- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2015

A Georgia-based conservative super PAC is calling on the Republican National Committee to dump NBC News from hosting two Republican presidential primary debates, citing anchor Brian Williams‘ suspension for lying about being under fire in Iraq and instances of suspected network bias.

The Conservative War Chest told RNC Chairman Reince Priebus in a letter that Mr. Williams‘ saga “is just a symptom of a deeper rot at NBC News.”

“For years, NBC executives knowingly watched as Williams lied again and again,” wrote Conservative War Chest spokesman Mike Flynn.

He said network executives “have a personal stake in distorting the record against Republicans.”

The network is scheduled to host two Republican presidential primary debates, on CNBC in October in Colorado, and on NBC/Telemundo in February 2016 in Florida.

RNC spokeswoman Allison Moore didn’t directly address the complaint against NBC News but said the Republican Party, for the first time, “will have a significant role in the debate process.”

“We are also very pleased that the RNC has ensured a conservative structure in every debate,” she said.

NBC News didn’t respond to a request for comment. NBC News President Deborah Turness last week suspended Mr. Williams for six months without pay and said the news division is conducting an internal investigation of the anchor’s performance at the network.

The incident that got Mr. Williams suspended didn’t involve Republican Party politics. It centered on his embellishment of an episode in which he claimed the military helicopter in which he was flying was shot down by enemy fire in Iraq in 2003. After veterans who witnessed the event said Mr. Williams was nowhere near the incident, the anchor apologized and said he had “misremembered.”

But the letter to the RNC could be an indication that some conservatives are looking to expand the Williams saga into a broader discussion of the network’s perceived liberal leanings.

A Pew Research study in October found that 19 percent of Americans distrust NBC and 22 percent distrust its cable news outlet, MSNBC. The same study found that 37 percent of audiences distrusted Fox News; ABC and CBS each came in at 17 percent.

Pew also ranked the networks on a political spectrum. MSNBC was rated as more liberal than NBC, and both placed to the left of center. CBS and ABC were rated as less liberal than NBC but still left of center. CNN was viewed as not quite as liberal as MSNBC.

Richard Benedetto, a professor of journalism at American University, said the furor about Mr. Williams probably would have been more politically tinged if it involved an anchor at Fox News.

“In the general public, there seems to be more of a perception that Fox News is conservative than MSNBC is liberal,” Mr. Benedetto said. “There seems to be even a reluctance on the part of the media itself to label MSNBC as liberal, while there’s no reservations about labeling Fox News as conservative.”

He didn’t label it as an example of media bias and said it’s a matter of perspective.

“You rarely hear conservative politicians blasting NBC, but you do hear liberal politicians blasting Fox News,” said Mr. Benedetto, a former reporter at USA Today. “There’s a difference in perceptions.”

The Conservative War Chest lists its treasurer as Paul Kilgore, a Republican operative in Athens, Georgia. Mr. Kilgore was the campaign treasurer for Paul Broun, a Republican candidate in the Senate primary race, and worked to defeat Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn last year against the eventual winner, Republican Sen. David Perdue.


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