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How to Slant the News

John Harris, a so-called straight news reporter for the Washington Post, offered his liberal opinion of Georgia Senator Zell Miller’s speech to the Republican convention.  On MSNBC, the day after the speech, Harris agreed with the view that the Miller speech “was a huge missed opportunity” for Republicans who wanted to appeal to swing voters, and that it overshadowed Vice President Cheney’s address.  He said there was “no reason to mince words,” adding, “Miller became unhinged out there, in sort of a Howard Dean style.”

Harris wrote a story for the Post saying much the same thing.  He insisted that the Miller speech had  “overshadowed” Cheney’s “more sober speech,” implying that Miller was out-of-control.  Harris also quoted “Democrats” as saying “they were certain the senator had crossed the line and would hurt Bush?”  Harris added this: “Privately, some senior Republicans agreed that red meat that tasted delicious in the convention hall did not look appetizing to independent voters watching on television.”  This view fell into disrepute when polls showed Bush with an 11-point lead after the convention.

Harris did something that is fairly common in the liberal media?disguising his opinions as a news story.  A September 4 story by Harris and Dan Balz used a similar trick.  The story predicted division in the Republican Party in the future, citing the “frank talk” of Republican Senator Chuck Hagel.  This phrase, “frank talk,” means that Hagel is saying something that conservatives don’t want to hear.  That’s why it was highlighted by the Post.

Indeed after quoting Hagel as saying the Republican Party “has come loose of its moorings,” Harris and Balz said, “Hagel was not referring to Bush’s leadership or his prospects for reelection but instead to the impact of a presidency that has seen the party embrace the largest deficits in U.S. history and a foreign policy that has put the United States at odds with many of its closest allies and heightened suspicion of institutions such as the United Nations.”

It just so happens that the Hagel view is close to the liberal view of Kerry and the Democrats.  It was no accident that he was quoted by the paper.  Later in the story, the Post reporters claimed that, “Social issues present another concern for the party.  Some of the most enthusiastically received speeches in New York were delivered by Republicans at odds with the party on abortion and gay rights, particularly Giuliani and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.”  Of course, what they failed to mention was that Giuliani and Schwarzenegger did not talk about gay rights or abortion in their convention speeches.

These were manufactured stories designed to create problems for the Republicans.  Through the manipulation of quotations, and selecting some sources over others, the paper can create its own warped view of how Republicans should act and what they should believe.  This kind of “journalism” should be dismissed out of hand.  The people who are “unhinged” are those who regard John Harris of the Post as objective.  Harris himself is unhinged if he thinks his stories are fair and balanced.