Some smart liberals in the media are figuring out that it’s no longer tenable to deny they are biased. That claim flies like a lead balloon. So they’re admitting it up front, in the hope that conservatives might start coming back to some of the old media and preventing a further decline in their listening or viewing audiences. Such an admission was recently made by Mark Halperin of ABC News.
Some history is in order. Surveys demonstrating a liberal or pro-Democratic Party bias by the national press corps go back 40 years. One of the most interesting, a 1996 survey from the Freedom Forum, showed that 89 percent of the reporters in Washington said they had voted for Bill Clinton in 1992, while only seven percent said they voted for George Bush.
Some say that journalists are trained to keep their bias out of their stories, but that assumes they practice objective news reporting. In fact, reporters have been taught interpretive reporting for decades. That opens the door to bias influencing not only the selection of news items but how the news is presented. And since most of those entering the journalism field are liberals, that creates a liberal bias.
Some of the best evidence of bias comes from some of those reporters and editors who openly acknowledge it, sometimes when they are caught off guard, other times when they know full well that they are breaking ranks, and telling us things that their brethren wish they hadn’t said.
We have documented many of those instances:
When ABC News White House correspondent Terry Moran told radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt that there is “a deep anti-military bias in the media.” Added Moran, “One that begins from the premise that the military must be lying, and that American projection of power around the world must be wrong. I think that that is a hangover from Vietnam, and I think it’s very dangerous;”
When Newsweek’s Evan Thomas said that media bias was worth five to 15 percentage points, meaning anywhere between five and 20 million votes for the Kerry-Edwards ticket in the 2004 election; and
Bernard Goldberg’s book “Bias,” exposing the liberal environment at CBS and other networks, and the importance of holding the “correct” worldview.
Daniel Okrent, the former Public Editor of the New York Times, wrote a column asking, “Is The New York Times a Liberal Newspaper.” Regarding social issues, he wrote, “if you think The Times plays it down the middle on any of them, you’ve been reading the paper with your eyes closed.” As for its editorial page, Okrent wrote that is “so thoroughly saturated in liberal theology that when it occasionally strays from that point of view the shocked yelps from the left overwhelm even the ceaseless rumble of disapproval from the right.”
Thomas Edsall, former top political reporter for the Washington Post, told Hugh Hewitt that Democrats outnumber Republicans in the press corps by a factor of 15 or 25 to 1.
Mark Halperin, ABC News political director and blogger of The Note on the ABC website, now gets added to this list.
In a piece before the November 7 elections, he wrote about the (liberal) Old Media in a piece called “Six Days of November Surprises,” describing what to expect in terms of coverage. One was a flowing profile of “Speaker-Inevitable Nancy Pelosi,” which took place on 60 Minutes.
As if to rub it in, Halperin went on “The O’Reilly Factor” on the Fox News Channel, with Bill O’Reilly. He said, “We’ve got a chance in these last two weeks to prove to conservatives that we understand their grievances, we’re going to try to do better, but these organizations [the Washington Post, New York Times, CBS, ABC, etc.] still have incredible sway and these conservatives are certain that we’re going to be out to get them. We’ve got to fix that.”
O’Reilly said, “So you’re admitting you tilt left?” Halperin, who with the Washington Post’s John Harris has written a book called The Way to Win in 2008, told O’Reilly that “over the years there are a lot of examples: what CBS News did in the 2004 election with the President’s 2004 National Guard record. Lots of examples. If I were conservative, I understand why I would feel suspicious that I was not going to get a fair break at the end of an election. We’ve got to make sure we do better so conservatives don’t have to be concerned about that. It’s not fair.”
O’Reilly asked, “So you’re the fairness police now at ABC?
“No, we should be impartial,” said Halperin. “We should use this last two weeks as an opportunity to help rebuild our reputation with half the country, so conservatives can be confident.”
He added that “There are no strategy calls. We’re not on the phone with Howard Dean and George Soros getting our marching orders. But the mindset at ABC?is just too focused on being more favorable to Nancy Pelosi, say, than Newt Gingrich, being more down on the Republicans’ chances than perhaps is warranted. Singling out, you’re seeing here a 60 Minutes piece about Nancy Pelosi. I don’t remember Newt Gingrich getting a piece that favorable in 1994.”
Finishing up on the topic, Halperin said, “I think everybody in the old media better be watching pieces like that, reading profiles of Nancy Pelosi and saying, are we being fair to everybody involved in the American political process. Even if you don’t believe the argument that we make in The Way to Win there are some examples over the years that are pretty significant of showing why conservatives are aggrieved. Even if you’re a liberal and don’t believe that, believe that half the country feels that way. And it’s an economic model. If you want to thrive like Fox News Channel, you want to have a future, you better make sure conservatives find your product appealing. If you’re going to do the right thing, you’ve got to do it.”
Halperin may be trying to appear fair and impartial in order to sell his book to conservatives. But there is no reason to doubt his characterization of the press corps. It comports with the evidence and the facts.
Thanks, Mr. Halperin, for confirming what we already know. If your admissions are not just motivated by a desire to sell a book, you can demonstrate your sincerity by eliminating the liberal bias where you work on a daily basis. You have a lot of work to do. Don’t let us down.