A Media Matters study of guests on MSNBC's Scarborough Country shows that far more Republican and conservative guests have appeared on the show during the first three months of 2006 than have Democratic or progressive guests.
"No passport required, only common sense allowed." So boasts MSNBC on its website promoting its weeknight show Scarborough Country, hosted by former Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-FL). A passport may not be required, but a Media Matters for America study shows that conservative and Republican guests outnumber Democrats and progressives by a 2-to-1 ratio.
In this brief study, Media Matters documented the guest appearances on Scarborough Country for the first quarter of 2006. Using the same methodology employed in Media Matters' February 2006 study "If It's Sunday, It's Conservative," the guests on Scarborough Country were coded as either Democrat, Republican, conservative, progressive, or neutral (nonpartisan or centrist). Guests were coded based on their general partisan affiliation or ideological orientation. Media Matters has also recently released three similar studies: 1) of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, titled "Unfair & imbalanced: Republicans and conservatives dominate on Hannity & Colmes"; 2) of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, titled "Hardball for the left, softball for the right"; and 3) of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, titled "The lineup on Lou Dobbs Tonight overwhelmingly tilts right."
As with those shows, the overall guest list for Scarborough Country shows a distinct advantage for Republicans/conservatives over Democrats/progressives. Excluding neutrals, Republicans/conservatives represented 70 percent of the guests in January, while Democrats/progressives represented only 30 percent. In February, Republicans/conservatives accounted for 67 percent of the guest list, while Democrats/progressives comprised only 33 percent. By the end of March, Republicans/conservatives continued to lead Democrats/progressives by the same margin.
Elected and administration officials were no different. While such guests were rarer on Scarborough Country than on the shows Media Matters has previously studied, there was nonetheless a disparity: 71 percent were Republican, while only 29 percent were Democratic. The overall split between guests affiliated with either party also mirrored results from the overall guest list. Republicans represented 66 percent of guests who identified with a political party, while Democrats represented only 34 percent.
Journalists/pundits also showed a clear advantage for those on the right. While the majority of journalists/pundits were centrist or nonpartisan, 35 percent were conservative (56 guests), while only 10 percent were progressives (16 guests).
The trend continued with solo guest interviews. Excluding neutral guests, Republicans/conservatives comprised 72 percent of all solo interviews, while Democrats/progressives made up only 28 percent.
Finally, the most compelling demonstration of conservative dominance was evinced by the ideological tilt of Scarborough Country's panels. While a slight majority of panels were balanced -- 51 percent -- panels tilted right five times as often as they tilted left. Right-tilted panels comprised 40 percent of all panels, while left-tilted panels comprised a derisory 8 percent.
The data clearly indicate that Republicans/conservatives enjoy a roughly 2-to-1 (and sometimes larger) advantage over Democrats/progressives in every category analyzed. Should a show that calls itself a newscast really present such a narrow and lopsided debate on the issues facing the country? MSNBC assures its audience that they're getting "the real deal" from Scarborough Country, but the massive tilt in favor of the right suggests that viewers expecting a fair discussion are getting a bum deal instead. Media Matters urges MSNBC and the producers of the show to consider whether a guest list dominated by Republicans and conservatives is truly in the public interest. While guests may not require a passport for entry, common sense would suggest a balanced debate; in Scarborough Country, it's apparent that some guests are more welcome than others.