Krauthammer and Barnes misrepresented Pew journalists survey: "[N]ational media is generally very liberal"

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

On May 24, the same day that Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz misleadingly wrote in his "Media Notes" column that a new report released on May 23 by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press "confirmed that national journalists are to the left of the public on social issues," Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes and conservative syndicated Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer echoed Kurtz's claims during their appearance on FOX News Channel's Special Report With Brit Hume. In addition, Barnes bolstered his claim about the media's liberal leanings by citing two other polls, both of which were conducted by individuals and organizations with right-wing ties.

On the May 24 Special Report with Brit Hume, Barnes stated that the Pew poll showed that "the national media is generally very liberal"; and Krauthammer said, "[T]hey're all liberal, and I think you get a flavor of it in the [Pew] poll." However, as Media Matters for America reported, the Pew report included commentary by Bill Kovach, Tom Rosenstiel, and Amy Mitchell (of the Committee of Concerned Journalists and the Project for Excellence in Journalism) that specifically warned against drawing such conclusions:

[W]hat does liberal mean to journalists? We would be reluctant to infer too much here. The survey includes just four questions probing journalists' political attitudes, yet the answers to these questions suggest journalists have in mind something other than a classic big government liberalism and something more along the lines of libertarianism. More journalists said they think it is more important for people to be free to pursue their goals without government interference than it is for government to ensure that no one is in need [emphasis added].

Later in the discussion on Special Report with Brit Hume, Barnes advanced his claim that the media is "a lot more liberal than the American people" by citing two other polls: the Lichter-Rothman poll and the Center for Media and Public Affairs poll (both of which were funded by right-wing foundations and conducted by individuals with conservative ties):

BARNES: [W]e know it from other polls going back to the Lichter-Rothman poll in 1980, because they've all shown the same thing, and it's in this poll too. The media is generally -- the national media is generally very liberal. Certainly a lot more liberal than any other American people...

[...]

BARNES: I mean the truth is if you look at other polls, you'll see the Center for Media and Public Affairs does one on the president and presidential candidates. Democratic -- this year Democratic presidential candidates got 3-1 favorable stories on the broadcast evening news shows, while Bush was getting 60 percent negative stories. So there's clearly a tilt there. He's getting pounded. They're not. And yet, the media thinks he needs to be pounded more.

Dr. S. Robert Lichter, president of the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA), conducted both surveys cited by Barnes; and Stanley Rothman, director of the Center for the Study of Social and Political Change at Smith College, co-conducted the Lichter-Rothman poll.

Media Transparency: The Money Behind the Media, a website that tracks grants made to conservative organizations, reported that both the Center for Media and Public Affairs and the Center for the Study of Social and Political Change have received funding from the Sarah Scaife Foundation and the John M. Olin Foundation, Inc. -- two of the top four conservative foundations known as the Four Sisters.

The chairman of the Sarah Scaife Foundation is Richard Mellon Scaife

The John M. Olin Foundation, according to a dossier by Media Transparency, "funds right-wing think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute for Public Policy Research and the Hoover Institute of War, Revolution and Peace. It also gives large sums of money to promote conservative programs in the country's most prestigious colleges and universities."

Lichter and the Center for Media and Public Affairs

In addition to being funded by the Scaife and Olin foundations, when Lichter's Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) launched in 1985, it sent out fund-raising letters with endorsements from conservatives including then-President Ronald Reagan; future Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan; then-attorney general under Reagan (and staunch anti-choice advocate) Ed Meese; and Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson -- according to a 1998 report by national media watch group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). Nonetheless, CMPA's website announces that it "is a nonpartisan research and educational organization which conducts scientific studies of the news and entertainment media [CMPA's emphasis]."

Lichter currently serves as a "media analyst" for FOX News Channel and also co-hosts a weekly radio show, What's the Story, with conservative Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes, who cited Lichter's polls on Special Report with Brit Hume on May 24. What's the Story is nationally syndicated by Radio America, whose "mission is to produce and syndicate quality radio programs reflecting a commitment to traditional American values, limited government and the free market."

According to the Director's Statement, the Center for the Study of Social and Political Change's studies "probe the political ideologies and the personalities of America's newly powerful cultural elites, and the influence of these elites on the general population and on various public policy issues." Rothman is also on the board of advisors of the conservative National Association of Scholars, an organization that, among other things, is concerned with the "use of sexual, racial, or other criteria unrelated to merit in hiring, in promotion, and in student recruitment" and with the "unfair treatment of colleagues suspected of holding 'politically incorrect' views" at American colleges and universities. Rothman -- unlike Lichter, as The Boston Globe reported on February 26, 1998 -- makes no secret of the fact that he is right-of-center: "'I don't think I'm as conservative as Dick Scaife,' says Rothman. 'But I'm a conservative,'" according to the Globe.

Lichter and Rothman's Book Projects

Lichter and Rothman are also the co-authors, along with Lichter's wife, Linda S. Lichter, of the book The Media Elite: America's New Powerbrokers (Hastings House Publishing, 1990), which, according to a 1992 FAIR report, was funded by the Scaife Foundation and "was widely criticized by scholars for methodological flaws."

Lichter and Rothman also teamed up to write a book titled Roots of Radicalism: Jews, Christians and the New Left (Transaction Pub, 1996). According to the CMPA website, Lichter's "most recent books include The Nightly News Nightmare (2002); It Ain't Necessarily So: How Media Remake the Scientific Picture of Reality (2001); and Peepshow: Media and Politics in an Age of Scandal (2000)."

From the May 24 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume:

HUME: So, question. Is it a bad thing, necessarily, that journalists who have chosen to come to this city and perhaps to New York as well to be members of the national media have a different outlook on the world on a number of issues than many of the people they serve?

BARNES: It would be nice if they'd admit it and say that. And of course...

HUME: To some extent they may have in this poll.

BARNES: Well, we know this to be true. And we know it from other polls going back to the Lichter-Rothman poll in 1980, because they've all shown the same thing, and it's in this poll too. The media is generally -- the national media is generally very liberal. Certainly a lot more liberal than the American people...

HUME: Some people say very moderate, basically...

CONNOLLY: Moderate.

BARNES: No, no, no. Look. Look, that's just liberals using that identification as moderate because they know better in these polls now. When you look at the so-called moderates agree pretty much with the liberals in this poll on homosexuality, and God, and on this notion that Bush hasn't been pounded enough.

I mean the truth is if you look at other polls, you'll see the Center for Media and Public Affairs does one on the president and presidential candidates. Democratic -- this year Democratic presidential candidates got 3-1 favorable stories on the broadcast evening news shows, while Bush was getting 60 percent negative stories. So there's clearly a tilt there. He's getting pounded. They're not. And yet, the media thinks he needs to be pounded more.

[...]

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, they're overwhelmingly liberal. You really do not need a poll to tell you which way the wind is blowing here. All you have to do is look at the front page at The New York Times. Look at the news magazines or the network news. They're all liberal, and I think you get a flavor of it in the poll.

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