Comment of the Day: “The Right Thing In Spite Of Themselves: CNN And NBC Abandon Their Hillary Projects”

Frequent commenter and left-leaning warrior Ampersand delivers a typically provocative and well-stated comment touching on many matters. Here is his

I'm sure it's justcoincidence that no similarly misleading and undignified photo of President Obama found its way into the newsmedia during the 2012 campaign. Just luck of the draw. Could have just as easily happened to Democrat or Republican...

I’m sure it’s just coincidence that no similarly misleading and undignified photo of President Obama found its way into the newsmedia during the 2012 campaign. Just luck of the draw. Could have just as easily happened to Democrat or Republican…

Comment of the Day, on the post “The Right Thing In Spite Of Themselves: CNN And NBC Abandon Their Hillary Projects,” and yes, I’ll have some comment of my own afterwards:

“Especially in primary debates, I’d like to see more partisanship. Why shouldn’t candidates in the GOP primaries face questions from solidly right-wing partisans? Why shouldn’t the Democrats have to face questions from solidly left-wing partisans? There are a couple of reasons I’d like to see this.

“One, primary voters are typically more partisan than average voters. Their views should be represented. Rush is more likely to ask questions that genuinely reflect the concerns of tea party voters than some empty suit from CNN is. Ditto for Melissa Harris Perry (say) and progressives.

“Two, I’m sick of right-wingers whining about media bias every time their candidates prove to be idiots. It is NOT biased or ‘gotcha’ to ask what magazines a candidate reads; and if a candidate can’t think fast enough on her feet to answer that question, it’s NOT the media’s fault. I’d really like to see your people being asked questions only by people with impeccable right-wing credentials, so that when some of your candidates inevitably give bad answers, you’ll be forced to actually accept some actual responsibility, rather than whining and blaming everything on the “biased’ media.

“Hey, remember when we were told that Obama being ahead in the polls was just another example of left-wing media bias, and fair and objective polling would show that Romney was winning? But if we compare the final polling numbers to the actual election outcome, we find that the polls were biased in Romney’s favor. This is an objective test case for right-wing claims of media bias – and it showed that the claims of bias, for this specific story at least, were absolutely unfair and untrue. Of course, being proven objectively wrong by facts probably won’t change anyone’s views.”

“After the first debate, the media spent nearly ten days in a row going over Obama’s failure again and again. That’s fair enough – it was a legitimate news story, and Obama had the bad luck not to have any other big news stories come along to take the front spot. It’s also the closest that Romney came to winning the election. Why did the media do that, if its goal was to elect Obama?”

“Basically, any news that is reported that doesn’t reflect well on Romney was taken as proof of left-wing media bias. In contrast, news that was reported but reflected poorly on Obama was never taken as proof of anything. That’s an obvious double-standard. In the one case we can objectively measure – the polling – what right-wingers claimed was left-wing bias was, if anything, biased in Romney’s favor. So the claim that the right wing is just poor helpless victims of a biased media, and nothing bad that happens is ever the fault of (say) poor candidates or poor election strategy or simply of unpopular policy views, doesn’t seem to hold much water.”


It’s me again.

I agree with the comment’s assertion that there is nothing wrong with extreme partisans asking questions in candidate debates, and some benefits of having them. Still, encouraging biases is never a good idea, practically or ethically.  I could make an equally sound argument that having hostile partisans ask the questions in a party debate would be most valuable: let’s hear the tough questions, not watch soft-balls float up to the plate.

The real problem lies in finding objective moderators if the pool is the mainstream media and Fox. Having Gwen Ifill as a moderator in the 2008 Vice presidential debate  was indefensible, as was allowing George Stephanopoulos to lob questions at Hillary Clinton in one of the 2008 Democratic candidate debates. Candy Crowley’s natural bias may have tilted the election results by protecting President Obama from his Benghazi deceits in the last debate with Romney. In the past two debate cycles, I thought Martha Raddatz and Jim Lehrer were effectively fair, but I also believe GOP suspicions that their candidates always have the deck stacked against them is valid and demonstrably justifiable.

It remains astounding to me that intelligent, analytical, fair observers like Ampersand—and as often as I disagree with him, he is all of these—can continue to deny the blatant liberal bias in the media. Every bit of data, experience, observation and analysis supports that conclusion. Look at the disparate treatment of Obama’s IRS scandal and Nixon’s; look at the media’s abandonment of objective reporting in the post-Sandy Hook gun debate and the current government shutdown; look at “60 Minutes'” Scott Pelley’s admission that the President likes being interviewed on the show because he knows interviewers will be easy on him; read the recent biography of Walter Cronkite; check any of the independent studies of how the media slanted its support for President Obama in the 2008 and 2012 campaigns; check out the New York Times’s flip-flops when President Obama’s policies have mirrored President Bush’s. Check how often misbehaving Democrats are cited without the media noting their party affiliations, in contrast to when the miscreants are Republicans. Compare the number of liberals vs. conservative columnists in the major dailies; think about the surveys that consistently show that upward of 80% of all journalists vote Democratic. Every now and then, a journalist with integrity, like CNN’s Jake Tapper, will even admit the leftward bias of his profession. It is obvious, it is wrong, it is dangerous to democracy, and yet the company line among progressives is that the accusation is manufactured. I don’t understand it.

Ampersand is quite correct, however, that Republicans use this as an excuse for their own incompetence routinely and far too often. It is important to flag the bias, and to make efforts to get the journalistic establishment to be professional and address it. True, the persistent denial is infuriating. Nonetheless, good candidates, coherent policies and smart campaigns will overcome whatever influence the media has. Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush were all elected twice despite mainstream media bias against them. Mitt Romney didn’t lose because of the media—he lost because Republicans and conservatives couldn’t turn out their voters. John McCain didn’t lose because of media bias, though the bias was palpable: he was a terrible candidate, the economy was collapsing under a Republican administration, and his party had proven itself to be more crooked than Lombard Street: almost anyone would have beaten him…and almost anyone did.



6 thoughts on “Comment of the Day: “The Right Thing In Spite Of Themselves: CNN And NBC Abandon Their Hillary Projects”

  1. I’m less concerned about debating whether or not the media is liberally biased as I am curious to know why it might be the case. I’ve done some research on this question and I keep coming up with this study or that study trying to prove or disprove whether the bias exists at all. Assuming bias does exist, is anyone aware of studies or theories that examine why this is the case? If the media, hollywood, academia, etc., are all generally liberally biased, why should that be the case?

  2. Hi, Jack.

    I’m flattered to have gotten a COTD. 🙂 But I don’t feel your response is really very responsive.

    1) I don’t feel you addressed the question of the polling bias at all.

    This is significant because the polling question is the only example I can think of a claimed anti-Romney bias in the media that can actually be objectively measured. All your other examples are subjective (more on this below), and are subject to observer bias.

    But the one time conservatives (and you) made a fuss about an objective question – the claimed anti-Romney bias in the polls – we know for a fact that conservatives were objective wrong. When put to the test, the polls were actually somewhat overestimating Romney’s share of the popular vote.

    As far as I can tell, finding out that you were mistaken on a major, objective question hasn’t caused you or any other conservative to experience even a moment of doubt. Why hasn’t it? Wouldn’t it be reasonable to let your certainty be called into question by finding out that the one time your claim could be objectively measured, you were proven wrong?

    2) I can’t possibly go over every one of the one or two dozen examples you threw at the wall, but let me address a couple. A pattern emerges – which is that you systematically downplay or ignore any negative coverage of Obama, while suggesting that any negative coverage of a Republican is proof of bias.

    Your first example is a photo the AP ran, as part of a bulk upload of photos, which is very funny looking in a way that makes Romney look ridiculous. (AP was the only media outlet that ever ran the photo, they ran it in an extremely obscure spot as part of a dump of multiple photos of press appearances, and they apologized for it the next day; the photo was never run by any major news outlet except as an illustration of claimed anti-Romney bias.) You imply that the press would never run a photo making Obama look ridiculous.

    But of course, the press has done exactly that, more than once – and like the photo of Romney, the photos were deceptive. Remember the false claim that Obama gave Hillary the middle finger? Or remember this Reuters photo of Obama turning in a way that made him appear to be checking out some girl’s behind? (Fox’s Greta van Susteren, to her credit, ran video showing that the photo was deceptive).

    Subjectively, you believe that the press would never run a photo that deceptively makes Obama look bad. But objectively, they definitely have.

    (By the way, I disagree that it’s wrong of the press to run photos that make candidates look silly or bad. I think that the candidates are, on the whole, treated with too much reverence, and that it’s good if there’s also some humor at their expense.)

    Similarly, you seemingly compared Watergate and the IRS scandal. But in Watergate, there was evidence that Nixon himself had personally known about and directed that a crime be committed. There is no evidence that Obama personally knew about or directed the IRS scandal. And far from covering it up, the press covered the IRS scandal in detail, in literally hundreds of stories, many on the front pages.

    Why would the press have done that if they were the slavish Obama fans you claim they are?

    Why did Obama’s bad debate performance lead to over a week of terrible press for Obama, if the press’ only goal was to protect Obama?

  3. The problem is that “bias” is too abstract a word for media criticism. The media’s fawning over Obama during his first campaign is not a liberal bias, as his policies were indistinguishable from the other Democratic candidates. It was a prejudice towards the narrative of Obama becoming President. Hysteria over shootings isn’t liberal bias; if it bleeds, it leads. The fawning over CEOs and the constant use of corporate profit as economic baliwick are conservative ideas; they’re used by the media because a sharp, glamorous narrative sells tickets. The media loved the Iraq War until it went badly; the media loved the idea of bombing Syria but has no interest in the current negotiations.

    The media does not have a liberal bias, as many conservatives assert; it does not have a right-wing bias, as sputtered over by the left. It has a pro-media bias. The media wanting to tell a sensationalistic narrative rather than the unvarnished and complicated truth is about as mysterious as Pepsi thinking you might be thirsty.

  4. Jack wrote:

    Look at the disparate treatment of Obama’s IRS scandal and Nixon’s

    Could you clarify which of Nixon’s scandals this is a reference to? Thanks. 🙂

    And again, thanks for the COTD honor, and also for the substantial areas where you and I agreed (which, typically of me, I didn’t comment on in my response.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.