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
The campaign news so far this month, as told via Washington Post stories on the tone on the campaign trail and in advertising: McCain “employs lowest common denominator,” Obama reacts “too softly for some” and yet gets “no vacation from McCain's attacks.” The headlines:
Over a drawing of Michael Dukakis waving in front of Air Force One, the cover story for last Sunday's Boston Globe Magazine posed the question very few have ever wanted answered, but if such people exist they most likely live within the Globe's home delivery area: “What If? Twenty years later, imagining there was a President Dukakis.” While certainly hagiographic, staff magazine writer Charles P. Pierce avoided the ludicrous level of veneration he espoused in a 2003 profile of Senator Ted Kennedy:
If she had lived, Mary Jo Kopechne would be 62 years old. Through his tireless work as a legislator, Edward Kennedy would have brought comfort to her in her old age.
The August 3 piece imagined a tour of the new Michael Dukakis Presidential Museum and Library in Lowell, Mass. which highlights how the former Massachusetts Governor slam-dunked Bernard Shaw's murder of Kitty Dukakis question, “deftly saved” himself from the tank ride embarrassment “by quipping, 'I looked silly in a tank for 15 minutes. George Bush has been in the tank for 30 years,'” applied his diplomatic skills to prevent Saddam Hussein from invading Iraq and thus avoided the Gulf War, and “the success of his diplomatic efforts in the Middle East gave him the political capital to spend on reforming the nation's passenger-rail system” and so “the third floor of the museum is built around a central hall celebrating what Dukakis had come to call 'The Steel Interstate.'”
In the lead item on Friday's “Grapevine” segment on FNC's Special Report, anchor Bret Baier credited NewsBusters for documenting how Thursday night ABC's World News and NBC Nightly News stories, on Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick being sent to jail by a judge, “failed to report Kilpatrick's party affiliation.”
Baier first outlined how the AP neglected to mention his party, but “when Alaska Senator Ted Stevens was indicted” last month “the AP made his party affiliation clear” since “the article included the word 'Republican' seven times and 'GOP' four times.” Baier then pointed out:
Media watchdog Web site NewsBusters.org reports that both ABC World News and NBC Nightly News also failed to report Kilpatrick's party affiliation.
Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is hardly reticent about touting himself as a Democrat. After all, he's the Vice President of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors and in January was re-elected its representative to the Democratic National Committee. But in ABC and NBC news stories Thursday night about how a Michigan judge ordered him to jail immediately for violating his bond, neither identified him as a Democrat (verbally or on screen) -- not even in a full two-minute NBC story. On CBS, fill-in anchor Russ Mitchell didn't mention Kilpatrick's party in three teases/plugs for the upcoming story, nor in the introduction to it, but two-thirds into his report, Dean Reynolds, who in a March story failed to ID Kilpatrick, referenced: “Once a rising star in Democratic Party politics...”
Making that same “rising star” point, from a smoggy (or foggy?) Beijing, NBC anchor Brian Williams managed to avoid mentioning Kilpatrick's party affiliation:
Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was once viewed as a rising political star in the United States. Tonight he has fallen pretty far from those early lofty and glowing predictions...
Two of the cable news networks were no more accurate. Filling in on MSNBC's Hardball, Mike Barnicle avoided Kilpatrick's party in a brief item on news of his jailing while on CNN's The Situation Room anchor Wolf Blitzer did not note Kilpatrick's Democratic affiliation in several updates and plugs and, in a full story in the 5PM EDT hour, the MRC's Matthew Balan noticed, Mary Snow failed to verbally name Kilpatrick's party in her piece.The only hint came in this chyron at the bottom of the screen for barely three seconds: "MAYOR KWAME KILPATRICK (D) DETROIT."
The CBS Evening News on Wednesday night delivered a campaign story that was little more than a recitation of John McCain's supposed misdeeds in lowering the tone of the campaign as reporter Dean Reynolds criticized McCain for spending “three times as long chatting” with a college football team “as he did talking issues to workers at a cabinet-making company,” took at shot at his access to journalists -- “the man who rides the Straight Talk Express took no questions from reporters” (as if Barack Obama takes questions every day) -- before highlighting how “McCain's own mother” said using Paris Hilton to insult Obama in an ad “was, quote, 'kind of stupid.” Running a clip from Paris Hilton's mock ad in which she describes McCain as “that wrinkly white-haired guy,” Reynolds decided: “And now it appears mother knows best.”
Earlier in the story, Reynolds recounted how a new CBS News poll found “seven out of ten” believe “the candidates are not addressing the issues that matter most to them. And that may be because they're hearing as much or more about persona as policies.” After one clip of Obama attacking McCain, Reynolds lectured:
McCain's campaign has been playing offense much more aggressively than Obama and emphasizing style a bit more than ever over substance. Today at Marshall University, for example, McCain spent three times as long chatting with the Thundering Herd football team as he did talking issues to workers at a cabinet-making company. The man who rides the Straight Talk Express took no questions from reporters. Some Republicans wonder about the new approach. McCain's own mother said using Paris Hilton in this controversial ad to insult Obama was, quote, "kind of stupid."
Despite repeated e-mails NewsBusters received late last week apparently spurred by mis-informed postings elsewhere, I've hesitated, since I considered it so ridiculous, to address the allegation that CBS or David Letterman staffers caved to pressure and removed from the Late Show with David Letterman Web site a “Top Ten” list critical of Barack Obama, the “Top Ten Signs Barack Obama is Overconfident.” But then last night World Net Daily put the issue back in play with an article which speculated:
Is CBS showing bias toward Barack Obama? The "Late Show with David Letterman" has removed a spoof on Obama from website archives but opted to keep a "Top Ten" list ripping John McCain from the previous evening -- and show representatives are denying any knowledge of the missing clip.
As a David Letterman fan who has watched his show nearly every night since 1982 -- though I have been disappointed by his recent left-wing political rants on the show -- I can provide a simple explanation which involves no effort to hide the list: The list, prepared for, and presented on, the Tuesday, July 29 show was, as happens many times each year, edited from the program because later interview segments with Kevin Costner and/or Bob Sarlatte ran long. The purpose of the Late Show site is to post highlights from the show and since Letterman's reading of it did not air on the program as broadcast on CBS the list should not have been posted. Yet it was put up, along with video of Letterman reading it (hence why there is YouTube video of it that makes it appear the list did air on the show), by mistake. When that error was realized the list, and matching video, were removed -- as they should have been.
(Updated below with confirmation obtained by National Review's Byron York.) UPDATE, August 13: As predicted below, the August 11 e-mailed Late Show Newsletter features: "From the Home Office in Wahoo, Nebraska...An Exclusive Un-Aired Top Ten List Edited from the 7/29/08 Broadcast: 'Top Ten Signs Barack Obama Is Overconfident.'" JPG image of the Top Ten in the newsletter. (Also displayed below)
Deciding to showcase the allegations in Ron Suskind's new book which “says President Bush committed an impeachable offense” by ordering “the CIA to forge a letter to bolster his case for the war in Iraq,” CNN's Jack Cafferty posed as one of his “Cafferty File” questions on Tuesday: “What does it mean, do you suppose, if the White House did, in fact, order the CIA to forge a letter in order to bolster its case for the war in Iraq?” (Anchor Wolf Blitzer marveled: “We're just hearing now, Jack, that there may be an effort in the Congress to now go ahead and have some hearings on this explosive, explosive charge.”)
All the responses Cafferty highlighted later in the hour presumed the accuracy of Suskind's claims and condemned President Bush, including “Kirk,” who asserted:
If true, then Bush, Cheney, et cetera deserved to be clapped in irons, held for trial and executed for treason.
Cafferty also read aloud the complaint from Tom in Boston that “it means we should be ashamed as Americans. Bill Clinton was impeached for not being honest about his sexual indiscretion,” but Bush gets away “scot-free.” Joanne in Maine declared: “George Bush is not only the worst President in the history of this country he's also the biggest criminal.” A Canadien, “Ron from Winnipeg,” lectured those in the lower 48:
To put it simply, the Bush administration made you all out for fools then proved themselves right. How you ever reelected this bum, is beyond me. Good luck.
CBS, NBC, MSNBC and CNN all jumped Tuesday to publicize the claims in a new book by a left-wing journalist, Ron Suskind, that President Bush knew before the war Iraq had no WMD and that to justify the war the administration forged a letter to prove a connection between Saddam Hussein's regime and al-Qaeda. The journalists were unfazed by denials from former CIA Director George Tenet, which they dutifully cited, nor the fact the letter couldn't have impacted the public before the war since it didn't become public until nine months into the war.
In the morning, NBC's Today showcased an “exclusive” interview with Suskind as Meredith Vieira trumpeted the “new bombshell book that claims the White House deliberately misled the American public about the case for war in Iraq. The author, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist.” (Geoff Dickens' NB post on that interview.) CBS's Early Show ran a full story and Wolf Blitzer made it his lead on CNN's The Situation Room.
In the evening, the NBC Nightly News aired a full report while MSNBC's Countdown, not surprisingly, led with Keith Olbermann's “cable exclusive” with Suskind on what MSNBC described on screen as “WAR CRIME” -- followed by John Dean on the imagined prosecutorial implications. NBC anchor Brian Williams saw “gasoline” being “thrown on a fire that's never really gone out,” as if the media aren't pouring it:
Tonight, gasoline has been thrown on a fire that's never really gone out. The accusation that the Bush administration badly misled the American public about the case for war with Iraq. In a new book, journalist Ron Suskind claims he has new evidence to show the case was more than a failure of intelligence -- it was, he writes, an out and out deception.
Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein, who won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, on Friday contended “it is not the protectionists of the AFL-CIO or CNN who are primarily to blame for the erosion of public support” for free trade, instead:
The blame lies squarely with a business community that continues to support Republican politicians who refuse to raise the taxes and spend the money necessary to provide the economic safety net for American workers that a free-market economy has not, and will not, provide.
In his column bannered across the top Friday's “Business” section, “Wave Goodbye to the Invisible Hand” Pearlstein argued that “just as the Gilded Age gave way to the Progressive Era and the New Deal gave way to the post-war era of big government, big business and big labor, the current era of free-market capitalism seems to be giving way to something else” as “the larger truth may be that the social and economic costs of the next increment of globalization probably outweigh the benefits for many people, and that reality has now been reflected in the political marketplace.”
A night after ABC's World News and the NBC Nightly News didn't air a word about the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) doubling to 1.9 percent in the second quarter, up from 0.9 percent in the first, the two evening newscasts found newsworthy a rise in the unemployment rate, with NBC using the increase to segue to a story on how “a growing number of Americans are...being downsized from full-time work to part-time.” Fill-in ABC anchor David Muir announced:
We're going to turn this evening now to the unemployment report out today which shows a new flurry of pink slips in July. Employers cut 51,000 jobs last month, as the unemployment rate rose to 5.7 percent. This marks the seventh month in a row with job losses.
NBC anchor Brian Williams, with “Hard Times” on screen, reported:
On the jobs front, the employers cut their payrolls for the seventh straight month in July, total of 51,000 jobs were shed just last month, bringing the total for the year so far to almost half a million. Unemployment rate jumped two-tenths of a percent to 5.7, that's now a four-year high. A growing number of Americans are struggling on the job front even though they're not unemployed. Instead, they're being downsized from full-time work to part-time. That report from NBC's Rehema Ellis.
ABC, CBS and NBC all aired stories Thursday night about McCain's Britney Spears/Paris Hilton anti-Obama TV ad as well as John McCain's charge that Barack Obama is playing the race card, but only Katie Couric characterized the McCain spot as “infamous” before Dean Reynolds empathized with Obama by citing his “exasperation” with McCain's ad, based on headlines over liberal newspaper editorials asserted that McCain's “sharper edge” has been “criticized by several newspapers,” declared “a voter in Racine called” McCain on his lack of civility, and ended with how, to address McCain's unfair attacks, the Obama campaign created a Web site called the “Low Road Express” -- a page which highlights the very editorials the CBS story displayed (jpg image).
With images of a St. Petersburg Times and a New York Times editorial on screen -- “From 'straight talk' to smear campaign” and “Low-Road Express,” the inspiration for Obama's new site -- Reynolds maintained: “What is striking about McCain's sharper edge, criticized by several newspapers recently, is how it appears to conflict with some of his more high-minded talk of the need for civility on the stump. Today a voter in Racine called him on it.” Reynolds continued to see events through Obama's eyes: “Obama said critics were trying to paint him as strange and scary.” Presuming Obama is the victim of scurrilous attacks, Reynolds concluded:
Today the Obama campaign went so far as to create a new Web site designed to deal with what it considers to be unfair or untruthful tactics by the McCain camp. And it's called the “Low Road Express.”
Not surprisingly given the past pattern, of the broadcast networks evening newscasts on Thursday, only ABC's World News devoted a full story to the fewest Americans killed in Iraq in any month since the war began. CBS and NBC gave the great news a few seconds before pivoting to full stories on the rise of female suicide bombers and the sexual assault problem in the military. ABC anchor Charles Gibson hailed:
[A] statistic out of Iraq today that is remarkable: Six Americans were killed in combat in the entire month of July. That's the lowest number since the war began. That compares to the 66 combat deaths in July of last year.
From Iraq, reporter Terry McCarthy proceeded to convey how “U.S. troops on the ground don't follow statistics. They follow their gut. And these days, that tells them things are getting better.” McCarthy pointed to how an Army Sergeant, seven months into his second tour, “hasn't fired his weapon once on patrol” and then McCarthy credited the surge: “The turning point was the surge, which began 18 months ago. Three months in, U.S. fatalities peaked at 119. Since then, violence has declined steeply.”
Second quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) doubled to 1.9 percent, up from 0.9 percent in the first quarter, the Commerce Department announced Thursday morning as consumer spending rose 1.5 percent in the quarter ending June 30, up from 0.9 percent in the first quarter, and U.S. exports soared 9.2 percent, way up from 5.1 percent in the first three months of 2008.
Yet the CBS Evening News centered a story around “disappointing” news about the supposedly “struggling economy” (with that on screen) -- while ABC and NBC, which on April 30 led with full stories on the news of a 0.6 percent (since revised to 0.9) first quarter GDP, didn't utter a syllable Thursday night about the big GDP jump. On the last day of April, ABC's Betsy Stark declared the economy had “flat lined” and NBC anchor Brian Williams warned “it's getting rough out there” as the new GDP number “stops just short of the official declaration of a recession.” Thursday night, however, ABC's World News and NBC Nightly News made time for full stories on outrage over ExxonMobil earning “the largest profit ever made by a U.S. company.” The “oil industry says it is not out of line, but some motorists feel otherwise.”
CBS anchor Katie Couric, picking up on the 4th quarter 2007 GDP revision from 0.6 percent to a minus 0.2, stressed how “the government now says the economy was receding, not growing, in the final quarter of last year” though “it picked up a bit in the first quarter of this year.” She then twisted the fresh news of a 1.9 percent jump into a negative:
But look at this: In the second quarter, when all those rebate checks were supposed to stimulate the economy, it grew less than two percent. Jeff Glor has more about the disappointing numbers.
The McCain campaign's new television ad comparing Barack Obama to shallow celebrities such as Britney Spears and Paris Hilton so upset the network news operations that they all ran full stories, with ABC and NBC leading with the “attack ad.” Though all tried to frame their stories as balanced looks at attacks against each other by both campaigns, it was the McCain ad which prompted the stories, the language used painted McCain as the aggressor and Obama as the victim fighting back (“responded,” “fired back” and “hitting back”) and two of the stories featured condemnations of the McCain ad as “childish” or “juvenile.”
ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased: “Tonight, McCain says Obama is all star power and no substance. Obama says McCain is using scare tactics. It's getting nasty. And it's only July.” Reporter David Wright, who relayed how “Obama told an audience in Missouri the Republicans are just trying to scare voters,” concluded with how “it's getting ugly early, and some Republicans are expressing concern about McCain's tone, in particular one former McCain aide calling the new celebrity ad 'childish.'” (That would be John Weaver.)
On CBS, which put “Attack Ad” on screen, Katie Couric asserted: “John McCain sharpened his attack against Barack Obama, trying to turn his popularity against him. And late today, Obama fired back.” For an expert assessment, Chip Reid went to the Politico's David Mark who declared that the McCain ad “seems a little juvenile.”
“The progress in Iraq is so undeniable that now even the Associated Press is acknowledging it,” FNC's Brit Hume marveled Tuesday night. Citing a Saturday AP dispatch by Robert Burns, the AP's chief military reporter, and Robert Reid, its Baghdad bureau chief (Saturday NB post by Noel Sheppard on their article), Hume relayed how the story “says insurgents no longer have the clout to threaten the viability of Iraq’s government” and it declared, “quote: 'The United States is now winning the war that two years ago seemed lost.'”
In the “Grapevine” segment, Hume reported “the analysis goes on to say that systematic killings in Baghdad have all but ended, violence is at a four-year low and that the combat phase of the war is now ending.” With matching text on screen, Hume concluded with how the AP duo wrote: “In Baghdad, parks are filled every weekend with families playing and picnicking with their children. That was unthinkable only a year ago.”
In the midst of a campaign in which conservatives fret John McCain is missing opportunities by staying to the left on too many issues, Chrystia Freeland, the U.S. Managing Editor of the Financial Times based in London, declared “extremely imprudent” the conservative desire for John McCain to make a commitment against raising taxes. On Tuesday's Hardball she saw the “hard right,” not politicians unwilling to stick to a pledge, as the problem:
The first President Bush did not fare very well when he made that absolutely firm, clear campaign pledge not to raise taxes. So, you know, I think that in a way, the biggest problem John McCain is facing in this campaign is the hard right of his own party, which is trying to pin him into positions that are not really very realistic right now.
Her comment came after fill-in host Mike Barnicle read a statement from the Club for Growth rebuking McCain for saying that raising the Social Security tax is not “off the table.” Barnicle posed this leading question to her: “Can any sane politician, Chrystia, make an adamant, set in stone statement given the fact that we're a country at war with an energy crisis -- about never raising any tax under any circumstances?” She agreed “it would be extremely imprudent” to do so given the “dire economic situation the United States is facing right now.”
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows on Tuesday night properly identified indicted Senator Ted Stevens as a Republican -- though not very creatively as they all employed the identical language in describing Stevens as “the longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate” -- but they weren't so eager to name the party of Democrats in trouble in recent years.
ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased World News: “Indicted. The longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate is charged with lying about a quarter million dollars' worth of gifts and renovations for his home.” Setting up the story from Jake Tapper, with “(R)” in an on-screen graphic, Gibson repeated his “the longest-serving Republican in the Senate” line.
CBS's Katie Couric referred to Stevens as “a senior Republican” before reporter Jim Axelrod recited “the longest-serving Republican Senator ever” mantra. On NBC, anchor Brian Williams announced: “Tonight, Senator Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in U.S. Senate history is under federal indictment.”
Missing a golden opportunity to correct a specious presumption of Barack Obama and his liberal supporters that the wealthy are under-taxed, CBS reporter Chip Reid on Monday night highlighted how “ending the Bush tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year and using the money for a tax cut for the middle class” is one of Obama's highest priorities and one supported by “Warren Buffett, the richest man in the world who, despite his billions, says the rich are not taxed enough.” Reid, who later in his story asserted “critics wonder how” McCain could possibly balance the budget “given his support for extending all of the Bush tax cuts,” failed to inform viewers of how the wealthy increasingly pay far more than their fair share of income taxes.
The Tax Foundation reported on July 18 that new 2006 IRS tax data revealed “both the income share earned by the top 1 percent of tax returns,” those earning $388,806 or more, “and the tax share paid by that top 1 percent have once again reached all-time highs.” Gerald Prante pointed out those top 1 percent “paid about the same amount of federal individual income taxes as the bottom 95 percent of tax returns.” The top 5 percent, those making $153,542 or more, earned 36 percent of all the reported income, but they paid just over 60 percent of the total income taxes collected.
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams acted as a conduit for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's propaganda message of conciliation as NBC Nightly News led Monday with about seven minutes of comments from the Iranian leader's interview with Williams in Tehran, such as how “for more than 50 years now the policy of American statesmen has been to confront the Iranian people.” Williams seemed quite pleased with himself, introducing the interview excerpt:
It was clear in just the opening few minutes of the conversation that the Iranian President had a message he wanted to impart to the U.S. and to the wider world. In various answers to our questions, he talked about common ground with the United States. The Associated Press today described his words spoken to us as "unusually conciliatory," and said he raised hopes for a breakthrough.
Though, based on a look at the posted transcript, less than a third of the session made it onto the Monday night newscast, NBC made sure to include Ahmadinejad's praise, possibly tongue-in-cheek, of Williams (through a translator):
It’s very interesting. Before this meeting that is going to take place, you are aware of what other people are going to do, apparently. This tells me that you are a very able reporter and very active. Congratulations are very much in order. Before something happens, apparently you know what’s going to happen. This is interesting.
On Sunday's This Week, ABC's George Stephanopoulos condemned John McCain for charging that “Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.” Stephanopoulos, who interviewed McCain on Saturday at his Arizona ranch, declared: “I can't believe you believe that.” McCain insisted “I'm not questioning his patriotism. I'm questioning his actions. I'm questioning his lack, total lack of understanding,” leading Stephanopoulos to counter: “But that is questioning his patriotism. When you say someone would rather lose a war, a candidate, that's questioning his honor, his decency, his character.”
As McCain continued to defend his assessment, Stephanopoulos kept rejecting his reasoning (“So putting lives at risk for a political campaign, you believe he's doing that?”) and excoriating his characterization of Obama: “But you're questioning his motives.”