Are you one of the countless millions who wish the old broadcast networks were a bit more balanced in their political reporting? Well, both NBC and CBS seem to have an answer for you: tough luck!
CBS’s decision to name Katie Couric as Dan Rather’s permanent replacement on the “CBS Evening News,” and NBC’s choice of daytime talk show host Meredith Vieira to replace Couric on “Today,” both indicate a defiant attitude toward viewers fed up with the media elite’s insular liberal approach to covering political and social issues.
There’s no doubt both women approach the news from a liberal perspective. Vieira, who’s probably less familiar to viewers, is a onetime correspondent on CBS’s magazine shows “60 Minutes” and “West 57th,” who now co-hosts ABC’s daytime “The View,” where they often pontificate about the issues of the day. Vieira has never hid her disdain of conservatives in general and the war in Iraq in particular, even bragging back in 2004 about how she marched in an anti-war rally with her daughter: “I’m still so upset about this war!”
Of course, there’s no rule that a talk show host needs to be neutral—most aren’t. But Vieira is now stepping into a role that requires a fairer approach, and her frequent outbursts have left her hopelessly compromised. When she interviews Condoleezza Rice, for example, the secretary of State will know that Vieira once said about President Bush’s Iraq policies: “Everything’s been built on lies. Everything! I mean the entire pre text for war.” When the subject is the death penalty, “Today” viewers will (hopefully) recall that Vieira is loudly against it: “I don’t believe in it, I don’t believe in it.”
For her part, Couric’s specialty for the past 15 years has been to cuddle up to controversial liberals with softball interviews. Hillary Clinton is one of Katie’s favorites, and Couric’s elevation to the anchor chair is undoubtedly good news for the New York senator’s presidential ambitions. It’s nearly impossible to imagine Katie getting tough with Hillary, whom she sees as a fellow feminist pioneer. “Do you think the American people are not ready for someone who is as accomplished and career oriented as Hillary Clinton?” she admiringly asked the future First Lady back in 1992.
Couric also seems to adore Jimmy Carter, telling Carter he was “considered one of the world’s foremost statesmen. … Your reputation has been bolstered tremendously since you left office. How does that make you feel?” In the midst of the Iraq Oil-for-Food scandal, she empathetically told UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, “You literally have the weight of the world on your shoulders.” Her hardball question for Annan: “Are you angry that the United States has not been more supportive of the UN?”
When House Democrats chose Nancy Pelosi as their new leader in 2002, Couric cheered on air: “You go, girl!” After Vermont liberal Jim Jeffords handed the Senate to Democrats back in 2001, Couric produced a gushing profile: “Jim Jeffords is the personification of one man, one vote, and his story a classic of American politics….Jeffords knew and agonized [over his decision to leave the Republican Party]. … But flying to Vermont in May, Jeffords knew he’d made the right decision.”
Couric isn’t as fond of conservatives. She famously opened one show back in 1999 by falsely quoting Reagan biographer Edmund Morris: “Good morning. The Gipper was an airhead!” Morris actually wrote the President Reagan was “an apparent airhead,” and told Couric she got it wrong: “He was a very bright man.” As for Reagan’s presidency, Couric suggested in an interview with William F. Buckley that “greed and materialism was the norm then, and that social ills were largely ignored, and therefore only worsened as a result of that neglect.”
After the murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard in October 1998, Couric blamed Christian conservatives: “The tragic beating of the college student in Wyoming has some activists in this country saying there is a climate of anti-gay hate that’s been fostered by a provocative advertising campaign by the political right in this country.”
Couric touts Europe’s nanny states as a model for America. After NBC aired a report on France’s mandatory 35-hour work week, Couric was giddy: “So great, that young mother being able to come home at 3:00 every day….The French, they’ve got it right, don’t they?” In 2002, she worried that American athletes might display too much patriotism during the Winter Olympic games, fretting that “sometimes, the international community can interpret that as arrogant nationalism.”
For more nearly two decades, the big broadcast networks have been losing viewers fed up with “news” coverage that reflects a narrow Manhattan liberalism while disdaining mainstream American conservatism. The elevation of Katie Couric and Meredith Vieira will do nothing to assuage those concerned about the skewed perspective of an out-of-touch liberal media. Instead, the networks seem committed to churning out more of the same slanted coverage that has cost them so dearly.