Media Bias Blowback

, Evan Sumortin, Leave a comment

On June 5, 2009, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), along with a dozen other congressional Republicans, formed the Media Fairness Caucus devoted to fighting liberal media bias.

Smith has waged his own campaign against unfair coverage in weekly one-minute speeches on the House floor. The caucus is intended to build on his effort.

In an interview with Accuracy in Media, Smith argues that the media’s coverage during the 2008 election heavily contributed to the Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s victory. “Both the bias in favor of Obama and the bias against bringing up anything negative about him clearly had an impact on the election,” Smith argued. “After the election, several reporters came out and wrote that they are embarrassed with their profession because the media were in the tank for Obama…Just look at the last election where the national network news programs covered Obama and McCain but gave three times [more] negative coverage to Senator McCain than to Senator Obama.”

This bias can be attributed to the fact that the vast majority of journalists vote for Democrats. For example, in a 2005 survey by the University of Connecticut’s Department of Public Policy, 300 journalists were asked whom they voted for in the 2004 election. 52% voted for the Democratic challenger John Kerry while only 19% voted for Republican President George W. Bush.

The Caucus’ first order of business was to issue an open letter to ABC news in protest of a program aired called “Questions for the President: Prescription for America.” This was a townhall style meeting in which the audience—and their questions—were pre-screened. In a statement issued by the caucus they argued that:

“The manner in which the news programming is being presented—at the White House with the President and First Lady and without opposition—is unprofessional and contrary to the journalistic code of ethics to present the news fairly and independently.

“This is not a Presidential news conference open to all news outlets. This is an exclusive arrangement from which the President and his viewpoint stand to gain. It’s as if ABC News is providing in-kind free advertising for President Obama.”

ABC news issued its own statement contending that their coverage would not be “slanted.” Following the program, the Media Research Center broke down the ABC Health Care Special by participation: 60% was of Obama talking.

Evan Sumortin is an intern at the American Journalism Center, a training program run by Accuracy in Media and Accuracy in Academia.


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