No liberal bias in the media? Who is Chuck Todd kidding, besides himself?
It’s been 20 years since I published my book “Bias,” about liberal bias in the mainstream media. Because I’d spent nearly 30 years as a CBS correspondent, and wrote about what I’d personally seen and heard, the book caused quite a stir. It was a bestseller, and over and over I heard the same thing from people who’d read it: that it confirmed what they knew from reading mainstream newspapers and watching network newscasts, but they were glad that an insider was confirming their take on the subject.
Predictably, liberal journalists were not among its fans. Almost everyone repeated the mantra that the whole notion of liberal bias was a fiction, an outrage, a right-wing concoction.
Over the years since, many of the bias-deniers have fallen silent. After all, there is only so much even the most arrogant media heavyweight can say in the face of overwhelming and incontrovertible evidence.
So, I was surprised to learn recently that Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” is still at it.
Now, I should say right here that I once met Chuck Todd at an airport and he seemed like a nice guy. Nor does he strike me — and I say this sincerely — as a fool. So, I will give him the benefit of the doubt and conclude that he really can’t believe what he’s saying, that he can’t be serious when he says that liberal bias a) doesn’t exist, b) never did and c) is a malicious trope invented by Republicans. But who knows, I’m not a mind reader; maybe he does believe it. Or maybe, like a press secretary who must stand straight-faced and defend an obviously disastrous policy blunder, he’s just taking one for the home team.
After all, mainstream journalism may not be great for the country, as it continues to sow misunderstanding and ill feeling, but it has been very good for Todd and his friends.
Specifically, what Todd said in a recent interview is that journalists did not defend themselves and their integrity vigorously enough. “We should have fought back better in the mainstream media,” he said. “We shouldn’t [have] accepted the premise that there was liberal bias. 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.’”
Hey, Chuck, one is tempted to reply: There’s a reason that mainstream journalists are “perceived as having a liberal bias.” It’s because mainstream journalists have a liberal bias.
But, again, that would be presuming that he expects to be taken seriously. And the fact is, it’s hard to believe anybody with a pulse, let alone a big-name reporter, actually still thinks the American news media play fair. The American people sure don’t. A recent Gallup poll found that only 21 percent of the public has confidence in newspapers and even fewer — 16 percent — trust TV news. The latter is about the same percentage who believe the U.S. is controlled by Satan worshippers.
Still, in a country of 330 million (not counting those newly arrived across the Southern border), that makes more than 50 million souls still inclined to believe what they hear from the likes of CNN’s Jim Acosta. So, for their benefit (and possibly Chuck Todd’s), a quick recap:
In fact, let’s start with the way journalists are playing down the mess on our Southern border — the one brought on by Joe Biden, who practically sent engraved invitations to everybody in Central America inviting them to come to the United States.
While we’re on the subject, it is apparently also of little news value that the president at times seems to have trouble finishing a sentence without babbling incoherently.
Of course, what’s newsworthy can quickly change, according to circumstances. For a long time, anyone who suggested the “Wuhan virus” might’ve come out of a lab in that city was a conspiracy-mongering, right-wing nut who had to be censored — with The New York Times leading the charge. Now that the Wuhan lab story no longer can help Donald Trump, a writer in The Times wonders, wide-eyed, “Did the Coronavirus Come From a Lab?”
In fact, to really see just how “unbiased” journalists are, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and contrast how they’re treating Joe Biden with the way they treated You-Know-Who.
Never mind what you think of Trump — personally, I’ve got big problems with him — but does anyone outside the Satan-worshipping community (and possibly Chuck Todd) honestly believe the Times gave him a fair shake?
No need even to go through the particulars; you can pick up pretty much any copy of the Gray Lady from the moment Trump went down the Trump Tower escalator to … well, actually today, and it hits you in the face. Case in point: On May 19, 2019, the paper claimed that Donald Trump had run an “unabashedly racist campaign” — harsh, to be sure, but editorial writers are entitled to their opinions, right? Except, wait, this wasn’t an editorial; it was presented in a front-page story by two of the paper’s top political reporters, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, as indisputable fact.
Indeed, in the Times it was simply a given that Donald Trump, his policies, and his supporters were racist, misogynistic and generally hateful.
The New York Times is journalism’s equivalent of the Holy Bible. So completely does it set the agenda for what other news organizations cover in America that — trust me, as a correspondent at CBS News for 28 years — if the Times went on strike in the morning, CBS wouldn’t know what to put on the air that evening.
Little wonder that after Trump’s first 100 days in office, a Harvard University study found the Times’ coverage was 87 percent negative. (By the way, that was topped by NBC’s 93 percent negative coverage. But since NBC employs Chuck Todd, that means the study was wrong and the coverage was scrupulously objective.)
Nor was Trump allowed to defend himself. CNN attack-dog Acosta might have been speaking for the entire White House press corps when he “reported,” after watching Trump respond to media attacks, that the president “was ranting and raving for the better part of the last hour.”
Then again, as Chuck Todd says, the problem is all perception. Take, for example, the Time story that went viral the day Trump took office, saying he’d removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office. It turned out the bust hadn’t been moved at all; a Secret Service agent was standing in front of it, so Time’s guy thought it wasn’t there.
Obviously, there’s no such thing as liberal bias in the news. Imagine how bad it would be if there were.
Bernard Goldberg is an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist. He was a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” for 22 years and previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and as an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Patreon page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.