Since December 18, Sinclair Broadcast Group's one-sided conservative commentary segment "The Point," presented by Sinclair vice president Mark Hyman, has offered a "Year in Review" series featuring "some of the most popular commentaries" from 2004 -- and demonstrating the consistent one-sidedness of "The Point."
December 22: Hyman asserted that "The Point ... is my personal opinion"
Sinclair ignored criticism that its news broadcasts don't include a counterbalance to the one-sided conservative commentary offered in "The Point" by rerunning a segment that argued against complaints "that 'The Point' is nothing more than an opinion and that it should instead be impartial." Hyman has made similar comments to the media since Media Matters for America launched a campaign to spur action against Sinclair Broadcast Group's use of the 62 television stations it owns or operates to promote partisan political interests. Hyman has answered criticism of "The Point" by arguing, as he did on this segment, that "This is a commentary. It is my personal opinion," but failing to address the call for a counterbalance.
Hyman compared his commentary to the news reports of "Peter Jennings and Dan Rather, Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson," as well as CNN's Aaron Brown and Wolf Blitzer, alleging -- and providing no supporting evidence -- that "[t]hey anchor news programs yet they constantly pass off their personal opinions as news. Or they spike their own poll results when they don't support their political viewpoints. Or they ignore news stories damaging to their candidates." In fact, Media Matters has documented numerous instances of conservative misinformation in the mainstream media (at ABC, CBS, and NBC), including frequent examples of selectively reporting polling data that favors conservatives.
In an apparent attempt to contend that "The Point" does offer some balance, Hyman asked: "And when was the last time any one of them read viewer email critical of them? They don't. I do." But Hyman's "Mailbag" segment appears to be carefully crafted to cast progressives as "the Angry Left." For example, as Media Matters noted, in a December 4 "Mailbag" segment, Hyman asserted that "Many of the Angry Left were in denial over why their candidate lost the presidential race and were angry that we pointed out their denial." He then proceeded to read belligerent emails ostensibly from viewers. Another instance occurred on December 11, when Hyman read email from conservatives that attacked "whiney Dems," "the false superiority that pervades the left," and asserted that "[l]iberals are all financial morons"; introduced one piece of viewer email critical of him by saying: "Illustrating that the Angry Left just doesn't get it was Mary of East Aurora, New York"; and suggested that the critical emails underscore that "moral values is an elusive topic to some."
Hyman concluded the segment by suggesting that providing a balance to "The Point" would be contrary to his role as commentator, remarking that if he were to "argue both sides ... I'd be John Kerry."
December 20: "The Point" smeared The New York Times
Hyman asserted that in "his 1971 Senate testimony" John Kerry "accus[ed] American servicemen of 'war crimes' committed on 'a day-to-day basis,'" a distortion repeatedly echoed by Republicans that Media Matters refuted at the time this segment first aired.
December 19: "The Point" misled about tax cuts
"The Point" reran a segment on taxes that implicitly endorsed President Bush's tax cuts and grouped them with those enacted by former presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, claiming that "Three of the most explosive growths in the American economy occurred right after the three biggest tax cuts in history: Kennedy's in 62, Reagan's in 81 and Bush's in 2003." When the conservative Club for Growth ran television ads in 2003 that compared the Bush tax cuts to those enacted during the Kennedy presidency, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and his niece, Caroline Kennedy, sent the organization a letter challenging that comparison, stating that "Kennedy's tax cut was focused primarily on 'lower and middle income working families' in contrast to the Bush and Reagan tax cuts, which mainly help the wealthy," according to a May 9, 2003, Associated Press article. A January 16, 2004, Slate.com article challenged the comparison as well.
Hyman also failed to note that after Reagan's 1981 tax cut, the federal budget deficit reached $208 billion in 1983, which, "at 6 percent of the U.S. economy stands as the worst ever by that measure," according to an Associated Press article.
Hyman concluded by suggesting that the audience vote against "those politicians who like spending other people's money [and] hate tax cuts" and asked: "I bet you'd like to stick that pencil [that you're using to fill out your taxes] right in their eye, wouldn't you?"
December 18: "The Point" distorted Ken Burns's commencement address
Hyman mischaracterized a speech delivered by Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns at Yale University's May 23 commencement ceremony. Hyman called Burns "arrogant" and claimed that he "likened the war in Iraq to America's own civil war" and "lashed out at American society." Rather, Burns compared the Civil War to America's current cultural divide, not to Iraq, noting that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, "ruptur[ed] the sense of invincibility and safety we had gradually acquired as the cold war receded into the past" and that "we come back again and again to the Civil War and Lincoln for the kind of sustaining vision of why we Americans still agree to cohere." Because it offers another example of a deep American cultural divide, Burns suggested Lincoln and the Civil War "have much to teach us." Instead of "lash[ing] out at American society," Burns used his speech to call for national unity, entreating the graduates to become soldiers in "an army dedicated to the preservation of this country's great ideals, a vanguard against this new separatism and disunion."