Accuracy in Media

Much has been made of Rush Limbaugh’s post-election comment that he was tired of carrying the water for the Republicans. That admission made it clear that he was being a Republican first, a conservative second. But it’s one thing when Rush Limbaugh or Al Franken goes on a partisan crusade; it’s quite another when the New York Times does so.

The Times is, of course, a Democratic paper, and its editorial page consistently endorses Democrats. But it’s something else when the paper admits slanting the news in order to keep certain information from the electorate.

James Taranto of Opinionjournal.com pointed to some revealing comments in a New York Times editorial published just days after the mid-term election. The editorial said:

“The Democrats will not be able to savor their victory for long. Americans are waiting to hear if they have any good ideas for how to get out of Iraq without creating even wider chaos and terrorism.”

“Criticizing President Bush’s gross mismanagement of the war was a winning electoral strategy. But criticism will not extricate the United States from this mess, nor will it persuade voters that the Democrats are ready to take back the White House. . . .”

“The Democrats will also need to look forward?and quickly. So far they have shared slogans, but no real policy. During the campaign, their most common call was for a ‘phased redeployment’?a euphemism for withdrawal?of American troops starting before the end of this year.”

Taranto commented, “Well, now they tell us! It might have been useful if the Times had pointed these things out before the election. But that would have interfered with a ‘winning electoral strategy.’ Oh well, never let it be said that the New York Times is scrupulously nonpartisan.”

Why hadn’t they expressed this view in advance of the election? Obviously, they were pulling for their side, the Democrats. That’s fine. All of their congressional endorsements were for Democrats, but there is supposed to be a distinction between the editorial page and the news page.

Before the election, ABC’s political editor Mark Halperin had told Bill O’Reilly that “We’ve got a chance in these last two weeks [prior to the election] 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.”

Asked if he was admitting a left-leaning bias, Halperin added, “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.”

It turned out that Halperin’s fears were realized. The mainstream media carried the water for the Democrats. The level of bias in network news coverage was quantified in a study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs. It showed that from September 5th through October 11th, 77% of coverage of Democrats was favorable, while just 12% of coverage of Republicans was positive. 

One could argue that that is because Republicans controlled the White House and Congress. But the Mark Foley scandal, about his inappropriate contacts with Congressional pages, was the subject of close to twice the number of stories as the war in Iraq and terrorism combined. That seems like liberal media overkill.

In an election that CNN labeled a landslide, a close examination indicates that many of the races were decided by only a few thousand votes. It is an open question how much of the Democrats’ winning margin was provided by the national media giving them a boost.




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