NBC Political Director Chuck ToddCharles (Chuck) David Todd'Highest priority' is to vaccinate the unvaccinated, Fauci says If .5 trillion 'infrastructure' bill fails, it's bye-bye for an increasingly unpopular Biden GOP governor: Biden's vaccine mandate 'increases the division' MORE argued this week that media bias does not exist, with the "Meet the Press" moderator declaring that the industry needs to join him in fighting back on what he characterized as just a GOP talking point.
"The Republicans have been running on, ‘There’s a liberal bias in the media,’" Todd said in an interview with The Verge. "If you say something long enough, there are liberals who say there’s a liberal bias in the media when you see polling now."
“We should have fought back better in the mainstream media. We shouldn’t [have] accepted the premise that there was liberal bias,” Todd later added. “We ended up in this both-sides trope. We bought into the idea that, oh my God, we’re perceived as having a liberal bias."
So very much to unpack here from the guy who will never be confused with the great Tim Russert, who held both sides accountable without smugness during his run at the helm of “Meet the Press” before his far-too-early passing at the age of 58 in 2008.
Question: If media bias doesn’t exist, if it’s just conservatives making it up out of thin air, how do the following facts exist?
The New York Times – the so-called paper of record – has not endorsed a Republican presidential candidate dating back 14 elections to 1956. That means endorsing Democrats George McGovern, Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis, who won a combined 12 states over three elections. Talk about a disconnect.
The Washington Post, once home to Woodward and Bernstein, and the winner of 69 Pulitzer Prizes, has never endorsed a GOP presidential candidate in its history.
Speaking of endorsements, before the 2016 presidential election – and therefore before the Trump era in Washington – 57 of 59 major U.S. newspapers endorsed the Democratic nominee that year.
And how would Todd explain this Axios/Survey Monkey poll (which partners with NBC News) finding that 79 percent of those in the middle (independents) say news organizations “report news they know to be fake or false” at least sometimes in order to advance a narrative? If bringing in the red and blue teams, 92 percent of Republicans feel the same way, along with even a majority of Democrats (53 percent).
How would Todd also explain that 84 percent of those polled by Gallup say the news media bears responsibility for partisan division in this country? That’s some Jedi mind trick the GOP has going for itself.
How about this study from Harvard University that found 93 percent of NBC News’ coverage of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims MORE’s first 100 days in office was negative, matching CNN’s negativity. The aforementioned Times clocked in at 87 percent negative, the Post at 83 percent.
Compare that to President BidenJoe BidenCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Biden pushes back at Democrats on taxes MORE’s first 100 days, which delivered 59 percent positive coverage, according to the Media Research Center. Although the studies come from different organizations, that’s a 142-point swing from negative to positive despite inflation, skyrocketing violent crime, an insecure border and an ongoing pandemic.
Also from Gallup just this month on public confidence: The two least trusted institutions across government, business, police, education, the judiciary and the media found the following two entities at the very bottom of the list: Congress, with 12 percent confidence, and broadcast news media, with 16 percent confidence.
For context, small business topped the list with 70 percent approval, while police saw an increase from the previous year, with 51 percent now trusting the men and women in blue despite an onslaught of negative coverage and portrayals that have helped lead to record retirements and resignations.
And then there’s the phenomenon of bombshells that dominate news cycles, only to be debunked later.
Question for Chuck Todd: Why is it that seemingly every huge breaking-news story that ends up being hopelessly wrong is originally weaponized against one party (Republican) to benefit the other (Democratic)? Why do these mistakes only go in one direction?
In the past few months alone, we’ve seen that what the media dubbed a reckless conspiracy theory – Sen. Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal MORE’s (R-Ark.) claim last year that COVID-19 may have come from a Chinese lab – is now considered a real possibility and is being investigated.
We’ve seen the Russian bounties-on-U.S. troops story, which was weaponized before the 2020 election, has been debunked.
Trump ordering park police in D.C. to use tear gas on “mostly peaceful” protesters was another huge story last summer. But a Justice Department inspector general’s report released last month says it wasn’t true after all.
For a definitive look at media "mistakes" in the Trump era alone, check out journalist Sharyl Attkisson's list, featuring a whopping 155 examples.
And speaking of “mostly peaceful protests,” feel free to explain away this coverage as unbiased during last year's "Summer of Love” that included hundreds of police injured and some killed, along with billions of dollars in damage in American cities.
"This mostly a protest. It is not, generally speaking, unruly.— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) May 29, 2020
But fires have been started."
MSNBC reporter says protests in Minneapolis are not "generally speaking, unruly" as buildings burn in the background. pic.twitter.com/IzzEmKgxhM
Clowns. Irresponsible clowns.— AG (@AGHamilton29) August 27, 2020
It’s not even funny. Months of enabling violence and destruction by ignoring and downplaying it, thereby eliminating any pressure on politicians to take action. pic.twitter.com/sbehzKrhmE
Of course, bias comes in many forms, particularly the bias of omission, and particularly as it pertained to the media blackout of Hunter Biden before the 2020 election in what sure looked to many like an effort to protect his father.
Shot and chaser. pic.twitter.com/4O4RIPHYPg— Courtney (@CShadegg) December 10, 2020
Todd was confronted on his own handling of this very topic by Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonDomestic extremists return to the Capitol GOP senator: Buying Treasury bonds 'foolish' amid standoff over debt ceiling, taxes Internal poll shows Barnes with 29-point lead in Wisconsin Democratic Senate primary MORE (R-Wis.) earlier this year. "This was started when the mainstream media dropped any pretense of being unbiased and actually chose sides during this election," Johnson told Todd on his program. "This fire was started when you completely ignored, for example, our investigation of Hunter Biden, 'You know, no evidence of wrongdoing there,' and now we find out after the election, 'You know, there is a fair amount of evidence, to the point where we have a real FBI investigation.'"
"Senator!" Todd interjected. “All right, I've had enough of hearing this!
"You know, I've had enough of this too," Johnson shot back.
Most Americans certainly have had enough as well.
Bob Woodward, one of the few remaining objective journalists, summed matters up best when speaking about the media a few years back. “I worry, I worry for the business, for the perception of the business, not just Trump supporters, they see that smugness,” Woodward told Axios in 2017. "I think you can ride both horses, intensive inquiry, investigation, not letting up … at the same time, realize that it’s not our job to do an editorial."
Chuck Todd is supposed to engage in the intensive inquiry and investigation of which Woodward spoke. Instead, the NBC moderator does an awful lot of editorializing. And he's living in a fantasyland, because no lucid person – in this business, or watching or reading at home – can deny that media bias is very real.
It is a very real problem, too, especially since there are those in some pretty prominent positions in media who continue to deny it even exists.
Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill.