Campaign Crawlers

The Exact Opposite of Truth

Media coverage scarcely resembles the actual GOP convention.

By 8.28.12

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TAMPA, Florida -- The Republican Party has spared no expense to accommodate the hundreds of journalists who have come here to write dishonest stories aimed at preventing the GOP from winning this year's election.

If you've been following major media coverage of the Republican National Convention, you know that the party's presidential candidate is Todd Akin, who will campaign this fall on a platform of undiluted hatred and evil, with the able assistance of his running mate, Martin Bormann Jr. The Akin-Bormann ticket was personally selected by RNC Chairman Rush Limbaugh and endorsed by Karl Rove after consultation with a secretive cabal of right-wing Mormon billionaires. The Republican delegates who are assembling this week in Tampa are mere dupes hired by the Koch brothers to provide the superficial appearance of a "political convention" debating a platform and nominating candidates.

Such is the narrative subtext of most of the GOP convention coverage, which is provided by a political press corps that is overwhelmingly composed of people who would never vote for any Republican under any imaginable circumstance. It has been estimated, based on data analyzed by the conservative non-profit Media Research Center, that Democrats outnumber Republicans among journalists by a ratio of at least 7-to-1, perhaps even more than 10-to-1. This lopsided partisanship has consequences that are, on the one hand, blindingly obvious to Republicans and yet somehow, on the other hand, utterly invisible to most of those inside the news industry.

Most journalists never notice liberal bias for the same reason that fish don't notice water -- it is all around them, it is all they've ever known, and they take it for granted. And just as the fish out of water flops around desperately at the life-threatening loss of its accustomed environment, most journalists react with a frantic horror at reporting that lacks the partisan slant which is understood as "objectivity" by members of the press corps. Only when one's mind is trapped inside that weird worldview, for example, is it possible to take Chris Matthews seriously.

In case you didn't realize it, the only claim Matthews has to being a journalist is that he is a partisan Democrat. Matthews never worked a day as a reporter, never covered a city council meeting or a homecoming parade. After evading the Vietnam-era military draft by enrolling in the Peace Corps, Matthews moved to Washington and worked on the staff of various congressional Democrats before unsuccessfully running for Congress as a Democrat, later joining the White House staff as a speechwriter for Democrat Jimmy Carter, then spending the Reagan years as a top aide to Democrat House Speaker Tip O'Neill. Somehow, this ultra-political background as a partisan operative qualified Matthews for the job of Washington bureau chief for the San Francisco Chronicle. Such is the biography of the man who has been employed for the past 15 years as a "journalist" by NBC, hosting his own show on the network's little-watched MSNBC cable franchise while appearing regularly on the broadcast network during coverage of major political events.

Matthews made a guest appearance Monday on MSNBC's Morning Joe program, which provided him an opportunity to lecture GOP Chairman Reince Priebus that Republicans were playing "the race card" by, among other things, criticizing President Obama for waiving work requirements for welfare. "When you start talking about work requirements, you know what game you're playing and everybody knows what game you're playing," Matthews scolded Priebus, in a bizarre rant that also referenced Obama's "African name" as a burden the president has "got to live with." Video of the Matthews-Priebus encounter immediately went viral online, cited by conservatives as yet another example of liberal bias in the media, equal to the infamous 2008 declaration by Matthews that while listening to Obama speak he "felt this thrill going up my leg."

Matthews is an extreme example of a general phenomenon, the gaudy tip of a much larger (and usually, more subtle) iceberg of bias. Consider, for example, the question of what constitutes a newsworthy controversy. Politicians occasionally say thoughtless or offensive things that make headlines and may require an apology for the foot-in-the-mouth moment. Seldom, however, do reporters demand that Democrat politicians denounce and repudiate another Democrat's gaffe. By contrast, when Missouri's GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin made atrociously stupid comments about rape and abortion, Akin's blunder became for several days the most important political news in the country. Even though Akin's remarks were swiftly repudiated by nearly every Republican of note, much of the news coverage created the impression that Akin was speaking officially on behalf of the GOP, and that the "extremist" Akin -- rather than moderate former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is in fact the party's presidential nominee -- was symbolic of Republicans everywhere. Inside the liberal media worldview, only Republicans must answer collectively for the errors and embarrassments of their individual members.

To a liberal journalist, the offensive words of Todd Akin tell Americans everything they need to know about what the GOP stands for, while scandal-plagued or gaffe-prone Democrats are viewed as an aberration. No reporter for the New York Times or CBS News would tolerate, for example, coverage that inferred from the late Ted Kennedy's career that Democrats endorse drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter as a matter of policy. Yet Akin's comments were immediately seized on as a significant national story that symbolized a Republican "war on women." Meanwhile -- almost entirely unnoticed by the mainstream press -- actual Republican women are among the most articulate and outspoken critics of Obama's policies.

Monday afternoon, I bumped into an example of this phenomenon. Walking through the lobby of the Sheraton hotel, I spotted a familiar-looking woman sitting quietly near the elevators. I'd met her briefly at a convention-related event Sunday, but had forgotten her name and, overcoming my embarrassment at having to ask, was surprised to find myself talking to the former lieutenant-governor of New York.

Betsy McCaughey has a Ph.D. from Columbia University and has gained recognition as an expert on health-care policy, authoring a recent Encounter Books "Broadside" called The Obama Health Law: What It Says and How to Overturn It. McCaughey spoke Monday at an event hosted by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, where she described her analysis of research that she says demonstrates that Obamacare "is likely to cause an estimated 40,000 unnecessary deaths each year" among hospitalized Medicare patients. Policy experts might dispute McCaughey's analysis and I lack the expertise to evaluate her research, but as soon as she described it to me in the hotel lobby, I recognized it as newsworthy. Democrats have repeatedly accused Republicans of scheming to kill old people through Medicare cuts, a tactic that included a TV ad showing Paul Ryan literally pushing an elderly woman off a cliff. Yet here was a scholarly GOP politician citing research data in support of a conclusion that is the mirror-reverse of that perception -- to summarize McCaughey's research quite bluntly, Obama's plan will kill Grandma.

True or false, right or wrong, it is certainly a startling claim and one might suppose that McCaughey's research would be considered as newsworthy as anything a Missouri Senate candidate might say. Yet it seems that almost none of the major political journalists covering the Gingrich event Monday deemed McCaughey's analysis worth reporting. A blogger for Esquire's website gave McCaughey some skeptical and derisive coverage, and her remarks at Gingrich's event were briefly quoted by a reporter for the local Tampa paper. Other than that, however, McCaughey was a non-story, ignored by the press who seemed unimpressed by this remarkable woman saying that 40,000 senior citizens will die as a result of the president's policies. After I interviewed her for my blog, McCaughey sat unnoticed by other reporters in the restaurant of the Sheraton, a hotel swarming with media types whose alleged purpose for traveling to Tampa was to find news.

Betsy McCaughey, however, didn't fit the narrative subtext that liberal journalists are here to report. She is neither evil nor stupid, and Republican policy experts with Ivy League doctorate degrees are not newsworthy -- especially when such experts are women in a party whose policies (according to the liberal narrative subtext) are fundamentally hostile to women.

Hundreds of reporters have come to Tampa with plans to cover something other than the actual Republican convention. Instead, they are here seeking "proof" of their own preconceived partisan prejudices and it is amazing (as I sit here in the lavishly appointed Media Filing Center downtown) to see how the Republican Party has spared no expense in welcoming its most ferocious and dangerous enemies. If you believe what you see in most convention coverage, you will think of Republicans as the Evil Party of Greedy Haters, a frightening conclave of grim and ferocious extremists. Everything the GOP does here in Tampa will be portrayed as insincere, corrupt, scandalous or (best of all) "controversial." When Democrats convene next week in Charlotte, however, everything Obama and his supporters do will be portrayed as warm, wonderful, and honest. The reporters delivering these contrasting depictions of the two parties do not consider themselves as engaged in partisan advocacy. Rather, in the minds of the liberal media, they are simply reporting the objective truth.

Republicans watching from afar are no doubt sadly familiar with this kind of bias. And they'll be happy to learn that the Media Filing Center here at the convention in Tampa is open 24 hours a day, providing liberal journalists the facilities to lie around the clock.

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About the Author

Robert Stacy McCain is co-author (with Lynn Vincent) of Donkey Cons: Sex, Crime, and Corruption in the Democratic Party (Nelson Current). He blogs at The Other McCain.