Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center (MRC), the publisher of NewsBusters. He’s been the central figure in the MRC’s News Analysis Division since the MRC’s 1987 founding and in 2005 spearheaded the launch of NewsBusters.
Baker oversees the selection of the award nominees and “winners” for the MRC’s “DisHonors Awards,” presented at an annual gala, and each week he helps the Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard select a “Mainstream Media Scream.” Those picks are added, on a one week delay, to NewsBusters. (Archive for 2012-2014 on MRC.org)
In 2001, Weekly Standard Executive Editor Fred Barnes dubbed Baker “the scourge of liberal bias.”
For 13 years he compiled and edited the daily CyberAlert e-mail and online report. In late May of 2009 the CyberAlert became an e-mail-only product based on BiasAlert postings on the MRC's Web site. BiasAlerts since early 2012. (In February 2015, the MRC discontinued posting BiasAlerts on MRC.org and began feeding the newsletter via CyberAlert posts on NewsBusters).
An avid fan of the Washington Capitals NHL hockey team, in January of 2009 the Washington Post's "DC Sports Bog" took note of Baker's attendance at a Caps game with John Kerry: "The Caps, John Kerry and a Scourge."
Baker lived in Massachusetts through high school, whereupon he fled the liberal commonwealth for George Washington University in DC and, since graduation, a life in Northern Virginia. Full bio on MRC.org.
Latest from Brent Baker
Prompted by the CBO's forecast of a $1.2 trillion annual federal budget deficit, the NBC Nightly News on Wednesday commiserated with the challenge ahead for the incoming President. “On our broadcast tonight, facing facts,” Brian Williams teased, “President-elect Obama confronts the hard realities he's up against, deficits as far as the eye can see.” A dire Williams proceeded to lead with how Obama will take over “during one of the most challenging times in the modern history of the United States.”
From the White House lawn, Chuck Todd piled on: “You know, it's becoming a cliche to say that the problems Obama is inheriting are among the worst ever, but I tell you, the realities of the situation on the economy hit home hard today. As Obama took the podium, he was greeted by the dire news that before he spends one dollar to stimulate the economy, he'll be adding to a deficit that is now 13 digits long...”
Do you think Ronald Reagan got such empathetic treatment in January of 1981 when he was about to assume office at a time of soaring interest rates, raging inflation (12%), high unemployment (7.5%) and a declining GDP? Or, just maybe the media were more concerned about his proposed “tax cuts for the rich”?
CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, whom President-elect Barack Obama has reportedly asked to take an administration post as Surgeon General and top health policy adviser, last year thought it noteworthy that the release of John McCain's medical records ignored the Senator's “mental health,” any “mention of post-traumatic stress disorder” or of “substance abuse.” Back in 2004, upon Ronald Reagan's passing, Gupta took to CNN to give legitimacy to claims of how throughout his presidency “many would accuse President Reagan of ignoring AIDS.” Gupta falsely charged that “the first time President Reagan would utter the word AIDS in public would be well into his second term, six years after the virus was discovered.”
The jump would take Gupta full circle back to activist liberal politics and policy-making. “He was a White House fellow in the late 1990s, writing speeches and crafting policy for then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton,” the Washington Post's Ceci Connolly and Howard Kurtz recalled in a story for Wednesday's paper (“Obama Picks TV's Gupta for Medical Post”) which relayed that in addition to the Surgeon General slot “he has also been offered a top post in the new White House Office of Health Reform, twin duties that could make him the most influential Surgeon General in history.” The Post article also noted that Gupta, who joined CNN in 2001 and has since also reported for CBS News, “met for more than two hours with Obama in Chicago on Nov. 25.”
ABC anchor Dan Harris led Sunday night's World News with Commerce-nominee Bill Richardson's unexpected withdrawal, but framed the story around worries over Richardson becoming a “distraction” from Barack Obama's agenda. George Stephanopoulos, however, assured him it will only “be a blip.” Harris recited how “Obama is facing trouble abroad, trouble at home, and now trouble in his own cabinet.” So, “this is another major challenge” for the besieged Obama, Harris empathized, “at a time when the economy is reeling and war is raging between the Israelis and Palestinian militants.”
Following a report from Jake Tapper, Harris went to George Stephanopoulos: “Obama's coming into office with a very ambitious agenda, and if you add together what's going on with Richardson right now with the Blagojevich scandal, is that going to be a distraction in the key early days?” Stephanopoulos assured him, given all the issues on Obama's agenda including “the panoply of national security challenges he's going to face when he takes office,” that “this is likely to be a blip.”
Taking adulation of Barack Obama on a looney left trip through idolization of Mikhail Gorbachev (Obamagasm + Gorbasm = Obamagorbabasm?), far-left Boston Globe columnist James Carroll dreamed that Obama will fulfill Gorbachev's 1988 pledge to achieve “the demilitarization of international relations” and change the world “from an economy of armament to an economy of disarmament.” In his Monday column, “Gorbachev's model for Obama,” Carroll, who fully credited Gorbachev with the fall of the Berlin Wall and dismantling of the Soviet Union, trumpeted Obama's opportunity: “By the grace of God, it is not too late to match the greatness with which Gorbachev acted 20 years ago, an overdue acceptance of his historic invitation.”
Fretting about America's “refusal to dismantle its Cold War military economy,” Carroll yearned for “yes we can” responses: “Is it too much to expect Barack Obama to change history? Make peace? Transform an economic system? Rescue the Earth? Build a political program around the truth? Restore a great nation's decency?” Justifying his faith in Obama, Carroll recalled: “On the cusp of this decisive year, it will do Americans well to recall that just such a transformation took place once before, even if we declined to respond with transformation of our own.”
(Just below Carroll's column, in the newspaper owned by the New York Times, readers were treated to an op-ed piece that carried a Tripoli dateline and the byline of “the leader of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya” -- yes, that would be Muammar Gaddafi -- titled “Provoking Russia” and which began: “Once again, the West's policy toward Russia and its addiction to interfering in the affairs of other countries is having dangerous effects on the rest of the world.”)
Declaring President George W. Bush's “economic legacy is selfishness” for daring to propose letting people invest a portion their Social Security payments in the stock market, on Sunday's Meet the Press the Washington Post's Michelle Singletary charged Bush “should be ashamed of what he's left us.” The Post-based nationally-syndicated “Color of Money” personal finance columnist contended that as a “regular mom and churchgoer” she's “just so disheartened by what Bush did to us” economically by “fighting a war that we couldn't win.” She got the last word, an overly dramatic one at that, during the panel's assessment of Bush's legacy:
He did all of this, I think, at the detriment of our country, our economy. And I think the regular American people are sitting here going, “We're in this war, and you said you couldn't afford health care, and yet all these billions of dollars are over there. And I have no job, no health care and probably no house.”
Newsweek sprinkled throughout its year-end double issue, with Barack Obama on the cover as the #1 member of “The New Global Elite,” a bunch of potshots at Sarah Palin -- and even derided teen daughter Bristol too. In a list of those who committed “low behavior” during 2008 (which did at least also highlight John Edwards), the magazine accused Sarah Palin of a “smear” against Barack Obama, on another page Newsweek described her as an “ill-informed, inarticulate shopaholic” (while on the same page hailing MSNBC's Rachel Maddow as a “brilliant” woman who “gives libs a happy new voice”) and deep in the December 29/January 5 edition the magazine ridiculed Bristol Palin: “For 30 years, the Moral Majority has promoted 'abstinence only.' Jamie Lynn Spears, Bristol Palin...how's that working out?” The specifics:
Page 21, a list of “The Biggest Losers” of 2008 “who set the high-water mark for low behavior in 2008,” featured Palin: “In a smear that sounds even worse in retrospect, Sarah Palin goes rogue and stirs up prejudice by accusing Barack Obama of 'palling around with terrorists.'”
Ten pages later, in a full-page year in review version of the “Conventional Wisdom Watch” (not yet online in the posted CW), the newsweekly hit her and McCain, but admired Maddow:
Sarah Palin: Ill-informed, inarticulate shopaholic has ego bigger than Alaska -- and she's still the darling of the GOP.
John McCain: Hard to forgive the nasty end-game, and Palin pick was irresponsible. But classy concession speech and Letterman gig.
Rachel Maddow: Brilliant, ebullient, lefty lesbian gives libs a happy new voice. Will MSNBC be Obama's Fox?
In an abbreviated edition of Sunday's NBC Nightly News (shorted by golf in the EST/CST), the network still found time to tout as newsworthy how Vice President-elect Joe Biden will chair a “White House Task Force on Working Families.” With “Focus on the Middle Class” on screen below a picture of Biden, anchor Lester Holt, referring to ABC's This Week, asserted Biden had “revealed” his function: “In an interview that aired today, the Vice President-elect, Joe Biden, revealed his role as the new administration's point man on the middle class.” (This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos summarized the interview on Sunday's World News, yet didn't mention the middle class angle.)
NBC reporter John Yang affirmed that “making good on a central theme of the campaign,” Biden “laid down a bold political yardstick for economic policy.” Viewers then heard a fairly pedestrian clip of Biden on ABC: “Is the middle class no longer being left behind? We'll look at everything from college affordability to after-school programs, the things that affect people's daily lives.” Yang then heralded, with “front and center” enlarged on screen from the press release: “Biden will head a cabinet-level task force making sure middle class and working families are 'front and center.'” How reassuring.
Some quick items from the Sunday interview shows and newspapers:
♦ On Meet the Press, NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell, who last month hailed Obama's “all-star cabinet,” on Sunday trumpeted the cabinet's “meritocracy,” and how it's supposedly made up of “superstars,” as she gushed over “people with so much brain power and so much education.”
♦ Over on ABC's This Week, during the roundtable's look at Caroline Kennedy as a potential Senator from New York, Sam Donaldson opined that “my preference would be Andrew Cuomo,” the liberal Attorney General for the Empire State, because, in part, “I thought his father would make a very good President.” That would be the far-left Mario Cuomo.
♦ In her final column for the Washington Post, outgoing ombudsman Deborah Howell urged the paper to address its lack of political diversity. Since “too many Post staff members think alike,” she advised: “Make a serious effort to cover political and social conservatives and their issues; the paper tends to shy away from those stories, leaving conservatives feeling excluded and alienated from the paper.”
Picking up on a Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) report on how several Hollywood actors and actresses have ponied up $50,000 each for VIP access to Barack Obama's inaugural events, CNN reporter Samantha Hayes marveled: “It's a measure of the excitement around Obama, that the stars are themselves star struck.” She highlighted, in a story run on Wednesday's Anderson Cooper 360, that “the Hollywood 'A' list is snapping up top-dollar tickets,” naming Halle Berry, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jamie Foxx, Sharon Stone and Samuel L. Jackson as amongst those who have donated the maximum $50,000 to the inaugural committee.
Hayes, however, stressed how “the Obama inauguration has dramatically cut the ability of the rich and famous to get insider access,” quoting how “Linda Douglass, the top spokesperson for the inauguration committee” (and a former ABC News reporter), told CNN they have “a $50,000 limit on individual donations, far below some limits in the past.” Offering corroboration, Hayes recalled how “the Bush inaugural committee took donations of up to a quarter million dollars.” But Hayes failed to note that, as the CRP report determined, most give the highest allowed and few are small givers: “72 percent of the donors who have contributed to the inauguration have given the maximum $50,000 donation. Only 12 percent of the donors have given less than $25,000.”
ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday night hailed President-elect Barack Obama's cabinet, pointing to how his national security team is made up of “coalition builders,” including Hillary Clinton, before praising Obama for how “he has also kept his promise of reaching out beyond Washington for change with younger reformers like Shaun Donovan at HUD, Arne Duncan at Education and Lisa Jackson at the EPA.” (All could just as well be described as big city Democratic political hacks.) Thus, ABC's chief Washington correspondent decided:
He’s managed to get this diversity and competence without engaging in any tokenism.
But then Stephanopoulos recited Obama's political tokenism, pointing out how he “picked people in the cabinet with an eye towards fast-growing voter groups” as two cabinet nominations went to Hispanics and two to Asians and three choices were purely about electoral politics, not competence: “The Southwest has been a real prime target area, and look what the President-elect has done. He’s picked Governor Napolitano of Arizona, Governor Richardson of New Mexico, Senator Salazar of Colorado, trying to lock in gains in those three key states.”
Plugging how “Vice President Cheney sat down with ABC's Jonathan Karl for an exclusive interview,” fill-in World News anchor Elizabeth Vargas on Monday night asserted Cheney “made a startling admission about the questioning of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.” But Vargas failed to explain what Cheney said to Karl that represented “a startling admission” and Karl didn't point out any “startling admission” from Cheney in the interview excerpt which followed the Vargas
Usually rude protesters who disrupt events by throwing objects at state leaders don't earn media celebrations, but instead of being embarrassed by their Iraqi media colleague who, as he spewed venomous hatreds, dangerously threw his shoes at President Bush on Sunday in Baghdad, ABC and CBS on Monday night championed his popularity amongst Iraqis. ABC put “Folk Hero?” on screen as fill-in anchor Elizabeth Vargas trumpeted how Muntathar al-Zaidi has “become an instant celebrity to many of his countrymen” while CBS anchor Katie Couric hailed how “many Iraqis are calling him a hero” before reporter Elizabeth Palmer snidely concluded: “Al-Zaidi should do jail time, said the Iraqi bloggers, because he missed.”
From London, ABC's Jim Sciutto maintained: “Shoes have become a new symbol of anti-Americanism in the Arab world. And the Iraqi reporter who threw them, Muntathar al-Zaidi, a folk hero.” Sciutto touted how “more than 100 lawyers volunteered to defend him. It was a heroic way to say goodbye to Bush, said one Iraqi.” Though Sciutto at least noted how “some Iraqis are embarrassed,” he countered: “Still, in news coverage, on new fan Web sites, in Arabic text messages, the overwhelming sentiment: giddy satisfaction.”
Certainly delivering a unique take on the Blagojevich case, in a Thursday night story on why Illinois politics are so corrupt, NBC reporter Lee Cowan characterized the Governor of Illinois as a politician who “fell victim” to Chicago's political machine. Apparently, corruption was just irresistible. Cowan contended:
The Windy City is a political stew of characters, a cast of players that even Hollywood would envy. Governor Rod Blagojevich is just the latest squeaky wheel in Chicago's political machine. Although he promised to be different, he fell victim, prosecutors allege, to history.
Presumably, Cowan didn't intend to assign his own characterization – “victim” -- to prosecutors, and just meant that prosecutors allege Blagojevich has taken the same path as too many of his predecessors. Cowan followed with a soundbite from a local reporter, who explained: “If there isn't a deal behind the scenes, it almost makes life not worthwhile.”
In the midst of more self-congratulatory excess over David Gregory becoming moderator of Meet the Press, he and anchor Brian Williams cued up Gregory to discuss Obama's “expectations management.” Gregory echoed that Obama must “lower expectations,” though, Gregory soon trumpeted: “He doesn't want to hit the ground running.
Media reports on President-elect Barack Obama's selection of retired Army General Eric Shinseki commonly described the pick as a “rebuke” or “repudiation” of the Bush administration for underestimating the number of troops that would be needed to occupy Iraq, but CBS's Dean Reynolds went further as he implied abiding by Shinseki's 2003 recommendation for “several hundred thousand soldiers” would have prevented wounded troops. On Sunday's CBS Evening News, over archive video of Shinseki visiting wounded soldiers -- and leading into a soundbite from Shinseki saying “veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular are confronting severe wounds, some seen, some unseen” -- Reynolds declared:
Now Shinseki will deal with the consequences of a policy that rejected his advice.
Of course, many soldiers and Marines have been wounded in Afghanistan and it's hardly an established fact that more American troops in Iraq in 2003 would have precluded a large number of American casualties which would require services from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In the midst of a discussion about President-elect Barack Obama's national security team, Washington Week host Gwen Ifill on Friday night's program sought confirmation for her theory that “what people are beginning to say is that this President-elect should be President now” as “people are saying why isn't Barack Obama leading the fight about the auto-makers?”
New York Times reporter Peter Baker agreed: “That's right, exactly.” He proceeded to fret over how “people voted for change and this strange, odd 77-day waiting period that we impose...between our election and our inauguration” just isn't compatible with the “hyperactive 24/7 fast-moving culture that we have today.” Baker admired how “Obama is trying to find some balance between respecting President Bush,” whom Baker conceded is “still in charge,” and “finding a way to assert leadership.”
Of the broadcast network newscasts Thursday evening, only the NBC Nightly News took a few seconds to note some more good news from the war front as fill-in anchor Lester Holt reported “combined deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan in November” stood at eleven, “the lowest total since the U.S. invaded Iraq.”
ABC's World News devoted more than two minutes to LBJ tapes, which showed him “anguished about the Vietnam war,” while the CBS Evening News also had no time for the improving news out of Iraq and Afghanistan as the program aired a full story on how the recession is impacting the rich in Beverly Hills who, in Katie Couric's formulation, are being “forced to hawk what they own to pay what they 90210.”
Thursday's USA Today highlighted the few deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan with a front page article, “U.S. combat deaths hit record low: 11 troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in November.” Ten U.S. service members were killed in Iraq, one in Afghanistan.
Unveiling President-elect Barack Obama as her “Most Fascinating Person of 2008,” Barbara Walters wrapped up her Thursday night prime time special by championing how Obama “has redeemed the American promise that an individual can make his own destiny and create a new world.” (Obama hasn't even taken office, yet he's already managed to “create a new world”?) She then presumptuously gushed: “We are all members of that new world now, and that for us makes him the Most Fascinating Person of 2008. Good luck, Mr. President.”
The other nine honorees in her special, Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2008, were revealed in advance: Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Tom Cruise, Tina Fey, Will Smith, Frank Langella, Miley Cyrus, Thomas Beatie and Michael Phelps.
As if anyone would be interested in Dan Rather being “unleashed,” Tuesday's edition of the IFC Media Project, a weekly far-left show that presumes the media are biased to the right, featured Rather whining about too much entertainment in news and blaming “the big, huge international conglomerate that now owns so many of the news outlets” for bringing American journalism to “a crisis point” -- not his own embarrassing politic
“The KGB, I think, was an honorable place to work” with “worthwhile” achievements, CNN founder Ted Turner contended in an interview aired on Sunday's Meet the Press in which he blamed the U.S. for starting the battles with Vladimir Putin “by putting the Star Wars system in Czechoslovakia and Poland” and, when host Tom Brokaw recalled that Leonid Brezhnev reacted to Jimmy Carter's outreach by invading Afghanistan, Turner retorted with moral equivalence: “Well, we invaded Afghanistan, too, and it's a lot further -- at least it's on the border of the Soviet Union.” Brokaw called it “naked aggression on the part of the Russians at the time,” prompting Turner to charge: “Well, going into Iraq was naked aggression on the part of the United States.”
Turner, who did the sit-down as part of the media tour for his new book, Call Me Ted, defended Putin's KGB background by comparing it to someone who worked for the FBI:
We have an FBI and, and, and, and, and we're not prejudiced against somebody who's worked at the FBI. It's an honorable place to work. And the KGB, I think, was an honorable place to work. And it, it gave people in the former Soviet Union, a communist country, an opportunity to do something important and worthwhile.
Yeah, like oppressing people in captured nations and running gulags to suppress political dissent.