Posts Tagged ‘Dan Rather’

Dan Rather: ‘Obama Couldn’t Sell Watermelons’

March 10, 2010

We can only wonder what would have happened if Fox News anchor emeritus Brit Hume had said the following:

“Part of the undertow in the coming election is going to be President Obama’s leadership. And the Republicans will make a case and a lot of independents will buy this argument. “Listen he just hasn’t been, look at the health care bill. It was his number one priority. It took him forever to get it through and he had to compromise it to death.” And a version of, “Listen he’s a nice person, he’s very articulate” this is what’s been used against him, “but he couldn’t sell watermelons if it, you gave him the state troopers to flag down the traffic.”

[Youtube]

If Brit Hume had said that, the left would have ripped their robes in self-righteous outrage and shouted, “BLASPHEMY!”

But it wasn’t Brit Hume who said that our first black president couldn’t sell watermelons.  It was liberal legend Dan Rather who said it.

And so instead of pulling out every stop to label the statement as a rant of typical racist conservative hate, the same media talking heads who would have been all over this story are either omitting it completely or else giving it the “he didn’t really mean it” spin job.

Chris Matthews jumped in with a frenzy to prevent liberal icon Dan Rather from saying something even more stupid or more racist.

Chris Matthews – who once managed to forget Barack Obama was black for a whole entire hour – apparently had his memory jogged when Dan Rather started spouting off about Obama and watermelons.

If Rather had been given a chance to fully explain himself, maybe he would have said something like, “Obama couldn’t sell watermelons.  What he needs to do is sell something he CAN sell.  Maybe he can’t sell watermelons, so he should sell fried chicken instead.”

And it’s such a shame that Obama couldn’t even manage to sell watermelons if the (presumably white) state troopers were out helping him.  I mean, after all – as Harry Reid can vouch – Obama is a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,’ and you’d think he could have a fine career in roadside watermelon sales.

And Bill Clinton would hastily point out that if Obama didn’t have the knack for selling watermelons (or fried chickens), he could fulfill his true calling of serving his betters their coffee.

All of that is just the very recent stuff.

And these are the very sort of slime who have repeatedly characterized conservatives and Republicans as being “racists” when they’ve got more racism in their pinky fingers.

George Allen was a Senator and a leading hopeful for president when he said one word which so outraged Democrats that they ended his career.  He didn’t talk about black people selling watermelons; he didn’t try to lecture on the advantages of ‘light skinned’ African Americans vis-a-vie the “darkies” who were more likely to suffer from “Negro dialect”; he didn’t suggest that a man who is now president of the United States would have or should have been serving coffee instead.  He used a single word – macaca – that required a study in etymology to suggest that it might just possibly be racist.

There was no suggestion that Allen wasn’t a racist, or that he probably meant something else, or that there should be forgiveness, or even that we need to get past the ‘gotcha’ moments.  They simply screamed that he was a racist and destroyed him.

And there’s your selective tolerance of liberals.

Which is why we always seem to have a cult of pardon for liberals, to counterbalance the cult of demonization that the very same people who pardon the liberals apply to conservatives.

I’m not inclined to assume that Dan Rather is a racist.  That seems to be the prerogative of liberals.

But I am more than inclined to point out that these people are a bunch of  self-righteous hypocritical slimeballs.

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Media’s Bias, Dishonesty Re: Reagan Vs. Obama Unemployment Bodes Ill For America

October 4, 2009

Our founding fathers believed a free and independent press – which would serve as a watchdog protecting the nation from the lies, corruption, mismanagement, and demagoguery of politicians – would be utterly essential for a functioning democracy.

It would be nice if we had one.

The fact is that going back decades, the media have become anything but either “independent” or a “watchdog.”  Rather than guarding and protecting the truth, they have become the “lapdogs” of the left, licking the faces of Democrats and turning viciously on Republicans, without regard to the truth or the facts.

A study comparing the media’s response to IDENTICAL job loss numbers between Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama pointedly demonstrate the deceit and hypocrisy of the mainstream media.  In short, Reagan was given negative coverage 91% of the time, whereas Obama received negative coverage 7% of the time.  For some reason, the same media that has repeatedly claimed that Obama “inhereited” the recession could never bring themselves to make a similar claim about Reagan’s inheritance via Jimmy Carter.

There are some useful charts and videos on the Businessandmedia site which hosts this article.  I cite the article here merely to preserve the record.  My discussion of the ramifications of the article will follow.

Networks Flip Flop On Jobs

Identical Unemployment Numbers ‘Good’ News for Obama, But ‘All’ Bad under Reagan.

Full Report

A study from the Business & Media Institute

By Julia A. Seymour

Executive Summary
PDF Version


These are tough times. More than 3 million people have lost their jobs just since February 2009 and consumer confidence fell unexpectedly in September. The unemployment rate has spiked from 8.1 percent to 9.7 percent in the first seven months of Barack Obama’s presidency and is expected to climb even higher.

Despite that grim news, the major news networks have spun their unemployment reports into “good news” and presented Obama positively. Journalists tried hard to present rising job losses in the best possible light.

ABC’s Charles Gibson called the loss of 539,000 jobs in April a “marked improvement” May 8, 2009, because fewer jobs were lost than in March. In June 2009, Gibson was talking again about “hopeful” signs in the job numbers as more Americans were out of work.

But flashback 27 years ago to 1982, the unemployment rate was in roughly the same range as it was in 2009. Yet, network reporters consistently presented the U.S. economy under President Ronald Reagan as the “worst of times” by showing people living out of their trucks under a bridge and collecting free food at a food bank.

CBS reporter Ray Brady told a “tale of two cities” on June 4, 1982. He found the “worst of times” in Waterloo, Iowa, where the unemployment rate was the highest in the nation: 25.4 percent. That was nearly 16 percentage points higher than the national unemployment rate of 9.5 percent. He contrasted Waterloo’s joblessness with 4.6 percent unemployment in Sioux Falls, S.D. where things were “close to” the best of times.

Brady’s report addressed two very different employment situations, but most 1982 reports focused heavily on places where “desperation has turned to hopelessness.” The unemployment rate under Obama and Reagan was nearly identical, yet they received almost exactly opposite treatment from ABC, CBS and NBC reports. Reagan was mentioned negatively in reports 13 times more often than Obama.

While in Obama’s case, reporters found bright spots – like 25 police recruits’ jobs being “saved” by the stimulus package – during Reagan’s term, journalists found tragedy everywhere. They interviewed a battered wife, a family that had run out of food and many unemployed people. One NBC anchor even warned that suicide and murder rates increase in such hard times.

Although there was a difference between the two presidents in how long they had been in office, the spin was still significant. Unemployment numbers rose similarly under both Reagan and Obama, but journalists continued a long-standing trend of spinning the numbers.

The Business & Media Institute analyzed network unemployment stories on the evenings that data was released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics between March 2009 to September 2009 and March 1982 to September 1982. There were 66 stories in all – 35 stories in 2009 and 31 stories in 1982.  BMI found that network reports were 13 times more negative in their treatment of Reagan than Obama.  In fact, 91 percent of stories (20 out of 22) mentioning Reagan’s administration portrayed it negatively – while only 7 percent (1 out of 15) of Obama administration mentions were negative. Obama was mentioned positively 87 percent of the time (13 out of 15). There was not a single positive mention of the Reagan White House.

Blame for ‘Wicked’ Reagan, but Praise for Obama’s ‘Important’ Stimulus

In 1982, network reports showed desperation, sadness and tragedy as a result of rising joblessness. NBC pictured lines of people waiting outside a food bank and interviewed crisis counselors in Seattle on May 7.

“More callers talk of despair and even suicide,” Don Oliver reported that night, before interviewing Jim and Pam Smalls. Oliver called them “victims of unemployment depression and anger,” because Pam had to seek help from a battered woman’s shelter.

Another network showed people living under a highway overpass out of their trucks because they couldn’t find work. But under Obama the networks found a man “doing backflips” when he was asked to return to work at a Minnesota window company and another man who was thrilled to be hired by a hamburger stand in Arizona.

Network reports on unemployment were mirror opposites. They made Reagan look bad in a huge majority of stories and conversely made Obama look good.

Broadcasts journalists tied “rising” unemployment to Reagan in 1982 by mentioning him in 71 percent of stories (22 of 31), but linked Obama to the economy slightly more than half as often in 2009 – only 40 percent of the time (14 of 35).

When the respective presidents were mentioned, political attacks on the Reagan administration over job losses were commonplace in the 1982 network coverage. Union leaders, Democratic politicians and the unemployed were all quoted blasting Reagan for his economic policies.

NBC’s Irving R. Levine found a soon-to-be unemployed textile worker who “blames President Reagan” for his situation on March 5, 1982. That worker, Gene Biffle, told NBC, “When he went in there he said it, he was gonna get jobs and help the economy, but don’t look like he’s doing too much about that.”Following Levine’s segment, anchor Roger Mudd took Reagan to task himself by responding to statements from the administration:

“Spokesmen for the Reagan White House are coming to dread each month’s unemployment numbers because it gets harder and harder for them to explain. Economic Adviser Weidenbaum says today the figures may mean the economy may be bottoming out. Communications Director Gergen says that while unemployment may get worse, the recession seems to be bottoming out. Meanwhile, more and more people are getting bottomed out.”

In August 1982, Sam Donaldson of ABC highlighted the “partisan savagery” of Congressional Democrats, including Rep. Parren Mitchell’s, D-Md., claim that Reagan was pursuing “sadistic fiscal policies.”

The dark and gloomy tone of 1982 reports was a near polar opposite of the tenor of 2009 unemployment stories.

In 2009, the networks praised Obama for merely trying to stop rising unemployment – even when he wasn’t succeeding. And month after month reporters tried to find the “good news” or signs of a turnaround.

All three nightly newscasts mentioned Obama favorably March 6, 2009, even though 651,000 jobs had been lost in February and unemployment had jumped half a percentage point to 8.1 percent from 7.6 percent. And all three of those broadcasts emphasized a mere 25 jobs “saved” by the stimulus package.

NBC’s Chuck Todd gave Obama credit that night saying, “For these 25 new police officers here in Columbus, Ohio, the president’s stimulus plan didn’t create these jobs, it saved them. Without the money these folks would be looking for a new line of work.”

CBS Anchor Katie Couric revealed her faith in Obama’s stimulus plan that night as well saying, “I know the government is going to be creating jobs, as we’ve mentioned, through this stimulus package.”

After the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced May 8 that more than a half million jobs were lost in April, another CBS anchor, Maggie Rodriguez, looked for a ray of sunshine saying, “There is new hope the sun may be starting to peek through those economic storm clouds tonight,” before delivering the news that unemployment had jumped .4 percent to 8.9 percent nationally.

Rodriguez’ optimism led into Anthony Mason’s report. Mason quoted Obama and emphasized his call for education as the solution to joblessness and request that states allow people to maintain unemployment benefits while going back to school.

Identical Unemployment Rates, Opposite Treatment

The unemployment rate reached 9.4 percent under Reagan and under Obama (twice), but received completely different treatment from the networks – and in one case from the same reporter.

In 1982, Dan Rather reported the rate as “9.4 percent and rising.” Dan Cordtz called it “rising steadily” on ABC, while Ray Brady warned that “job loss is still spreading.” NBC found lines at food banks “four times what they were six months ago.”

In 2009, ABC found “glimmers of improvement” for an identical unemployment rate. CBS’s own economic “grim reaper,” Anthony Mason said the “economy’s showed signs of improving.” NBC also found “positive trends” to discuss – specifically mentioning “2,100 new reasons” to be “hopeful” in Georgia.

But Charles Gibson illustrated how dramatically different the network coverage of Reagan and Obama really were.

Gibson, who was a Capitol Hill correspondent for ABC in 1982, told viewers May 7, 1982, “[T]here really isn’t any good news in the statistics. All the numbers are bad.” He then quoted two Democratic attacks on Reagan including Rep. Henry S. Reuss, D-Wis., who charged that Reagan’s “policies aren’t just mistaken, they’re wicked.”

But as an ABC anchor in 2009, Gibson was full of hope. He introduced that night’s story saying “sometimes a bad jobs report can look good.”

“345,000 Americans lost their jobs in May, a big number to be sure. Traumatic if you are one of the 345,000. But the number was smaller than economists had predicted, and that’s good news,” Gibson said before admitting that the unemployment rate of 9.4 percent was “pretty bad.” Neither Gibson, nor reporter Betsy Stark mentioned President Obama at all that night.

On Aug. 7, 2009, Gibson suggested “the economy may be finally turning the corner.”

Methodology

The Business & Media Institute analyzed network unemployment stories on the evenings that data was released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in similar seven-month periods – between March 2009 to September 2009 and March 1982 to September 1982. There were 66 stories in all – 35 stories in 2009 and 31 stories in 1982.

A story was counted as a mention of Obama or Reagan if it named the respective president, the administration, the “White House,” or any administration spokespeople. Each mention was then graded positive, negative or neutral based on context.

Conclusion

Despite having similar periods of rising unemployment, Presidents Reagan and Obama were treated very differently by the network news media. This fit the theme of the network news when it came to economic reporting.

Jobs and unemployment have been one of the most significant economic measures because they impacted everyone so directly. Network viewers who watched coverage of unemployment during the Reagan years were consistently told things were bad. For identical numbers under Obama, those very same networks claimed the economy was improving. That was clear-cut bias.

And it isn’t new. The Business & Media Institute released a Special Report in 2004 called “One Economy, Two Spins” which showed the way similar economic conditions (unemployment, inflation and GDP growth) were presented negatively during the re-election campaigns of George W. Bush’s Republican administration, but positively under Bill Clinton’s Democratic re-election bid.

BMI found that jobs stories in particular were positive more than six times as often under Clinton than Bush. The networks continued to distort the good economy under Bush in 2005 and 2006 giving negative stories more air time and using ordinary people to underscore those downbeat reports.

The Media Research Center also reported in 2004 that the news media sought to discredit Reaganomics with their news coverage. Virginia Commonwealth University professor Ted J. Smith III found that out of 14,000 network news stories between 1982 and 1987 the amount of network TV coverage shrunk and became more negative as the economy improved. When one economic indicator got better, the networks covered it less and focused on something unhealthy about the economy.

Recommendations

State the Facts: Unemployment data, like all economic data, should be presented as is without reporter opinions being inserted into the broadcast. Forecasting job losses or gains should be left only to the experts.

Be Consistent: If 9.4 percent unemployment is bad, then it should be treated so regardless of who is president. If the number discredits a Republican administration, it should also discredit a Democrat.

Use History as a Guide: It is up to the networks to ensure that they cover stories consistently over time. A reporter working on a story about unemployment being the worst in 26 years should consult the coverage from that time for guidance.

Don’t Spin the Economy: Reporters should be embarrassed when they highlight 25 jobs gained after telling viewers 651,000 jobs were lost. If a story is negative, then tell it that way. Don’t allow White House spin from either party to distort the final result.

Because of the media’s dishonest and deceptive propaganda, we end up believing half truths that fundamentally amount to whole lies.

As I set up why this propaganda is so fundamentally dangerous, let me quote myself:

When Ronald Reagan took office from Jimmy Carter, inflation was at a meteoric 13.3% and the country was in the throes of a fierce recession.  There was a real question as to whether workers’ wages would keep up with the costs of living, which made people afraid to either spend or save.  And nobody knew how to control inflation – which had risen from 1.4% in 1960 to the aforementioned 13.3% in 1980 – causing a real erosion of confidence in the future.  Jimmy Carter answered a reporter’s question as to what he would do about the problem of inflation by answering, “It would be misleading for me to tell any of you that there is a solution to it.”

Reagan DID have a solution, and the result was the Reagan Revolution.

Unemployment had risen to 11%.  More businesses failed than at any time since World War II.  The picture of the economy was grim, indeed.

And then the Reagan policies – ridiculed by the very same liberal economic theorists whose policies created the inflation to begin with – began to work.  And the result – from such terrible beginnings – was the 2nd largest peacetime expansion in American history.  And now – to prove that there really is nothing new under the sun, liberal economic theorists are STILL ridiculing Reagan’s successful policy over twenty years after its success changed America.

Carter was at a self-confessed loss to solve the problem of inflation that his own administration had created.  It was Ronald Reagan who had the answer to the problem that Democrats had created and which Democrats could not solve.

I refer to the “Network Flip Flops On Jobs” article to evidence the fact that the liberal establishment thoroughly attacked Reagan for his policies.  But history clearly reveals that it wasn’t Reagan who was wrong; it was the liberals who attacked and sought to undermine him.

These same entrenched liberal establishment (and in the case of Charles Gibson, as one example, the very same people) have never learned.  They continue to believe that up is down and that down is up.  As they regard the world through a fundamentally flawed worldview, they simply cannot understand the world as it really is.  Rather, they project a liberal abstract template over the world (such as Marxist or socialist theories) which they continue to believe in — no matter how many times it is refuted by history.

We have a media that keeps seeing “unexpected rises in unemployment” and increases that – while clearly bad in and of themselves – are billed as either “better than” or less than expected” and therefore as good news.

An example of such bias is found in a New York Times article on the result of the Bush tax cuts that liberals have tried to kill ever since.  The article bagan:

WASHINGTON, July 12 – For the first time since President Bush took office, an unexpected leap in tax revenue is about to shrink the federal budget deficit this year, by nearly $100 billion.

They would NOT see that lower taxes stimulated more investment and productivity.  It simply HAD to be something else, something that their liberal filters could account for.

Under Bush, good news kept being “unexpected.”  Under Obama, it’s always bad news that’s “unexpected.”

As one poster put it:

Funny how when unemployment fell under Bush, it was always billed as a “Surprise Drop in Unemployment Numbers” or “New Job Growth Greater Than Experts Anticipated.” But when Obama is President it is always the Job losses and rising unemployment that “surprise” the experts.

In this critical time in our nation’s history – when we are more vulnerable to depression than we have been since the Great Depression itself – it is not merely the media’s bias and unfairness that is at issue anymore, though.  It is the fact that their unbalanced and prejudiced optimism is leading us toward disaster as they continue to support bad policies.

We are now the Titanic about to run full speed into the iceberg that will sink her.  There are icebergs aplenty: icebergs of shockingly high unemployment; icebergs of huge mortgage defaults which will only continue to rise; icebergs of massive and unsustainable debt; icebergs of a devalued currency; icebergs of soon-to-spiral inflation; icebergs of an-out-of-control government that WILL NOT recognize its folly until well after the soon-coming crash that will make the last one look like good times.

Stop and think about it: we’re told that we had a rise in unemployment that was worse than expected.  The median expert forecast had been 175,000 jobs lost; the actual number was 263,000.  Try way, way worse than expected.  The forecasters were a whopping 50% off.  But don’t worry; the mainstream media is still quite cheerful and optimistic.

The same media that unfairly and unrealistically demonized Reagan’s highly successful strategy is now unfairly and unrealistically praising Obama’s badly failing strategy.

The actual unemployment rate is 17%.  And yet the mainstream media presentation (with only an occasional moment to reflect on sobering news) has just been unrelentingly optimistic.  While conservatives and Republicans should rightly be outraged over the media’s bias and propaganda during Republican eras, the greater risk is the destruction that is increasingly likely to occur because the media refuses to critically examine the worsening negative effects of Obama’s policies.

The same people who continued to believe that Reagan was so, so wrong in spite of all evidence to the contrary now just as steadfastly believe that Obama is so, so right.  And that should terrify you.

This isn’t just “emperor’s new clothes”; this is wearing a View Master featuring a scenic roadway while driving the country right off a cliff.

Media Frenzy over ABC Democratic Debate Reveals Leftist Bias

April 20, 2008

This was the best panorama of media reaction to the ABC-hosted Democratic debate in Philadelphia:

The Democratic debate in Philadelphia last night was dominated by a wall of stupid painstakingly constructed by ABC’s moderators, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos.

Their obsession with trivia and avoidance of substance submerged this affair from its opening introduction. It’s hard to say it much better than Washington Post critic Tom Shales who leads off by saying that “Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, turned in shoddy, despicable performances,” and then proceeds to say what he really thinks.

And he’s not alone…

Tom Shales (Washington Post) – “For the first 52 minutes of the two-hour, commercial-crammed show, Gibson and Stephanopoulos dwelled entirely on specious and gossipy trivia that already has been hashed and rehashed, in the hope of getting the candidates to claw at one another over disputes that are no longer news. Some were barely news to begin with.”

Will Bunch (Philadelphia Daily News) – “By so badly botching arguably the most critical debate of such an important election, in a time of both war and economic misery, you disgraced the American voters, and in fact even disgraced democracy itself.”

Greg Mitchell (Editor and Publisher) – “In perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years, ABC News hosts Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous focused mainly on trivial issues as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama faced off in Philadelphia.”

Andrew Sullivan (The Atlantic) – “The loser was ABC News: one of the worst media performances I can remember – petty, shallow, process-obsessed, trivial where substantive, and utterly divorced from the actual issues that Americans want to talk about.”

Joanne Ostrow (Denver Post) – “Wednesday’s televised candidates’ debate from Philadelphia, tape delayed in Denver, got around to issues eventually. But the first round– devoted to pettiness and word obsession and gaffes– was more revealing.”

Joe Klein (Time) – “The ABC moderators clearly didn’t spend much time thinking about creative substantive gambits. They asked banal, lapidary questions, rather than trying to break new ground.”

Michael Grunwald (Time) – “At a time of foreign wars, economic collapse and environmental peril, the cringe-worthy first half of the debate focused on such crucial matters as Senator Obama’s comments about rural bitterness, his former pastor, an obscure sixties radical with whom he was allegedly “friendly,” and the burning constitutional question of why he doesn’t wear an American flag pin on his lapel.”

Richard Adams (The Guardian) – “A stinker, an absolute car crash – thanks to the host network ABC. It was worse than even those debates last year with 18 candidates on stage, including crazy old Mike Gravel.”

Noam Scheiber (New Republic) – “The first half of the debate felt like a 45-minute negative ad, reprising the most chewed over anti-Obama allegations (bittergate, Jeremiah Wright, patriotism) and even some relatively obscure ones (his vague association with former Weatherman radical Bill Ayers).”

Daniel Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer) – “We’ve revisted bitter. We’ve gone back to Bosnia. We’ve dragged Rev. Wright back up onto the podium. We’ve mis-spent this debate by allowing Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos to ask questions that skirt what in my mind is what we need to know now. What would they do about the mess they’d inherit? The war. Health care. The economy. Stupid.”

Cathleen Decker and Noam N. Levey (Los Angeles Times) – With the moderators and Clinton raising assorted questions about Obama’s past for the first half of the debate, issues received relatively short shrift. Not until 50 minutes in was a policy issue — Iraq — asked about by the moderators. More than an hour went by before a question was asked about what Stephanopoulos called “the No. 1 issue on Americans’ minds” — the economy.”

Stephanoupolos defended himself by saying that voters are concerned with “…experience, character [and] credibility. You can’t find a presidential election where those issues didn’t come into play.”

The problem is that you can’t find a but a trace of questions in this debate where those issues did come into play. The moderators had obviously decided that they were going to chase petty controversy and ratings by focusing on tabloid trivialities. Their cynical smugness and conceit are a sad commentary on the state of journalism and politics.

MoveOn has started a petition to ask the media to “stop hurting the national dialogue in this important election year.”
http://www.newscorpse.com/ncWP/?p=866

My favorite, in terms of being a pure, unadulterated, over-the-top, self-righteous indignate hissy-fit, was Will Bunch’s “An Open Letter to Charlie Gibson and George Stephanapoulos.”
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/041708B.shtml. You can almost feel the tears striking the keyboard as you read it.

A paraphrase from Shakespeare always goes a long way: “Methinks thou dost protest too much.”

If Will Bunch had become as livid when John McCain’s character was needlessly assaulted by the New York Times on the flimsiest of stories (notice how that whole female lobbyist story went away?), and had he similarly become this angry when President Bush was assaulted with charges of dodging service in the Vietnam War – complete with forged documents waved by CBS’ Dan Rather as proof of the crime – maybe I’d buy the “righteous” part of Bunch’s indignation.

But I’m afraid I smell the rabid rodent of liberal media bias.

I remember the craziness that followed CBS’ Bernard Goldberg’s 1996 Wall Street Journal op-ed.

As Goldberg related what happened in his book “Bias,” he received an angry phone call from a friend who had just watched the 8 February 1996 CBS EVening News. “Did you see that ‘Reality Check’ story? You got too many snippy wise guys doin’ the news.”

Goldberg asked his friend what the problem was. “You get a tape of the news and watch it. Then you tell me if there’s a problem.”

When Goldberg watched the news, he was shocked. Ostensibly, it was a story about presidential candidate Steve Forbes’ flat tax. In Goldberg’s own words, “But the more I watched the more I saw that this wasn’t simply about a presidential candidate and a tax plan. It was about something much bigger, something too much of big-time TV journalism had become: a showcase of smart-ass reporters with attitudes, reporters who don’t even pretend to hide their disdain for certain people and certain ideas that they and their sophisticated friends don’t particularly like.

I begin quoting Goldberg’s book Bias from page 21:

“Dan Rather introduced [CBS Washington correspondent Eric] Engberg’s piece with the standard stuff about how it would “look beyond the promises to the substance” of the Forbes flat tax…

Engberg’s voice covered pictures of Steve Forbes on the campaign trail. “Steve Forbes pitches his flat-tax scheme as an economic elixer, good for everything that ails us.”

Scheme? Elixer? What the hell kind of language is that, I [Goldberg] wondered. These were words that conjured up images of con artists, like Doctor Feelgood selling worthless junk out of the back of his wagon.

But that was just a little tease to get us into the tent. then Engberg interviewed three different tax experts. Every single one of them opposed the flat tax. Every single one! Where was the fairness and balance Rather was always preaching about? Wasn’t there any expert – even one – in the entire United States who thought the flat tax might work?

Of course there was. There was Milton Friedman and Merton Miller, both of the University of Chicago and both Nobel Prize winners in economics. There was James Buchanan of George Mason University, another Nobel laureate. There were also Harvey Rosen of Princeton, William Poole of Brown, and Robert Barro of Harvard. All of them were on the record as supporting the flat tax to one degree or another.

Engberg could have found a bunch of economists to support the flat tax, if he wanted to. But putting on a supporter of the flat tax would have defeated the whole purpose of the piece, which was to have a few laughs at Steve Forbes’ expense.

There was absolutely no way – not one chance in a million – that Engberg or Rather would have aired a flat-tax story with that same contemptuous tone if Teddy Kennedy or Hillary Clinton had come up with the idea.

But even if you opposed the flat tax, even if you thought it was a bad idea that helped only the wealthiest Americans – fat cats like Steve Forbes himself – what about simple journalistic fairness? What about presenting two sides? isn’t that what Rather was always saying CBS News was about: objectivity, fairness, balance?

And then Engberg crossed that fuzzy line that’s supposed to separate news from entertainment. He decided it was time to amuse his audience…

Which is why Eric Engberg decided to play David Letterman and do a takeoff of his Top Ten list.

“Forbes’ Number One Wackiest Flat-Tax Promise,” Engberg told the audience, is the candidate’s belief that it would give parents “more time to spend with their children and each other.”

Wacky? This was a perfectly acceptable word in the United States of Entertainment to describe, say, a Three Stooges movie. Or Hamlet, starring Jerry Lewis. Or My Fair Lady, with Chris Rock playing Professor Higgins.

But “wacky” seemed an odd word to describe a serious idea to overhaul America’s ten-trillion page tax code that enables lobbyists to donate tons of money to politicians who then use this same Byzantine tax code to hand out goodies to the very same special interests that just gave them all that money. If anything is “wacky,” it’s the current tax system, not an honest attempt to replace it with something new.

Besides, what Forbes meant is that since many Americans – not just the wealthy – would pay less tax under his plan, they might not have to work as many hours and might actually have more time to spend at home with their families. Maybe it’s true and maybe it isn’t, but is “wacky” the fairest and most objective way to describe it?

Can you imagine, in your wildest dreams, a network news reporter calling Hillary Clinton’s health care plan “wacky”? Can you imagine Dan Rather or any other major American news anchorman allowing it?

And, finally, the coup de grace, the knife to Steve Forbes’ throat as Engberg went on camera to end his story. The “on camera,” as we call it in the TV news business, is when the reporter gets to look the viewer in the eye and deliver a sermonette. This is when the reporter, if he hasn’t been slanting the news story up to this point, will often give you a little editorial just to make sure you know how you’re supposed to think about the subject at hand. Eric Engberg ended his little vaudeville act thus: “The fact remains: The flat tax is a giant, untested theory. One economist suggested, before we put it in, we should test it out someplace – like Albania.” Engberg flashed his signature smirk and signed off – “Eric Engberg, CBS News, Washington.”

There is junk science and junk bonds. This was junk journalism.

Goldberg continued…

“…The left routinely uses words like “scheme” instead of the more neutral “plan” to describe tax cuts that favor “the wrong people.” Sometimes they put the word “risky” before “scheme” to make it sound really scary. Al Gore did precisely that, about a hundred times a day, when he was running for president against George W. Bush. I understand why Al Gore and other liberals call something they don’t like a “scheme.” Politicians and partisans are allowed to do that. But should supposedly objective people like news reports, people like Eric Engberg, use that kind of loaded language? Should a journalistic enterprise like CBS News – which claims to stand for fairness and objectivity – allow words like “scheme” and “wacky” in what is supposed to be a straight news story about a legitimate candidate running for president of the United States?

Engberg’s piece – its strident, mocking tone, its lack of objectivity, its purposeful omission of anyone who supported the flat tax – was like a TV commercial paid for by Opponents of the Steve Forbes Flat Tax.

From top to bottom the Engberg piece was breathtaking in its lack of fairness. So how could CBS have put it on the air?

Bernard Goldberg tried to talk to a number of executives at CBS before finally deciding to write his now famous op-ed. As he put it, “The way I saw it, I wasn’t taking on Engberg or Rather or CBS News for airing one snooty story about some politician’s tax plan. For me, this was about a nagging problem that none of the big shots would take seriously. It was about the liberal biases that overwhelm straight news reporting.”

Goldberg points out that “Jerry Kelly from Enterprise, Alabama [the friend who’d told Goldberg about the story] spotted the bias in the Engberg report. Jerry Kelly spotted the wise guy tone and the one-sidedness. And Jerry Kelly is a general building contractor, not a newsman.

Who didn’t find anything wrong with Engberg’s piece? First off, Engberg didn’t. His producer in Washington didn’t. The Evening News senior producer in Washington didn’t. Jeff Fager, the executive producer of the CBS Evening News in New York, didn’t. His team of senior producers in New York didn’t. Andrew Heyward, the CBS News president and Harvard Phi Beta Kappa, didn’t. And finally, Dan Rather, the anchorman and managing editor of the CBS Evening News, didn’t.

Not one of them spotted anything wrong with a story that no one should have let on the air in the first place” (29).

Had the story remained at this point, it would have at best remained a single sorry episode of bias. One story among thousands. But Goldberg – after trying in vain to get somebody, anybody, to focus on a very real problem – got his dander up and decided to take the initiative and go outside of his network to expose this incredibly blatant case of bias and thus focus attention on a national issue that went far beyond CBS.

So Goldberg wrote his op-ed piece: http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=95001668

The resulting media firestorm over a senior award-winning network news journalist writing about bias in the media was enormous – and nearly universally painted Bernard Goldberg in a negative light. Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings joined Dan Rather in attacking Goldberg. A lot of media power-players dialed a lot of numbers from their media roledexes and got a lot of airtime and ink condemning Golderg’s character and integrity as well as his objectivity. Rather than seriously examining the facts of Goldberg’s case, the focus quickly became Bernard Goldberg himself.

“Bob Schieffer, the chief Washington correspondent for CBS News, told the Washington Post, “It’s just such a wacky charge, and a weird way to go about it… I don’t know what Bernie was driving at. It just sounds bizarre” (39).

Wacky. Weird. Bizarre. There were those words again.

Dan Rather – who would, in 2004, show America just what it looked like to REALLY be a political hack, labeled Goldberg “a political opportunist” (36). In another interview, Rather claimed Goldberg was trying to intimidate him into reporting the news his way (38). It was pure, over-the-top paranoia.

Andrew Heyward, the president of ABC News, told Goldberg that writing his op-ed amounted to “an act of disloyalty” and “a betrayal of trust.” And when Goldberg pointed out that he could have quoted Heyward himself to have essentially agreed with him that the news was biased, Heyward screamed in his face, “That would have been like raping my wife and kidnapping my kids!

Which is why I read all these over-the-top media rants I listed above and think, “Yep. I’ve heard this before.”

One of The New York Times’ heaviest hitters, veteran political analyst R.W. “Johnny” Apple, said on CNN’s Reliable Sources, “He [Goldberg] has simply stabbed this guy [Engberg] in the back” (41).

Goldberg points out that “whistleblowers” are always sacred cows for news organizations – unless they’re trying to expose the news media. Then they get downright mean. He pointed out that the media – unlike any other enterprise, looks into everyone else’s business for a living, and that therefore it is entirely reasonable and necessary that they permit an examination of themselves (and in fact blatantly hypocritical NOT to permit an examination of themselves). But they won’t. Goldberg writes, “Liberals in the media – who would have come down with the vapors if a conservative CEO had so much as given a reporter a dirty look – didn’t flinch when CBS News executives took me off the air and suggested I might be fired because they saw me as a whistle-blower, which, the bst I could figure, made me the first whistle-blower in history who wasn’t turned into a national hero by the media.”

The way the media circled the wagons, the way they ganged up on Goldberg and did everything they could to trivialize his revelation by turning away from his substance to personal attacks displayed just how radically biased the media was.

And still is.

Also in 1996, the Freedom Forum and the Roper Center released the results of a now famous survey of 139 Washington bureau chiefs and congressional correspondents (the epicenter of the media world – the heartbeat of journalism, if you will. Both the Freedom Forum and thand Roper Center had attained a solid reputation for independence. “No way that the data are the fruit of right-wing press bashers,” as journalist Ben Wattenberg put it. The results were stunning.

* 89% of these significant journalist said they voted for Bill Clinton in 1992, compared with just 43% of nonjournalist voters.

7% of the journalists voted for George H.W. Bush, as opposed to 37% of the general electorate.

* 50% said they were Democrats. Only 4% said they were Republicans.

* When asked to characterize their political orientation, 61% said “liberal” or “moderate to liberal.” Only 9% said they were “conservative” or “moderate to conservative.”

As Goldberg puts it, “89% voted for Bill Clinton. This is incredible when you think about it. There’s hardly a candidate in the entire United States of America who carries his/her district with 89% of the vote. This is way beyond mere landslide numbers. The only politicians who get numbers like that are called Fidel Castro or Saddam Hussein.” … The Washington Post’s Sally Quinn said “The Washington press corps is not some monolith… We all work for different organizations. We all think differently.” [But] “The same journalists that Sally Quinn tell us do not constitute a “monolith” certainly vote like one” (129).

And the 1992 election was no fluke. A 1972 poll showed that of those reporters who voted, 70% went for McGovern, the most liberal presidential candidate in memory, while 25% voted for Nixon – in a landslide year when Richard Nixon carried every single state in the country except Massachusetts.

In 1985 the Los Angeles Times conducted a nationwide survey of about 3,000 journalists and the same number of people in the general public to see how each group felt about the major issues of the day:

* 23% of the public said they were liberal; 55% of journalists described themselves as liberal.
* 56% of the public favored Ronald Reagan; 30% of the journalists favored Reagan.
*49% of the public was for a woman’s right to have an abortion; 82% of the journalists was for such a right of a woman to choose abortion.
* 74% of the public was for prayer in the public schools; 25% of the journalists were in favor of prayer in public schools.
* 56% of the public was for affirmative action; 81% of the journalists were in favor of affirmative action.
* 75% of the public was for the death penalty; 47% of the journalists were in favor of the death penalty.
* 50% of the public was for stricter gun control; 78% of the journalists were for stricter gun control.

More recently, Fox News’ Britt Hume ran a story titled “Cash Coverage.” I will quote Britt Hume’s report, but provide the link to John Lott’s 31 March 2008 article itself:

“University of Maryland senior research scientist John Lott Jr. says news coverage of the economy is slanted. Lott writes, “Over 78 percent more negative news stories discussed a recession when the economy — under a Republican president was soaring than occurred under a Democrat when the economy was shrinking.”

Lott — who researched 12,500 newspaper and wire service articles from 1985 through 2004 — also found that Democratic presidents got positive headlines 15 percent more of the time than Republican presidents for the same economic news.

Of his findings Lott writes, “The media’s focus on the negative side of everything surely helps explain people’s pessimism… Indeed, research has indicated that media bias is real.”
http://johnrlott.tripod.com/op-eds/FoxNewsRecessionMyth033108.html

Yesterday, I got in an argument with a man I know who works at Wal Mart. He claimed that the economy is far worse than it ever was under Clinton. I pointed out that this is simply not true. He claimed that its harder to find a job than ever before. Today (April 19) I can point to a Press Enterprise story (titled “Area trims more jobs”) by Josh Brown that at 7.1% unemployment, the Inland California region is suffering its worst jobless rate since… July 1995, when Bill Clinton was president. But due to biased coverage, no one seems to be able to remember that.

Indeed, a study of the unemplyment rate (http://www.miseryindex.us/urbymonth.asp) through October 2007 shows that – Despite inheriting a Recession from the Clinton Administration (http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2001/3/20/190717.shtml), being forced to manage through a series of corporate scandals with roots in the Clinton years, and having to recover from the 9-11 attacks that crippled the US economy, the average monthly unemployment rate during the Bush years now bests the Clinton years: 5.2049 to 5.2052.

Here’s a quote from Professor John Lott’s article:

“Indeed, research has indicated that media bias is real. Kevin Hassett and I looked at 12,620 newspaper and wire service headlines from 1985 through 2004 for stories on the release of official government releasing numbers on the unemployment rate, number of people employed, gross domestic product (GDP), retail sales, and durable goods.

Even after accounting for how well the economy was doing (e.g., what the unemployment rate was and whether it was going up or down), there was still a big difference in how positive or negative the headlines were. Democratic presidents got about 15 percentage points more positive headlines than Republicans for the same economic news.”

Here are links to recent, significant studies that show that the media continues to trend way over to the left of the general public. The first study comes from the Center for Media and Public Affairs and the second comes from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press:
http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/homeland.php?id=376809&PHPSESSID=9f062c3b00054dddd759712c55999870

http://newsbusters.org/blogs/brent-baker/2008/03/19/four-times-more-journalists-identify-liberal-conservative

James Glassman once put it this way on the Washington Post. “The people who report the stories are liberal Democrats. This is the shameful open secret of American journalism. That the press itself … choses to gloss over it is conclusive evidence of how pernicious the bias is.”

So I look at the media’s reaction to the tough questions directed at Hillary Clinton and (mostly) at Barack Obama, and I understand the plainly visceral reaction against the questions by Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos.

I remember that it took a Saturday Night Live sketch – set in a debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama – that displayed for all the world to see a caricaturization of the gross, one-sided, nearly adoring coverage that the media gave to Barack Obama in lopsided manner. Hillary Clinton, in the ones of one editorialist, was learning what it was like to be treated like a Republican.

Whether the media goes after every political candidate’s “negatives,” or whether they refuse to go after any candidate’s “negatives,” I really don’t care. What I do care about is that they are objective and fair in their coverage. What I have bee seeing since the Democratic debate in Philidelphia, is what appears to be a media campaign of a screaming, ranting, crying frenzy being directed over negative questions being raised against Barack Obama in an effort to stifle any future questions that reflect poorly on him.

In my view, Gibson and Stephanopoulos recognized that the media was simply not going after the Democratic candidates (Obama especially) on the campaign trail, and forcing them to answer tough, legitimate questions. Thus the Wright scandal, the “bitter… clinging” remark, the “flag pin” (and, by the way, the picture that shows every Democratic candidate with hand over heart except Barack Obama, whose hands are clasped at his groin-level), and the “Bosnia sniper fire” were all fair game for an objectively fair debate.

Some Bernard Goldberg article references:

http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2001/12/3/215106.shtml

http://www.cfif.org/htdocs/freedomline/current/in_our_opinion/bernard_goldberg.htm

http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=95000520