The Liberal Media Are Out to Get Donald Trump -- Just Ask Ted Koppel
In February 1996 I wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about liberal bias in the mainstream news media. At the risk of sounding dramatic, it touched off the media version of World War III. I was a correspondent at CBS News at the time and here I was either biting the hand that was feeding me or speaking truth to power. I guess it was a little of both. I had written that “There are lots of reasons fewer people are watching network news, and one of them, I’m more convinced than ever, is that our viewers simply don’t trust us. And for good reason. “The old argument that the networks and other ‘media elites’ have a liberal bias is so blatantly true that it’s hardly worth discussing anymore. No, we don’t sit around in dark corners and plan strategies on how we’re going to slant the news. We don’t have to. It comes naturally to most reporters.” The morning the op-ed came out my voicemail box at CBS News was filled with messages – all of them thanking me for what I had written. One of those calls came from a man who simply said, “Goldberg, you got balls. Call me.” That message came from Roger Ailes. Ailes was running a network that didn’t yet exist. Fox News wouldn’t go on TV for 8 more months. I met with him, he offered me a job, I turned him down, and went back to CBS News where I stayed for 4 and a half more years before quitting to write my first book, Bias which picked up where the Journal op-ed left off. Liberals weren’t as charming as Ailes or as friendly as the many “ordinary” Americans who left messages for me, thrilled that someone on the inside finally said out loud what they were saying in their living rooms. Liberals in the media, on the other hand, did what they always do when faced with criticism: They circled the wagons. In the New York Post, Dan Rather, whose evening news program I reported for, had this to say about what I wrote:
The test is not the names people call you or accusations by political activists inside or outside your own organization. The test is what goes up on the screen and what comes out of the speaker. I think the public understands that those people are trying to create such a perception because they're trying to force you to report the news the way they want you to report it. I am not going to do it. I will put up billboard space on 42nd Street. I will wear a sandwich board. I will do whatever is necessary to say I am not going to be cowed by anybody's special political agenda, inside, outside, upside, downside.
I had no “political agenda” except to finally speak out about bias in the news. Dan was a fearless reporter but he had one glaring fault: He was either unwilling or incapable of taking serious criticism seriously. Ted Koppel wasn’t buying what I wrote either. On Charlie Rose’s show on PBS, Koppel said this when asked what he thought of my op-ed:
Forgive me, but I thought it was a little facile. I don't agree with Bernie on that. I don't think that people are by-and-large conservative or liberal. I mean he was making the point that they tend to be more liberal. I think that we are anti-establishment. I think that journalists, you know, can make their bread and butter going after the establishment, whoever the establishment happens to be. And whether that establishment is conservative or whether that establishment is liberal makes very little difference to most of my colleagues.
That’s what Ted said on February 29, 1996 – two weeks after my column was published. This is Ted Koppel on March 7, 2019, speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:
I’m terribly concerned that when you talk about the New York Times these days, when you talk about the Washington Post these days, we’re not talking about the New York Times of 50 years ago. We are not talking about the Washington Post of 50 years ago. We’re talking about organizations that I believe have, in fact, decided as organizations that Donald J. Trump is bad for the United States.
We have things appearing on the front page of the New York Times right now that never would have appeared 50 years ago. Analysis, commentary on the front page. I remember sitting at the breakfast table with my wife during the campaign after the Access Hollywood tape came out and the New York Times, and I will not offend any of you here by using the language but you know exactly what words were used and they were spelled out on the front page of the New York Times.
I turned to my wife and I said the Times is absolutely committed to making sure that this guy does not get elected. So his perception that the establishment press is out to get him doesn’t mean that great journalism is not being done. It is. But the notion that most of us look upon Donald Trump as being an absolute fiasco, he’s not mistaken in that perception and he’s not mistaken when so many of the liberal media, for example, described themselves as belonging to the Resistance.
What does that mean? That’s not said by people who consider themselves reporters, objective reporters of facts. That’s the kind of language that’s used by people who genuinely believe, and I rather suspect with some justification, that Donald Trump is bad for the United States and they’re betting that the sooner he’s out of office the better they will like it. Whether that happens by virtue of indictment, impeachment or election, we’ll see. … We are not the reservoir of objectivity that I think we were.
There will be no gloating here. No I told you so Ted. But for the record: Liberal bias in the mainstream media didn’t start with Donald Trump. They were biased long before he ran for president. That’s what I was saying in 1996 when Ted wrote me off as “facile.” But let’s look on the bright side: The good news is an important journalist who is both smart and fair has seen the light and has said what reporters rarely say – in public, out loud: that liberal bias exists and that it’s blatant, even if liberal journalists choose not to see it or do anything about it. Better late than never Ted.