On the November 17 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly referenced a 2008 report by the Media Research Center's Culture & Media Institute, which claims that out of 69 stories on network news about Sarah Palin in the two-week period examined, 37 were negative, 30 were neutral and only two were positive. O'Reilly further complained, citing the report: "Twenty-one of the stories portrayed Sarah Palin as unintelligent and unqualified. Eight stories used clips from Saturday Night Live to ridicule her." O'Reilly added: "Is that kind of presentation an accident? No."
But the report O'Reilly cited was more a function of the MRC's shilling for Palin than any serious media research. The tone of the report is more about complaining that anything negative was reported about Palin at all, what was reported didn't reflect the McCain campaign's talking points, and (channeling Stephen Colbert) facts and reality have a well-known liberal bias.
The report's scope was carefully limited to only the broadcast news networks -- no Fox News -- and only to coverage in "the two weeks beginning September 29 and ending October 12," thus avoiding having to discuss the period immediately following Palin's nomination and Republican National Convention speech, when news coverage of her was largely -- and perhaps disproportionately -- positive.
The report conflated negative coverage with bias, scoring stories by "negative," "positive" and "neutral," then deciding that the network that ran the most "negative" stories versus "neutral" or "positive" ones was the "most biased." Despite suggesting that the "negative" stories were not factual or fair, no evidence is offered to support it. The report's basic premise is that all news about Palin must be balanced or positive, whether or not the facts call for it.
The report complained: "Most observers agree that Palin did not perform well in the [Katie] Couric interview, but the network coverage dwelled on the worst moments, making Palin look as unprepared and inexperienced as possible." After noting the focus on Palin's refusal to give a straight answer to Couric's question about what magazines and newspapers she read, the report further stated:
The network coverage of this exchange left the impression that Palin was unable to identify any news sources because she isn't interested in current events -- an implausible supposition to make about an accomplished politician.
The networks would have provided a more accurate portrayal of Palin had they highlighted the Alaska governor's thoughtful responses to other questions from Couric.
The report doesn't mention the fact that Palin could have avoided that kind of focus by simply giving a straight answer to the question.
The report then baselessly asserted that "Palin's strong performance during the October 2 vice-presidential debate sucked the oxygen out of the attacks on her qualifications and intellect," failing to note that polls taken immediately after the debate found that a majority of viewers thought that Joe Biden won. The report also complained that Tina Fey's dead-on Saturday Night Live impression of Palin got media attention, calling the impression "demeaning" and adding: "Funny stuff, but is it news?"
After lamenting that the networks reported "criticism of Palin from a handful of conservative writers," the report added, "The networks failed to mention that Palin enjoyed the enthusiastic support of far more influential conservative pundits, including premier talk show hosts Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin." So a guy who said, as Levin did, "It's not the National Organization of Liberal Women. It's the National Organization of Ugly Women," is a "premier" conservative radio host in the eyes of the MRC?
The report went on to express annoyance that the networks were "depicting Palin as nothing more than GOP presidential nominee John McCain's attack dog. ... Rather than investigate the substance of Palin's accusations against Obama, the media suggested the criticism was somehow improper." In fact, Palin was the McCain campaign's attack dog, substantive allegations or no.
Finally, the report arrived at its key bit of annoyance: "The networks failed to acknowledge adequately that Palin was doing more during her speeches than attacking Obama. She was also talking about issues, McCain's plans for the nation, and her own qualifications." In other words, the networks weren't mindlessly repeating McCain campaign talking points to the MRC's satisfaction.
This is a study that simply can't be taken seriously and must be seen through the MRC's pro-Palin, anti-media agenda.
From Media Research Center director of communications Seton Motley's Twitter.com account:
The Media Research Center's Rich Noyes has issued a "Media Reality Check" purporting to be a "report card" of how major media outlets covered the 9/12 anti-Obama protests. But Noyes' analysis is curiously incomplete.
For instance, Noyes noted the performance of only one newspaper, The New York Times, which "buried the protests on page A37 of Sunday's paper." Noyes didn't mention what The Washington Post did -- perhaps because it broke the MRC's faulty liberal-bias template by putting the protest prominently on the front page. (That high-profile placement wasn't enough for fellow MRC employee Tim Graham.)
Noyes didn't do any relevant comparison of coverage, complaining only that the Times' "932-word story [on the protest] was only slightly longer than the 724-word story the paper granted back in March to an ACORN protest with only 40 participants." But that protest was in the New York metro area and thus more directly relevant to its core readers than a larger protest outside of NYC.
A more direct comparison would be to a similarly sized 2002 anti-war protest in Washington. As we've noted, while the Times published a photo of the anti-Obama protest in its front page -- something Noyes failed to mention -- it did not do so for the anti-war protest; the articles on both protests were inside the A section.
Noyes also downplayed the extent to which Fox News fawned over the protest. He wrote: "By far, Fox News offered the most detailed coverage, with a two-hour midday program on Saturday plus regular updates throughout the day, and FNC stuck to presenting the protesters' point of view, not denigrating them."
Noyes fails to note that Fox News did a lot more than present the protesters' point of view -- it promoted the bejeezus out of the protest, to the point where it was an unofficial sponsor. That's some serious straying over the line from news into advocacy, but it earned Fox News an "A" for coverage from Noyes.
Noyes downgraded Fox News' rating on tone of coverage to an"A-" apparently for a single comment by Geraldo Rivera that Noyes called a "sour note." After all, balanced coverage of conservatives is not what Noyes and his MRC buddies really want -- nothing less than completely positive, sycophantic coverage will do.
Investor's Business Daily falsely claimed that the House tri-committee health-care reform bill includes "a provision making individual private medical insurance illegal."
Or, rather, Brent Bozell agrees with me.
Media Research Center Brent Bozell thinks the media should devote more coverage to "the tragic deaths of American soldiers in Afghanistan."
I agree. The media should do a better job of showing the human costs of war. In fact, I've been saying that for years.
Bozell, on the other hand, spent the Bush years attacking journalists who wanted to be able to bring their readers and viewers pictures of coffins containing troops who died in Iraq.
Anyway, it's great that he's come around.
Asked on Fox & Friends about the "damage done" by having Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews anchor MSNBC's election coverage, the Media Research Center's Tim Graham responded, "Not only is the damage already done, the damage continues. I mean, not only are they keeping these people on for an hour a night, they're adding this lesbian Air America radio host, Rachel Maddow, on every night."
On Hannity & Colmes, Brent Bozell criticized NBC News' decision to refer to the situation in Iraq as a "civil war," saying that there are "probably 100 generals" in Iraq "who would disagree" with that assessment. Bozell offered no specific examples of any high-ranking military officials who have said Iraq is not in the midst of a civil war.
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Media Research Center founder and president L. Brent Bozell III wrote that The New York Times -- in the articles it publishes and through its sponsorship of events such as the 2006 Gay Games -- is "rooting for the homosexual revolution" and "actively spread[ing] the gay gospel."
On CBS' 60 Minutes, former high-ranking CIA official Tyler Drumheller proved that the Bush administration dismissed clear-cut evidence undermining President Bush's central case for war -- that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. But in the nearly two days since this explosive report aired, the media have almost entirely ignored the story.
In his column, Media Research Center president L. Brent Bozell III criticized CNN's Paul Begala for referring to Hebrew University of Jerusalem professor Martin van Creveld as "one of the most esteemed military historians in the world." Bozell then denigrated van Creveld as an "obscure" fringe figure. In fact, according to a bio that appeared with an op-ed by the professor, van Creveld "is the only non-American author on the U.S. Army's required reading list for officers."
L. Brent Bozell III claimed that "the media have been largely uninterested in investigating Saddam Hussein's reign of terror and his connection to terrorists" because of what Bozell described as their "refusal to give the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt." In fact, various media experts and major newspapers tell a very different story -- that the media failed to effectively question the administration's attempt to link Iraq to Al Qaeda in the run-up to the war, a link that has since been discredited by the September 11 Commission.
In his February 14 column, MRC president Brent Bozell wrote of Vice President Dick Cheney's February 11 hunting accident: "With apologies to the Cheney friend who received the pellet facial, the incident was funny." Bozell's column appeared well after news reports indicated that Texas lawyer Harry Whittington, the man Cheney shot, suffered a "cardiac event" brought on by birdshot lodged in his heart.
In his nationally syndicated column, the Media Research Center's Brent Bozell drew a false comparison between the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program and Bill Clinton's call for expanding anti-terror legislation following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. In drawing the comparison, Bozell ignored key distinctions: Clinton publicly called for Congress to pass legislation; Bush secretly authorized a clandestine surveillance program without informing the public or seeking congressional approval.