With only three weeks remaining until voters go to the polls to determine the next president of the United States, both sides are unleashing a full barrage of campaign ads, stump speeches, and political attacks. In addition to political messages being delivered directly by the presidential campaigns and their surrogate speakers, both Republicans and Democrats have their share of third-party advocates — MoveOn.org, America Coming Together, and others on the left, and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth on the right. However, it appears more evident and more obvious that the Democrats have a powerful ally that reaches millions of voters everyday — the so-called mainstream media.
As if it were not enough to have CBS News push the tired issue of President George W. Bush’s National Guard service using documents which have been universally debunked as forgeries, the network followed up that display of excellence in journalism with a “news story” on the possibility of President Bush reinstituting a military draft. The story was based on e-mails circulating throughout the Internet which are known urban legends and focused primarily on the comments of an anti-draft activist. Now, it appears that ABC News has shown its true colors. In a recent memo obtained by Internet reporter Matt Drudge, ABC News’ political director suggests that President Bush’s campaign statements should receive greater scrutiny than those of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry.
The memo, by ABC News’ Mark Halperin to ABC News staff, notes that the “stakes are getting very high for the country and the campaigns” and states that the responsibilities of the news media have “become quite grave.” Halperin then tells staff members of recent stories in the New York Times and Newsweek which claim that the current Bush attacks on Kerry “involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done.”
Halperin concedes that Kerry “distorts, takes out of context, and [makes] mistakes all the time,” but justifies these actions by saying that Kerry’s tactics are “not central to his efforts to win.” In ABC’s version of journalistic integrity, Halperin says that his organization has a “responsibility to hold both sides accountable to the public interest,” but goes on to explain that this responsibility “doesn’t mean we reflexively and artificially hold both sides ‘equally’ accountable.”
The so-called mainstream media doesn’t have to hold both sides equally accountable? What exactly does that mean? In the heat of a presidential campaign with both sides making claims and counter claims, who are they to say that one side should be held more accountable than the other? If Kerry’s distortions are not central to his “efforts to win,” why exactly is Kerry saying them? Just for fun? For a few laughs? It appears so, as ABC News is now stating in writing that Kerry deserves a free pass on his comments and President Bush does not.
In a Clintonian moment of “feeling your pain,” Halperin then tells his ABC News staff, “I’m sure many of you have this week felt the stepped up Bush efforts to complain about our coverage.” Halperin then makes one of the most bold and most blatantly biased statements of his memo, when he describes the Bush campaign’s complaints as “all part of their efforts to get away with as much as possible with the stepped up, renewed efforts to win the election by destroying Senator Kerry at least partly through distortions.”
“It’s up to Kerry to defend himself, of course,” Halperin writes. “But as one of the few news organizations with the skill and strength to help voters evaluate what the candidates are saying to serve the public interest … [n]ow is the time for all of us to step up and do that right.”
With statements such as these, the recent stories by CBS News which were based on false and misleading information all designed to attack
President Bush, and the longstanding sentiment by many that the media is biased to favor Democrats it is no wonder that other forms of media have risen so quickly. People are tired of getting told what to think. They are tired of the spin. If both presidential campaigns are making charges and accusations, the media should investigate the charges and present the facts to the American people. That is their job. What is definitely not part of their job is to become an advocate of the Democrats. To do so, and still state that they are not biased, is a slap in the face and an insult to the intelligence of the American voter.
Perhaps the media just can’t let go of the 2000 presidential election. Perhaps the fact that America has rightfully elected a Republican president, Senate, and House is too much to bear. Whatever the reason, the so-called mainstream media has done more in the past year to destroy their own credibility and show their leftist bias than any words or actions against them by those on the right have done. The 2004 election will likely be remembered for many highlights: the fierce campaigns, a war-time election, and more. It will also be remembered as the rise of the “new” media: bloggers and online news services which no longer give the left-leaning media a free pass on the facts. Members of the old media are left with two choices — adapt or face extinction. So far, they are making a stellar effort to put the nails in their own coffins.