Media Bias: Rather Unsurprising

By: Rachel Marsden

It has been tedious watching the mainstream media engage in self-flagellation ever since CBS News anchor Dan Rather was caught potentially trying to affect the outcome of a Presidential election by airing unverified, dummied-up documents suggesting that President Bush didn’t fulfill his military service obligations as a fighter pilot in the National Guard. “Why did he do it? Did he mean it? What does this mean for the future of journalism? What does it mean for the future of Dan Rather, Giant of Journalism™?” Pardon me while I roll over and go back to sleep, and pray that when I waken, the channel will have changed to something less coma-inducing--like Donald Trump giving that cobra-strike “you’re fired” gesture to some flunky on “The Apprentice”. At least this sort of entertainment is more honest.

Newsflash: the media is biased, has always been biased, and will continue to be biased long after Dan Rather gets his white-knuckle death grip pried off the anchor desk at CBS. This isn’t a new phenomenon to anyone who works in the media; they just want you to think it is. Right now, they’d have you believe that this is as much of a horrific revelation to them as it is to you--because the idea of incompetents like Dan Rather potentially getting fired sells big-time, and they’re going to milk it for all its worth. Just ask Donald Trump, whose top-rated show is all about firing people. In fact, if Trump could can Dan Rather live in primetime, it would be ratings gold. CBS would probably put it on pay-per-view. I’d watch, you’d watch, half the world would watch, and then we’d all go out and ‘ask our doctor’ about that cool new mystery pill with all the x’s and z’s in its name that was featured in a $2-million, 30-second spot during the commercial break. That’s what the media biz is all about.

In 2001, Dan Rather campaigned for the Democrats at a Texas rally a little more overtly than he does on the nightly news. He raised $20,000 for the party in the process. In an interview on CNN’s Larry King Live in 2002, Andy Rooney said of his CBS colleague, “I think Dan 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.” Yes, Dan Rather pulls further left than Ted Kennedy on a Sunday drive date in Chappaquiddick, but he’s hardly alone. When the new interim Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, comes to America and dresses down the press for its biased reporting on the situation in his country, it ought to be more than a little telling. This is a guy who knows propaganda when he sees it.

Earlier this year, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that five times more journalists at national outlets self-identify as liberal (34%) than conservative (7%). This, in and of itself, is hardly newsworthy. What speaks volumes is the fact that of the media people surveyed, 69% readily labeled the Fox News Channel a ‘conservative’ network, but most were hard-pressed to name one they would consider ‘liberal’. It just goes to show how much blatant liberalism has permeated the mainstream, under the guise of objective journalism. Dan Rather, who regularly passes off political editorial commentary as objective news delivery, is only symptomatic of a much larger mess.

The problem isn’t the commentators on Fox News, who are largely responsible for giving the network its right-leaning reputation. Those guys don’t have any pretense about who they are and what they think. They’re hired to do commentary, and yes, the vast majority of Fox News commentators are conservatives. And if Dan Rather was on CBS doing an opinion program and stumping for the Democrats every night, that would be fine, too. At least he wouldn’t be trying to dress it up as objectivity. But news-reading meat-puppets like Dan Rather are boring, so everyone pays attention to the hotrods like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly firing on all five cylinders over at Fox. Heated, on-air battles over political ideas are fun, and it’s why Fox gets the great ratings that it does. But it seems that in recognizing the fact that exciting editorialization is usually biased, people have also come to associate boredom with objectivity. It doesn’t work that way.

CNN is, by and large, a giant snoozefest -- except when James Carville and Tucker Carlson are going at each other like little old ladies over day-old bread -- but the network is hardly objective. Witness a CNN website headline that came out on September 28, 2004, in relation to a poll that found President Bush to be leading Democratic opponent John Kerry among likely voters by 52% to 44%: “Bush apparently leads Kerry in pre-debate poll”. Given that the poll was ordered up by CNN in the first place, maybe they should fire their own pollster, since his results ‘apparently’ don’t fit what they really want to say. Note that on April 27, 2004, when Kerry led Bush by the exact same margin in another CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, CNN had no trouble declaring: “Kerry leads Bush in new poll.” CNN is also quick to report every single pro-Kerry bowel movement: “Kerry leads among minority voters” (July 6, 2004), “Kerry takes the lead” (April 12, 2004), and “Kerry leads Bush among students” (April 16, 2004). I bet Kerry is leading Bush among Star Trek loving, bong-toking basement dwellers, too. Hey, CNN, why can’t we get a headline for that?

So quit whining about media bias. No matter where you’re getting it from, your news is unfair and unbalanced, okay? And so are the people who are feeding it to you. Deal with it. If you really want open and honest news, all journalists should have to include their political affiliation in their byline, like this:

Brit Hume

Katie Couric

Or in the case of a journalist who has convinced himself that he truly is the last bastion of objectivity and journalistic integrity:

Dan Rather