Monday, February 21, 2005

In Wake of Rathergate, CBS Favors Sound Bites of Republicans

An analysis of CBS Evening News broadcasts from Nov. 3, 2004 to Feb. 17, 2005 found that the program featured Republicans more often than Democrats during political segments.

The analysis, by liberal fact-checking site Media Matters for America, found that the show -- hosted by the conservatives' poster boy for "liberal media bias," Dan Rather -- featured 123 clips of Republican officials or commentators, and just 65 of Democratic officials or commentators. Subtracting the 40 clips of President Bush, and Rather still introduced clips of Republicans and conservatives 56% of the time (83 of 148).

The political segments also included 48 clips featuring individuals not identified as affiliated with organizations promoting particular political viewpoints. Of these, five offered commentary consistent with Democrats or liberals, five offered commentary consistent with Republicans or conservatives, and 38 offered commentary that would be considered politically neutral.

The entire list of those featured in clips can be seen at


Media Matters suggests that the data calls into question whether CBS Evening News is actually liberal.

I'll toss that question aside, because I think the sample size is too small to draw any conclusions. I'd love to see a comparison from the same time period of 2003-2004, or even a comparison of several years' data.

I think the more important consideration is that the data comes in the post-Rathergate era.

Hypothetically, let's concede to conservatives that in earlier years, Rather featured Democrats more than Republicans -- and again, I have no data supporting or denying this position.

Even though a report co-authored by former Reagan attorney general Dick Thornburgh found "no evidence" that Rather's 60 Minutes report about President Bush's Vietnam-era National Guard duty demonstrated a political bias (, one could wonder aloud whether Rather tried to overcompensate in the wake of the September fiasco.

JABBS and other liberal media criticism websites have regularly wondered aloud about overcompensation by those chastised by conservatives as suffering from "liberal media bias."

For example, Chris Matthews of MSNBC's Hardball is a former aide to legendary (and liberal) House Speaker Tip O'Neill. Yet on JABBS and elsewhere, liberal media critics have pounced on Matthews for featuring panels lopsided with conservative pundits, and allowing conservative spin to go unchallenged, far more often than favoring liberal pundits or allowing liberal spin to go unchallenged.

Why does Matthews favor conservatives? Critics speculate that either Matthews' political view has changed over the last two decades, or because, given his resume, he is overcompensating.

The same criticisms are lobbed at Tim Russert, host of NBC's Meet the Press and a former aide to legendary Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY). Why does Russert allow conservative spin to often be accepted as fact, but play "gotcha" with liberal guests like Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY)? The working theory, again, is that either Russert's politics have changed, or, given his resume, he feels the need to overcompensate to appear "objective."

No doubt, there is nothing that Dan Rather can do in his last weeks before retirement that will placate conservatives. But the data collected by Media Matters certainly suggests that Rather is following the same path as Matthews and Russert.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Right won't let up on Rather. Rather and CBS-news appears to be stretching too far to the Right to try to placate concerns of liberal media bias.
Now, where's the outcry for the White House to respond to the six journalism GOP propagandists, some if not all of them discussed on this blog, on the payroll of the Bush Administration or working for an advocate psuedo news organization like Talon?
The Right is only concerned about media bias and hypocrisy when it does not favor them.

9:45 AM  
Anonymous joe said...

I'm surprised this post hasn't received a half-dozen responses from the various conservatives who frequent JABBS.

I guess it's hard to refute facts.

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting point made here. maybe these people's politics have changed....maybe the espoused democratic positions have moved farther left leaving the typically more centrist matthews or russert debating with the rangels of the world more than the republicans. I, for one, having sided democrat for twenty years on many many issues, now sometimes find myself agreeing with some centrist based conservatives. If the talking head examples the democrats want to put on talk shows comes from the far left wing of the party, this will continue to occur in my opinion. Not saying there is anything wrong with this--even if i disagree with the positions--but it may partially explain what you speak of.

8:53 AM  

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