After all the sound and fury, the bombastic rhetoric thrown around by Democrats over the supposed partisanship of Fox News, comes this stunner of a study done by the conservative Media Research Center about coverage of the presidential campaigns on the three biggest morning shows on television.
In a word; mindboggling:
The study found that 55 percent of campaign stories on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” CBS’s “The Early Show” and NBC’s “Today” focused on Democratic candidates while only 29 percent focused on Republicans. The remaining 16 percent were classified as “mixed/independent.”
The morning shows aired 61 stories focused exclusively on Sen. Hillary Clinton, 44 stories on former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, and 41 stories on Sen. Barack Obama, all of whom are seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. Former Vice President Al Gore, who is not officially running, was the subject of 29 stories.
Republican candidates received less attention, according to the study. Sen. John McCain was the focus of 31 stories. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was the focus of 26 stories and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney was the focus of 19 stories.
Bring back the Fairness Doctrine!
And it isn’t just the number of stories being aired about Democrats that demonstrates an inherent bias bordering on cheerleading by the Big Three networks. Interviews with Democratic candidates or their representatives took up more than twice as much time on the air as those done with Republicans. What’s more, the tone and tenor of that coverage was almost worshipful; Hillary being referred to as “unbeatable” or Obama being called a “rock star” by grown up journalists would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
The effect of all this coverage is to make the Democratic candidates into celebrities, creating an aura of invincibility around their campaigns. By contrast, most of the stories on John McCain’s candidacy revolved around the sinking nature of the campaign – because of his support of the mission in Iraq according to the networks.
I guess his authorship of the immigration bill, his stubborn defense of McCain Feingold, and his tepid support for conservative judges had nothing at all to do with the collapse of his campaign.
No doubt McCain’s imploding campaign is newsworthy. But contrast the death watch nature of McCain’s coverage with the worshipful devotion to Silky Pony’s equally hopeless effort. Edwards got his very own Town Hall meeting broadcast live on ABC.
Gee. No favoritism there.
More subjectively, MRC tried to measure the way questions were framed to candidates or their representatives and came away with the conclusion that they were “friendly” to Democrats and “actively promoting the liberal agenda.” I’m not really concerned about that kind of criticism. Politicians go on those morning programs because they are generally treated in a more “friendly” fashion in the first place. And as far as questions “promoting” a liberal agenda, that very well may be in the eye of the beholder.
But that kind of partisan critique pales next to the very real discrepancy – huge discrepancy – in time devoted to coverage of Democrats versus that given Republicans. It appears to me that the morning shows on the network haven’t even made an effort to be fair and balanced. The thought never entered their heads.
A case can be made for slightly unbalanced coverage in favor of Democrats due to the historic nature of the Clinton and Obama candidacies. But clearly not on the scale uncovered by the MRC study. In fact, a good case can be made the the Giuliani candidacy has as many newsworthy/gossipy elements to report on as any Democrat in the race. And the Romney campaign has many compelling storylines to it as well.
Nearly 12 million Americans still tune in to the morning news shows to tell them what is happening in the world, dwarfing the audience on cable shows for the same time slot. One would think that the Big Three news shows might take their responsibilities as journalists a little more seriously and cover the campaigns in order to inform the American people of the choices they will have to make on election day. Instead, the perception that the network news departments have become an extension of the Democratic National Committee and mouthpieces for liberal candidates is fostered by the doting coverage they give presidential candidates belonging to only one of the two parties.
Somehow, I don’t think we’ll hear yelps of fake outrage from the netnuts and their minions about this kind of bias. After all, the Democratic party brand of favoritism has been the hallmark of network television since at least the 1960’s. To them, it must seem as if all is right in the world. God is in the universe, the sun is rising in the east, setting in the west, and network news is showing a ridiculously biased face to the American people.