Journalists Denying Liberal Bias, Part One

“I ask people just to look at my body of work. And nobody knows my biases. Do they think I’m against? Do they think I’m for? They don’t know my biases. They don’t know where I come from in this. I just try very hard to report the facts and to tell the stories as best as I can. I am not part of the current crop of opinion journalists or commentary journalists or feelings journalists. I strongly believe that I have to remain in the realm of fact.”
— CNN’s Christiane Amanpour to CBS’s Lesley Stahl in a June 23, 2009 “Women on the Web” interview.

“Even though independent reports have shown the media was more critical of Barack Obama than John McCain during the presidential contest, there is still a fantasy that the press is gaga over now-President Obama.”
— MSNBC’s David Shuster on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, March 23, 2009.

CNN’s John Roberts: “But if you disagreed with some of his [John McCain’s] policies, why were you out there on the campaign trail supporting him?”
Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher: “Do you agree with every candidate and your candidate’s policies?”
Roberts: “Hey, I’m not out there stumping for anybody, I’m a journalist.”
— Exchange on CNN’s American Morning, December 23, 2008.

“Media bias largely unseen in U.S. presidential race”
— Headline over November 6, 2008 Reuters dispatch claiming no liberal tilt in favor of Barack Obama.

“Yes, in the closing weeks of this election, John McCain and Sarah Palin are getting hosed in the press, and at Politico....We’d take an educated guess — nothing so scientific as a Pew study — that Obama will win the votes of probably 80 percent or more of journalists covering the 2008 election....[But] of the factors driving coverage of this election...ideological favoritism ranks virtually nil.”
The Politico co-founders John Harris and Jim VandeHei in their October 28, 2008 column, “Why McCain is getting hosed in the press.”

“Before Gov. Sarah Palin came flying in from the wilds of Alaska for the Republican convention in St. Paul, there was a lot of sniggering in media rooms and satellite trucks about her beauty queen looks and rustic hobbies....In the press galleries at the convention, journalists wrinkled their noses in disgust when Piper, Ms. Palin’s youngest daughter, was filmed kitty-licking her baby brother’s hair into place.”
New York Times media writer David Carr, September 7, 2008.

“Hell no! I’m dying to find another liberal [to] open their mouths. Where are they!”
— Former UPI White House correspondent Helen Thomas, when asked if she thinks most White House reporters are liberal, as reported by The Washington Examiner’s Jeff Dufour and Patrick Gavin, July 21, 2008.

“While I would not dispute the longstanding assertions that there are more political liberals in newsrooms than conservatives, our political staff, as best I can tell, represents all kinds of backgrounds and beliefs, and because we all work so closely and in such a fishbowl, we all tend to keep one another on the straight and narrow.”
New York Times political editor Richard Stevenson during an online chat with readers, June 23, 2008.

“It was no secret to the reporters around me that I have Democratic-leaning views. But they said I was always fair.”
— Former ABC and CBS reporter Linda Douglass after she became a spokeswoman for Barack Obama, as quoted by the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz in a June 16, 2008 profile.

“We are agnostic as to where a story may lead; we do not go into a story with an agenda or a pre-conceived notion. We do not manipulate or hide facts to advance an agenda. We strive to preserve our independence from political and economic interests, including our own advertisers. We do not work in the service of a party, or an industry, or even a country. When there are competing views of a situation, we aim to reflect them as clearly and fairly as we can.”
New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller in his Hugo Young Memorial Lecture in London, printed in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper on November 29, 2007.

“Over the years, I always tried to be the one person wherever I was working that would give a fair representation of what was happening, and then I hoped a reasonable and intelligent analysis or insight into why it was happening. And I’ve been comforted over the years that people on the far left and people on the far right have said to me, ‘What party are you in, anyway? I have never been able to figure it out.’ [laughter] And I’d say, ‘That’s exactly the reaction I want you to have.’”
— Retired NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw on PBS’s Tavis Smiley, November 12, 2007.

“I know there are some people who actually believe that the [New York] Times has a partisan or ideological ‘agenda’ ....There are even a few people who think the news coverage and editorial page operate in lockstep as part of a liberal cabal. The Vice President is much too experienced and sophisticated, I suspect, to really believe that. I won’t pretend that reporters’ stories are never shaped by liberal bias (more accurately liberal assumptions about the world) but I think those instances are relatively rare, and I fight to filter them out and deplore them when they get into the paper.”
— Excerpt from a 2004 e-mail from New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller to Vice President Dick Cheney’s spokesman Kevin Kellems, as reprinted in Stephen Hayes’ 2007 biography, Cheney.

“For all the howling on the right, it’s difficult to argue that mainstream news organizations operate with anything approaching Fox’s partisan and ideological agenda.”
— Longtime Los Angeles Times political reporter Ron Brownstein in a March 16, 2007 column.

Host Bill O’Reilly: “I just look at all your on-the-air talent, and the Today show, and I love those guys, all right, they’re all liberal, every one of them, all right.”
NBC’s Andrea Mitchell: “I disagree....That’s not the way we approach the news....I can’t tell you one liberal thinker.”
O’Reilly: “You can. It’s Chris Matthews. Chris Matthews.... He’s on the Today show and on the Nightly News. He’s your main political commentator.”     
Mitchell: “As an analyst....I don’t think he’s a liberal thinker.”
O’Reilly: “He’s not? He worked for [Democratic Speaker] Tip O’Neill. How much more liberal can you get?”
Mitchell: “He worked for Tip O’Neill how many years ago?...I don’t think that it is fair to describe journalists as liberals or conservatives....I have to tell you that I don’t feel that there is bias in what we do at NBC News. And I don’t think there’s bias in CBS or ABC.”
— Exchange on FNC’s The O’Reilly Factor, January 5, 2007.        

“I do not have a liberal bias....I don’t have a conservative bias, either. I don’t have any bias. I am bias-free....Bias is what people who hear or read the news bring to the story, not what the journalist brings to the reporting....[My newscast] is a flavor of neutrality.”
— PBS NewsHour anchor Jim Lehrer appearing on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, November 27, 2006.

“I know that I’ve tried my best through my career to ask challenging questions to whomever I’m speaking, and whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat, I try to raise important issues depending on their particular position....Oftentimes people put their, they see you from their own individual prisms. And if you’re not reflecting their point of view, or you’re asking an antagonistic question of someone they might agree with in terms of policy, they see you as the enemy, and I think that’s just a mistake.”
— Incoming CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric at the Aspen Ideas Festival on July 5, broadcast by C-SPAN on September 2, 2006.

“[I am] biased — I have a very strong bias toward independent journalism....Some of what you describe as ‘baggage’ comes from people who have the following view: Their view is, ‘You report the news the way I want it reported or I’m going to make you pay a price and hang a sign around your neck saying you’re a bomb-toting Bolshevik.’”
— Dan Rather, as quoted by the Washington Post’s Lisa de Moraes in a July 12, 2006 column.

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.

Previous: Exhibit 2-21: Trust and Satisfaction with the National Media (2009)
Next: Journalists Denying Liberal Bias, Part Two

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