- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 20, 2004

It’s generally understood that media outlets like the New York Times speak to the liberal wing of the American electorate, such as it is. In other words, detecting a liberal bias in the mainstream media is like John Kerry saying he served in Vietnam — hardly earth-shattering news. Throughout the current election season, however, the media has surpassed even its own shoddy record of offering Americans anything resembling objective reporting. To use a term from our favorite forged memo, it has in fact played interference for the Kerry campaign.

Earlier this year, ABC News political director Mark Halperin conceded as much in a posting on the network’s Web site, The Note: “Like every other institution, the Washington and political press corps operate with a good number of biases and predictions … The press, by and large, does not accept President Bush’s justifications for the Iraq war … It does not understand how educated, sensible people could possibly be wary of multilateral institutions or friendly, sophisticated European allies.” Mr. Halperin was trying to tell his readers what they could expect in the upcoming election coverage. He was right, but his own biases were leaked earlier this month in an internal memo in which he told ABC employees to give Mr. Bush’s assertions greater scrutiny than Mr. Kerry’s.

And no where was the media’s skewed “reporting” more apparent than during the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth’s attacks on Mr. Kerry’s Vietnam record. Until Aug. 19, two weeks after the swift vets aired their first ad, the media had ignored them. But Aug. 19 happened to be the day when the Kerry campaign issued its first response to the swift vets. Yet, according to the few outlets that covered the story, the only noteworthy thing was that the swift vets were financed by Republicans, a tidbit procured exclusively from the DNC. This was what made front-page news in the New York Times, complete with a handy flowchart. Pro-Kerry organizations like MoveOn.org and America Coming Together, with ample ties to the Kerry campaign, garnered no such scrutiny.

The media’s counterattack to the swift vets has been far worse. The CBS News/Dan Rather meltdown over yet another story on Mr. Bush’s Guard service was just one consequence. This month, ABC News’ “Nightline” with anchor Ted Koppel relied on 35-year-old recollections of Vietnamese Communists to rebut the swift vets’ account of Mr. Kerry’s Silver Star. It says a lot about ABC News when it trusts the word of aging Communist guerrillas over that of 260 decorated American veterans. A report from the Center for Media and Public Affairs that tracked media coverage from Sept. 7 to Oct. 1, or roughly the period when the media counterattack was in full swing, found that the Big Three networks’ favorable coverage of the two candidates tilted by 18 percent toward Mr. Kerry. Conversely, that much-maligned conservative network, Fox News, was far more fair and balanced, tilting its favorable coverage toward Mr. Bush by only 2 percent.

As Michael Barone, senior writer for U.S. News & World Report, put it: “This campaign has been less one between George W. Bush and John Kerry than one between George W. Bush and old media.”

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