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    Letters
    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    Right or left, the media doesn’t hide its bias

    To varying degrees and from varying perspectives, news media cover many boilerplate issues: the economy, immigration, abortion, racism, foreign policy, defense, crime, gender identity, parental rights, election integrity, and bureaucratic meddling in the political process among them.

    These and other issues impact our lives to varying degrees, but the way they are covered - or not covered - often exposes media bias that fuels the debate and brings the nation's political temperature to a rapid and perilous boil.

    An October 2022 Gallup Poll reported that nearly two-thirds of those surveyed have little or no trust in the media to report "fully, fairly and accurately." Of those, 38 percent said they have "no trust at all" in the media while only 7 percent expressed "a great deal of trust" in the media.

    Before conservatives nod in agreement, however, it should be noted that media bias exists at both ends of the political spectrum. Fox News is at least as guilty from the right as any liberal outlet like CNN or MSNBC is from the left. Both sides abandoned objectivity and subtlety a long time ago, and they're not likely to ever go back.

    Witness Thursday night's political "town hall" with former President Donald Trump and Fox News pal Sean Hannity. The only unknown coming into the event was whether Hannity would bring roses or a box of Godivas to the one-hour lovefest. Hannity and, later, Trump supporters in the audience lobbed soft questions at their favorite candidate and teed him up with criticism of incumbent President Joe Biden. Hannity couldn't resist showing a replay of Biden falling down earlier in the day during his commencement appearance at the Air Force Academy.

    It was a far cry from CNN's 90-minute "town hall" on May 10 when interviewer Kaitlan Collins grilled the former president but got run over by him any time she tried to dispute his false claims about a stolen 2020 presidential election.

    Last year, Hannity was an on-air cheerleader for Trump-endorsed Senate candidates, including football star Herschel Walker, the GOP nominee in Georgia. Just before the election, Walker appeared on Hannity's prime-time show with South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who not only rooted for Walker but urged viewers to contribute to his ultimately unsuccessful campaign.

    And this is what passes for political commentary on Fox News.

    However, liberal media - a redundancy if ever there was one - have nothing to be proud of, either. Their bias is almost as conspicuous and as much omission as commission.

    Once upon a time, objective media would have pounced on evidence that the FBI had pre-emptively hoodwinked media into blocking news coverage about Hunter Biden's incriminating laptop. Instead of investigating even a little, most media willingly believed the FBI's pre-election lie that the laptop story was merely Russian disinformation - nothing to see here.

    Real and social media either panned, ignored - or in some cases outright censored - the story shortly before the 2020 election when it first appeared in the conservative New York Post. They made little if any effort to verify its authenticity, even after the election. Such verification and subsequent coverage of what the laptop supposedly contains might have changed the election outcome, but the FBI left nothing to chance. A year later, CBS News quietly acknowledged the laptop does in fact belong to Hunter Biden. Better late than never? Not really.

    However, there has been no sense of urgency outside of the New York Post and its corporate partners Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, to report what the laptop contains and its possible links to the president himself.

    That Trump lies is a foregone conclusion, and media are justified in pointing that out. But when President Bill Clinton looked the nation in the eye in 1998 and said he hadn't had sexual relations with Monica Lewinski, his lie was rarely if ever called that by the media. It was, instead, called a "denial," "a claim," or at worst a "false claim," as was Hillary Clinton's simultaneous insistence that the scandal was merely a "vast, right-wing conspiracy."

    More recently, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, past-chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said there was "plenty of evidence of collusion or conspiracy in plain sight" between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia. Outside of Fox, the New York Post and Wall Street Journal, no one in the mainstream media has said Schiff lied after a lengthy federal investigation turned up no evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia. That the investigation even originated under false or flimsy circumstances has also been largely ignored by most of the mainstream media, most conspicuously the major television networks.

    Some media bias is less tangible. It's often not difficult on Sunday mornings, for example, to determine the political persuasion of guests on NBC's Meet the Press. Liberals/Democrats are greeted like close friends by host Chuck Todd, and the questioning more resembles an amiable lounge chat than a news interview. Conversely, conservative/Republican guests often spend most of their air time on the defensive, often interrupted and challenged during Todd's more pressing interrogation.

    During his record 16+ years as host of Meet the Press, the late Tim Russert would affably grill guests from all persuasions. Russert was a liked and respected newsman whose interviews could take guests to hell and back, but most of them enjoyed the ride. Despite having worked for Democratic officials before joining NBC, Russert never showed his political stripes on the air.

    At ABC, the Sunday morning news program is anchored by George Stephanopoulos, who served as communications director and senior advisor during Clinton's first term as president. Like Todd, Stephanopoulos often comes off as an attack dog with Republican guests and a lap dog for Democrats.

    In fairness, though, they at least invite differing political views. On Sunday mornings, Fox's Maria Bartiromo all but waves pom poms for her exclusively Republican guests while chiming in to advance their conservative views. You won't see many Democrats on other Fox News programs, either.

    American viewers, however, seem to be voting with their cable boxes. CNN, which long ago lived up to its claim as "the most trusted name in news," is now a shell of its former self. Having veered hard left with its commentators and content, CNN now ranks a distant third in ratings behind Fox and MSNBC.

    It would be nice to find a TV network that simply reports the news, the way Fox once claimed it did with those "fair and balanced" and "We report, you decide" schticks or the way CNN did when it really was "the most trusted name in news."

    We know that a house - and a nation - divided cannot stand. Sadly, however, if we're waiting for any media to heed and adhere to that by simply reporting instead of editorializing and taking sides, it's not likely to happen anytime soon.

    The time for some very intensive news media introspection is at hand, but don't hold your breath waiting for that, either.

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