Silly Liberal Denials of Bias

The New York Observer's Joe Conason is out with a new tome called "Big Lies," one of those "lies" being the Myth of the Liberal Media. In doing so he has now joined The Nation's Eric Alterman in claiming that the news media are not as liberal as they are, which is undoubtedly true.

The suggestion, however, that the news media do not tilt to the left, is just not serious thinking. Or, if it's coming from those who would consider themselves serious thinkers, it's just not intellectually honest.

I don't know if Al Franken is a joke or a fraud. I do know he is a man full of hatred for conservatives, and because of that, a darling of Conason's supposedly conservative press.

Last week Franken was featured not once, but twice on NBC's Today Show to plug his upcoming book slamming the right, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them." Matt Lauer dutifully read excerpts like, "Bush lies about important things like the economy, his tax cuts, his education, our reasons for going to war and drunk driving. But I think he lies only when he feels he has to. He knows that most of the time Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and Rush Limbaugh are only too glad to do it for him." Lauer also invited his audience to visit NBC's website where other excerpts are proudly displayed, including the one focusing on "those sh--y books by Ann Coulter and Bernie Goldberg" and their "total bulls-t" claims about a liberal media bias.

Lauer could have challenged Franken to prove his argument, and then debated him, point-by-point. That is, after all, standard operating procedure for conservative guests. But Franken received none of that scrutiny.

Lauer could have denounced Franken's nastiness. Remember all that media talk about "Clinton-haters" on the right? About "mean-spirited" conservatives? About the "politics of personal destruction"? Lauer not only didn't confront Franken with his ad hominems, he invited him back for an encore performance.

Which raises another point about this supposedly non-liberal press. How does Franken rate two appearances in one week? Sure he's witty and all that, but he was there to promote a book, a book that wasn't anywhere on any New York Times bestseller list. (With this kind of double promotion, you can be assured that now it will be.)

Now compare NBC's treatment of Franken's nemeses, Goldberg and Coulter. Goldberg was sitting on the New York Times bestseller list for, count 'em, nineteen weeks before NBC finally invited him on the Today Show - but only on the condition he be paired with ultra-leftist author Michael Moore. (Another double standard: When conservatives are the focus, the discussion must be balanced; when liberals are the focus, they appear alone.) Then there's Miss Coulter. Her new book Treason has been on the New York Times bestseller list for over two months now but she has yet to be invited on the Today Show set.

NBC is not alone. Over at ABC News they're having problems with their signature "This Week" Sunday program. A couple of years ago the network dropped conservative Bill Kristol from the roundtable segment while promoting ex-Clinton spin doctor George Stephanopoulos into an anchoring role where suddenly he was transformed into a journalist. The ratings plummeted as a result, and now ABC apparently has concluded that the show still has too much conservatism. ABC has axed the roundtable segment where George Will offered occasional (and no doubt vexing) conservative insights. ABC promises that Will will appear from time to time, but not as a reporter, and not an opinionated analyst. This would seem to guarantee that Will's conservative commentaries are over.

If you don't like ABC's Sunday worldview, you're going to dread what's happening next door at CBS.

It's no longer unusual to find journalists offending religious believers, and it's simply inconceivable that a journalist would apologize for his insult. But watch what happens when the host of CBS's Sunday morning show "Face the Nation" upsets some atheists. Bob Schieffer recently used the old saying that "there are no atheists in foxholes," but after hearing criticism from some atheists he was quick last Sunday to make amend on his show, pointing out they "reminded me that freedom of religion also means the right not to believe and they said my remark unfairly challenged the sincerity of their views."

Schieffer begged forgiveness: "They have every right to their belief and I would never challenge their sincerity... So to all of you who took offense, I can only say that none was intended and I regret a poor choice of words."

How some liberals can, with a straight face, continue to deny the liberal bias in the press is beyond me.