- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 21, 2004

What’s so funny about spin, bias and misunderstanding? Plenty, especially if you’re a fan of the Media Research Center (MRC), whose sober studies analyzing left-bending newsmakers were celebrated with much laughter Thursday at the group’s annual Dishonors Awards gala at the Omni Shoreham Hotel.

As it turned out, the main attraction wasn’t the usual cavalcade of outrageously biased news bits, but a surprise visit by radio talk show giant Rush Limbaugh.

The conservative broadcaster could be counted upon, of course, to hammer both journalists and Democrats with his usual bombast.

MRC head L. Brent Bozell III feigned annoyance when an unseen voice told him a surprise guest was set to take the stage. After Mr. Limbaugh’s radio theme music began pumping through the room, the savvy crowd of about 850 quickly solved the mystery.

Mr. Limbaugh spoke as if his listeners were glued to their radio speakers.

“So much progress is being made [exposing media bias],” Mr. Limbaugh said, “but I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if not for people like Brent and others in the conservative movement.”

The secret, he noted, is that the message reaches ready ears when it’s couched in humor, not preachy sermons.

Veteran newsman Sam Donaldson also paid a surprise visit to the gala, charging the stage in mock anger that his beloved news machine was under assault.

No one, however, despaired that former New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines, ABC News’ Diane Sawyer, et al., were no-shows for the MRC’s not-so-coveted trophy, stamped with the award’s slogan “See no balance. Hear no balance. Speak no balance.”

A respected gathering of the conservative establishment gladly accepted awards in their absence, including former Ambassador to the United Nations Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Catholic League President Bill Donohue, American Spectator Publisher Al Regnery and radio talk show host Laura Ingraham.

Once again, witty Fox News contributor and syndicated columnist Cal Thomas served as the evening’s emcee.

On the eve of the first anniversary of the Iraq war, speakers took turns bashing those who reported the United States was in over its head in the conflict’s opening moments.

The crowd guffawed over takes of CBS’ Lesley Stahl grilling Secretary of State Colin Powell with her half-baked military strategies, then howled over a clip from “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” featuring a daffy war protester chaining himself to the wrong building.

Before the program, Wall Street Journal editorialist John Fund declared that the left too often dodges attempts to get its house in order.

Now, he said, “Liberals have changed the subject. They’ve declared a right wing bias in the media.” The only problem with that strategy, he noted, is that, after ticking off a few outlets like Fox News and talk radio, “they run out of steam.”

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