Back in November, I wrote about the leftward bias of the news media. I’m writing about it again, because it’s a serious problem that’s stoking our divisions and pushing people toward even less reliable information sources. When the networks we ought to be able to trust for objective news are so obviously not objective, it’s no wonder many Americans are writing them off entirely. I plan to add to this series now and then, in hopes that my liberal readers will gain some appreciation for the complaints of conservatives, as well as the extent of the issue.
See if you can spot the subtle difference in framing by the Associated Press:
Neither headline is factually incorrect. But are they unbiased?
Last week in Georgia, State Senator and Democratic Party Leader Nikema Williams urged Governor Brian Kemp (R) to take action against a 1950s anti-mask law aimed at the KKK. She and others feared the law would be used to racially profile people of color wearing masks in public to protect themselves against COVID-19. Kemp did so, suspending the law. Here’s how a local news organization chose to cover the story:
They’ve since deleted the tweet. But can WGXA now credibly claim to be an objective, trustworthy news source?
You’d think that fashion would be a safely apolitical column to write. You’d be wrong.
As this fashion writer explains, when Hillary Clinton wears all white, it’s “presidential,” and it’s “a hue that’s both soft and strong.” When Melania Trump wears it, it’s racist. Her outfit “could be another reminder that in the G.O.P. white is always right.”
This one is another from 2016, but I include it because it was so egregious, and because it was perpetrated by an especially trusted journalist. America’s sweetheart, Katie Couric, produced a documentary on guns and gun control. In it, she interviews a gun rights group, the Virginia Citizens’ Defense League. She asks them a predictable question: “If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?” They’re stumped! Eight seconds of awkward silence follows, with the gun rights mouthbreathers staring dumbly at her, or looking down at the table.
Except that’s not what happened at all. In the actual interview, they immediately answered her question. Three people responded to her, one after another, for six minutes. No stunned silence. The filmmakers simply edited out their answers, and substituted footage of them sitting quietly from another section of the interview—when they had directed the group to sit quietly. I realize this is from a documentary, not a news program. But this is Katie Couric. She’s been a host on all of the Big Three news networks, and at the time this documentary was being made, she was Yahoo’s Global News Anchor. People trusted her to be impartial. She was not. (I will give quick kudos here to NPR for reporting fairly on this story.)
Unless you’re a news or politics junkie, chances are you haven’t heard the name Tara Reade. But I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume you have heard the name Christine Blasey Ford. They both accused powerful men of sexually assaulting them. Both waited decades to come forward with their stories. Both their accounts suffer from inconsistencies. Both would likely fail the “preponderance of the evidence” standard used in civil court. One of them became a heroine, a household name, and a patron saint of the #MeToo movement. The other can at least prove that she has been in the same room with her accused attacker. Unfortunately for her, she’s accusing a Democrat. She’s being treated just a tiny bit differently.
Let’s play another game of spot the difference:
“Her soft voice cracked as she spoke. She smiled a lot; her attempts to make everyone see how agreeable and reasonable she is were heart-rending. But she was also poised and precise, occasionally speaking as an expert — she’s a psychology professor — as well as a victim. Watching her push through her evident terror was profoundly inspiring.” That’s how the New York Times columnist described Ford’s testimony against Brett Kavanaugh, the conservative-leaning Supreme Court nominee. She’s less generous toward Tara Reade, bringing up Reade’s “bizarre public worship of President Vladimir Putin of Russia,” as if that has anything to do with whether or not she was assaulted, and summarizing the accusation and its fallout as a “strange, sad story.” But the focus of her ire is right wing pundits who’ve been asking why #BelieveAllWomen doesn’t seem to apply to Ms. Reade, and why she hasn’t received the outpouring of support from the left that Ms. Ford enjoyed.
Conservatives, you see, even when they’re not a main character in the story, are always the villains.
True, these are opinion columns. Let’s look at how the real news covered these stories.
In the 19-day period from when the allegations against Kavanaugh went public through the day he was confirmed by the Senate, CNN published close to 700 articles about the story. But CNN waited 24 days before publishing one article about Tara Reade’s allegations against Joe Biden—and it’s not so much about her allegations as about how Democrats are “grappling” with them. It remains the sole article on CNN about Tara Reade’s accusations.
When Julie Swetnick made absurd and defamatory allegations of gang rape against Brett Kavanaugh, which no other witness ever corroborated and which she herself eventually walked back, the New York Times reported on them the same day. When Tara Reade accused Joe Biden of assaulting her, the Times waited 19 days before publishing a story.
But it gets better. A tweet about their late-breaking story included some text from the article:
Amazing. “We found no pattern of sexual misconduct by Biden, beyond the well-documented pattern of behavior that easily qualifies as sexual harassment.”
The Times later deleted the tweet and deleted those words from its article. But wait! There’s more.
The Times published another article, an interview with executive editor, Dean Baquet, explaining why they waited so long to report on Reade’s allegations. When asked why they deleted that sentence, Baquet said, “I think that the campaign thought that the phrasing was awkward and made it look like there were other instances in which he had been accused of sexual misconduct. And that’s not what the sentence was intended to say.”
The campaign thought the phrasing was awkward.
The executive editor of the New York Times just came right out and admitted his paper changed an article about sexual assault allegations against the Democratic Party nominee because the candidate’s campaign didn’t like it.
If the Times doesn’t like being accused of being an arm of the DNC, they should stop acting like one.
We ought to be able to trust mainstream news outlets. Journalists ought to keep their biases out of their reporting.
At the very least, they ought to hide them better than they do.