- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 22, 2002

At first glance, Bernard Goldberg, a 28-year correspondent for CBS News when he was essentially driven off the air less than two years ago, would seem an unlikely participant in a sinister right-wing plot to bully hapless little Dan Rather into kowtowing to conservatives. "Like most of us on campus in the 1960s, I was liberal on all the big issues. I was an especially big fan of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society," Mr. Goldberg writes in his new book, "Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News." "I didn't vote for Reagan either time. But I voted for McGovern twice. Once in the Florida primary, and again in the 1972 general election. I'm pro-choice, with reservations … And I'm for gay rights, too."
So, how then did Mr. Goldberg become caricatured as some kind of "right-wing extremist?" Why did he inspire fear and loathing at CBS News, and become the target of temper tantrums from media luminaries like Mr. Rather, CBS News President Andrew Heyward and correspondent Eric Engberg? It was easy enough once Mr. Goldberg had the temerity to write a February 1996 Wall Street Journal op-ed piece criticizing the liberal media bias his colleagues steadfastly refused to acknowledge.
Mr. Goldberg wrote that this bias had become so obvious that "it's hardly worth discussing anymore. No, we don't sit around in dark corners and plan how we're going to slant the news. We don't have to. It comes naturally to most reporters." As a prime example of this bias, Mr. Goldberg quoted at length from a "Reality Check" on CBS News, reported by Mr. Engberg, which was little more than a one-sided polemic ridiculing presidential candidate Steve Forbes' flat tax proposal. According to Mr. Goldberg, this was an example of how the major media organs "analyze" the news: They invariably echo the point of view presented on the editorial pages of the New York Times and Washington Post, and by liberal think tanks like the Brookings Institution.
From reading this fascinating insider account of life at CBS and Mr. Goldberg makes clear that much of the same behavior is on display at the other major networks perhaps the most mindboggling thing of all is that most of the reporters and producers are too dense or intellectually dishonest to comprehend that they are liberals, not "centrists." People like Mr. Rather (who, Mr. Goldberg tells us, views the New York Times editorial page as "middle of the road") don't seem to know or care that their prejudices have damaged their credibility with a large segment of the American public, and are a major contributing factor to three major networks' ongoing loss of market share to cable television.
When confronted with such unpleasant realities, these people invariably lie or attempt to bully thoughtful critics like Mr. Goldberg into silence. After Mr. Goldberg's op-ed ran in the Journal, he tried to explain his reasons for going public to Mr. Engberg, whose response was: "Okay, Bernie … You're full of s-." Then, he hung up the phone and never spoke to Mr. Goldberg again. Mr. Goldberg recounts that, when he called Mr. Rather, the veteran anchorman's voice began quavering, and he wouldn't engage in any substantive discussion about bias. Instead, Mr. Rather rambled on about his service in the Marines.
The unmistakable conclusion, according to Mr. Goldberg, is that, as Mr. Rather sees the world, "it's just a short hop from being a liberal to being … an unpatriotic American." As for Mr. Heyward, he may be the most dishonest member of the bunch, if Mr. Goldberg's account is correct. In private conversation, Mr. Heyward acknowledged that "of course" there is a liberal bias in reporting the news. But, he warned Mr. Goldberg that, "If you repeat any of this, I'll deny it." Were Mr. Goldberg to go public with such information, he subsequently screamed at him, "That would have been like raping my wife and kidnapping my kids!"
Mr. Goldberg does a masterful job of showing how his former colleagues at CBS and the other broadcast networks give a distorted picture on a wide array of issues, including homelessness (they uncritically repeat the propaganda coming from advocacy groups who exaggerate the numbers); AIDS (they are trying to scare non-homosexuals and non-drug abusers into believing that they are at major risk of getting AIDS); and the crude anti-male comments from big names like former CBS correspondent Harry Smith that permeate network newsrooms.
Perhaps the silliest thing was the near-cartoonish racial stereotyping when it comes to reporting stories on issues like chain gangs for convicts in Alabama or looting after a hurricane in the Virgin Islands (if anyone, particularly a nonwhite CBS employee, complained that "too high" a percentage of criminals or looters shown on camera were black, a story would have to be rewritten or shelved entirely). The most troubling pages of this book, however, contain Mr. Goldberg's first-person accounts of what it is like to work with Mr. Rather. Mr. Goldberg likens him to a Mafia boss, intent on destroying the career of anyone who annoys him or challenges his intellectually dishonest efforts to ensure that only left-of-center views make it onto the air.

Joel Himelfarb is assistant editor of the editorial page of The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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