This confirms a lot of my observations about the liberal bias of the
Editor of Slick
Recd From: email@example.com
September 07, 2000
"Left" Out of Media Coverage
by David Boaz
David Boaz is executive vice president of the Cato Institute.
For years complaints of liberal media bias were dismissed with a simple
demand: "Prove it." But thanks to Lexis-Nexis, that's becoming easier to
do. These days anyone with a computer can perform media searches that
reveal with unsettling precision the slanted nature of news coverage.
Consider the Republican and Democratic conventions. The anecdotal evidence
of bias was compelling enough, such as the reporter who claimed that if
Bush 's national security adviser didn't mention her support for abortion
rights in her speech, it would call into question the image of an inclusive
convention. Abortion rights. In a speech by the national security adviser.
But Lexis-Nexis confirms that the media viewed the GOP gathering as a
parade of political fringe dwellers while the Democratic convention
abounded with safe, sensible centrists.
By the numbers, the news media labeled Republicans "right-wing" 373 times
during their convention but found only 120 occasions to refer to
"left-wing" Democrats during theirs. The disparity was more pronounced
among major newspapers: The New York Times labeled Republicans
14 times, Democrats "left-wing" only twice. Major papers as a group
against the Republicans 142-37 on this score.
What about even harsher terms? The major networks called Republicans "far
right" 22 times and "hard right" six times, but Democrats were
only five times and were never "hard left." All news sources labeled the
Republicans "far right" or "hard right" 188 times, but found
occasions to label Democrats "far left" and "hard left." And
many of the latter labels referred to protesters outside the Democratic
convention, not to Al Gore, Joseph Lieberman, or other party leaders.
The conservative Media Research Center confirms that this is nothing new. A
1985 study conducted for the group by professor William C. Adams found that
in 1984 "both CBS News and NBC News called the Republican party, its
platform, or its dominant leaders by conservative labels 113 times. They
called the Democrats by liberal labels 21 times" -- even though that was
the year popular Republican incumbent Ronald Reagan won 60 percent of the
vote while the Democratic convention in San Francisco seemed to strike most
Americans as too far to the left. Similar bias remained in 1988 and 1992.
Why does this happen? Why do journalists consistently portray Republicans
and conservatives as more ideological than Democrats and liberals? One easy
answer is that most journalists are left of center politically. But since
their own views tend to be shared by their coworkers and friends, they
think of themselves as moderates. Thus Democratic activists and candidates
seem sensible and moderate to them, while conservatives seem foreign and
ideological. That's not intentional bias, just a natural inclination.
Another possible answer, of course, is that Republicans are farther to the
right than Democrats are to the left. That would be a difficult proposition
to prove or disprove, because it depends on how one defines the center. But
if we take four presidential elections, from 1984 to 1996, in which
Democrats and Republicans each won the presidency twice, with the
Republicans getting more total votes over that period, it seems hard to
claim that the Republicans are farther from the center than the Democrats.
As for 2000, can anyone seriously claim that Bush and Cheney are farther to
the right than Gore and Lieberman are to the left? Gore, after all, has
written a book advocating the abolition of the internal combustion engine,
which would seem a fairly left-wing position, and Lieberman -- for all his
short-lived flirtation with new ideas like school choice and Social
Security reform -- has compiled a lifetime liberal rating of 95 from
Americans for Democratic Action.
If Dick Cheney can be called "far right," then it's ridiculous not to
Democratic National Convention featured speakers such as Hillary Clinton,
Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson, abortion-rights hardliner Kate Michelman, and
gay-rights activist Elizabeth Birch "left-wing." If Phyllis Schlafly is
"doyenne of the far right," as The Washington Post put it in a news
then who was the doyenne of the far left at the Democratic convention?
Print and especially television media are the filter through which voters
receive information about politics and elections. As conveyors of that
information, journalists have a responsibility to their patrons and their
profession to resist news reporting that is wittingly or unwittingly
Sources* Major Newsp. NY Times Wash. Post
Right wing 373
Far right 144
Hard right 44
Religious right 141
Sources* Major Newsp. NY Times Wash. Post
Religious left 4
Secular left 2
SOURCE: Lexis-Nexis search, Republicans during period July 30-August 4,
Democrats August 13-18.
*All sources included in Lexis-Nexis news.