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From the Same School
Brian Williams is more liberal anchoring from NBC.

Op-ed by Brent H. Baker, vice president of the Media Research Center,
as posted on National Review, May 31, 2002

By Brent H. Baker

Many see the "big three" nightly news shows as dinosaurs in the face of vibrant cable alternatives. But who anchors them remains relevant for two reasons: First, the anchor is the face of the network during special coverage when millions tune in, such as on Election Night or a Sept. 11th. Second, while those with a great interest in the news watch cable, the broadcast networks reach a far larger audience of less politically aware viewers who are more susceptible to any bias. Though the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening newscasts continue to lose viewers, each still individually attracts an audience about three times greater than the primetime audience of CNN, FNC, and MSNBC combined.

Any hope, however, that the next generation of network-news anchors might nudge the evening newscasts away from the liberalism which is driving viewers to cable was dashed, at least by NBC, when the network announced that Brian Williams will slide into the NBC Nightly News anchor seat after the 2004 election.

Williams, now anchor of a nightly newscast shown on both MSNBC and CNBC, and the primary NBC Nightly News fill-in for Tom Brokaw, is a case study in Bernard Goldberg's observation that it is the "inability to see liberal views as liberal that is at the heart" of liberal media bias.

Indeed, to Williams neither Al Gore nor Bill Bradley were liberal presidential candidates. On his MSNBC show in July of 1999 he lamented how "there is no true liberal to be found in this race. There's no Harkin, there's no Kennedy, there are just two centrists."

Bill Bradley a "centrist?" Ted Kennedy has earned an 88 percent lifetime rating from the liberal Americans for Democratic Action (ADA). The ADA's lifetime rating for Bradley: A barely differentiable 85 percent.

While he doesn't see any liberals in America, he has no problem tagging conservatives as "far right" extremists. In February of 2000 he pleaded with guest Laura Ingraham: "What do you do to convince, if you are John McCain, to convince the far right, 'No, really, you have to listen to my point of electability'?" Opening the December 22, 2000 NBC Nightly News, Williams asserted that in picking John Ashcroft for attorney general, President Bush "calms the far right politically."

Being pro-life made Bob Casey, the former governor of Pennsylvania, an "ultraconservative" to Williams. When Casey passed away in May 2000, Williams warned that Casey was "a Democrat, but a devout Catholic and thus was ultraconservative on the topic of abortion."

Standing up for conservative principles seems to really annoy Williams. Following a January 2000 GOP debate, Williams denigrated the positions taken by the six candidates, bemoaning how "it's red meat for conservatives, the positions rather strident tonight: anti-gay, pro-Jesus, and anti-abortion and no gray matter in between."

Back in 1996 Williams followed the Clintonista script as he scolded Bob Dole for daring to mention how the Clinton White House got caught with hundreds of FBI background files. Williams set up a Nightly News story: "The politics of Campaign '96 are getting very ugly, very early. Today Bob Dole accused the White House of using the FBI to wage war against its political enemies, and if that sounds like another political scandal, that's the point."

Matching the environmental lobby's spin, Williams regularly condemns SUVs. He demanded in January this year: "With the U.S. locked in dependence on foreign oil, is it downright unpatriotic to drive an SUV?" In early March he rued: "Gas-guzzling SUVs and light trucks were big winners on Capitol Hill today, but there's concern tonight the environment could be the big loser."

A classic example of the contrasting way Williams treats liberals versus conservatives was illustrated by how he approached interviews with Janet Reno versus Ken Starr. He delivered a love-fest with Reno in May of 2001. Asking her "what do your days consist of these days" elicited the response that she likes to kayak and "walk in the grass in my bare feet." Now there's an image.

Williams empathized with how Reno was the target of criticism: "Did any of it make you want to scream?" When she insisted that if Orrin Hatch walked into the room she'd give him a "big hug," Williams was astonished: "But he said some terrible things about you on those Sunday talk shows." Williams even wondered: "How would you like to leave this Earth?"

But quizzing Starr 18 months earlier on MSNBC, in November 1999, Williams had demanded that Starr identify "a moment of zealotry, two moments of zealotry" in his "hunt" for the president. Williams also wondered if Starr realized that his case was perceived as being "about a middle aged man telling kind of run-of-the-mill lies to protect a non-intercourse sexual affair"?

On the upside, Williams is at least sometimes cognizant of the mainstream media's slant. On September 21, 2000 Williams opened his MSNBC program by conceding: "A series of small mistakes have taken their toll on the Gore campaign. There was the campaign event where Gore forgot the word mammogram, called it a sonogram, before asking some nurses in the audience for help. No big deal, mind you, but had that happened to Bush the news media would have used it to further the theme that the Texas governor has a troubled relationship with the English language."

Now, if only he would do more to correct the bias than to perpetuate it.

Brent Baker is vice president of the Media Research Center.

National Review | Posted Op-Ed piece



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