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Denials of Liberal Bias

FNC’s Bill O’Reilly: “Now the right wing thinks you’re a raving liberal, you and Rather contrived to put Bush in the worst possible light....So are you a liberal?”
Fired CBS producer Mary Mapes: “Well, I’m not sure what a liberal is. I’m more liberal than some people. I can tell you my eight-year-old son thinks he’s being raised by the most conservative parents in the world....”
O’Reilly: “Are you registered Democrat?”
Mapes: “You know, I don’t know....I don’t know if I’m independent or Democrat. I know I’m not — in Texas, I’m not sure how I’m registered.”
O’Reilly: “So you would describe yourself politically as?”
Mapes: “Oh, my goodness. I’m liberal on some things, I’m conservative on some things.”
— FNC’s The O’Reilly Factor, November 10, 2005.

“It’s very difficult for any reporter or producer to completely and totally shut out his political opinions, but what I’ve seen at CBS News, people do a darned good job at doing that. I guess if I saw that creeping into our coverage I would have to address it, but I don’t see that in our coverage. I think we have been falsely accused of that at times.”
— New CBS News President Sean McManus at a meeting with CBS employees, as reported by Vaughn Ververs on the “Public Eye” blog on, November 8, 2005.

Chris Wallace: “I get e-mails from time to time saying to me, ‘You’re just like your father,’ and they don’t mean it as a compliment.”
CBS’s Mike Wallace: “What does that mean?”
Chris Wallace: “They say, ‘Go to CBS. Go to one of the big networks. Go to the mainstream media’ — as if that were a foreign land. Do you understand why some people feel such disaffection for the mainstream media?”
Mike Wallace: “Oh, yeah. They think we’re wild-eyed commies. Liberals. Yes?”
Chris Wallace: “That’s what they think. How do you plead?”
Mike Wallace: “I think it’s damn foolishness.”
— Exchange on Fox News Sunday, November 6, 2005.

“As was the practice in all he did, Dan was meticulously careful to be fair and balanced and accurate. When did we stop believing that this is indeed how we all perform our jobs or try to? When did we allow those with questionable agendas to take the lead and convince people of something quite the opposite? It’s shameful. But I digress.”
— MSNBC President and former ABC and CNN news executive Rick Kaplan praising ex-CBS anchor Dan Rather on September 19 as the latter received a lifetime achievement award from the National Television Academy, a ceremony televised on C-SPAN on October 1, 2005.

“A lot of my personal worldview is unmistakably sympathetic to things in a liberal playbook, but honest to God, I have been called a reactionary by some on the far left, a liberal by some on the far right and I’m insulted by both terms. My point of view is about delivering information and context. It has nothing to do with a political point of view.”
— MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, as quoted in a June 9, 2005 Houston Chronicle profile by Mike McDaniel.

“One way a reporter in this country should be judged is how well he or she stands up to the pressure to intimidate. I remember the first time someone accused me of being an ‘N-lover.’ There was a lot of that during the ‘60s when I covered the civil rights movement. Then you move forward from civil rights into the Vietnam War....’We’re going to hang a sign around you which calls you some bad name: anti-military, anti-American, anti-war.’ Then, when Watergate came into being....was the first time I began to hear this word ‘liberal’ as an epithet thrown my way....People who have very strong biases of their own, they come at you with a story: ‘If you won’t report it the way I want it reported, then you’re biased.’ Now, it is true about me, for better or for worse, if you want to see my neck swell, you just try to tell me where to line up or what to think and mostly what to report.”
— Dan Rather near the end of his one-hour CBS News special, Dan Rather: A Reporter Remembers, which aired on his last night as CBS Evening News anchor, March 9, 2005.

“He [Dan Rather] should be remembered as the complete reporter, a person who should be remembered for the hundreds and thousands of broadcasts he did....If we wish to be fair-minded rather than mean-spirited, we should not be fixated on the one story that went bad.”
— Former CBS News reporter Marvin Kalb, now at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, as quoted in the March 8, 2005 Boston Globe.

Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes: “Look, at the end of the day, if we’re worried about too many conservatives in the White House press briefing room, this is a discussion that’s not, that’s not gonna resonate with the American public.”
Host Chris Matthews: “You think it’s mostly packed with liberals? Are you saying most of those people who are paid to be journalists in that room are lib-labs, they’re liberals?”
Hayes: “Yes, of course....Is there a debate about that?”
Matthews: “Well, there’s Helen Thomas, who I would call liberal. But who else is in there? Seriously. There are a lot of straight reporters in that room.”
Time’s Margaret Carlson: “I think they’re mostly straight reporters. And I don’t think you can keep your job otherwise....Elisabeth Bumiller reports for the New York Times, which has a liberal editorial page, but she plays it straight down the middle.”
— Exchange on MSNBC’s Hardball, February 25, 2005.

Ex-CBS reporter Phil Jones: “I’ve known Dan Rather for almost 40 years. The Dan Rather I know, believe me, had the President of the United States been a Democrat, he would still have pushed to go forward with that story. And for all these people out there who want to attack Dan as being this partisan Democrat...this is not an exhibit.”
PBS’s Terence Smith, who worked at CBS News from 1985 to 1998: “I second that.”
— CNN’s Reliable Sources, January 16, 2005.

“I don’t think I’m easily characterized. I grew up in red-state America, but I live in blue-state America and I like to think that I reflect the sensibilities of both those places.”
— NBC’s Tom Brokaw on MSNBC’s Imus in the Morning on December 1, 2004 his last day as Nightly News anchor.

“I’m not political. I don’t vote....I have no more interest in the political outcome of an election than I did in the winner or loser of any ballgame I ever covered.”
— MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, formerly with ESPN, in an Online Journalism Review interview posted November 30, 2004.

“[Media Research Center President] Brent Bozell has, you know, an entire organization devoted to doing as much damage, and I choose that word carefully, as he can to the credibility of the news divisions. And now, on the Left, there are the young bloggers out there ....These three aging white men are stuck somewhere in the middle trying, on a nightly basis, to give a fair and balanced picture of what’s going on in the world.”
– NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, sitting alongside Dan Rather and Peter Jennings, at an October 2, 2004 New Yorker Festival forum shown on C-SPAN the next day.

“Anybody who knows me knows that I am not politically motivated, not politically active for Democrats or Republicans, and that I’m independent. People who are so passionately partisan politically or ideologically committed basically say, ‘Because he won’t report it our way, we’re going to hang something bad around his neck and choke him with it, check him out of existence if we can, if not make him feel great pain.’ They know that I’m fiercely independent and that’s what drives them up a wall.”
— CBS’s Dan Rather as quoted by USA Today’s Peter Johnson and Jim Drinkard in a September 16, 2004 article.

“Powerful and extremely well-financed forces are concentrating on questions about the documents because they can’t deny the fundamental truth of the [60 Minutes National Guard] story. If you can’t deny the information, then attack and seek to destroy the credibility of the messenger, the bearer of the information. And in this case, it’s change the subject from the truth of the information to the truth of the documents. This is your basic fogging machine, which is set up to cloud the issue, to obscure the truth....Over the long haul, this will be consistent with our history and our traditions and reputation. We took heat during the McCarthy time, during Vietnam, during civil rights, during Watergate. We haven’t always been right, but our record is damn good.”
— CBS’s Dan Rather as quoted by the New York Observer’s Joe Hagan, September 15, 2004

“CNN, I think, is viewed as liberal because, I think, this is my own personal perspective, I think journalists are generally viewed as being liberal....[Since] we don’t give a slant, we don’t give a corporate slant to the journalism, that bias towards both discovery and revealing the truth that is inherent in journalism comes through in CNN, and they get characterized as being a liberal network.”
— Time Warner Chairman and CEO Richard Parsons, whose company owns CNN, speaking at the UNITY: Journalists of Color conference in Washington, DC on August 6, 2004 and shown live on C-SPAN.

“Another disturbing development, for which I was unprepared, was that a small enclave of neoconservative editors was making accusations of ‘political correctness’ in order to block stories or slant them against minorities and traditional social welfare programs.”
— Former Executive Editor Howell Raines in “My Times,” a 21,000-word article about the obstacles he faced while running the New York Times, published in the May 2004 edition of The Atlantic.

“Personal feelings about this war have run very high among readers, even before it started, and the view that things are better than the press makes them out to be has been expressed by the Bush administration and supporters of the war for more than a year. There are, undoubtedly, some positive developments that may not have been reported. But it seems to me that events on the ground have confirmed the thrust and credibility of the reporting on this conflict and that the press generally has been more reliable than official statements as a guide to what is happening. My view is that both this country and Iraq are at a critical juncture in a huge, costly and controversial undertaking and that readers who view the work of reporters covering this for major U.S. news organizations as “lefty spin” are fooling themselves.”
Washington Post Ombudsman Michael Getler in his Sunday column, May 23, 2004.

American University journalism professor Jane Hall: “The Media Research Center, the conservative media watchdog group, has been getting a lot of attention for its reports alleging liberal bias in the media....What is the impact, do you think, of a steady drumbeat of such criticism? Does it not have an impact on the network?”
Tom Brokaw: “It is a little wearying, but you’ve got to rise above it and take it case by case. Most of the cases are pretty flimsily made....What I get tired of is Brent Bozell [president of the MRC] trying to make these fine legal points everywhere every day. A lot of it just doesn’t hold up. So much of it is that bias — like beauty — is in the eye of the beholder.”
— From an interview with Brokaw in the January/February 2004 issue of the Columbia Journalism Review.

“What troubles me is a disturbing trend of using the popular appeal of those [conservative] beliefs in some quarters as cover for a kind of commercial nihilism....They suffocate vigorous discourse, the oxygen of a system such as ours, by identifying those who refuse to conform and encouraging a kind of e-mail or telephonic jihad which is happily carried out by well-funded organizations operating under the guise of promoting fair press coverage....What is so unsettling about the current climate is the ruthless efficiency of the attacks on those who refuse to conform.”
— NBC’s Tom Brokaw in a November 19, 2003 speech at a National Press Club dinner where he was given the 2003 Fourth Estate Award at an event shown live on C-SPAN.

“It’s admirable for reporters to be skeptical, provided they’re not cynical. But I’m not any more skeptical about Republican administrations than I am about Democratic administrations.”
— Peter Jennings, as quoted by St. Petersburg Times television critic Eric Deggans in a November 18, 2003 story.

“Discussion about liberal bias has gotten altogether skewed and altogether out of proportion. There were legitimate complaints by the right a few years ago, but now the pendulum has swung wildly to the other side in terms of radio and talk shows on television.”
— Ex-CNN reporter Frank Sesno, quoted by the American Journalism Review’s Rachel Smolkin in “Are the News Media Soft on Bush?” October/November 2003.

“I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled. I’m sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did....The entire body politic...did not ask enough questions, for instance, about weapons of mass destruction. I mean, it looks like this was disinformation at the highest levels.”
— CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on CNBC’s Topic A with Tina Brown, September 10, 2003.

“I don’t think anybody who looks carefully at us thinks that we are a left-wing or a right-wing organization.”
— Peter Jennings, as quoted by USA Today’s Peter Johnson in a September 9, 2003 article on Jennings’ 20 years as sole anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight.

“I think that we’ve gotten it mostly right on the big and the complex issues of our time. And in fairness to my competitors — and Peter just celebrated his 20th anniversary — I think you could say the same thing about Peter Jennings and Dan Rather as well. These three aging white guys have been at this for a while now, and for the most part I think that we’ve served this country very well.”
— Tom Brokaw on CNBC’s Capital Report September 5, 2003, his 20th anniversary as anchor of NBC Nightly News.

“I’m not going to judge anybody else in the business, but our work — I can speak for NBC News and our newsroom — it goes through, talk about checks and balances. We have an inordinate number of editors. Every word I write, before it goes on air, goes through all kinds of traps and filters, and it’s read by all kinds of different people who point out bias.”
— CNBC anchor Brian Williams on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, July 29, 2003.

“Our greatest accomplishment as a profession is the development since World War II of a news reporting craft that is truly non-partisan, and non-ideological, and that strives to be independent of undue commercial or governmental influence....It is that legacy we must protect with our diligent stewardship. To do so means we must be aware of the energetic effort that is now underway to convince our readers that we are ideologues. It is an exercise of, in disinformation, of alarming proportions. This attempt to convince the audience of the world’s most ideology-free newspapers that they’re being subjected to agenda-driven news reflecting a liberal bias. I don’t believe our viewers and readers will be, in the long-run, misled by those who advocate biased journalism.”
New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines accepting the “George Beveridge Editor of the Year Award” at a National Press Foundation dinner shown live on C-SPAN2 February 20, 2003.

CBS’s Lesley Stahl: “Today you have broadcast journalists who are avowedly conservative....The voices that are being heard in broadcast media today, are far more — the ones who are being heard — are far more likely to be on the right and avowedly so, and therefore, more — almost stridently so, than what you’re talking about.”
Host Cal Thomas: “Can you name a conservative journalist at CBS News?”
Stahl: “I don’t know of anybody’s political bias at CBS News....We try very hard to get any opinion that we have out of our stories, and most of our stories are balanced.”
— Exchange on Fox News Channel’s After Hours with Cal Thomas, January 18, 2003.

“It took conservatives a lot of hard and steady work to push the media rightward. It dishonors that work to continue to presume that — except for a few liberal columnists — there is any such thing as the big liberal media. The media world now includes (1) talk radio, (2) cable television and (3) the traditional news sources (newspapers, newsmagazines and the old broadcast networks). Two of these three major institutions tilt well to the right, and the third is under constant pressure to avoid even the pale hint of liberalism....What it adds up to is a media heavily biased toward conservative politics and conservative politicians.”
— Former Washington Post and New York Times reporter E.J. Dionne in a December 6, 2002 Washington Post op-ed.

“I don’t think it’s a liberal agenda. It happens that journalism will always be spending more time on issues that seem to be liberal to some people: the problem of the downtrodden, the problem of civil rights and human rights, the problem of those people who don’t have a place at the table with the powerful.”
– NBC anchor Tom Brokaw on MSNBC’s Donahue when asked about the claim of liberal media bias, July 25, 2002.

“I have yet to see a body of evidence that suggests the reporting that gets on the air reflects any political bias.”
— Former CNN and CBS reporter, now Executive Director of NewsLab, Deborah Potter as reported in “Leaning on the Media” by Mark Jurkowitz, The Boston Globe, January 17, 2002.

“Searching for the unbiased human being is an impossible task...What makes journalists skilled is that they know how to be fair.”
— Former CNN President Rick Kaplan as reported in “Leaning on the Media” by Mark Jurkowitz, The Boston Globe, January 17, 2002.

“The idea that we would set out, consciously or unconsciously, to put some kind of an ideological framework over what we’re doing is nonsense.”
— NBC’s Tom Brokaw, C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, May 24, 2001.

“I think the tag, you know, somehow or another, ‘he’s a bomb-throwing Bolshevik from the left side’ that’s attached to me, is put there by people who, they subscribe to the idea either you report the news the way we want you to report it, or we’re gonna tag some, what we think negative sign on you.”
— CBS’s Dan Rather, CNBC’s Rivera Live, May 21, 2001.

“I think there is a mainstream media. CNN is mainstream media, and the main, ABC, CBS, NBC are mainstream media. And I think it’s just essentially to make the point that we are largely in the center without particular axes to grind, without ideologies which are represented in our daily coverage, at least certainly not on purpose.”
— ABC’s Peter Jennings, CNN’s Larry King Live, May 15, 2001.

“I’m not liberal. First of all, I finally decided to get rid of those two words, ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative.’ I don’t know what they mean anymore. I mean, I’ve come down to ‘sense’ and ‘nonsense.’ It makes sense to me, it’s got nothing to do with conservative or liberal, it makes sense to me that hunters be allowed to have rifles. It makes no sense to me that there are 200 million handguns in American cities. I have always believed that if you get the NRA out of the way, decent reasonable Americans would figure out a way to respect the Second Amendment and get guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”
— Don Hewitt, Executive Producer of CBS’s 60 Minutes, on CNN’s Larry King Live, April 11, 2001.

Bill Press: “Why is it that you are the epitome of the left-wing liberal media in the mind of every conservative I’ve ever talked to? What did you do to get that reputation?”
Dan Rather: “I remained an independent reporter who would not report the news the way they wanted it or – from the left or the right. I’m a lifetime reporter. All I ever dreamed of was being a journalist, and the definition of journalist to me was the guy who’s an honest broker of information....I do subscribe to the idea of: ‘Play no favorites and pull no punches.’”
— Exchange on CNN’s Crossfire, June 24, 1999.

“I think we can now safely conclude that this whole notion that the liberal media elite is coddling Bill Clinton and always plays to the Democrats is absurd. I mean the fact is who’s been the undoing of Bill Clinton: Newsweek and the Washington Post, those raging conservative publications.”
— Former New York Times and U.S. News reporter Steve Roberts on Lewinsky scandal coverage, CNN’s Late Edition, February 1, 1998.

“Scholar after scholar has disputed, in studying the actual content of the press, what you’ve just blithely handed out that it’s this left-wing media. That’s a charge from the ’50s. That’s not the current press....the bias is a bias against politicians of all kinds, not a bias for one side or other.”
— Ellen Hume, Director of the PBS Democracy Project, reacting to Bob Novak’s assertion the mainstream media are “tilted to the left.” July 27, 1997 CNN’s Reliable Sources.

“I don’t think voting for Clinton makes you a liberal. I mean, Bill Clinton isn’t even a liberal, and second, if you’re liberal, does that mean you can’t be fair? What hypocrisy that we sit around and talk about the press like it’s some sort of ‘they.’ It’s us. Are we too liberal? N-O.”
Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift on The McLaughlin Group, July 5, 1997.

“There is no convincing evidence that journalists infect their stories — intentionally or otherwise — with their own political prejudices....While a few studies suggest such a link, most are the handiwork of right-leaning groups and critics whose research methods can’t withstand scrutiny....The credibility of the media is not suffering because of a liberal bias; it’s suffering, in large part, because of the continuing charge of bias that has gone unanswered for too long.”
— Everette Dennis, Senior VP of the Freedom Forum, in the January-February 1997 edition of ASNE’s magazine, The American Editor.

“I was about to say that if you want to talk about bias, go ask President Clinton where the bias lies. As you know, the White House just issued this big huge study, they called it, of how the mainline media is sucked in by the right-wing conspiratorialists. My point is that everybody who watches television brings their own biases to it, and if what you’re watching doesn’t please you, then you think we’re biased. Everybody dislikes the messenger. Everybody complains about us, right wing, left wing, Democrats, Republicans. They all pound on us. They all think we’re unfair to them if we’re telling them things they don’t want to hear. And we do the best we can. We try to be fair.”
— CBS 60 Minutes reporter Lesley Stahl on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, January 31, 1997.

“I think the fact that we’re still standing, this day, 35 years after we...entered this business, is some, immodestly, some small tribute the fact that we’ve worked very hard to drain the bias out of what we do.”
— NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw at the National Press Club, June 11, 1996.

“When you’re talking about pure journalists, I mean reporters, when you’re talking about reporters, not columnists, I don’t think there’s any liberal bias. I don’t think there really ever has been.”
Los Angeles Times Senior Washington correspondent Jack Nelson on CNBC’s Politics ‘96, March 9, 1996.

“I’m all news, all the time. Full power, tall tower. I want to break in when news breaks out. That’s my agenda. Now respectfully, when you start talking about a liberal agenda and all the, quote, liberal bias in the media, I quite frankly, and I say this respectfully but candidly to you, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Now if you want to talk about an issue, what do I believe as a citizen of the United States of America, I can tell you what I believe in. I believe in a strong defense, clean water, and tight money. Now whatever that makes me politically, that’s what I am. What I don’t like, and if you want to see my neck swell or the hair begin to rise on the back of my neck, is to be tagged by someone else’s label. I try really hard not to do that with other people, particularly people who are in public service and politics.”
— Dan Rather to talk radio host Mike Rosen of KOA in Denver, November 28, 1995.

“I don’t think the coverage of Gingrich and the GOP Congress has been liberally biased...”
— ABC’s Cokie Roberts on CNBC’s Meet the Media, October 23, 1995.

Larry King: “Over all these fifteen years, how do you react to the constant, especially, far right-wing criticism that the news on CBS is mainstream biased?”
Dan Rather: “....Well, my answer to that is basically a good Texas phrase, which is bullfeathers....I think the fact that if someone survives for four or five years at or near the top in network television, you can just about bet they are pretty good at keeping independence in their reporting. What happens is a lot of people don’t want independence. They want the news reported the way they want it for their own special political agendas or ideological reasons.”
— CNN’s Larry King Live, March 11, 1995.

“It’s one of the great political myths, about press bias. Most reporters are interested in a story. Most reporters don’t know whether they’re Republican or Democrat, and vote every which way. Now, a lot of politicians would like you to believe otherwise, but that’s the truth of the matter. I’ve worked around journalism all of my life, Tom Snyder has as well, and I think he’ll agree with this, that most reporters, when you get to know them, would fall in the general category of kind of common-sense moderates. And also, let me say that I don’t think that ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ means very much any more, except to those kind of inside-the-Beltway people who want to use it for their own partisan political advantage. I don’t think it holds up.”
— Dan Rather answering a caller’s question about liberal bias on CBS’s Late Late Show with Tom Snyder, February 8, 1995.

Question: “I don’t think it’s your personal liberal bias that’s well-known, but the liberal bias of your network is obvious.”
ABC News anchor Carole Simpson: “I challenge you to give me examples of that. I disagree wholeheartedly. I think it’s again, an example of the mean-spiritedness that is these days also directed at the media.”
— January 5, 1995 AOL auditorium session.

“A liberal bias? I don’t know what a liberal bias is. Do you mean we care about the poor, the sick, and the maimed? Do we care whether people are being shot every day on the streets of America? If that’s liberal, so be it. I think it’s everything that’s good in life — that we do care. And also for the solutions — we seek solutions and we do think that we are all responsible for what happens in this country.”
— UPI White House correspondent Helen Thomas on C-SPAN’s Journalists’ Roundtable, December 31, 1993.

“I think there are reporters around Clinton who are baby boomers who are drawn to him. I think there are a lot of reporters in Washington who just wish for a new story. But I watch probably as many talk shows, and as many interview shows, what George Bush calls the professional talking heads on Sundays, as anybody else. I actually think the bias, in the overall system, is from the center to the right.”
— PBS’s Bill Moyers on CNN’s Larry King Live, November 2, 1992.

“I don’t think there is [a bias] at all. I think anyone who accuses the press of bias is acting in desperation, I think. I think the press has been much more aggressive and fair, in being, in going after both sides, and looking, than ever before.”
New York Times reporter Richard Berke on CNN’s Larry King Live, October 16, 1992.

“My reaction to that button [‘Rather Biased’] and others, in part, is a button I bought yesterday that says `Yeah, I’m In The Media, Screw You!’....I do understand why a lot of people are upset with us, why we rank somewhere between terrorists and bank robbers on the approval scale. We do criticize. That’s part of our role. Our role is not just to parrot what people say, it’s to make people think. I think that sometimes I want to say to the electorate ‘Grow up!’”
Newsweek reporter Ginny Carroll on C-SPAN’s Journalists’ Roundtable, August 21, 1992.


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