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
Sunday's CBS Evening News ended with a feature piece on a 106-year-old nun in Rome who plans to vote for Barack Obama, her first time to cast a presidential ballot since the New Hampshire native voted for Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, because Obama is “a good” and “honest” man. From Rome, reporter Allen Pizzey related how her “simple, old-fashioned standard for politicians,” which apparently does not include the Catholic church's opposition to abortion, inspired her to decide to vote for the first time in 56 years. Sister Cecilia Gaudette explained: “As I say, a good straight man; good private life, honest and politically able to govern, of course.” As she put her hand over an Obama button on her clothing, Pizzey cautioned that though she's decided “the Democrat fit the bill,” she's “not about to campaign for him.” (She'll leave that to the news media?)
Earlier, the newscast aired a report on young voters in New Hampshire, leading anchor Russ Mitchell to set up the look at the nun: “Finally this evening, we just heard how the presidential election in New Hampshire could be decided by the youngest voters. Then again, it could also hinge on the vote of one Roman Catholic nun whose 100th birthday is well behind her.”
Newsweek's Evan Thomas and NPR's Nina Totenberg, likely reflecting the attitude of many of their Washington press corps colleagues, declared Barack Obama's connection to unrepentant terrorist William Ayers as an out of bounds subject for the campaign.
For ABC's World News on Wednesday and Thursday, Charles Gibson conducted interviews with Barack Obama and John McCain aboard the ABC News bus, but on McCain's “line of attack” against Obama he shared Obama's annoyance (“Are you going to have to address that again?”) while he pushed McCain to justify the criticism: “You're comfortable that this should be a focus in the last days of the campaign?”
With Obama in Indianapolis on Wednesday, Gibson noted how “John McCain has unloaded on you in the last 72, 96 hours, as has Sarah Palin” about how “we don't know who Barack Obama is,” but “were you surprised that he didn't bring it up last night at the debate and use that line of attack?” Gibson next cued up Obama, as if it's an unfair burden for Obama to “again” have to address Ayers: “Sarah Palin has come at you because of the Bill Ayers connection. Are you going to have to address that again?”
Talking to McCain on Thursday in Milwaukee, Gibson raised the obvious (“Does this almost monolithic focus on the economy, in the news, and in people's minds in recent weeks, hurt your campaign?”) before then treating McCain's efforts to change the subject as odd: “Why...have you focused so in what you've had to say on Senator Obama's character?” When McCain brought up Obama's level of “knowledge and judgment,” a befuddled Gibson pressed: “You don't think he's been thoroughly vetted, having gone through all the primaries he did, all the campaigning, running for President as long as you have -- two years?” As for Ayers, Gibson pushed McCain to show his own better judgment, posing the question cited above about being “comfortable” with making Obama's character an issue.
NBC anchor Brian Williams reported Wednesday night “there were no devastating or towering moments in the Obama/McCain debate in Nashville last night,” but he insisted, though neither ABC nor CBS mentioned them in their next day stories, “two moments from last night loomed large today.” Both, no surprise, were supposed insults from John McCain, but before getting to those, reporter Andrea Mitchell focused on the “rowdy” McCain and Palin crowds and elevated the importance of a local Lehigh County, Pennsylvania GOP official who dared use Obama's full name:
At one point, someone shouted “off with his head” about Obama. And the Republican County Chairman, William Platt, asked, “Imagine if you woke up on November 5th and Barack Obama -- Barack Hussein Obama -- was our new President?” The campaign later said: “We do not condone this inappropriate rhetoric.” But that kind of rhetoric is becoming commonplace, especially at Sarah Palin's rallies. Today Joe Biden challenged her.
After a clip of Biden castigating Palin, Mitchell relayed how “Democrats are also buzzing about McCain's debate performance last night, saying he seemed dismissive and disrespectful when he referred to Obama as 'that one,'” a reference she asserted has “spawned howls and a cottage industry of headlines on liberal blogs and even T-shirts on Web sites.” Again, for expert condemnation of McCain she went to the Democratic VP candidate: “Biden with Ann Curry on Today explained...” Mitchell then moved to the second McCain foul: “Critics also jumped on McCain for seeming to patronize one questioner in the debate, Oliver Clark, who asked what it will take to help people having a difficult time in the economic crisis.”
Deciding “Obama is two for two,” ABC's George Stephanopoulos, who last Friday called Joe Biden the winner over Sarah Palin, declared Barack Obama “definitely won” over John McCain in the second presidential debate, just as he had determined following the first one -- and that makes it three times out of three debates the Democratic operative turned ABC journalist has picked the liberal Democrat. In Tuesday's “Nightline Report Card,” Stephanopoulos trumpeted Obama's performance:
He definitely won tonight. I think, again, he showed over the course of this debate, over the course of the two debates, he is answering the number one question Americans have about him. Does he have the experience it takes to serve effectively as President? Over the course now of three hours of debates, he is answering that question minute by minute.
Issuing his grades, Stephanopoulos awarded Obama an A and two A-minuses while he presented McCain with one A-minus and two grades of B+. Stephanopoulos contended “where I really think Barack Obama won the debate tonight in strategy is on foreign policy. He took the debate to John McCain, took it to John McCain's judgment, jujitsued the line that John McCain used in the last debate about how Barack Obama doesn't understand foreign policy.”
Matching the Obama campaign spin, the network reporters and analysts were upset by John McCain, at one moment in the second presidential debate on Tuesday night, referring to Barack Obama as “that one.” CBS's Jeff Greenfield asserted “there is going to be clearly a major headline soundbite” and insisted “those two words are going to be what the water cooler conversation is tomorrow. Was it demeaning? Was it an insult?” Katie Couric turned to a group of “undecided voters” for their reaction to the phrase. One man “thought it was a little bit childish” and another “undecided” man declared: “I'm really tired of the last eight years of for us or against us and to me that showed that side of McCain coming out and the picky and childish and we've had eight years of that.”
On CNN a little past 11 PM EDT, reporter Suzanne Malveaux compared it to Bill Clinton's characterization of Monica Lewinsky: “It's like 'that woman,' you know, that we've heard 'that woman,' I mean a lot of people are saying that was the kind of language that was very condescending.” A few minutes later, Democratic hack Paul Begala slimed Sarah Palin as a racist, citing the Associated Press and how “they said her attack on this whole Bill Ayers thing was 'racially-tinged.' That's not what a Democrat said, that's what the Associated Press said.” There's a difference? MSNBC viewers heard Chris Matthews pleased by Obama's “wonderful smile” before he charged McCain's smile “has a somewhat menacing quality.”
Audio: MP3 audio (1:25, 450 Kb) which matches the video above of CBS's "undecided" voters.
Over video simply showing Barack Obama walking down the steps from his airplane, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric on Tuesday night juxtaposed how Obama “was given a police escort to his hotel,” as if that’s anything unusual for a presidential nominee under standard Secret Service protection, with how “in recent days, he's been under a non-stop verbal assault from Sarah Palin.” So the Governor of Alaska is a threat to Obama’s personal safety? Couric never explained why she decided to highlight the police escort when Obama and McCain, as well as Palin and Joe Biden, get them every day:
The economy will likely dominate tonight's presidential debate. John McCain arrived in Nashville last night while Barack Obama flew in earlier today and was given a police escort to his hotel. In recent days, he's been under a non-stop verbal assault from Sarah Palin. But are her criticisms accurate? Wyatt Andrews, now, with a Reality Check.
Audio: MP3 audio clip (25 seconds, 100 Kb)
ABC on Monday night focused its ire at John McCain, for making the campaign “increasingly nasty and bitter” by unleashing a “blistering barrage on Obama,” while CBS’s Jeff Greenfield suggested McCain “may” have decided to “campaign ugly” because “negative campaigns tend to depress turnout” and thus hurt Barack Obama since he’s attracting the new voters. Gibson’s loaded set-up:
We turn to presidential politics and what is becoming an increasingly nasty and bitter contest. On the eve of the second presidential debate, the McCain campaign has unleashed a blistering barrage on Obama, attacking him not only for what he says, but for who he is and who he knows.
Reporter Ron Claiborne proceeded to describe a McCain speech as “by far McCain's fiercest, most sustained, harshest attack on Barack Obama of the entire campaign” which included “even questioning Obama's honesty.” After noting the “new offensive includes running mate Sarah Palin accusing Obama of associating with Bill Ayers,” Claiborne was less condemnatory of Obama, describing “a slick 13-minute Web video about the Keating Five banking scandal.”
A week-and-half before he'll moderate the third and final presidential debate, CBS's Bob Schieffer opened Sunday's Face the Nation by calling a foul on one team as he took sides and denounced Sarah Palin's daring to say, that “our opponent is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country,” as a sign of “a campaign that's turned down and dirty,” as well as “nasty,” thanks to John McCain's “new attack dog” who “took after Barack Obama in a style reminiscent of Spiro Agnew when he was Richard Nixon's running mate.” In the Washington press corps, a comparison to Agnew is no compliment.
Later in the program, he fretted to New York Times columnist David Brooks: “Do you think it's going to get nastier and nastier? It does look as if McCain is really going on the attack. You saw what Sarah Palin said.” Brooks, whom Schieffer labeled as a “conservative columnist,” assured Schieffer it would be an ineffective tactic since “Republicans have been using this attack -- too dangerous, too liberal” for “too long” and “you can't win that way anymore.”
Sunday night, ABC reporter David Wright described Palin's reference to Bill Ayers as “incendiary” as he asserted on World News: “Today, in San Francisco, Sarah Palin defended her incendiary comments that Barack Obama has been 'palling around' with terrorists.” Earlier in the day, ABC's This Week host George Stephanopoulos had scolded guest Tim Pawlenty about Palin's charge: “When Governor Palin says of Obama 'this is not a man who sees America as you do,' it sure does sound like she is questioning Senator Obama's patriotism.”
align="right"Catching up with an item from a few days ago: Barry Sonnenfeld, a movie director (Men in Black) and now the Emmy-winning executive producer and director of ABC's dramady Pushing Daisies, predicted on Wednesday's Late Show that amongst the things he's “worried” President Bush will do before leaving office is “go out by pushing the button and destroying all life on Earth.” That was too much for David Letterman, hardly a Bush fan (in June he asked if Bush has “any humanity?”), who responded: “It's just a little bleaker than I would have hoped for -- the idea that he would actually detonate the planet in a moment of despair.”
Sonnenfeld, who speculated about Bush hiding bin Laden, also wondered why Americans wouldn't vote for the “really smart” Barack Obama over John McCain who “finished second to last in his graduating class in college” and Sarah Palin, who “went to five different colleges,” and so “I'm thinking maybe she's got other talents than intelligence.”
With some mix of seriousness and humor you can judge yourself by watching the video clip (though how funny is it to joke about the President as some kind of religious zealot out to murder millions?), Sonnenfeld told Letterman he's “worried since it's October that George Bush will do one of three things: Either find bin Laden, who've they've had somewhere for eight months waiting to bring out” or “let's start a war with Iran. That's always a possibility.” Then:
And here's the third thing -- and I don't know much about the Bible and I'm not a big rapture guy -- but I believe George Bush is and what better way, if your polls are so bad, than to go out by pushing the button and destroying all life on Earth?
Audio: MP3 clip (2:05, 750 Kb)
Osborn Elliott, the top editor of Newsweek from 1961 to 1976 and Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism from 1979 to 1986, passed away last Sunday at age 83 (Monday, September 29 Washington Post obituary). He was retired when the Media Research Center was founded in 1987, but he didn't hesitate in 1992 and 1995 to express his hostility to conservatives and he serves as a reminder that the Angry Left populated the highest levels of the mainstream news media long before the blogosphere gave them new venues.
He helped to organize a “Save Our Cities” rally in 1992 where he accused Republicans of having “savaged our urban schools, our housing, our health care, our social services,” denounced “Democrats who have collaborated in this butchery” and charged: “We hold accountable those who waste our billions on a military with no enemy to fight.” (Screen shot is from that Saturday, May 16, 1992 event.)
Three years later he equated “Reaganism” with “social Darwinism” as he castigated journalists for being too nice to Reagan: “By failing to...adequately expose the inane contradictions of supply-side theories, aka Reaganomics, I believe journalism deserves some of the blame for ills that now afflict us.”
align="right'Perfectly encapsulating the coastal left's blind derision of Sarah Palin as an inexperienced “beginner” and thus unqualified, when the very same smart aleck cheap shots about her could be directed at the man with whom they have fallen in love, Barack Obama, David Letterman on Friday night asked guest Brian Williams if the nation can risk “a beginner in the passenger seat” (what about in the driver's seat?) and, in a sexist cheap shot, imitated Palin adjusting her hair during a 9/11 crisis as he impersonated her voice: “How's my hair?” That led an uncomfortable Williams to lean back and sigh, prompting Letterman to acknowledge “that's unfair. I'm sorry.”
Letterman, however spent the first half of Friday's Late Show before Williams came out and most of his time with Williams ridiculing Palin, and McCain for choosing her. Though the NBC Nightly News anchor Williams tried to separate himself from the remarks, and made some gentle counter-points as he preferred to joke about how he's the only one of the three anchors yet to get an interview with Palin, Williams never made the obvious point that much of Letterman's upset over Palin's inexperience could be directed to the top of the competing ticket. Or certainly could have been when he emerged last year as a candidate, but was not.
Audio: MP3 clip (1:20, 500 Kb)
Six days after declaring Barack Obama the winner of the first presidential debate, following Thursday's VP debate George Stephanopoulos again decided the liberal Democrat in the debate, this time Joe Biden, was the winner -- but in assigning his “Nightline Report Card” grades he gave both Biden and Sarah Palin the same overall assessments: each got one A, one A-minus and one B. Asked by anchor Terry Moran to name “the winner,” Stephanopoulos argued:
Joe Biden, but boy, was this close. I think that Governor Palin did an awful lot to help herself tonight. There is no question that she beat expectations, that she was fluent, that she showed she could stand up there on the stage. She laid a couple of attacks there against Barack Obama, but going back to my first point on overall strategy, right now, this is a race where if John McCain cannot convince the country that he's going to take it in a different direction from President Bush, he simply cannot win...
The grades from ex-Democratic operative Stephanopoulos. On “Strategy,” an A for Biden and an A-minus for Palin; on “Style,” an A-minus for Biden and an A for Palin; and on “Accuracy,” a B for both.
align="right"Two themes in post-VP debate coverage Thursday night: First, “surprise” that Sarah Palin wasn't a “car wreck” and “did not embarrass herself.” Second, distress that she failed to answer moderator Gwen Ifill's questions.
On NBC, Chuck Todd observed “those that were tuning in looking for some sort of car wreck, probably came away disappointed.” CBS's Katie Couric proposed, without saying in which camp journalists fall, “the headline is Governor Sarah Palin did not embarrass herself or her running mate as some Republicans might have feared and some Democrats might have hoped.” Colleague Bob Schieffer asserted that “I think a lot of people were expecting” Palin “to make some sort of blunder or mistake and she did not do that.” Jeff Greenfield, also on CBS, decided “Palin passed the Tina Fey test. Anyone looking for a deer in the headlights experience didn't get one tonight.” Over on ABC, Diane Sawyer found that Palin, “after a bruising time in the media, showed up not just with confidence, but cheerful confidence that might surprise a lot of people.”
On Palin avoiding questions, CBS's Schieffer “found it a little disconcerting” that “time and again Governor Palin would just choose not to answer the question and launch in to some dissertation, sometimes talking points, and not really address what Gwen Ifill had asked her.” On CNN, reporter/analyst Gloria Borger charged: “I think at the beginning of the debate actually, Sarah Palin's problem was that she wasn't answering questions directly.” NBC anchor Brian Williams scolded: “Looking at some of the e-mail traffic and some of the commentary online tonight, people found it bracing when she said quote, 'I may not answer the questions the way the moderator and you,' Senator Biden, 'want to hear.' Of course, it's the only set of rules in town.”
Video/Audio: Click on frame above for video, compiled by the MRC's Michelle Humphrey, of Katie Couric, Bob Schieffer, Diane Sawyer and Chuck Todd. Matching MP3 audio (55 seconds)
At the top of Thursday's World News, just hours before the vice presidential debate, ABC anchor teased that “a new poll shows most Americans don't think” Palin is “ready to be a heartbeat away,” and, in explaining the advice both candidates are getting from their advisers, George Stephanopoulos fretted about “the dilemma for Biden,” which given that “we expect Sarah Palin to have some attack lines on Biden, on Obama. He's got to choose, at some point, not to let those attacks go unanswered.”
So there's the early media line: Biden will be the victim of attacks from Palin and must figure out how to counter those unfair attacks.
In the lead story, reporter Kate Snow did not cite any poll number about how “most Americans don't think” Palin is ready to be President, but she did highlight how “our new ABC News poll finds the public souring on Palin. One-third of registered voters now say her selection makes them less likely to support John McCain for President.”
In her day-on-the-campaign-trail stories about the VP candidates, Katie Couric didn't even try to deliver equal treatment. Last week, after her piece on her day with Joe Biden, I outlined what she must do to be consistent with Palin this week. She failed. Unlike with Biden on September 22, in the “Sarah Palin: Behind the Scenes” story on Tuesday's CBS Evening News, Couric declared a McCain-Palin policy position “misleading,” deliberately highlighted a policy disagreement between the two (drilling in ANWR), condescendingly demanded that Palin list the names of newspapers she read in Alaska and then treated Palin's conservative views as alien and thus in need of explanation -- pressing her on whether she agrees global warming is “man-made,” hitting her repeatedly on whether it should be illegal for a 15-year-old rape or incest victim to get an abortion or the “morning-after” pill and requiring she offer her position on teaching evolution.
Couric asserted that “it will take about ten years for domestic drilling to have an impact on consumers,” before accusing Palin: “So isn't the notion of 'drill, baby, drill' a little misleading to people who think this will automatically lower their gas prices?” On how Palin is an ill-informed dolt: “What newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this to stay informed and to understand the world?” Couric wouldn't let go: “Like what ones specifically?” and “Can you name a few?” [UPDATED below with how growing up Palin “consumed newspapers with a passion.”]
Jumping to social issues, as the two sat on the campaign bus, Couric insisted Palin reiterate how she adheres to views Couric framed as extreme:
On Monday night's CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric announced her day “on the campaign trail with Governor Palin” won't air until Tuesday, but CBS still made room for an excerpt of her time Monday in Ohio with Sarah Palin and John McCain in which Couric repeatedly pressed the two about an overheard comment Palin made Saturday about Pakistan, badgering them with five follow-ups before moving on to Palin's “reaction” to criticism of her answers during her previous Couric session. But a week-and-half-ago, when Couric's day on the campaign trail story with Joe Biden was delayed by news on the financial front, CBS ran video of Couric cuing up Biden on what he and Obama would do to resolve the crisis followed by one challenging question with no follow-up.
At a Philadelphia restaurant on Saturday a man demanded: “So we do cross-border, like from Afghanistan to Pakistan, you think?” Palin answered: “If that’s what we have to do stop the terrorists from coming any further in, absolutely, we should.” Couric decided: “That's almost the exact position Barack Obama has taken and that you, Senator McCain, have criticized as something you do not say out loud. So, Governor Palin, are you two on the same page on this?” Couric pounded away: “Is that something you shouldn't say out loud?” and “Are you sorry you said it Governor?” When McCain called it a “gotcha soundbite,” Couric retorted: “It wasn't a 'gotcha.'”
Couric turned to Palin: “What did you learn from that experience?” Palin: “That this is all about 'gotcha' journalism.”
Awarding Barack Obama two grades of A-minus and one B-minus while presenting John McCain with two grades of B-plus and one B-minus, at the end of his “Nightline Report Card” segment on Friday night, ABC's George Stephanopoulos declared Obama the “winner” -- with a big illustrative check mark on screen:
Bottom line, the winner is Barack Obama. He comes into this race where the country wants change. His number one goal was to show that he belonged on that stage. He was a credible commander-in-chief, that he could hold his own on national security. He did that tonight. He gets the win.
The grades from the ex-Democratic operative: On “Strategy,” Obama an A-minus, John McCain a B-plus; for “Style,” Obama another A-minus, McCain another B-plus; and on “Accuracy,” Obama got his lowest grade, a B-minus, McCain a B.
In the 20 minutes of post-debate analysis before the broadcast networks ended coverage and the cable channels moved on to other shows Friday night, on MSNBC Chris Matthews and Andrea Mitchell fretted that Barack Obama wasn't tough enough in attacking John McCain on the economy as Mitchell also hailed Obama -- “But, boy, he did show a command of foreign policy in terms of the nuts and bolts of it” -- and regretted Obama didn't do more to tie McCain to George Bush, a theme echoed on NBC by Tom Brokaw who “was surprised he didn't work harder at pinning John McCain to the eight years of the Bush administration.”
CBS featured only one citizen reaction, a man who touted Obama and compared McCain to Nixon, before ending with a quickie poll (neither ABC or NBC had one) that found twice as many “uncommitted voters” thought Obama won (40 percent) than McCain (22 percent).
Interviewing ABC News reporter turned Obama operative Linda Douglass, Matthews pleaded: “Why did your candidate agree so much -- openly and relentlessly -- with his opponent tonight?” He followed up with an impassioned lecture about Obama's missed opportunities to pound McCain:
Why didn't he talk more about the terrible state of the economy, the jobless rate, unemployment, the degree of deficit we're in right now, the degree of national debt, all of those issues out there that effect the average person, the number of foreclosures? He let his opponent talk about taxes and earmarking, his specialties. He seemed to lose control of the economic topic.