Accuracy in Media

When the liberal media engage in a feeding frenzy against a conservative politician, journalists are always on the lookout for conservative publications that get drawn into the hysteria. Then they can make the claim that they are not engaging in just an ideological jihad against their political enemies. In the case of Rep. Tom Delay, critics  have cited the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which weighed in with an editorial criticizing Delay for being a big government conservative.

That’s quite funny because we have drawn attention to the fact that the Journal editorial page has become an advocate of big government, too. The Journal is benefiting from almost $5 million from the federally-funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting to do a show for public television. In postcards to Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot, we noted that, “Your editorial page, which promotes free enterprise and an end to taxpayer subsidies for private corporations, used to be an advocate of de-funding public television and radio. Your parent company, Dow Jones, is so rich that it just paid $519 million for CBS MarketWatch. You should have financed your own show. We strongly suggest that you return to the principled conservatism that has guided you in the past. The money you take and the viewers you get, courtesy of the CPB, are not worth it.”

Regarding Delay, the Journal said that “The problem?is that Mr. DeLay, who rode to power in 1994 on a wave of revulsion at the everyday ways of big government, has become the living exemplar of some of its worst habits? Whether Mr. DeLay violated the small print of House Ethics or campaign-finance rules is thus largely beside the point. His real fault lies in betraying the broader set of principles that brought him into office, and which, if he continues as before, sooner or later will sweep him out.”

It seems to us that the Journal violated its own principles when it took government money to do a show on public television. Of course, you won’t see any editorials from the Journal on that. And you probably won’t see any more Journal editorials calling for an end to taxpayer subsidies of public broadcasting. 

Despite what the Journal said on the Delay case, it is not “largely beside the point” whether Delay has violated the law or not. Richard Lessner, executive director of the American Conservative Union, pointed out in an article in the Washington Examiner that, “Many of the recent news ‘scoops’ that have been running on the front pages of major newspapers are little more than rehashed accusations that have appeared elsewhere.” These are accusations that do not involve any illegal or even unethical conduct. Lessner cited a New York Times story that DeLay had employed family members to work on his campaigns and for his political action committee. “This story was so old it had whiskers,” Lessner said. “It was first reported in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call in 2003.” On the matter of Delay employing his wife and daughter at his privately funded political action committee, Lessner said, “This is only $50,000 a year each for the past five years, a solidly middle-class income and certainly a lot less than the editors at The New York Times earn. Several members of the house, including prominent Democrats, employ family members on campaigns. Citing other examples of such bias, Lessner said that “the dominant liberal press has an agenda to bring down Tom DeLay and the facts can be ignored.”

Mike Allen of the Washington Post is one of the journalists with an agenda. In another story he wrote on Delay, he noted, “The Richmond Times-Dispatch, which has one of the nation’s most conservative editorial pages, published an editorial yesterday with the headline, ‘DeLay Must Go.'” This is the tendency we noted earlier ? when the liberal press use conservatives for their own purposes. 

The piling on has gotten intense. E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post wrote an April 15 column saying, “The leading indicators of conservative opinion are starting to weigh in against him.” He went on to cite the Journal editorial. He said that, “?the Wall Street Journal criticizing DeLay is like L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican organ, criticizing the pope.” But he ignores how the Journal has itself gotten on the big government gravy train with that $5 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Dionne went on to cite the Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial on Delay, saying that the paper “can hardly be seen as the voice of a left-wing conspiracy.”

But the Times-Dispatch is a case study in how conservative publications come under the influence of what the editorial itself calls the left-wing “drumbeat.” It began by saying that, “Defenders of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay are right when they say Democratic attacks on The Hammer, as he is known, reek of partisanship. They also are right to say DeLay’s ethical problems are not unique to him, or to the GOP.” The editorial admitted that the “Stories about ethical questions [involving Delay] have become a drumbeat” and that nothing against Delay has been proven. But it thought that he should go anyway.

The Times deserves special criticism, however, for its attempt to get a former high-ranking Republican congressman, Bob Livingston, to write a commentary critical of Delay. The story was broken by columnist Robert Novak, and Livingston confirmed it.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger has said that he was asked by the Times in 2003 to write a column criticizing President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.

So this is how it works: the liberal media start their “drumbeat,” and then they look for conservatives and Republicans to jump on the bandwagon. It’s very noisy.

The attacks on Delay show the continuing power and influence of the so-called mainstream media. In this case, the New York Times and Washington Post have been joined by the Wall Street Journal and Richmond Times-Dispatch. It’s always tempting, even for conservative publications, to want to win some applause from the liberal media.

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