Opinion: Rather biased

By David Johnson

“The media want Kerry to win,” said Evan Thomas, assistant managing editor of Newsweek, in a recent interview. He added, “[The establishment media] are going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic.” Why anyone would debate these statements, coming from a pillar of mainstream media, is beyond me, but this election campaign is rife with examples supporting his assertions.

During the ’92 and ’96 presidential campaigns, when draft-dodger President Clinton ran against two different war heroes, the media consensus was that past military service was in no way an important measure of a candidate’s suitability to become commander-in-chief. This time around, Sen. John Kerry’s campaign has ignored his 20-year record in the Senate in favor of contrasting his four-month stint in Vietnam with President Bush’s stateside service in the Texas Air National Guard. Apparently, we’re supposed to believe that military service is a merit for Democrats, but not Republicans.

A few days after the end of the Democratic National Convention, a group of more than 200 veterans who served with Kerry, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, released a devastating ad countering the main plank of Kerry’s campaign. They contended that Kerry’s military service specifically made him unfit to be president.

A large group claiming with possible authority that the central tenet of Kerry’s campaign is false? Seems important to me. Anyway, a couple weeks later the mainstream media finally covered this bombshell by parroting the story emanating from the Democratic National Committee: Attack the messengers, not their claims. Turns out, some of the swift-boat veterans are (gasp!) Republicans! Shame on them for questioning the Democratic candidate’s self-proclaimed most important qualification for office!

Contrasting the mainstream media’s coverage of the swift-boat ads to its coverage of the president’s National Guard service reveals further bias. Democratic Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe floated the idea that Bush shirked his duty to his country. The papers and airwaves soon were swamped with stories with headlines such as, “Questions arise about Bush’s Guard service,” though there never were substantive claims.

The media wanted the Bush story to be true; not surprising, given that, according to a poll conducted by Kenneth Walsh – a reporter for U.S. News and World Reports – more than 85 percent of journalists covering the White House vote Democrat. Dan Rather of CBS recently ran a story based on forged memos claiming there was outside pressure to sugarcoat Bush’s National Guard performance. Rather wanted the story to be true so badly that he staked (and lost) his credibility despite warnings not to use the memos. CBS’s defense: We should accept the conclusion even if the supporting arguments are proven false. How stupid do they think we are?

Thankfully, we now have alternative-media sources that are forcing the question of the mainstream media’s bias and credibility. The Internet, cable news, and radio forced the swift-boat story and “Rathergate” into the media spotlight.

When asked if The New York Times was a liberal newspaper, Public Editor Daniel Okrent replied, “Of course it is.”

Isn’t it ironic that Fox News has to remind us that news coverage should be “fair and balanced?”

David Johnson is a senior in business. He is a guest columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]