If Vice President Richard Cheney died, more people would live. Bill Clinton sounds like Jesus in the Temple. And the Republican Party caused the near-deathly stroke of Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota.
Each year, the Media Research Center issues awards for the worst examples of bias in a nation full of outrageously leftist media. The awards, due out any day now, are a signal service to all who care about fairness in reporting. Among the entries this year are the claims recounted in the opening paragraph above. They give a sense of just how viciously conservatives are regularly attacked, and how fawningly liberals are lionized, in supposedly "mainstream" media outlets.
For about nine years now, the MRC has been kind enough to include me among the judges for its "DisHonor Awards." I can honestly say that this year's entries are the worst I've seen yet.
Let it be said that I judge these awards a bit differently than most. I tend to judge more harshly those statements made by a supposedly "straight" journalist than I judge things said and written, no matter how terrible, by analysts (and entertainers) who at least acknowledge they are in the opinion business rather than being "neutral" or "fair" reporters. But even opinion journalists and other analysts still have a responsibility to be, well...responsible. As the MRC shows repeatedly, left-leaning commentators often feel no such obligation.
Without further ado, then, and without unnecessary comments from me, here are some of the worst things said in the past year (beginning with the exact quotes referred to in the first paragraph).
From HBO host Bill Maher, discussing how a few commenters at a left-wing blog were upset that an attempt to kill Cheney in Afghanistan had failed: "I'm just saying if he did die, more people would live. That's a fact."
From Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball, talking about Bill Clinton's remarks at the funeral of Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr.: "I just have never seen anything like it.... There are times when he sounds like Jesus in the temple. I mean, amazing ability to transcend ethnicity -- race, we call it, it's really ethnicity -- in this country and, and speak to us all in this amazingly primordial way."
Talking of Sen. Johnson's brain injury on ABC's The View, co-host Joy Behar asked: "Is there such a thing as a man-made stroke? In other words, did someone do this to him?" Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck sensibly responded: "Why is everything coming from a liberal perspective a conspiracy?" Behar's answer: "I know what this [Republican] party is capable of." (In another exchange on a different day, Behar said of the Bush administration that "they are liars and they are murderers."
Then there is the old canard that only Republicans are racist. As put by ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "I guess I think that anyone who's not going to vote for Barack Obama because he is black isn't going to vote for a Democrat anyway."
The Washington Post headline about Cheney's role in devising rules for captured terrorists: "The Unseen Path to Cruelty."
ABC's Terry Moran opening Nightline the day presidential counselor Karl Rove announced he would be leaving the White House: "The man who made our politics a no-holds barred battlefield. Karl Rove.... Divisiveness, anger, ruthlessness. That's what you might call Rovian politics."
Matt Lauer on the Today show: "A controversy in Washington over what literally could be the end of the world as we know it. Did the Bush administration freeze out scientists trying to sound the alarm on global warming?"
Keith Olbermann on MSNBC: "Good evening. A president who lied us into a war and, in so doing, needlessly killed 3,584 of our family and friends and neighbors; a president whose administration initially tried to destroy the first man to nail that lie; a president whose henchmen then ruined the career of the intelligence asset that was his wife when intelligence assets were never more essential to the viability of the Republic; a president like that has tonight freed from the prospect of prison the only man ever to come to trial for one of the component felonies in what may be the greatest crime of this young century."
Ex-Washington Post sportswriter Peter Mehlman in a blog item at the Huffington Post: "You could argue that even the world's worst fascist dictators at least meant well. They honestly thought [they] were doing good things for their countries by suppressing blacks/eliminating Jews/eradicating free enterprise/repressing individual thought/killing off rivals/invading neighbors, etc. ... Bush set a new precedent. He came into office with the attitude of 'I'm so tired of the public good. What about my good? What about my rich friends' good?'"
Olbermann again, this time in an interview in Playboy: "Al Qaeda really hurt us, but not as much as Rupert Murdoch has hurt us, particularly in the case of Fox News. Fox News is worse than Al Qaeda -- worse for our society. It's as dangerous as the Ku Klux Klan ever was."
For a McClatchy News Service story by reporters Jay Price and Qasim Zein, the headline: "As violence falls in Iraq, cemetery workers feel the pinch."
In a column for the Indianapolis Star, from former CNN and NBC newsman Ken Bode, now the ombudsman -- yes, that's right, the person whose very job it is to ensure fairness and accuracy and good journalistic ethics -- for the Corporation of Public Broadcasting: "The list of Bush administration crimes is very real, but I have not paid much attention to the blogs, petitions and other efforts to promote impeachment, on the theory that they are diversionary to the more important efforts to end the war in Iraq.... The crimes are real and probably impeachable, and the monarchial arrogance of the Bush-Cheney administration is monumental. But the timing is wrong."
The MRC provided dozens and dozens of other, similar examples from which to choose. All together, the nastiness and bias were, literally (not figuratively), queasiness-inducing.
Now, an explanation of the quote I chose (with help from my wife) as the worst of the year. Others were more outrageous, perhaps. But because of my criterion that the worst violations are those that come in supposedly straight news settings, with the most egregious ones being the ones with the broadest audiences that have a right to expect the reporter to be balanced, fair, and reasonable, this one, simple question from Katie Couric as host of CBS Evening News takes the prize. Interviewing two actors from The Nativity Story about Hollywood movies based on Biblical themes, Couric asked if such movies might actually be harmful: "Do you worry at all that non-believers may feel excluded and diminished at a time when we're so divided about so much?"
Poor little non-believers, unable to fend for themselves. Now, if only Miss Katie would worry half as much about all the conservatives who feel excluded and diminished by almost every one of her "news"casts...
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