Appearing on the October 23 broadcast of Fox News host Sean Hannity's nationally syndicated radio program and on the October 24 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, ABC News political director Mark Halperin claimed that the “old liberal media” -- the broadcast networks, CNN, and major newspapers -- are “too focused on being more favorable to [House Democratic Leader] Nancy Pelosi [CA], say, than [former House Speaker] Newt Gingrich [R-GA].” Halperin told Fox News host Bill O'Reilly that ABC and the rest of the “old liberal media” have “a chance in these last two weeks” before the midterm elections “to prove to conservatives that we understand their grievances,” and that "[w]e should use this last two weeks as an opportunity to help rebuild our reputation with half the country." He added: "[A] failing of the press is not doing enough to explain to people what Nancy Pelosi's liberal views are like." Halperin made a point of distinguishing ABC from the rest of the “old liberal media” during his appearance of The Sean Hannity Show, however, stating: “I'm proud of where I work, where we understand that we've got to not be liberal, we've got to not be perceived as liberal.”
Halperin's claim that the media are “too focused on being more favorable to Nancy Pelosi say than Newt Gingrich” echoed a prediction in the October 23 edition of ABC's political newsletter The Note, co-authored by Halperin, that in the two weeks leading up to the November midterm elections, the "(liberal) Old Media" will "[g]lowingly profile" Pelosi, but “fail to describe her as 'ultra liberal' or 'an extreme liberal,' which would mirror the way Gingrich was painted twelve years ago.” As Media Matters for America noted, however, there has been no significant disparity in the coverage of the “liberal views” of Pelosi, who is expected to be elected speaker should the Democrats take control of the House, and the “conservative views” of Gingrich.
On Hannity's program and on The O'Reilly Factor, Halperin made several other unsubstantiated claims about the so-called “liberal bias” in the media.
From Halperin's appearance on the October 24 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: “Factor Follow-up” segment tonight, a somewhat surprising ABC News Internet posting. It's entitled “How the Liberal Old Media Plans to Cover the Last Two Weeks of the Election.” Article was written by Mark Halperin, the political director of ABC News, and also the co-author of a brand new book called The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008. Mr. Halperin joins us now from New York. This is a very tough piece of analysis that you wrote. I'm surprised. I'm not stunned, because you are a gutsy guy. You have done this before. But let's walk through it. Who is the liberal old media?
HALPERIN: Well, Bill, as you know in this country, we've got these old news organizations. The major networks, ABC, where you used to work, The New York Times, The Washington Post. These organizations have been around a long time. And for 40 years, conservatives have looked with suspicion at them. I think we've got a chance in these last two weeks to prove to conservatives that we understand their grievances. We're going to try to do better, but these organizations still have incredible sway. And conservatives are certain that we're going to be out to get them. We've got to fix that.
O'REILLY: All right, so you're actually admitting, you the political director of ABC News, that CBS News, maybe your own network, tilts left?
HALPERIN: We write in The Way to Win, [Washington Post national political editor] John Harris and I, that over the years, there are a lot of examples. What CBS News did in the 2004 election with the president's National Guard record. Lots of examples. If I were a conservative, I understand why I would feel suspicious that I was not going to get a fair break at the end of an election. We've got to make sure we do better, so conservatives don't have to be concerned about that. It's just -- it's not fair.
O'REILLY: So you're the fairness police at ABC News? You're the fairness police now?
HALPERIN: No, no, we should be impartial. We should use this last two weeks as an opportunity to help rebuild our reputation with half the country.
O'REILLY: All right.
HALPERIN: So conservatives can become --
O'REILLY: I'm liking it. Now what is the strategy of the old liberal networks? And you've defined them at CBS, maybe ABC, NBC, CNN, the major urban newspapers. What's the strategy?
HALPERIN: You know how this works. One of the things we wrote in The Note is there are no strategy calls. We're not on the phone with Howard Dean and George Soros in the morning getting our marching orders. But the mind-set at ABC, where you and I used to be colleagues, at the other big news organizations, is just too focused on being more favorable to Nancy Pelosi, say, than Newt Gingrich, being more down on the Republicans' chances than perhaps is warranted, singling out -- you're seeing here a 60 Minutes piece about Nancy Pelosi. I don't remember Newt Gingrich getting a piece that favorable in 1994.
O'REILLY: You think CBS is in the tank for Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats?
HALPERIN: I think everybody in the old media better be watching pieces like that, reading profiles of Nancy Pelosi and saying, “Are we being fair to everybody involved in the American political process?” Even if you don't believe the argument, Bill, that we make in The Way to Win, that there are some examples over the years that are pretty significant of showing why conservatives are aggrieved. Even if you're a liberal and you don't believe that, believe that half the country feels that way.
HALPERIN: And as an economic model, if you want to thrive like Fox News Channel, you want to have a future, you better make sure conservatives find your product appealing. If you're going to do the right thing --
O'REILLY: You know.
HALPERIN: -- you've got to do it.
O'REILLY: I think you're absolutely correct. I mean, all I want is fairness in the media.
From the October 23 broadcast of ABC Radio Network's The Sean Hannity Show:
HANNITY: Mark, you're a great American, and you know something, you know what the most fascinating thing in your books is? Well, one of the most fascinating things in the book, and we talk a lot about it on this program, is, you know, you talk about the new media and you talk about, you know, Matt Drudge and his impact specifically on the 2004 election.
HALPERIN: Well, look, the old system was biased against conservatives, there's no doubt about it. And John Harris at The Washington Post, who wrote the book with me, we're from old media, we're from organizations that we say have a history. There's a reason why half the country feels were biased against them. And there's things like what CBS news did to President Bush did on the Guard -- it's just no excuse. And I think, though, what the new media has done is created a way for conservatives to reach out, get their message not just to the committed but also to influence the coverage of old media. It's not a perfect system, but the old system wasn't perfect either. We're describing the way things are now, and Matt Drudge is right at the center of things.
HANNITY: What does it mean to you? I mean, do you think, for example, talk radio, the Internet, Fox News, cable news in general -- I mean, when you look at it, do you see that this shift is gonna to continue?
HALPERIN: Sean, I think right now conservatives are just better at all of this new media stuff. And the main reason, there's lot of reasons -- conservatives tend to be more organized -- but the main reason is conservatives have a fundamental 40-year problem with the old media. Every incentive to listen to your program, to go on the Drudge Report, because when they read The New York Times, or listen to ABC, they just feel alienated, like these organizations are out to get them. And like I said, we write in the book there are some great examples of why people think that. Liberals, they might not like everything we do. But they're not fundamentally challenged by what we do or how we're oriented. And I think, again, in 2008, if you're a conservative candidate, you've got to be as skillful as George Bush and Karl Rove at using the new media. If you're a liberal, just from a strategic point of view, you better figure out how to defend yourself, which Al Gore and John Kerry did not do.
HANNITY: So the liberal media does exist? The old media is liberal?
HALPERIN: We say it in the book, and we give examples. One of the examples we give that we just consider to be ironclad is you remember in 2004, you have this America Coming Together, this group of liberal donors, millionaires and billionaires, run by a guy who'd been John Kerry's campaign manager, with members of the Democratic National Committee, with people from NARAL and Emily's List, and they spent millions of dollars on ads attacking George Bush. If there had been a group like that of Republicans and conservatives from the NRA [National Rifle Association] or NFIB [National Federation of Independent Business] and George Bush's former campaign manager, the country would have shut down. The old media would have said this is completely unacceptable. And yet the Kerry group was -- the Democratic group was celebrated. Now, people say to me, “Well, you work at ABC News -- why didn't you do anything about that?” I did. ABC covered that story fairly. I'm proud of where I work, where we understand that we've got to not be liberal, we've got to not be perceived as liberal. But the overall old liberal media covered that story in such an unfair way, and I think anybody who denies that just isn't paying attention.
HALPERIN: I think the mood in the country in the sixth year of a presidency is always for change, for whatever reason, whatever reason. The Republicans have not been able to define these Democratic candidates as liberals, I thought they would. And I'll tell you, a failing of the press is not doing enough to explain to people what Nancy Pelosi's liberal views are like. We're kinda doing a better job of that here, I think. Up until now, though, this is about change and changing Washington, and that's working to the Democrats' advantage.
HANNITY: Well, it's amazing. We've been doing it here. It's fascinating. Last night if you watched 60 Minutes, there were all three negative pieces that would hurt Republicans heading into the election, including a puff piece on Pelosi. I don't see anybody that's done any extensive background investigative work about Pelosi and her record. We have done so repeatedly on this program. You know what it is, Mark? It's amazing to me that I can come here on this program and talk about her record and talk about her votes, and people scratch their heads and they're like, “I've never heard that before.”
HALPERIN: No, Sean, it's amazing. And, again, we need to do a better job of that. I'll tell you if you - look, this is another example involving language. When Newt Gingrich was threatening to become speaker, poised to become speaker, people called him an extreme conservative, right wing. You do not hear the same language about Nancy Pelosi. And my preference is to not have had people use that language about Speaker Gingrich, but it is a big difference from the way -- the coverage of 60 Minutes and the profiles generally of Pelosi. "She's a grandmother, she's hardworking, she's kept the caucus together." Not looking at her positions on a lot of issues that are to the left of a lot of the country.