Bill Press is the co-host of CNN's Crossfire and the author of the newly published book 'Spin This.' Press examines the hypothesis offered by Bernard Goldberg, formerly of CBS News, whose book alleges that the press is biased against conservatives. As Press shows, the allegation of media bias against conservatives is an ancient artifact. It may have been true during the era of the Vietnam War but no longer has any grounding in fact.
By Bill Press
Bernard Goldberg has been complaining about the liberal media so long, people not only believe him. They have propelled his jeremiad against the media, to the New York Times Bestseller list. Unfortunately, it’s ranked as non-fiction.
Goldberg was fired by CBS after attacking his network for liberal bias on the op-ed page of the February 13, 1996 Wall Street Journal: comments made, he insists, just to get a conversation started. He got a pink slip, instead.
And now he’s getting his revenge. Goldberg devotes half of his book to evening the score against CBS and Dan Rather. The other half he spends trying to tear down the rest of the media, too - with little supporting evidence. Goldberg doesn’t come close to proving a liberal bias in the media.
Exhibit A in Goldberg’s attack on CBS is a report by Eric Engberg - Evening News; February 8, 1996 - poking holes in Steve Forbes’ proposal for a flat-tax. The piece was not kind to Forbes. In it, Engberg and economists describe the Forbes plan as wacky, untested and hog heaven for tax lawyers. No one is quoted in support of the flat-tax.
So, Goldberg has a small point. That one Engberg segment, indeed, was not balanced. But does that prove a wholesale liberal media bias? No way. Liberals weren’t the only ones who opposed the flat-tax. Newt Gingrich dismissed it as nonsense. Bob Dole, running against Forbes, also condemned it. Besides, Engberg was more of a commentator than a reporter, whose specialty was skewering sacred cows on both the right and the left. He also, for example, did an earlier report trashing Hillary Clinton for the travel office firings.
Curiously, there’s no mention of that in Goldberg’s book.
Going after the other networks, Goldberg is on equally thin ice. As further proof of liberal bias, he accuses ABC of inventing homelessness during the Reagan years and ignoring it under Clinton, only to reinvent the problem under George W. Bush. However, when you look at the transcript of Bob Jamieson’s report from Aurora, Illinois on February 11, 2001, he says: The 175-bed shelter in this city of 130,000 has recorded a steady increase in homelessness for the last year, particularly families with children. In other words, Jamieson traces the problem back to Clinton. Where’s the liberal bias?
Time and again, Goldberg falls flat. But no more so than when he takes on the New York Times, accusing the great grey lady of feeding feminist hostility toward men. If you don’t believe me, growls Goldberg, read reporter Natalie Angier in the Times, back in 1994: Women may not find this surprising, but one of the most persistent and frustrating problems in evolutionary biology is the male. Specifically...why doesn’t he just go away?
Sounds convincing, doesn’t it? The New York Times hates men! Unfortunately for Goldberg, as Jim Somerby revealed on his Daily Howler Web site, that article appeared in the Times Science Section and didn’t involve men at all. Angier wasn’t writing about male humans. She was writing about male snails, snakes and insects - who have never been known to have a liberal, or conservative, bias.
The bottom line is, Goldberg can’t prove a liberal bias in the media because there is none. Look at the op-ed pages. Compare the number of conservative columnists with liberal columnists. Listen to talk radio. Count the number of nationally-syndicated liberal talk-show hosts. Watch the cable TV talk-shows. Count the number of liberal and conservative pundits. Conservatives far outnumber liberals.
And whatever liberal voices that may have existed before September 11 have almost disappeared since. With few exceptions, the media today is no more than a cheering squad for George Bush - not only on his conduct of the war, but on domestic policy, too. They won’t even hold him responsible for Enron.
The truth is, the media may have been dominated by liberals long ago, back in the days of Spiro Agnew. It is no longer. Conservatives own today’s media. They just never admit it.
Instead, Bernard Goldberg and others continue to complain about the Liberal Media and you can’t blame them. It helps keep a conservative myth alive. And it sure sells books.
Bill Press is the co-host of CNN's Crossfire and the author of Spin This. You may reach him at BillPress@aol.com. This article has been posted with the permission of the author.