Good Thing Liberal Bias in the Media is a Myth
Many of the bias deniers have fallen silent over the years. Chuck Todd, however, is still at it.
Editor’s Note: From time to time over the course of the year, I’m going to publish columns about how journalism has changed since my first book about liberal media bias came out. This is my latest installment.
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It’s been 20 years since I published my book Bias, about liberal bias in the mainstream media. Because I’d spent nearly thirty years as a CBS correspondent, and wrote about what I’d personally seen and heard, the book caused quite a stir. It was a big best seller, and over and over I heard the same thing from people who’d read it: that it confirmed what they already knew from reading mainstream newspapers and watching network newscasts – but were glad that an insider was confirming their take on the subject.
Predictably, liberal journalists were not among its fans. Almost every one repeated the mantra that the whole notion of liberal bias was a fiction, an outrage, a right-wing concoction.
Over the years since, many of the bias deniers have fallen silent. After all, there is only so much even the most arrogant media heavyweight can say in the face of overwhelming and incontrovertible evidence.
So I was surprised to recently learn that Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s Meet the Press, is still at it.
Now, I should say right here that I once met Chuck at an airport and he seemed like a nice guy. Nor does he strike me, and I say this sincerely, as a fool. So I will give him the benefit of the doubt and conclude that he can’t really believe what he’s saying — that he can’t be serious when he says that liberal bias A) doesn’t exist B) never did and C) is a malicious trope invented by Republicans. But who knows, I’m not a mind reader; maybe he does believe it. Or, maybe, like a press secretary who must stand straight-faced and defend an obviously disastrous policy blunder, he’s just taking one for the home team.
After all, mainstream journalism may not be great for the country, as it continues to sow misunderstanding and ill feeling, but it has been very good for Chuck and his friends.
Specifically, what Todd said in a recent interview was that journalists did not defend themselves and their integrity vigorously enough. “We should have fought back better in the mainstream media,” he said. “We shouldn’t [have] accepted the premise that there was liberal bias. We ended up in this both-sides trope. We bought into the idea that, oh my God, we’re perceived as having a liberal bias."
Hey, Chuck, one is tempted to reply: There’s a reason mainstream journalists are “perceived as having a liberal bias.” It’s because the mainstream journalists have a liberal bias.
But, again, that would be presuming he expected to be taken seriously. And the fact is, it’s hard to believe anybody with a pulse, let alone a big name reporter, actually still thinks the American news media play fair. The American people sure don’t. A recent Gallup poll found that only 21 percent of the public has confidence in newspapers and even fewer – 16 percent – trust TV news. That’s just about the same percentage that believe the U.S. is controlled by Satan worshippers.
Still, in a country of 330 million, (not counting those newly arrived across the Southern border) that makes more than fifty million souls still inclined to believe what they hear from the likes of Jim Acosta. So for their benefit (and possibly Chuck Todd’s), a quick recap:
In fact, let’s start with the way journalists are playing down the mess on our Southern border – the one brought on by Joe Biden, who practically sent engraved invitations to everybody in Central America inviting them to come to the United States.
While we’re on the subject, it is apparently also of little news value that the president at times seems to have trouble finishing a sentence without babbling incoherently.
Of course, what’s newsworthy can quickly change, according to circumstances. For a long time anyone who suggested the Wuhan virus might’ve come out of a lab in that city was a conspiracy-mongering right-wing nut who had to be censored – with The New York Times leading the charge. Now that the Wuhan lab story can no longer help Donald Trump, a writer in The Times wonders, wide-eyed, “Did the Coronavirus Come From a Lab?”
In fact, to really see just how “unbiased” journalists are, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and contrast how they’re treating Joe Biden with the way they treated You-Know-Who.
Never mind what you think of Trump – personally, I’ve got big problems with him -- but does anyone outside the Satan worshipping community (and possibly Chuck Todd) honestly believe The Times gave him a fair shake?
No need even to go through the particulars, you can pick up pretty much any copy of the Gray Lady from the moment Trump went down the escalator to…well, actually today, and it hits you in the face. Case in point: On May 19, 2019, the paper claimed that Donald Trump had run an “unabashedly racist campaign” -- harsh, to be sure, but editorial writers are entitled to their opinions, right? Except, wait, this wasn’t an editorial, it was presented in a page one story by two of the paper’s top political reporters, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, as indisputable fact.
Indeed, in The Times it was simply a given that Donald Trump, his policies, and his supporters were racist, misogynistic and generally hateful.
The New York Times, needless to say, is journalism’s equivalent of the Holy Bible. So completely does it set the agenda for what other news organizations cover that -- trust me, as a correspondent at CBS News for 28 years -- if The Times went on strike in the morning, CBS wouldn’t have known what to put on the air that evening.
Little wonder that after just Trump’s first 100 days in office, a Harvard University study found The Times’ coverage was 87 percent negative.
By the way, that was topped by NBC’s 93 percent negative coverage. But since NBC has Chuck Todd, that means the study was wrong, and the coverage was scrupulously objective.
Nor was Trump even allowed to defend himself. CNN attack dog Acosta might have been speaking for the entire White House press corps when he “reported,” after watching Trump respond to media attacks, that the president “was ranting and raving for the better part of the last hour.”
Then, again, as Chuck says, the problem is all perception. Like, for instance, the story from Time that went viral the day Trump took office, saying he’d removed a bust Martin Luther King from the Oval Office. It turned out the bust hadn’t been moved at all, it’s just that a Secret Service agent was standing in front of it, so Time’s guy perceived it wasn’t there.
Obviously, there’s no such thing as liberal bias in the news. Imagine how bad it would be if there were.
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Keep up the great writing Mr. Goldberg! I love your style.