick Leahy with President Bush having campaigned on a promise to “change the tone in Washington.”  But we didn’t hear the Post talk about civility after leading Democrats lined up to watch and endorse Michael Moore’s anti-Bush film, Fahrenheit 9/11.  Senator Byron Dorgan is one of several Democrats appearing in the film.

We didn’t hear about civility after the Congressional Black Caucus held a news conference with Moore to promote the movie.  And we didn’t hear about civility after members of the Congressional Black Caucus engaged in what Ralph Nader called “obscene shouting” against him.  It’s significant that members of the Black Caucus, including Rep. John Conyers, are heroes in the Michael Moore film for challenging Bush’s election in 2000.

This is a film that Moore admits is designed to defeat Bush for re-election.  But more than that, the film, which is falsely labeled a documentary, uses cinematic techniques and clever editing to generate hatred of the President.  Reviewers have noted that the film make charges against the president that are clearly false.  It claims, in the face of evidence to the contrary, that the President had something to do with letting Saudi citizens fly out of the U.S. after 9/11 and escape FBI scrutiny.  Bush critic, former counter-terrorism official Richard Clarke, told ABC that he made that decision and there was nothing wrong with it.  Clarke is portrayed in the Moore film as a hero but his role in the Saudi flights is completely ignored.

The Post was so alarmed by Cheney’s language, uttered in a private exchange, that it published his expletive and then ran a story explaining why it did so.  However, media reporter Howard Kurtz noted that the paper “did not report when John Kerry used the F-word in a Rolling Stone interview?”  According to Kurtz, Post executive editor Leonard Downie “said there was no need to report that language, given that the culture magazine is a very different publication.”

It certainly is different.  Cheney’s comment was made in private.  He didn’t apologize for the comments after they were revealed, but he hadn’t intended them to be public in the first place.  Kerry used the word in a magazine intended to reach the public.  By any reasonable standard, Kerry’s bad language was far more newsworthy.  But the Post has one standard for Cheney, another for Kerry.  After making an issue of Cheney’s private utterance, the Post ran an editorial on the matter, entitled, “Conduct Unbecoming.”

We don’t remember the Post or any other liberal media organ raising concerns about civility when a disgruntled Democratic Congressman, Chris Bell of Texas, filed an ethics complaint against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.  The complaint ended a seven-year informal ethics truce between the parties.  DeLay said that Bell filed the complaint because he is angry about his primary loss in a congressional district that was redrawn with DeLay’s help.  DeLay called the complaint “character assassination.”  But we didn’t hear any peep of protest from the liberal media.

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