I have high esteem for WORLD readers who subscribed when the magazine began in 1986 and have never lapsed. Sadly, I can’t match them, but 25 years ago I did become a judge in the Media Research Center’s annual assessments of liberal media bias, and am still at it. One complaint, though: The MRC makes a mistake every year when it gives as examples of liberal bias the “When did you stop beating your wife?” questions that mainline journalists ask conservative leaders. Those don’t bother me: Smart politicians can counterpunch.
What irritates me is fawning like that of CNN’s Piers Morgan before Bill Clinton: Please, let’s dump the 22nd Amendment so Clinton could “run again and be president for the next 30 years.” Even worse was Morgan’s exchange with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Morgan asked how many times the dictator had been in love. Ahmadinejad responded (via translator), “I’m in love with all of humanity.” Morgan came back with, “That might be the best answer I’ve ever heard to that question.”
The biggest problem, though, is not journalists stating their opinions, however fatuous. It’s when they say what’s not so and declare it “fact.” MSNBC’s Martin Bashir on Jan. 23 asserted, “We know today that more people were collecting food stamps under George W. Bush than are under President Obama.” Wrong: More than 46 million Americans were on food stamps at the end of 2011, a figure 40 percent higher than at any time during the Bush years. Michele Bachmann stated on NBC that the federal debt in 2007 was $160 billion and had soared under Obama. She was right—it was eight times greater in 2011—but interviewer David Gregory of NBC said, “That just misstates the record.”
For each of the past 25 years I’ve been asked to vote for the worst media comment of the year—and I generally groan the most at journalists who are not self-aware. Maybe MSNBC’s Chris Matthews deceives himself into thinking he approaches stories in this way: “Report the news, figure out what it means, then figure out what your attitude is about it.” But my choice for this year’s winner is a statement from New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal: “Fox News presents the news in a way that is deliberately skewed to promote political causes, and The New York Times simply does not.”
He’s partly right about Fox, but mark that “simply does not”—as if the very thought of a politicized Times is preposterous. Have you heard that pride goes before a fall?