Move Along ... No Bias To See Here
Bias-hunter MRC turns a blind eye to evidence Fox News Channel is biased.
By Terry Krepel
The primary mission of the Media Research Center is to compile (mostly anecdotal and out of context) examples of alleged liberal media bias. A secondary mission is to deflect charges that Fox News Channel has a conservative bias.
It takes up a bit of time, given the evidence that exists in support of that view.
An Aug. 3, 2000, edition of its CyberAlert touted Fox News' high ratings during the 2000 Republican National Convention -- but when the channel's ratings were 40 percent lower during the Democratic National Convention a couple weeks later, MRC didn't say a thing.
Remember the hiring of George W. Bush's self-described biased cousin, John Ellis, as a Fox News analyst for the November 2000 election? Not a problem. MRC dismissed the episode as "another example of how the mainstream media can never find any bias amongst themselves but see it regularly with the Fox News Channel."
A July 2001 study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting detailing the decidedly conservative slant of guests on some Fox News programs drew a temper tantrum from MRC boss L. Brent Bozell III, who called FAIR "an ultra-left wing ideological organization" and Fox News "the most balanced network in television news." Of course, being a right-wing ideological organization hasn't stopped MRC from offering its version of media criticism. Note that Bozell doesn't even try to refute FAIR's claims or offer any evidence backing up his claim that Fox News is "balanced."
Bozell goes on to say, "How does a group calling itself 'Fair' only find conservative bias in a network world of liberal bias that has been proven and documented for years?" Here's a better question: Why does a group with the word "research" in its name rely so heavily on anecdotes divorced from their original context, which is not what most people would call serious research, to prove its theories?
An example: Newsweek writer Joe Klein made an issue of MRC's "Notable Quotables" after the 1994 election in which Republicans gained control of Congress -- as well as an op-ed piece Bozell wrote for the Washington Times -- for the following allegedly liberal analysis:
The public seemed more intolerant than involved, uninterested in what the candidates have had to say, blindly voting against....The President might argue, with some justification, that it’s the media’s fault: we’re allergic to good news.
But, as the Daily Howler's Bob Somerby discovered, Klein's piece also took Democrats in general and President Clinton in particular, to task for the tone of the campaign, about which MRC says nothing. This is called taking a quote out of context. "What can one say about an act of deception as vast as that by the MRC?" Somerby wrote. "After reading Klein’s piece, the MRC was weeping, boohooing and shedding big tears. It was also baldly deceiving its readers. ... how much "liberal bias" can there actually be if the MRC has to make up such examples?"
MRC gave the Fox News defense another shot recently by nitpicking a study done by Andrew Tyndall for PBS' "Newshour." One of the things Tyndall observed that of the six guests analysts used by Fox News in one week, three were from explicitly right-wing publications and three were from mainstream publications; none was from an explicitly left-wing publication.
But, as MRC's Brent Baker writes in the March 7 CyberAlert, one of those "mainstream" analysts was Margaret Carlson, whom the MRC loves to deride as a liberal. Baker goes on to complain:
So because she works for a "middle-of-the-road publication" she doesn’t count as a proponent of liberal analysis? With mainstream news operations packed with liberals there’s no need to go to "an explicitly left-wing publication" to locate a liberal analyst. Think Margaret Carlson, Al Hunt, Jonathan Alter etc. But if you want a conservative analyst from the print media you have to go to a conservative columnist or staff member of a conservative publication.
Baker's bellyaching continues in the March 12 CyberAlert, in which he attacks the study as "slanted" and complains: "After never doing a story on how ABC or CBS or NBC or CNN or MSNBC or even PBS itself might possibly be sort of left of center, (PBS' Terence) Smith discovered nefarious conservative bias at FNC." He trumpets his March 7 comments as a "decimation of (Tyndall's) ludicrous analysis" -- never mind that pointing out that the Fox News analyst slant was 3-to-1 conservative instead of 3-to-0 is hardly a "decimation," nor was Tyndall's analysis exactly "ludicrous." And he frets that the issue of conservative bias was brought up in interviews with Fox News officials more than the issue of liberal bias was brought up with CNN officials.
Because MRC is at its heart a political organization, it cares little about the actual issue of ideological bias in the media. To MRC, it's an issue only as it relates to the presumed hindrance an alleged liberal media bias presents to disseminating its conservative viewpoint. Remember, MRC has its own news organization, the Cybercast News Service, formerly the Conservative News Service.
If MRC genuinely cared about media bias, CNS would be an example of how to provide unbiased news, which it most definitely is not. A recent pop-up solicitation for money (tax-deductible, since MRC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organzation) on the CNS site claims CNS "is the leading site for balanced news without the spin," then immediately contradicts itself in stating its real mission: "Many prominent radio talk show hosts from across the country rely on CNSNews.com as the source for The Right News! Right Now!"
And if MRC genuinely cared about media bias, it would not be continually fawning over Fox News Channel and dismissing any criticism. (Though, in an apparent we're-not-biased-really move that looks not unlike NewsMax's sudden discovery of Judicial Watch's lawsuits against Republicans, an April 5 CyberAlert finds a brief instance of liberal bias in a Fox News story.)
MRC has criticized Fox News -- but only for not being conservative enough, as Bozell did Jan. 10 over the channel's hiring of Geraldo Rivera. But mostly, MRC's Fox coverage is almost exclusively positive, such as a March 21 account of one Fox show's side of a flame war with CNN, during which it is alleged that CNN anchor Aaron Brown's nickname is "Skippy." Brent Baker concludes the account without apparent irony or hint of criticism: "Amount of time Fox & Friends spent making fun of CNN and insisting it provides substantive reporting: A little over seven minutes."
Fox News has done a few things that deserve criticism that have nothing to do with political ideology. In February, for example, the channel recruited Ron Richmond, the editor of a web site called HollywoodPulse.com, to comment on allegations of child abuse against comedian Paula Poundstone. The problem? HollywoodPulse.com is a satire consisting of fake news, and according to Richmond, Fox News was under the impression that it was legitimate. Fox, meanwhile, hilariously says it's all Richmond's fault because he's a "media whore." (Not to be confused with those other media whores.)
You won't read about that at MRC. But does anyone doubt that the incident would have been a CyberAlert item had a news network other than Fox been involved?