Monday, October 11, 2004

Three weeks before the election, ABC News Political Director Mark Halperin apparently doesn’t think the campaign season is going too well. He thinks ABC News must help the electorate by sorting out the relevant facts from the spin; holding the liars accountable; and openly campaign for the election of John Kerry — stuff like that. Mr. Halperin issued these instructions to ABC News employees last week in a memo, which was subsequently leaked to Internet news-guru Matt Drudge just before Friday night’s second presidential debate. ABC News’ Charles Gibson, coincidentally, moderated the debate.

The memo states in glaring, if improper, language just why the campaign isn’t going as swimmingly for Mr. Kerry as Mr. Halperin would like: “[T]he current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done.” Ergo, writes Mr. Halperin, ABC News has “a responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest, but that doesn’t mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides ‘equally’ accountable when the facts don’t warrant that … It’s up to Kerry to defend himself, of course. But as one of the few news organizations with the skill and strength to help voters evaluate what the candidates are saying to serve the public interest [sic]. Now is the time for all of us to step up and do that right” (quotes in original).

The obvious point of course is that Mr. Halperin’s memo adds further proof — this time, neatly typed out in black and white — to the growing mound of evidence that the mainstream media leans liberal. A Pew Research Center and Project on Excellence in Journalism released a report over the summer that found 34 percent of national journalists identified themselves as liberal, while just seven percent said they were conservative. An August New York Times article conducted an “unscientific” survey that found that by a 12 to one margin, Washington journalists favor Mr. Kerry in the upcoming election. But entrenched liberalism isn’t really the problem here; shameless arrogance is.

The Pew survey contrasted its findings with the breakdown of the American public, 20 percent of which identifies itself as liberal, 33 percent as conservative. No wonder Mr. Halperin thinks ABC News, with all its “skill and strength,” should “help voters evaluate what the candidates are saying”: The poor dolts are too conservative for their own good. In the wake of the Dan Rather uproar, one would think that executives like Mr. Halperin would be a bit more guarded in revealing their bias, especially three weeks before the election and right before his own Mr. Gibson was about to host a presidential debate. But when someone like Mr. Halperin doesn’t think he has a bias, it’s particularly difficult to guard against it.

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