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Sunday, December 13, 2009
Defining Bias Down At The MRC
Topic: Media Research Center

Brent Baker wants you to be as critical of George Stephanopoulos becoming a co-host of "Good Morning America" as others were of Republican Rep. Susan Molinari becoming a co-host of a Saturday morning talk show on CBS several years ago. Which can only mean that Baker is wrong about it.

In a Dec. 9 MRC item, Baker writes: "Here’s one yardstick for measuring the media’s response: Back in 1997, CBS announced that ex-GOP Representative Susan Molinari (pictured at right) would take over as co-host of Saturday Morning. Journalists quickly howled at the breaching of the sacred 'barricade that is supposed to exist in journalism between the political people and the officials on the one hand, and the reporters on the other.' NPR’s Mara Liasson said it was 'disturbing' of CBS to hire a Republican; Nina Totenberg exclaimed: 'This really makes me want to puke.'"

A search through the MRC provided no evidence that it has ever provided the full context in which those comments -- particularly the one attributed to Totenberg -- were made, so it's impossible to tell what Totenberg and Liasson meant by what they said.

Baker goes on to complain that ABC "has aided in the transformation of Stephanopoulos from political spinmeister into supposedly neutral journalist over the years, allowing him to fill in as anchor of World News as well as on Good Morning America." But his likening of Molinari's transition from politics to TV to that of Stephanopoulos' is faulty.

Molinari literally quit her job as a member of Congress to take the CBS job just six months after winning re-election; Stephanopoulos was an adviser to President Clinton, an unelected post, when he left the White House to join ABC in late 1996 -- as an analyst and correspondent, not a host. He did not begin hosting "This Week" until 2002, and he was not named chief Washington correspondent until 2005 -- after he had proved himself as a correspondent and analyst.

Stephanopoulos had been with ABC for more than 12 years when he was named "GMA" host; Molinari came to her CBS job straight from Congress, and her hosting gig ended after less than a year.

Baker goes on to complain that that "concept that Stephanopoulos has been 'completely non-partisan' is laughable," directing readers to "the Media Research Center’s freshly-updated 'Profile in Bias'" on him. But it actually says more about the MRC's bias than Stephanopoulos'; as it tends to do, the MRC tries to pass off examples of Stephanopoulos saying nice things about Democrats or otherwise not following the MRC's hard-right script as "bias."

One example of "bias" presented is that Stephanopoulos declared that Barack Obama and Joe Biden won their respective debates against Republican candidates during the 2008 campaign. But as we detailed, Stephanopoulos' opinion reflected that of the American public as indicated by post-debate polling, in which a plurality or majority also declared Obama and Biden the winners.

Agreeing with the views of the American public is "bias"? Baker wants you to think it is -- which tells you all you need to know about the Media Research Center's "research."

Posted by Terry K. at 9:09 PM EST

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