Bernard Goldberg's "bias" against the facts

››› ››› KARL FRISCH

This review of Bernard Goldberg's A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (And Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media (Regnery Publishing - January 26, 2009) originally appeared on the Dayton Daily News Book Nook blog. It was also featured on The Huffington Post and printed in the Utah Standard.

This review of Bernard Goldberg's A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (And Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media (Regnery Publishing - January 26, 2009) originally appeared on the Dayton Daily News Book Nook blog. It was also featured on The Huffington Post and printed in the Utah Standard.

That certainly didn't take long. Just shy of a week after Barack Obama took the oath of office, becoming America's 44th president, the nation's foremost right-wing publishing house has released a new tome by Bernard Goldberg that seeks to trash the supposedly liberal "mainstream media" for being in the tank for Obama.

The three-ringed circus of liberal media bias cryptozoology is nothing new for Goldberg. He's been part of this factually challenged freak show for years. This isn't even his first book on the subject -- he wrote 2001's creatively titled, Bias.

Goldberg's latest screed, A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (And Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media (Regnery Publishing, January 2009), though with a significantly longer title, preaches the same decades-old gospel of bias, refusing at all costs to let facts get in the way -- truth be damned.

Case in point.

In the first chapter of Slobbering, Goldberg writes that the media were "championing" Obama and cites as proof a June 2008 broadcast of CBS' The Early Show, which ran a segment called "Five Things You Should Know About Barack Obama," featuring biographical fluff on the then-Illinois senator. Goldberg goes on to contend that CBS' Jeff Glor sounded "more like Obama's campaign manager than a network news correspondent" during the segment. However, like so many other glossy television profile pieces during the long presidential campaign, CBS' report was only one-half of a set. Just days later, CBS would air a segment titled "Five Things You Should Know" about Sen. John McCain, featuring such trivia as McCain's high school nickname, television and movie cameos, and enjoyment of bird-watching and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's fictional character Borat. Not surprisingly, Goldberg's book makes no mention of the McCain segment.

This is just one of many examples in which Goldberg mangles the facts to suit his own agenda; unfortunately, there are many others.

Goldberg contends the media spent too little time covering Obama's connection to '60s radical William Ayers. He claims the press returned to the issue in the fall only because the McCain-Palin ticket raised it on the campaign trail. Putting aside for a moment the fact that those watching cable television during the campaign often saw wall-to-wall coverage of this issue, Goldberg's central contention -- that the press returned to covering the Obama-Ayers connection only after the McCain-Palin ticket raised it on the campaign trail -- is patently false. Goldberg writes, "Finally, in the last month of the campaign, the [New York] Times returned to the Obama-Ayers story, but only after McCain and (mostly) Palin began making it an issue on the campaign trail." In reality, in what was reported as the "first time" Sarah Palin raised Obama's connection to Ayers, the Alaska governor actually cited the October 2008 New York Times story to which Goldberg refers. This isn't a case of "which came first, the chicken or the egg." Palin brought the issue up on the campaign trail citing a report in the Times; it wasn't, as Goldberg writes, the other way around.

Showing further contempt for the Google skills of his readers, Goldberg adds a spare room to the house of cards he's constructed by publishing a deceptively doctored version of an interview with NBC News' Tom Brokaw on PBS' Charlie Rose. Echoing conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, Goldberg suggests, among other things, that Brokaw expressed the view that "there's a lot about [Obama] we don't know," when, in fact, Brokaw actually attributed that opinion to "conservative commentators." Goldberg goes on to claim that comments Brokaw and Rose made about their lack of familiarity with the presidential candidates applied only to Obama when, in fact, they were also referring to McCain.

There is plenty to complain about in the media, especially when you look at coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign. Too often the press uncritically reports spin as fact when a simple fact-check is in order. They give equal weight to competing arguments for the sake of balance when both sides are obviously not on equal footing. They fail to correct their mistakes and advance false notions influencing the opinions of news consumers. The list could go on ad infinitum.

For all of their failings though, Goldberg's case against the media just doesn't hold up under serious scrutiny. It's perfectly fine to have political opinions -- one can even write a book about them. That book, however, should be accurate, and all too often Goldberg's Slobbering fails readers in that regard.

Karl Frisch is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a progressive media watchdog, research, and information center based in Washington, D.C. Frisch also contributes to County Fair, a media blog featuring links to progressive media criticism from around the web as well as original commentary. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook or sign-up to receive his columns by email.

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