I have written a number of pieces in the past year about conservatives having a “poor little ole me” attitude when it comes to the media. Conservatives are convinced the media is out to get them. They are convinced the media is covering up stories and covering for the Obama Administration.
Often, conservatives are flat out wrong. They are so convinced the media is out to get them they do not even make their case to the media. They give up without starting.
Each time I write about these things, members of the media retweet the posts glowingly and approvingly. And while I stand by each of those posts I’ve written, the media itself needs to be held accountable because, if members of the media were truly honest, must admit it is biased against conservatives.
As objective as the media claims to be, the so called Gang of 500 — the reporters and chattering class who develop the conventional wisdom in politics — is mostly of the left or married to the left. There is a revolving door between the media and leftwing politics that rarely exists on the right. It shapes the world view of the members of the media and necessitates conservatives working even harder to get their opinions, views, and stories heard.
I have encountered this bias throughout the media in my professional life and seen it up close over the years.
Today comes word that Richard Stengel, Time’s managing editor, is leaving the magazine for the State Department. He is but one in a long line of liberals who have, for years, feigned objectivity when his world view is decidedly of the left.
Perhaps most famous is Jay Carney. He is currently the White House Press Secretary. Before that he was in the Vice President’s office. Prior to that, he was Washington bureau chief at Time magazine working with Richard Stengel. Stengel, in 2008, defended Carney’s decision to go into the Obama Administration. Of course he would.
Then, of course, there is Linda Douglass, who left ABC News to work for the White House promoting Obamacare and is now at the Atlantic. She, while at the White House, suggested people report their neighbors for lying about Barack Obama and Obamacare.
Jill Zuckman left the Chicago Tribune to be the Secretary of Transportation’s spokesman. She follows in the footsteps of noted reporter David Axelrod who left the Chicago Tribune to help Barack Obama and is now on MSNBC as a pundit.
Shailagh Murray is not the only Washington Post reporter to head into the Obama Administration. Douglas Frantz headed to the State Department and Stephen Barr headed to the Labor Department.
Over at CNN, their new Chief National Security Correspondent is Jim Sciutto. Sciutto had been ABC News’s Senior Foreign correspondent, then took a job in the Obama Administration as Chief of Staff to Ambassador Gary Locke in China.
Many on the left would throw up Tony Snow, who had been the Sunday show host at Fox News and an anchor. But Tony had also been a well known conservative pundit and guest host for Rush Limbaugh before going into the Bush White House. And, even so, for every Tony Show there’s a half dozen liberals doing the same.
Let’s keep going though.
Chuck Todd at NBC is a former staffer for Democratic Senator Tom Harkin. He is married to a former DNC communicator who left the DNC to start Maverick Strategies, a consulting group designed to get liberals elected.
Ruth Marcus, the Editorial Page editor of the Washington Post is married to Barack Obama’s original Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission.
David Gregory of Meet the Press is married to the former Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary for Fannie Mae.
Over at the Politico, John Harris, who asked a host of loaded and ridiculous questions during the NBC-Politico Debate in the 2012 Republican Primary, is married to the former head of NARAL in Virginia. The Politico’s senior Washington correspondent is Jonathan Allen. He left the Politico for a stint in DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s office, before returning to his supposed objectivity at the Politico. Andy Barr of the Politico left to go work for the DNC, then to run communications for various congressional campaigns. He’s now at SKD Knickerbocker, a DC/NYC group that represented Sandra Fluke.
Managing editor Rick Stengel announced some big changes for Time magazine on Monday: Michael Scherer will be the new Washington bureau chief, while Ben Goldberger is to become the national editor.
Stengel, prior to going to the White House, put Michael Scherer in Jay Carney’s old post as bureau chief. Scherer is a nice guy, but consider his pedigree. He started out at the far left Salon.com, then went to the far left Mother Jones, and suddenly through the blessings and miracles of the Washington Press Corps wound up an objective reporter for Time.
This is similar to Ezra Klein, the kid at the Washington Post who is heralded as some sort of expert for having never had a real job. He started out at the really liberal blog Pandagon, then headed over the quasi-communist American Prospect, and now parrots liberal talking points at the Wonk Blog at the Washington Post where he has recruited other liberal and far left writers formerly of the Nation, Salon, and American Prospect.
He’s joined at the Washington Post by Greg Sargent who used to write at the liberal Talking Points Memo and now serves as the official mouthpiece for the Democratic National Committee, which, best anyone can figure, has its hand shoved all the way up Sargent’s rear and moves his mouth like a muppet.
Over at ABC News we find George Stephanopolous, who used to work for Bill Clinton. He is now, like Michael Scherer, “objective.”
My favorite, though, may be Andrew Rosenthal. Andrew Rosenthal used to be a reporter for the New York Times. On February 5, 1992, Rosenthal penned a front page article in the Times about George H. W. Bush looking at a supermarket checkout scanner at the National Grocers Association convention in Florida. In the article, Rosenthal wrote,
The look of wonder flickered across his face as he saw the item and price registered on the cash register screen.
“This is for checking out?” asked Mr. Bush. “I just took a tour through the exhibits here,” he told the grocers later. “Amazed by some of the technology.”
Marlin Fitzwater, the White House spokesman, assured reporters that he had seen the President in a grocery store. A year or so ago. In Kennebunkport.
Some grocery stores began using electornic scanners as early as 1976, and the devices have been in general use in American supermarkets for a decade.
Within a week, op-ed writers across the country had seized on that story to show just how out of touch George H. W. Bush was. There was just one problem. Rosenthal was not present at the event. There was only one pool reporter there who had not even mentioned, in the pool report, the expression on President Bush’s face.
Most newspapers who had run the story based on Rosenthal’s “reporting” had to issue retractions. The New York Times was one of the few that didn’t. In fact, the Times stood by Rosenthal even though the reporter who had been present disputed Rosenthal’s story.
Andrew Rosenthal is now the editorial page editor of The New York Times.
From social issues to fiscal issues, the DC/NYC national press corps leans to the left. Not only does it lean left, but it is able to easily migrate from left wing organizations into supposedly objective roles and back again. There are a few examples of this on the right, but very few.
The world view and presuppositions of the American press corps makes it very hard to even give conservatives a fair shake. Their innate biases based on their presuppositions go against conservatives going into the stories.
Erin Burnett of CNN and formerly of CNBC is a wonderful person and a great reporter. But I’ll never forget being on air the night of June 5, 2012.
John King and Erin Burnett were chatting as Erin promoted what was coming up on her show. A pastor was losing his church because he supported gay marriage. His congregation had left and there was too little money coming in. “It’s a pretty powerful story of conviction and also the bias that is still very prevalent in certain places in this country,” Burnett gravely stated. “Bias … in certain places.”
At the top of the seven o’clock hour, Burnett ran a David Mattingly story about Grace Community United Church of Christ in St. Paul, Minnesota. The real story happened seven years earlier. The pastor of the African-American church, way back then, supported gay marriage at the 2005 national meeting of the United Church of Christ over the desires of his congregation. Most of the congregation left his church. The week of June 5, 2012, would be perhaps, in David Mattingly’s words, “the last service before the church closes its doors for good. What I saw was a far cry from the days when the seats were full.”
It is not that Erin Burnett and David Mattingly’s report clearly made the pastor who defied his congregation the hero and his congregants who demanded faithful adherence to their scripture the bigots. The media does this all the time. In a nation whose voters routinely tells pollsters they support gay marriage while routinely voting against gay marriage, most of the media is very much in favor of gay marriage. Stories about Christian pastors seem to focus on the bigoted and hateful few contrasted with a few open minded, tolerant Christians whose churches are dwindling as they embrace alternative lifestyles.
But we are a nation where a majority of states, through democratic processes, prohibit gay marriage. And the story was cast not as a preacher disobeying his congregation and dealing with the consequences, but as “bias … in certain places” causing a church to close down. The presupposition of the story was against the congregation, not against the pastor who directly disobeyed the wishes of his congregation.
From the Gabrielle Giffords shooting as a way to lament the crazy tea party and Sarah Palin’s target list to not devoting nearly as much attention to the shooter at the FRC who used the Southern Poverty Law Center to draw up a target list, the media does have serious bias against conservatives. The Democrat-Left-Media establishment trade stories with each other, help build media narratives, and coordinate their messaging because of their natural biases and affinities for each other.
As soon as reporters, producers, and networks are willing to admit that bias — a bias that goes to the very presuppositions of what stories to cover and how to cover them — they might be able to turn the corner and regain trust. But I am quite confident the press corps is quite happy just as they are.
Conservatives must work much harder than liberals to cut through the media bias. It is possible. But it is also hard work.
Again, there are Republicans who have gone into the media as objective reporters and there are objective reporters who have gone into Republican politics. But it is several orders of magnitude more on the liberal side and even rarer to see a conservative activist/partisan journalist transition from a rightwing blog or publication to objective reporter or bureau chief for a major media outlet. ↩