Robert Entman , a news media professor at George Washington University, recently wrote a book entitled, Scandal and Silence: Media Responses to Presidential Misconduct. It was far from that and a more appropriate title would have been The Bush Years: Which Scandal didn’t the Media Report and Why.
Entman teaches a course on media bias at GWU. The 212-page book could have included scandals from at least the first term of President Barack Obama, but they were conspicuously missing. Instead, Entman focused on the George W. Bush scandals, ranging from insider trading of Harken Energy, Bush’s time in the National Guard to WMDs in Iraq. He included examples from the Reagan administration, primarily the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s, the alleged sex scandals of both Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush and former vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle’s Vietnam service controversy.
Entman must be suffering from a prolonged anti-Bush, pro-Gore 2000 election hangover when he suggested that the media’s lack of reporting on Bush’s service in the National Guard won the 2000 presidential election. Entman inferred that if Bush’s service was reported in its entirety, he could have lost the election in Florida due to the heavy presence of retired military veterans. He said the following:
“…Recalling that the 2000 election was decided by about 500 votes in Florida, where many retired military personnel live, it does not seem too much of a leap to suggest that framing Bush similarly to Quayle on this matter could have put Democratic candidate Al Gore in the White House.”
While criticizing Quayle and Bush for their service, Entman gave a pass to Clinton, even though he admitted that the former president exploited every loophole available and did not even try to enlist in any service (unlike Quayle and Bush). This admission only confirmed that Clinton was more of a draft dodger than Bush or Quayle were.
It begged the question, why focus on George W. Bush but not other scandals? In his own words, Entman said, “I believe concentrating on George W Bush yields far more insights into the evolution and operation of the scandal process than would rehashing Clinton’s many troubles.”
Entman glossed over “Clinton’s many troubles” and rationalized why he did not “delve into the Monica Lewinsky affair. Unique among modern sex scandals, it provides little basis for generalizations.” He argued that the Clinton sex scandal was an outlier in American politics and that it should not be analyzed, even though his book included the subtitle of Media Responses to Presidential Misconduct. If anything, the Lewinsky scandal was monumental and changed the Clinton presidency with the amount of news media coverage. Entman said, “Many journalists agreed the Lewinsky scandal was a low point for the profession.”
Additionally, he briefly mentioned Whitewater and concluded that little actual evidence proved Clinton’s involvement, whereas Entman alleges that Bush was guilty of falsifying information regarding Iraq’s WMDS via word-of-mouth testimonials of former Bush officials.
Entman lamented that, in the scandal known as “Rathergate”, the news media devoured one of their own in CBS news anchor Dan Rather. He blamed both Republicans and the media when he said, “…Thanks to Republican skill and the media’s motivations and decision-making heuristics, the opprobrium focused on Rather’s violation of journalistic norms instead of Bush’s violation of presidential ideals.” Rathergate, or its other nickname of “Memogate,” occurred when CBS used falsified memos to try to prove Bush avoided finishing his service in the National Guard during the Vietnam War years. Accuracy in Media, our sister organization, did extensive work in uncovering and publicizing the scandal, yet Entman did not mention their work in exposing Rather for his fraudulent journalism.
Several times during the book, Entman mislabeled or neutered the slant and purpose of several organizations. He called the liberal activist organization MoveOn.org a “citizens’ group” and the liberal, George Soros-funded Center for American Progress a “think tank.” Of the special interest groups that he mentioned and listed, he spoke of the NAACP, AFL-CIO and the National Organization of Women as primary examples.
Rarely did Entman mention the plethora of scandals that are besieging the Obama administration. He suggested that the 2008 campaign scandal of a possible sexual relationship between staffer Vera Baker and Obama was quashed by Obama’s ability to have “successfully cultivated an image of familial bliss that made the charges virtually unthinkable.” But, no mention of the gunrunning scandal called Fast and Furious (where the federal government allowed weapons to be bought by Mexican drug cartels and used against U.S. Border Patrol and the Mexican army) or the terrorist attack on the vulnerable U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
As Sean Hannity observed, the World War II Memorial had more security during the government shutdown against veterans of that conflict who wanted to visit than the embassy compound did against Jihadists.
Spencer Irvine is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.
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