My Few Minutes with Andy Rooney

Now that Andy Rooney is calling it quits after 1,097 TV essays on 60 Minutes, I thought I’d like to share a little story regarding something Andy said about Dan Rather, me, and liberal bias in the news.

My first book, Bias, came out ten years ago and caused quite a stir.  Liberal journalists hated it – and me!   The book was an insider’s story about how liberal bias at CBS News, where I had worked for 28 years, and at the rest of the mainstream media actually operated.  I was on lots of radio and TV shows talking about the book, but one show I was not on was the Larry King Live on CNN.

Larry, or probably his liberal producer, had no interest in having me on.  And since I have no constitutional right to be on Larry’s show, or anyone else’s, I had no problem with the decision.  Besides, my book was number one on the New York Times bestseller list without any help from Larry.

But Larry did have a number of other journalists on over time to talk about the news business in general and at some point Larry would inevitably ask what they thought of Bias.  One of those journalists was Andy Rooney.

When Larry asked about my book and about liberal bias in the news, Andy was Andy – direct and to the point  “There is no question that I – [Andy Rooney] – among others, have a liberal bias,” he said.

I didn’t care about Andy’s liberal bias.  He was a commentator and was entitled to his opinions, no matter how liberal.  But who were the “among others” who had a liberal bias?  That remark had me leaning forward in my chair as I watched the interview.

Then Andy answered the question with this bombshell: “I think Dan [Rather] is transparently liberal.  Now he may not like to hear me say that.  I always agree with him, too.  But I think he should be more careful.”

Wow!  Andy Rooney – one of the elder statesmen of television journalism — had just acknowledged that conservatives had been right all along.  He had just outed Dan Rather on national television.  Dan Rather was transparently liberal. Even I had never said anything that inflammatory.  This was news.  Big news.  Or so I thought.

The Washington Times, a conservative newspaper, ran the Rooney quote, but no other news organization did.  No other newspaper, no television station, no news magazine, no nothing.

Not one media writer found it newsworthy that such a major TV news personality had just said that the anchor of the CBS Evening News was “transparently liberal” – a charge Rather had heard before, many times, but always from conservatives.  It always made him fume.

These are the same media writers who had devoted columns to Rather’s haircut or his salary or Katie Couric’s wardrobe.  But this – liberal bias at CBS News — they simply ignored.  Liberal bias in the so-called mainstream media was – and still is – a subject the media elites don’t want to take too seriously; if they do, their whole house of cards might come tumbling down.

So the subject went out not with a bang, but with a pathetic whimper.

But before Andy went out, he had one more observation for Larry King, this one aimed right at me.  He told Larry that I “just [had] a great knack for being a jerk.”  Hey, I’d been called a lot worse, so this shot didn’t register on my give-a-crap meter.  I just assumed Andy was covering his rear end, making sure the CBS News brass knew whose side he was on.

It wasn’t enough.  Not long after Rooney said what he said about Rather, the you-know-what hit the fan at CBS headquarters in New York.  A top CBS News executive took Andy to the woodshed for daring to speak the truth.  Andy later told me the executive said he was “disloyal” to say those things about Dan being transparently liberal.

But that isn’t the end of the story.  Not long after he went on Larry King’s show and got his knuckles rapped, Rooney wrote this in his nationally syndicated column:  “As a guest on the Larry King show a few weeks ago, I said some things in answer to his questions, that I would have been better off lying about or avoiding.  It was not that the people who objected to what I said necessarily thought I was wrong.  They thought I shouldn’t have said it.  In my own defense, I told a boss of mine that I thought if all the truth were known by everyone, it would be a better world.  He scoffed.  I think ‘scoff’ is what he did.  I know he rejected the idea.”

Translation:  As far as Andy Rooney and his bosses at CBS News were concerned, when it came to talking about liberal bias in the news, dishonesty was the best policy.  Taking the Fifth and never uttering the words “liberal bias” was an even better policy.

And here’s the capper:  After mulling it over for a while, Andy concludes right there in his column that his boss was right.  ”I’ve thought about it,” he wrote, “and in retrospect decided he was right in dismissing what I had to say.  Our lives could not survive all the truth about everything.”

A while later I wrote Andy a letter.  This is part of it:

“It’s really pretty simple, Andy:  It’s not good for news guys to lie.  Not even by omission.  Not about the news anyway.  If you want to lie about how many times a day Jennifer Lopez sneaks into your office and says she can’t live without you, no problem.

“But when you start to lie about the serous stuff — or simply “avoid” the subject — you cause real problems for honest journalists …

“The bottom line, Andy, is not just whether a news media that behaves this way can survive.  It’s whether it even deserves to.

Your pal,

Bernie Goldberg”

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  • Rand Mack

    Article posted Oct. 2. Written for the book “Arrogance” published in 2003. You could at least cite yourself, Bernie.

    I’m curious why you’re so concerned about liberal bias? You say yourself that’s it’s not intentional. If it’s not intentional, where’s the malice? Take the blatantly right-wing Fox News, Washington Times, websites such as yours, and AM talk radio with their blatant and malicious right-wing bias and how do you reconcile the two? You can’t.

    Riddle me one left-wing comedian, in the vein of Rush Limbaugh, whose entire act is making conservatives the butt of hateful jokes. Rush pioneered that sort of “media” and Fox News perfected it.

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  • therealguyfaux

    I never liked Andy Rooney. I thought he was a crotchety old fool. I may have agreed with him on occasion, as to some of his peeves, but you know that old saying about a stopped clock. He really wasn’t all that funny. The one thing he had going for him, in my eyes, was that, unlike his successors in curmudgeonry the Keith Overblowns, Bill Mahers, Jon Stewarts, he wasn’t LOUD.

  • James Mercer Jr.

    Bernie,
    Andy may be a big time liberal but I have always found him interesting and entertaining with his spot on 60 minutes. That lets me overlook the liberal thing.

  • Wallace Flint

    Hi Bernie,
    On reading your column re Andy Rooney- I’d say that the liberal media is doing this great country more harm than we realize! With this in mind, I fear the thought- with this news coverage, the chances increase for Obama to be re-elcted are greater. When does all this foolishness cease? Our country seems to be falling apart!

    In God We Trust!
    Wally Flint- Boonville, NY

  • A. C.

    You described Andy Roony as: “…one of the elder statesmen of television journalism”

    What!?? Elder Statesman?! The few times I’ve listened to Andy Roony on 60 minutes or read a little of his columns he sounded like a pompous clown, not an elder statesman. Elder buffoon of television journalism would be a more appropriate description of him.

  • Iklwa

    I will quote you, Bernie, from an appearance on The Factor: “Fish Don’t Know He’s Wet.”

    In this case, if dampness was suspected…well, you know the rest of the story.

  • AlanABQ

    The thing about Andy Rooney is that whether or not he was liberal in his views, he was one of the few people in the business who spoke hid mind without venting his spleen.
    It saddens me that once he’s gone, there’s no one to even attempt to take his place, much less fill his shoes. He’s among the last of a dying breed of mainstream TV personalities who could see and articulate the “other side’s” point of view.
    And he did without all the mockery & disdain that is the hallmark of nearly every other commentator out there in that place that Hunter S. Thompson described as thus:

    “The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason.

    Which is more or less true. For the most part, they are dirty little animals with huge brains and no pulse. Every once in a while, they will toss up a token human like Ed Bradley or Edwin Newman or Hughes Rudd… and there are others, no doubt, like Studs Terkel in Chicago and the twisted Rev. Gene Scott, who works like a sleepless ferret in the maniac bowels of Southern California….

    But these are only the exceptions that prove the hideous rule. Mainly we are dealing with a profoundly degenerate world, a living web of foulness, greed and treachery… which is also the biggest real business around and impossible to ignore. You can’t get away from TV. It is everywhere. The hog is in the tunnel.”

    Yep. That about sums it up. Thompson could have easily included Rooney in his list of exceptions.

  • Jay Allen

    Mr. Goldberg,
    Your analysis is always direct and to the point. Very refreshing. Question: how long do the liberal networks survive in the face of a rising tide of liberal bias awareness. The more they try to maintain control of the narrative the more they resort to lies and villification of their critics. MSNBC’s ratings, for example, are dismal. And the harder they push their bias the worse their ratings become, and so goes their general credibility as a news organization. So, how much longer until they turn ship or sink altogether?

  • Hank Campbell

    Andy Rooney is a puzzle to modern progressives – because he is an actual liberal, in the classic freedom sense of the word, and does not simply subscribe to a raft of progressive positions, he says what he thinks.

    Of course he is a liberal, he grew up when journalists learned the trade, they didn’t all go to college for it (he did – but he learned how to report by getting a Bronze Star in WW II) and journalists then likely developed compassion while seeing the worst things society did, in night court and morgues – it wasn’t reporting through a prism of social justice, it was reporting. He was a practical Democrat in a way that isn’t really possible any more and for that, the party misses him more than ever.

    • EddieD_Boston

      Excellent point. The old days are gone and aren’t coming back.

      They used to be reporters. Now they’re journalists which means they take themselves way too seriously. It’s about them, not the story.

  • Wil Burns

    Bernie, Your concern about bias in the newsroom is admirable and yet you work for FoxNews. Hypocritical? I think so, what say you?

    • Ron Kean

      Wil,
      You’re so far to the left, the whole world is to the right of you. I may be exaggerating but you get the point.

      Fox is balanced. Juan, Garaldo, Mara, Alan all present a the case for liberal America.

      Many news outlets haven’t even mentioned Solyndra or Fast & Furious yet. If you count that as the norm, of course Fox is to the right.

      • EddieD_Boston

        Wil doesn’t get it and never will. It’s been said before but liberals pride themselves on being the open-minded ones and none of them are smart enough to see the irony.

        Shep Smith isn’t a conservative. He does the news at Fox (and Beck doesn’t work there anymore so that leaves Hannity as their only true arch-conservative) but Wil and his ilk get there negative opinion of Fox from reading the Daily Kook. Clueless is as clueless does.

        • EddieD_Boston

          ooops…their negative…

    • Paul Courtney

      Wil, your concern about evil corporate America is laughable, yet you live here. Hypocritical? Who cares?

      • EddieD_Boston

        These idiots protesting capitalism are all sending video of the protests to their friends via text messaging…with their iPhones.

        Amazing these spoiled rich kids are too stupid to realize the success of
        Apple’s innovations is b/c of capitalism and the profit motive, which they refer to as greed.

        Boy the teachers union did a great job getting these kids ready for adulthood didn’t they?

        • Paul Courtney

          Eddie, last line made me laugh, then I laughed harder when it came to me- the Union’s answer is “yes, we did”. Look at WI and OH and see, middle aged teachers and gov’t “workers” think street theatre is the way to accomplish… something. Anything. And their students have learned that. What they haven’t yet learned is, it does nothing but make them look like goofs.

    • Terry Walbert

      Will,

      You probably get more liberal and left-wing views on Fox news shows like O’Reilly, Hannity, and Greta than you’ll ever see on MSNBC with O’Donnell, Madow, Schultz (Ed, not the Seargent), and the “Reverend” Sharpton.

  • Lonesome George

    s such was free to voice an opinion. I believe many liberals see Limbaugh, Hannity, Laura Ingraham etc as news journalists. They are not spinning news but giving opinions and trying to back them up with facts as they see them. Thanks again for your honesty I recommend all of your books whenever I can.

  • Ralph Hahn

    Hi, Bernie:

    I quit watching “60 Minutes” after Mike Wallace retired. Has he been back since his interview with Roger Clemens. Chris Wallace was quoted as saying that Mike wouldn’t be returning to television again. BTW, I love your books. I received “Bias” as a Christmas present a long while ago and read most of it on a flight from Newark-Phoenix. Being a former radio news broadcaster, I never realized that this liberal bias stuff was as rampant as it was/is in network TV news. I DID know that I usually had to rewrite any UPI/AP copy for air.

  • Paul Courtney

    I have this mental image of a cbs boardroom filled with suits, all agree that they can’t abide one of their own stating the obvious, all agree to call that person on the carpet, NOBODY even considers suggesting responding with a bit of balance in the newsroom. All agree that the company image must be protected. Then all agree to adjourn so they can put on ponchos (Mexican, not Sears) and join the Occupy Wall Street march.

  • Morior Invictus

    I quit watching 60 minutes almost 30 years ago. Rooney was one of the reasons. A smart guy who looks down is nose at the unwashed while giving his opinions. Too liberal, too snooty.

  • Terry Walbert

    Bernie,

    You wrote, “As far as Andy Rooney and his bosses at CBS News were concerned, when it came to talking about liberal bias in the news, dishonesty was the best policy.”

    I thought you missed the point of Andy’s second letter. From what Andy said and wrote, you should have omitted his name and written, “As far as his bosses at CBS News were concerned, when it came to talking about liberal bias in the news, dishonesty was the best policy.”

    This was no mea culpa. Andy put the knife into CBS in such a way that they didn’t even realize they were bleeding.

  • Ron Kean

    Bernie,
    This is loosely related to the topic since it’s about CBS.

    What do you think about the reporter getting ‘cussed’ at and being yelled or screamed at by the Whitehouse.

    Do you think it will cause CBS the institution to reflect on it’s consistent sympathetic coverage?

  • Vince Ricardo

    I picked up an Andy Rooney book at a used bookstore years ago. I’m pretty sure it was “A Piece of my Mind.” I remember it being quite amusing, but I don’t remember getting any kind of “liberal bias feel” from it. Wouldn’t have mattered, of course, funny is funny, but it’d be interesting to find it and read it again one day.

  • Matthew Gose

    Hi Bernie,
    I wanted to say thanks for being a beacon of truth in a dark world of propaganda, deception, and half-truths. Your exposure of liberal bias is legendary (of course) and more importantly, impervious to serious intellectual rebuttal. And being fair, you were the only one who called out Michele Bachmann on her “submission” comment and her subsequent spin using the word “respect.” When Bill O used circular logic on Anders Breivik’s claim to be a Christian, I knew you’d be all over it.

    When, in your opinion, did being 100% truthful become so unstylish? I’m also curious where you turn when you seek reliable, unbiased information.

    Keep up the good work. In the words of the late Leslie Nielson, “We’re all counting on you.”

  • Vin Bick

    Dear Bernie:
    Have you ever heard the quote: “Empty barrels make the most noise?” The liberals are ALWAYS making the most noise. They believe that free speech means everyone believing their spin on everything.
    Respectfully,
    Vin Bickler

  • IndependentLasVegas

    The media in the USA with the exclusion of a couple of newspapers and one cable station is socialistic and bias.

    We were always taught in school that Russia,China and other communist media outlets were puppets of their communist governments.

    If Pravda were in this country we would call it the NY Times..

  • George Iliffe

    I used to like your articles on CBS News and I really enjoy your segments with Bill but regarding Andy and Dan, Andy is like that old half crazy uncle who spouts his unimportant opinions to any who will hear them and Rather who was a so called Marine Reserve and is said to have attended Southern Houston Institute of Technology (read accromin) which he is full of.

  • Jay Thompson

    Bernie,

    I trust you will discuss this with O’Reilly this week? What outlet will give it the time of day? This needs to be heard if for no other reason than to goad the libs some more.

  • Clarence De Barrows

    Your pal,

    Bernie Goldberg”?

    Geez, Bernie, with “pals” like that I’d hate to see your enemy list.

    • Bernard Goldberg

      All I did was tell the truth.

  • Ron Kean

    I only remember one episode of his. It was when photographers came into his office to take his picture for TV Guide. That’s it.

  • stmichrick

    No doubt that Andy Rooney was an entertaining coda to the 60 Minutes broadcast, but when was the last time this guy did serious journalism? He will be remembered by me for being a quirky old news guy and just one of the last dinosaurs of 50/60′s television who, in their latter years, gave away the biased mindset of the network newsroom. Cronkite, Rather, Hewitt, and Rooney (I don’t think you’re a dinosaur Bernie).
    Truth be known about Scott Pelley; the tradition lives on. Just google his comments on covering global warming.

  • S.B. Richman

    “Indictments” for dishonesty with their own words — the irony is overwhelming. Where are the future “Murrows” of this world? Please continue your use of “floodlights” — on your website and on Fox News — to expose the darkened corners of prejudice and dishonesty in the mainstream media.

  • Kathie Ampela

    Bernie,

    Thanks for having the courage to write “Bias.” As it turns out, we didn’t need Andy Rooney or the brass at CBS to cover for Dan Rather’s liberal bias. He exposed himself (so to speak)to be not only a liberal journalist but a partisan hack when he smeared George W. Bush’s military record in 2004. This is the same Dan Rather that cried on the Letterman show shortly after 9/11 and praised GWB. The truth always comes out in the end. Yet the fact that you are now a pariah in the industry for speaking the truth and Andy Rooney is retiring with a revered “elder statesman” title tells you everything you need to know about the news business. I think “Bias” should be required reading in high schools and colleges.

    • Paul Courtney

      Excellent point of contrast, “Bernie the Pariah” v. Andy “tell it like it is” Rooney. The fact that he’s revered tells us the MSM isn’t irrelevant enough yet. I’ll bet libs defending the MSM will point to Rooney as the conservative counterbalance on the air. They won’t care that he declared himself a liberal. Anyway, I didn’t see that contrast ’til you pointed it out, good one.

  • Bob Ziegler

    I ALWAYS applaude your honest evaluation of the situation.

    • Bernard Goldberg

      Thanks very much, Bob

  • Pete-NH

    Bernie….keep up the good work…..they want you to go away….Don’t!!!!

  • Brendan Horn

    I think an interesting part of Rooney’s comments is the “I think he should be more careful” when discussing that Rather is “transparently liberal”. This goes to the core of why the mainstream media is a disgrace. They go to extremes pretending to be neutral when it should be obvious to someone of even average intelligence that almost all of the “neutral” newscasters are extremely liberal. It is also interesting that Rooney is supposed to be this guy who “tells it like it is” yet he is suggesting that it might somehow be better for people like Rather to be completely dishonest about who and what they are. Perhaps CBS should open up its news each day with Jack Nicholson shouting: “You can’t handle the truth!” at the viewers.

  • EddieD_Boston

    Amazingly, Rush, Hannity and Howie Carr all admit they’re conservative and these fools ridicule them incessantly. Truly mind-boggling.

  • Will Swoboda

    Hey Bernie,
    Well said. What has always bothered me about the mainstream media is their smuggness. It’s as though they not only feed us what they want, they will tell you what to think about it. Limbaugh signed off one of his shows with a remark similar to that and was called everything short of Hitler. Go figure.
    As usual, you hit on the head again.
    Will Swoboda

  • RecknHavic

    Bernie, you deserve a rather large amount of credit for the begrudging admittance by (some) in the Media of the obvious liberal bias.

    Signing it “your pal” LOL, too much!

  • Paul

    I assume Andy did not respond to your letter, or did he?

    • Bernard Goldberg

      Paul,

      You assume correctly. He did not