- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fox Broadcasting Co.’s decision to remain a presidential-free zone Wednesday night is an isolated act of rebellion.

The network will air the crime drama “Lie to Me” rather than President Obama’s news conference, even as other broadcast and cable news networks showcase the event, pre-empting prime-time fare for a White House event for the fourth time this year - and losing an estimated $10 million in advertising revenue.

Such sacrifices come as no surprise, however. Mr. Obama remains an unprecedented media darling, according to new research.

The press has given Mr. Obama more coverage than former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton combined - and more positive coverage than either received at this point in his presidency, according to a study by George Mason and Chapman universities, coordinated by the nonpartisan Center for Media and Public Affairs.

During his first 50 days in office, evening news on ABC, NBC and CBS devoted 1,021 stories to the Obama presidency - almost 28 hours worth.

At similar points in their presidencies, Mr. Bush received 7 hours 42 minutes and Mr. Clinton 15 hours 2 minutes of coverage.

Mr. Obama has received not only more press but also “better press,” the study said. On ABC, CBS, and NBC evening newscasts, 58 percent of all evaluations of the president were favorable.

During their parallel times in office, Mr. Bush received 33 percent positive evaluations in 2001, Mr. Clinton received 44 percent positive in 1993.

The presidential charm rather than policies garnered the rave reviews, meanwhile.

“Though the press keeps alive the notion that President Obama is a ‘special person’, he’s not getting a total free ride. There is criticism of his policies, and the press traditionally uses the 100-day benchmark as an excuse to question whether a president kept his campaign promises,” said S. Robert Lichter, who directed the research.

“There is a halo around Mr. Obama, but not necessarily a halo effect that casts a glow on everything he does,” he added.

The study found that fewer than two out of five evaluative statements on the news actually praised his policies and proposals.

Findings were similar in a study released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, which found that in Mr. Obama’s first two months in the White House, 42 percent of the news stories, editorials and opinion columns about the president have been positive in tone compared with 27 percent for Mr. Clinton and 22 percent for Mr. Bush in the same mix of seven national media outlets.

“Positive stories about Obama outweighed negative ones by a two-to-one margin (42 percent vs. 20 percent),” the study said.

Tone was paramount in other research, meanwhile.

The Media Research Center (MRC) evaluated 852 broadcast news stories on Mr. Obama that aired between Jan. 20-April 15. The group cited such trends as a press tendency to “sanitize Obama’s socialist agenda” as well as the president’s ideology.

The term “socialist” or “liberal” was never used by network reporters to describe Mr. Obama’s economic policy or agenda, the MRC found. During coverage of financial bailouts and White House plans for universal health care, “The networks never had a single sound bite from a conservative or a free market expert,” the study said.

“For the pro-Obama liberal media, the Obama honeymoon is nowhere near over,” said MRC President Brent Bozell. “His is the most radical agenda ever presented to the American people. It is a socialist agenda. Why won’t the media - accurately - label him a socialist? Why do they refuse even to label him a liberal? Because they are completely in the tank, working overtime to help him succeed.”

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