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No Balance Allowed

Anyone saying anything less than laudatory about the late Ronald Reagan is getting the full ConWeb treatment -- you know, being branded as mean, biased liberals.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 6/11/2004

With the death of Ronald Reagan, the ConWeb is, unsurprisingly, keeping an eagle eye out for news outlets that are insufficiently laudatory of the man, picking out the occasional bits of criticism among the hours upon hours of uncritical air time being lavished on him.

The Media Research Center's Brent Baker was quite happy when he noted in a rare Sunday edition of an MRC CyberAlert that early coverage "focused mainly on praise for how he inspired Americans, relayed positive anecdotes from those who worked with him, recounted the achievements in his life and recalled the love story of Ronald and Nancy," then added, "with only a few notable exceptions, journalists who cited negative events (about Reagan) did not incorporate liberal, anti-conservative spin to denounce Reagan’s policies."

Baker then offered a definition: "So, for instance, most reporters did not explicitly blame the tax cuts for causing the deficit or claim Reagan’s tax and budget policies helped the rich while hurting the poor." But it soon became clear that any criticism at all of Reagan was going to be seen by the MRC as "liberal, anti-conservative." Baker disapprovingly notes in a June 8 CyberAlert -- though he makes no editorial comment, singling it out is tacit disapproval -- that MSNBC's Keith Olbermann recalled "the Iran/Contra affair, the near tripling of the national debt, the fact that 30, count 'em 30, of his administration staffers would serve time in jail for bribery, corruption and influence peddling." Baker complains later in the same article that "Leading journalists are exploiting Ronald Reagan’s death to push for wider embryonic stem cell research as they emphasize how President George W. Bush is out of step with Nancy Reagan on the issue." A June 9 "Media Reality Check," having apparently run out of newly minted criticisms of Reagan, unearths 15-year-old criticisms, apparently to demonstrate that the current wall-to-wall nice things being said about him by the media are insincere. This was followed the next day by a "Special Report" presumably compiling all the Reagan-bashing in the MRC archives.

A June 10 CyberAlert senses conspiracy: "As if a coordinated attack on Ronald Reagan’s image, on Wednesday four major newspapers and the AP featured stories which relayed liberal attacks on Ronald Reagan’s policies, particularly centered on the views of liberal black leaders and AIDS activists," Baker writes.

No comparison is made anywhere in MRC's coverage of the relatively few "negative" Reagan-related events the MRC has cited with the hours upon hours of fawning TV news coverage the TV broadcast and cable news networks have heaped upon the man since he died.

Of course, it wouldn't be the MRC if Brent Bozell didn't come tromping in with his own ham-handed observations. He obliges in a June 8 column that starts off by saying "the greatest president of the 20th century has passed away" and is generally annoyed that "not every report showed respect for our lost leader." Read: Almost completely positive coverage of Reagan isn't enough for Bozell; he wants 100 percent positive coverage.

The no-bad-news standard of MRC is being put into practice at its sister site, in which one story quotes only Republicans and conservatives saying laudatory things, another interviews people waiting in line at the Capitol to view Reagan's casket who say predictably positive things, and a third praises Reagan's anti-abortion stance while permitting only one quote disagreeing with something he did.

At NewsMax, they're reduced to repeating every allegedly mean thing John Kerry ever said about Reagan. When they're not doing that, they're resorting to that old standby of distracting attention from the truth. Which "Carl Limbacher and staff" does in a June 8 piece bashing liberals for claiming that "Bill Clinton was actually a more popular president than Ronald Reagan."

The problem is that NewsMax does nothing to prove that said liberals are incorrect in the standard being used -- approval rating polls conducted during their respective presidencies -- merely noting that "the same poll is touted prominently on, a Web site run by former Clinton White House staffers and DNC veterans," as if who is promoting a poll's results somehow taints its results. NewsMax then proceeds to ignore it completely and offer up its own standard -- election results -- sneering that Clinton "probably never would have been president at all without Ross Perot acting as a Republican spoiler in 1992."

NewsMax, of course, isn't interested in balanced coverage of Reagan any more than the MRC is, asserting in a June 9 article that a "cease-fire" on balanced coverage by "journalists who bashed and trashed Ronald Reagan during the 1980s" will end soon, citing comments by network news anchors seeking a balanced approach. And a June 10 story alleges that CBS' Dan Rather reneged on a promise not to criticize Reagan by deciding "it was time to rehash the Iran-Contra scandal." While NewsMax claims the CBS piece included "comments that seemed to blame Reagan for global terrorism," it also admitted that it "offered a fairly balanced version of events."

In keeping with NewsMax's no-criticism marching orders on Reagan, who better to enlist than the one-sided wonder himself, Jon Dougherty, who chimes in with a sycophantic piece June 8 about Reagan's support of Israel.

The most sycophantic Reagan story thus far, though, has to be a June 9 WorldNetDaily story slugged "Reagan pulled gun on mugger to save woman," appearing on its front page complete with animated "Breaking News" tag upon its initial posting. It starts off almost as a straight news story, and it's not until the fourth paragraph does the reader find out that the incident being described happened more than 70 years ago.

This is "breaking news"?

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