On Friday, Sean Hannity and Fox News presented an hour-long special tracing the history of the putative liberal mainstream-media bias, and the attendant unflattering portrayal of conservatives. The program was titled "Behind the Bias: The History of Liberal Media," but could just as easily have been called "Poor Republicans Can't Get a Fair Shake" or "Preaching to the Converted."
The program began with a subtle sledgehammer to the head, citing the "Obamamania media's liberal bias," and making the case that the media apologizes for foreign enemies, beginning with New York Times reporter Walter Duranty claiming exaggerated levels of famine in Stalin's Soviet Union in the 1930s. Then William F. Buckley and Irving Kristol came along in the 1950s, provoking a backlash that led to a simplistic portrayal of conservatives. A line like "Sarah Palin makes Barack Obama look like John Adams" is used as an example to bolster the argument, as if you could even disagree with that quote.
The two main arguments being made were that the liberal media has a proclivity for painting conservatives as racists, and making them look stupid by blowing trivial mistakes out of proportion, like harping on Dan Quayle's misspelling of the word "potato." The Katie Couric interview with Sarah Palin is used as another example, as if Palin didn't bring that upon herself, being more mama grizzly than policy wonk. And Hannity whines about how much was made of Trent Lott voting for Strom Thurmond, while Joe Biden's "clean and articulate" comments were quickly brushed over. The difference is that a hypothetical Trent Lott – J.C. Watts ticket would have been impossible to fathom. Then he brings up Robert Byrd's checkered past and Al Gore Sr. opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for good measure.
Next, the plump, juicy target of RatherGate is explored, along with CBS Evening News' "collusion" with the Kerry campaign. Funny, there's no mention of the flip-flopping windsurfer or swift-boat ads. The Wall Street Journal's John Fund, who was arrested for assaulting an ex-girlfriend, gives good quote for the cause, as does Michelle Malkin, who should have a pull-string on her back that you pull for knee-jerk, right-wing platitudes.
The convoluted Valerie Plame affair is explained, as is former New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines' resignation following the Jayson Blair plagiarism and fabrication scandal, with the inference being that New York Times reporters lack credibility. And the Times is taken to task in the Duke lacrosse scandal because they couldn't predict the future and know that the supposed victim would turn out to be a liar. The left is excoriated for opposing anti-immigration legislation in Arizona that leads to profiling, and using the Gabby Giffords shooting to further an ideological agenda. The charge is leveled that Obama receives more favorable coverage than Bush did, so I guess they're trying to redress the imbalance by characterizing Obama as a Kenyan Muslim socialist with an overrated jump shot.
The overall tone is smug and condescending, and, like often with the films of Michael Moore, you get a one-sided polemic. At the end of the program, Juan Williams complains about accusations of being a racist and a bigot by NPR, about having a "distorted mindset" imposed on a journalist by a left-wing organization. But Williams was fired by NPR, and he has an ax to grind. And Ira Glass already convincingly explained away the notion of bias at NPR. So it's all McCain – Palin bashing and nothing about Slick Willie and Monica Lewinsky. Thanks for the fair and balanced report, Mr. Hannity.