It's no surprise that Americans don't trust a biased news media

It's no surprise that Americans don't trust a biased news media
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According to a recent joint Gallup and Knight Foundation poll, just about nobody trusts the news media these days.

I realize that this is hardly “breaking news.” A lot of us figured out a long time ago that many journalists had a political ax to grind — and it was a bias that usually went in just one direction. But these latest numbers are pretty bad: 86 percent of Americans say there is either a “fair amount” or a “great deal” of political bias in news coverage. That’s astounding. Nearly nine out of every 10 Americans think journalists slant the news.

Among Republicans, 71 percent have an unfavorable view of the news media, but only 22 percent of Democrats have an unfavorable view. No surprise there. So few Democrats think journalists are biased because Democrats like the news they’re getting from mainstream sources. And why wouldn’t they? Liberal journalists give Democrats the kind of biased news they want.

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For example, when Democratic presidential candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden on Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power: 'What country are we in?' Democratic groups using Bloomberg money to launch M in Spanish language ads in Florida Harris faces pivotal moment with Supreme Court battle MORE picked Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris faces pivotal moment with Supreme Court battle Nearly 40 Democratic senators call for climate change questions in debates Joe Biden has long forgotten North Carolina: Today's visit is too late MORE (D-Calif.) as his running mate, the New York Times immediately labeled her as a “pragmatic moderate.”

The Times wasn’t alone. The Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times described Harris as “centrist.” On television, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos said that “Kamala Harris comes from the middle-of-the-road, moderate wing of the Democratic Party.”

Maybe Harris is a moderate or a centrist as far as liberal journalists are concerned, but that’s not how a nonpartisan group that tracks congressional legislation sees it. An analysis by GovTrack.us concluded that, in 2019, Harris was the “most liberal” of all 100 U.S. senators, based on the legislation she signed on to.  

That means the group found her even more liberal than Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Yet, major news media outlets today are calling her “moderate” and “centrist.” 

Then there’s the matter of Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources” show. Every week on his program, it’s the same song and dance: Bash conservative media and bash Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden on Trump's refusal to commit to peaceful transfer of power: 'What country are we in?' Romney: 'Unthinkable and unacceptable' to not commit to peaceful transition of power Two Louisville police officers shot amid Breonna Taylor grand jury protests MORE.

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Recently Stelter put conservative talk radio in his crosshairs. He played audio clips from Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Ben Shapiro and Michael Savage while the words “Vile Anti-Biden Rhetoric On Right-Wing Talk Radio” was shown on the screen. The conservatives had been speculating about Joe Biden’s mental health and his fitness for office.

Then Stelter asked this question of a guest, Errin Haines, editor-at-large of the news site The 19th: “Errin, your view of this: When you see entire media companies essentially exist to tear down Joe Biden, is there an equivalent to that on the left, tearing down Trump?” Haines answered: “There really isn’t.”

Well, actually, there really is. It’s called CNN!

Cornell Law School professor and media critic William A. Jacobson told Fox News that Stelter’s commentary raises a very serious question: “Has Brian Stelter ever watched CNN, which demeans Trump around the clock as a racist, mentally unstable Putin puppet? Or any of the other major networks that spread Russia collusion conspiracy theories for years, and whose reporters go to White House press conferences for the sole purpose of trying to bait Trump into a reaction so they can get retweets on Twitter?”

Stelter called the verbal shots about Biden’s mental health “mind-boggling,” “offensive” and “so hateful.” But at the outset of the Trump presidency in 2017, the very same Brian Stelter asked these questions on his show: “Is the president of the United States a racist? Is he suffering from some kind of illness? Is he fit for office? And if he is unfit, then what?”

I have long argued that while liberal journalists can spot a conservative a hundred miles away in a dense fog, they’re oblivious when it comes to their own political biases. They don’t even think that their views are liberal; they believe they’re simply reasonable, moderate — middle of the road.

When Jill Abramson, the former executive editor of the New York Times, recently talked to Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner, she made my point, claiming, “Most of the opinion columnists at the Times are centrists.” 

Really? What New York Times could she possibly be talking about? In reality, the opinion pages of the Times have become what Mark Finkelstein of the Media Research Center has called a “raging pit of intolerant left-wing activism.” 

When I wrote my first book, “Bias,” about a liberal slant to the news, critics said that bias is in the eye of the beholder — meaning, if you think journalists are biased then that means you’re the one who’s really biased.

This is what many of today’s mainstream journalists do: When they’re criticized, they circle the wagons; they refuse to take the blame and, instead, they blame you.

So it’s no surprise that nearly nine out of 10 Americans think journalists have a political bias. But there’s another problem that we should be worried about: Too many journalists are clueless, too.

Bernard Goldberg, an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist, is a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” He 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.