Michael Reagan column in Sentinel & Daily Sun touted Fox as “fair and balanced,” called MSNBC's Matthews “anti-GOP”

A syndicated column by Michael Reagan that appeared in the Aurora Sentinel & Daily Sun on May 8 criticized Democratic presidential candidates for not participating in a debate sponsored by “fair and balanced” Fox News Channel and lauded Republicans for taking part in a debate moderated by the “liberal,” “anti-GOP” Chris Matthews on MSNBC. However, Colorado Media Matters and Media Matters for America have pointed out inaccuracies and misinformation in Fox News' reporting, as well as statements by Matthews that undercut the suggestion he is “anti-GOP.”

Accusing Democrats of displaying “that large yellow streak that runs down their spines” in a column published in the Aurora Sentinel & Daily Sun on May 8, syndicated columnist Michael Reagan touted Fox News Channel as “fair and balanced” and dubiously referred to MSNBC host Chris Mathews as “Bush-hating” and “anti-GOP.” In fact, Colorado Media Matters and Media Matters for America have documented numerous examples of conservative misinformation and factual inaccuracies in Fox News' reporting. And while Matthews did work for former President Jimmy Carter and former House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O'Neill Jr. (D-MA), his statements on major political issues belie the claim that he is “anti-GOP.”

Reagan's column criticized Democratic presidential candidates for refusing to participate in debates sponsored by Fox News. Reagan wrote, “As revealed in their willingness to see the United States defeated in Iraq, the Democrats also showed the white flag of surrender when faced with a terrifying debate hosted by the evil Fox News. They ran for cover.” He later stated, “After all, the last thing the Democrats want is a fair and balanced presentation, which is what Fox offers. They demand a rigged game.”

However, as Colorado Media Matters has noted, an internal Fox News memo casts doubt on the organization's purported fairness and balance. After the November 7, 2006, election, Fox News senior vice president for news editorial John Moody allegedly distributed a memo, publicly disclosed November 14 by the website HuffingtonPost.com, that instructed his staff to “be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled congress.” The memo also referred to U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who is now House majority leader, as “a political hack.”

On the November 15, 2006, broadcast of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, guest Matthew Felling of the Center for Media and Public Affairs noted that Moody's memo reflected not journalism but “advocacy and activism” :

When he is saying, “Hey, be on the lookout, because we really would love a story about how the terrorists are dancing in the streets because the Democrats won,” that's not journalism. It's advocacy and activism. And it's really uncomfortable. And it just confirms a lot of peoples' suspicions.

Later in his column that appeared in the Sentinel & Daily Sun, Reagan wrote:

Think about it -- the Democrats run away from a fair and balanced Fox-sponsored debate while the Republicans have no problem agreeing to a debate moderated by the Bush-hating, anti-GOP Matthews, whose idea of balance is to tilt everything towards the Democrat side, and run by NBC, the most liberal network. The GOP attitude: “Bring 'em on,” contrasted with the Democrats' cut-and-run strategy.

In this case, as in the case of the war in Iraq, the Republicans are standing up while the Democrats continue to display that large yellow streak that runs down their spines, even retreating in the face of what they regard as a deadly threat: an unbiased Fox network.

Reagan concluded his column by stating: “The Republicans, however, are not only willing to fight an unpopular war in Iraq against the insurgents, but are also willing to face the hostility of the home-grown insurgency that has captured the Democrat [sic] party, the mainstream media, and liberal Chris Matthews and NBC.”

Contrary to Reagan's claim that Matthews is a “liberal,” “anti-GOP” journalist who “tilt[s] everything towards the Democrat (sic) side,” Media Matters has documented repeated instances in which Matthews' statements have taken a conservative slant. For example, during MSNBC's 2004 presidential debate coverage, its presidential inauguration coverage, and both before and after Bush's 2005 State of the Union address, Matthews hosted numerous MSNBC panels that contained far more conservative commentators than progressives. While moderating discussion panels on Hardball, Matthews has emphasized repeatedly the liberal allegiances of progressive guests, while failing to note that other guests on the same panel were Republican. As Colorado Media Matters has noted, Matthews also frequently has touted Republican presidential candidate and former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, praising him on issues such as Giuliani's performance in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the purported elimination of the urine smell in New York City subways.

Moreover, Matthews claimed on the April 5 edition of Hardball that Midwestern voters “may not like people like” U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), despite polling that suggests otherwise. And as Media Matters pointed out, during the May 3 Republican presidential debate on MSNBC, Matthews asked the candidates, “Would it be good for America to have Bill Clinton back living in the White House?” Matthews later reiterated the question by asking, “Should the Clintons come back to the White House, especially Big Bill?” Media Matters has similarly noted that in the past, Matthews has obsessed over what he has referred to as Bill Clinton's “social life,” “personal behavior,” “current behavior,” and “personal life.” Additionally, he has repeatedly referred to the Clintons' relationship as a “sitcom.”