Conservative criticism of "liberal bias" in "big media" rings hollow


Since President George W. Bush's November 2 reelection, several conservative columnists have accused "big media" of liberal bias, claiming that news outlets actively campaigned against Bush throughout the pre-election period. Nationally syndicated columnist Thomas Sowell, Weekly Standard staff writer Stephen F. Hayes, Wall Street Journal contributing editor Peggy Noonan, and conservative columnist and author Mona Charen have all chastised media outlets for providing election coverage that favored Senator John Kerry -- but their criticism is at odds with substantial evidence showing a conservative bias in election coverage.

Throughout the presidential campaign, Media Matters for America documented countless examples of media coverage -- in both conservative and "mainstream" outlets -- that benefited Bush and/or hurt Kerry, including:

In his November 7 "Commentary" column in The Washington Times, Sowell wrote:

The election demonstrates mainstream media have lost their power to control what the public will and will not know. Without alternative media like talk radio, Fox News and the Internet, the public would have heard only pro-Kerry spin disguised as news.

In the November 15 edition of The Weekly Standard, Hayes criticized the media for conducting "fact checks," apparently arguing that checking the veracity of candidates' statements is a bad practice:

For some 16 months, then, journalists at the New York Times and the Washington Post and the television networks saw themselves not as conveyors of facts but as truth-squadders, toiling away on the gray margins of political debate to elucidate the many misstatements, exaggerations, and outright lies of the Bush administration and its campaign affiliates. Sometimes these "fact-check" pieces were labeled "news analysis." More often, they were splashed on the front page as straight news or presented on the evening news.

The nonpartisan Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk website, however, has frequently noted its belief that such fact checks aren't common enough.

In her November 5 nationally syndicated column, Charen wrote:

[Philanthropist] George Soros, [author and documentarian] Michael Moore, [advocacy group], [actress] Whoopi Goldberg, [actor] Ben Affleck and a few other plutocrats spent a reported $200 million attempting to defeat George W. Bush. They had the energetic assistance of The New York Times, ABC, NBC, NPR, CNN and particularly CBS. They retain (for how much longer is open to question) the power to shape the national debate.

In a November 4 Wall Street Journal opinion editorial piece, Noonan wrote:

But I do think the biggest loser was the mainstream media, the famous MSM, the initials that became popular in this election cycle. Every time the big networks and big broadsheet national newspapers tried to pull off a bit of pro-liberal mischief--CBS and the fabricated Bush National Guard documents, the New York Times and bombgate, CBS's "60 Minutes" attempting to coordinate the breaking of bombgate on the Sunday before the election--the yeomen of the blogosphere and AM radio and the Internet took them down.

MMFA previously noted Noonan's attempt to deny the truth of an October 25 New York Times report that hundreds of tons of high-powered explosives went missing in Iraq after the U.S. invasion in 2003. Numerous reports set out clear evidence that large quantities of the high-grade explosives HMX and RDX were present at the Al Qaqaa military installation when American troops arrived at the site in early April 2003 and were looted shortly thereafter.

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