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 night after ABC's World News raised the possibility John McCain's POW ordeal caused “psychological damage,” on Friday's CBS Evening News Dr. Sanjay Gupta thought it noteworthy that the release of McCain's medical records ignored the Senator's “mental health,” any “mention of post-traumatic stress disorder” or of “substance abuse.” Oddly, Dr. Jon LaPook asserted that “people” notice McCain is “not able to raise his arm” and think “'doesn't that look funny?'” Who thinks McCain's limitation, caused by an attack on him after his plane crashed in North Vietnam and he was denied medical care, looks funny? In what circles does CBS's doctor travel? [audio available here]
From Fountain Hills, Arizona, CNN's Gupta, identified by Katie Couric as “a CBS News contributor” and on-screen as “contributing medical correspondent,“ marveled:
What I didn't see I thought was interesting, as well. There was hardly any mention of his mental health. There was no mention of depression. You know, this is man who had two admittedly weak suicide attempts when he was a prisoner of war. There was no mention of post-traumatic stress disorder or anything that may have been asked, or substance abuse, none of that was even mentioned.
Not waiting until the actual Friday release of John McCain's medical records, on Thursday's World News anchor Charles Gibson (who's 65) and Dr. Tim Johnson (who at 72 is older than McCain) speculated about McCain's health. Gibson wondered about “psychological damage” from his POW captivity. Assured there's no evidence of that, Gibson jumped to wonder how much longer McCain has to live, a question which led Johnson to warn, that while McCain may live another 16 years, there's a decent chance he'll develop “dementia.”
Gibson asked: “There's also an enormous amount of medical records involving the time that he was in captivity in North Vietnam to check to see what physical damage he suffered and maybe what psychological damage.” Johnson replied that Navy psychiatrists monitored McCain “for many years after his release. They found no evidence of any serious problem. And he strongly denies any symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.” Gibson pounced with a new line of fear: “But he's 71 years old. What do the actuarial tables say about a man who's 71 years old?” Johnson explained they say he should live to 87, but:
Much more difficult, of course, to predict any change in mental acuity. At age 71, there's about a 30 percent chance of developing serious memory loss or even dementia.
Actor Kevin Spacey, who stars as Al Gore adviser Ron Klain in HBO's Sunday night Recount film about the 2000 post-election battle in Florida, conceded on Wednesday's Countdown on MSNBC that “the movie is done from the Democratic point of view.” That matches the observation of Entertainment Weekly magazine reviewer Gillian Flynn: “Recount is an underdog story, and thus a Democrat story.” On Monday's Late Show with David Letterman, in apparent references to Katherne Harris and President George W. Bush, Spacey quipped Florida in 2000 was “a confluence of events and personalities -- some of whom perhaps weren't qualified for their jobs, [pause] some of whom probably aren't currently qualified for their job.”
Wednesday night, Spacey told Keith Olbermann that Bush's team was more ruthless than Gore's: “I think there's no question what the movie illustrates is there were two differing philosophies about how to approach this recount fight. The Republicans pretty much, it was a street battle in their eyes. And I think on the Gore side, I think there was a -- perhaps an overestimated view of the patience of the American people.” Bottom line for Spacey in echoing the liberal take at the time: “It does seem that on the one hand the Bush people were trying to stop votes from being counted and the Gore people were just trying to get votes counted.”
Weeks before Linda Douglass announced she would be jumping aboard the Barack Obama presidential campaign as a senior strategist, the former CBS News and ABC News Washington correspondent was already aiding the Obama campaign. Back on the May 4 Reliable Sources on CNN, for instance, she became defensive: “I hate to keep being in the position of defending Barack Obama...” Yet that's exactly what she did on a panel with Amy Holmes and Joan Walsh. On that Sunday, the weekend after Obama held a press conference to denounce Jeremiah Wright, she pronounced media attention on Wright to have “been too much” and contended: “To make your judgments about how to cast a vote for President based upon the statements of this pastor seems to be a bridge too far.”
After host Howard Kurtz played a clip of Bill Moyers complaining that “white preachers are given leeway in politics that others aren't,” Douglass agreed: “That is actually a point that we should be discussing,” as she contended “Republican candidates have routinely associated themselves with white pastors who have made similarly incendiary statements.” As to attention to how Obama does not (at that time) wear a flag pin, a flustered Douglass countered:
I hate to keep being in the position of defending Barack Obama, but on this question, John McCain does not wear a flag pin. Hillary Clinton does not wear a flag pin. And yet questions about his patriotism come up all the time...
As noted earlier by Brad Wilmouth, Marc Ambinder revealed today, on his blog for The Atlantic, that his colleague at National Journal, Linda Douglass, a long-time CBS News and then ABC News Washington bureau reporter until 2006, “will join Barack Obama's presidential campaign as a senior strategist and as a senior campaign spokesperson on the roadshow, a newly created position.” Ambinder, a colleague at National Journal, reported:
Douglass confirmed her new position when I walked up to the ninth floor, knocked on her door, and asked her about it. She informed National Journal President Suzanne Clark this morning of her impending departure. "I see this as a moment of transformational change in the country and I have spent my lifetime sitting on the sidelines watching people attempt to make change. I just decided that I can't sit on the sidelines anymore."
“Over 34 years in journalism,” Douglass told Ambinder, “she grew disillusioned with the partisanship she saw first-hand.” So, now she's joining a partisan campaign?
CBS anchor Katie Couric used news, that Senator Ted Kennedy is suffering from a brain tumor, as the hook for a lengthy story in which she railed against reduced federal funding for cancer research, though her own numbers and official numbers contradict her premise of any significant reductions. Noting how “nearly one in two men, and more than one in three women, in this country will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime,” Couric regretted: “Yet since 2004 federal funding for research into the four most common kinds of cancer -- lung, colon, breast and prostate -- has been cut by more than $100 million.” In fact, National Cancer Institute numbers show a 4.4 percent overall budget increase since 2003, not enough to match inflation but hardly a huge cut, while spending on “brain & central nervous system” (Kennedy's plight) grew by 33 percent and spending on pancreatic cancer, which killed Couric's sister, rose 75 percent.
Relying on a March report published by seven research companies and universities interested in more grants, “Broken Pipeline? Flat Funding of the NIH Puts a Generation of Science at Risk,” Couric asserted that “experts worry this small, elite army” of cancer scientists “is leaving the field in droves because government funding, which once allowed cancer research to flourish, is now drying up.” Seconds later, however, Couric reported that “between 1998 and 2003, Congress doubled the National Institutes of Health budget, allowing research to thrive,” but “since 2004, funding has flat lined.” So it has “flat lined” at a level double where it stood ten years ago.
Six days after ABC's World News fretted over a New Jersey woman who said she must skip breakfast to put $4 a day toward gas, Monday's newscast featured an even more hapless woman, a Massachusetts resident who to afford gas sacrifices a “much needed” $45 prescription, says she can “no longer take joy rides on my days off” and, horror of horrors, has been forced into “buying store brands instead of name brands.” Now, Rosaria Giamei complained in a soundbite: “I don't get out and enjoy things anymore. I just kind of sit at home and only go to and from work and, like, grocery shopping and that's it.” How about taking a walk or riding a bike?
“Tonight, gas and diesel hit another record,” anchor Charles Gibson teased his lead story, “people tell us they're sacrificing food, health, and their lifestyle just to fill the tank.” Dan Harris reported:
The pain is being felt all over the country. We here at ABC News are getting flooded with messages from people like Rosaria Giamei, who says, "I even stopped filling a much needed monthly prescription that costs $45 so I will have more money for gas." We found Rosaria in Massachusetts today fuming at the oil companies and bemoaning the changes she's had to make in her personal life.
Monday provided a great example of a network correspondent advancing Barack Obama's political cause by treating him as a victim of a nefarious GOP attack, thus allowing him to appear virtuous in his reply, an answer the other networks then highlighted to enhance the victimization theme. ABC, CBS and NBC on Monday night showcased Obama's scolding of the Tennessee Republican Party for posting a video on You Tube contrasting Michelle Obama's February admission that “for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country,” with people declaring their pride in the U.S.
(As detailed, with video, in the earlier NewsBusters posting by Scott Whitlock, on Monday's Good Morning America ABC's Robin Roberts asked if he is “prepared” for “more and more” such attacks. Obama called the ad “low class” and ominously warned his opponents should “be careful” in making his wife an issue “because that I find unacceptable.”)
Monday night, ABC's David Wright reported that “Obama tried to subtract one potential issue from the general election -- his wife.” But without playing the February Michelle Obama soundbite to remind viewers what she said, Wright asserted “certain Republicans have already questioned her patriotism.” As if the concern is baseless. On CBS, Dean Reynolds played the February clip before relaying how Barack Obama “blasted a Republican Internet ad which uses a controversial statement she made about her husband's campaign to question her love of country.” Lee Cowan, on NBC, related Obama's “Rule Number One: lay off his family. When asked on ABC's Good Morning America about this Republican ad criticizing his wife for saying that 'this was the first time' that she'd been 'proud of her country,' he fired back.”
An early review is in for HBO's upcoming movie, Recount, about the Bush-Gore battle in Florida after 2000 election. Gillian Flynn in Entertainment Weekly, which like HBO is part of the Time-Warner family, has described the film, to premiere next Sunday night, as tilted against the Republican characters.
In her review in the May 23 edition of the magazine, Flynn asserted: “Recount may not be downright blue, but it's not as purply as it wants to appear.” Saying “Recount is an underdog story, and thus a Democrat story,” Flynn reported that the “Republican players here are coolly calculating -- Tom Wilkinson's James Baker III, the Bush team quarterback -- or they teeter on the edge of madness, like Laura Dern's Katherine Harris.” In fact, in an interview elsewhere, the writer of the movie slammed Harris as “a fraud.” [Screen shot is of Dern as Harris]
Catching up with a fawning Associated Press story on Barack Obama from last Saturday, “Obama rises from political obscurity to verge of history,” on Friday the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto ridiculed the sycophant approach taken by the AP's Charles Babington, formerly of the Washington Post. Babington trumpeted in the May 10 dispatch: “There's ample evidence that Obama is something special, a man who makes difficult tasks look easy, who seems to touch millions of diverse people with a message of hope that somehow doesn't sound Pollyannaish.” Taranto, in his May 16 “Best of the Web Today” online compilation, poked fun at Babington:
Is Barack Obama merely something special, or is he truly extraordinary? Babington can't take a position on that. He's a professional reporter, after all, and has to maintain his detachment. But he does report that “without question, Obama is an electrifying speaker,” that “Obama has a compelling biography, too,” and that “for a politician with only four years of experience at the federal level, Obama also has spot-on instincts, associates say, and a steely confidence in his convictions, in good times and bad.”
Speaking truth to power Charles Babington isn't.
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts on Friday conveyed Barack Obama's charge of hypocrisy by John McCain on dealing with Hamas, all based on one January 28, 2006 soundbite fed to them by the Obama campaign via the Huffington Post -- “They're the government, and sooner or later we're going to have to deal with them in one way or another” -- though, in fact, in an interview that same day with CNN, in the same snowy setting, McCain made clear the U.S. could deal with Hamas only if it were to “renounce” its “commitment to the extinction of the state of Israel. Then we can do business again.”
CBS's Dean Reynolds presumed Obama had caught McCain in a flip-flop: “Obama called McCain a hypocrite for backing Bush, and pointed to an earlier statement McCain had made about Hamas, which runs the Gaza strip.” After the “they're the government, and sooner or later we're going to have to deal with them in one way or another” McCain soundbite, Reynolds reported that “today McCain clarified,” as if he had to adjust his earlier view. On NBC, Lee Cowan highlighted how “Obama pointed to this interview two years ago when the Arizona Senator seemed to hint that eventually talking with Hamas might well be a political necessity.” Following the clip, Cowan allowed: “McCain says, though, that quote was taken out of context.”
The broadcast network evening news shows took their cues from the Obama campaign Thursday night as all framed their coverage -- of President Bush warning in Israel that “some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals” -- around angry reaction to Bush's perceived attack on Barack Obama with CBS and NBC trying to undermine Bush's argument by contending it contradicts policies of past Republican Presidents and/or Bush administration officials.
CBS anchor Katie Couric, referring to Bush and John McCain, cited “a two-pronged Republican attack today on Barack Obama on a key foreign policy matter.” Reporter Chip Reid saw a “Republican barrage” which “began in Jerusalem today where President Bush appeared to be taking aim at Barack Obama.” Reid soon passed along how “Obama, who has said he would meet with leaders of Iran, Syria, and Cuba, noted that Presidents Kennedy, Nixon, and even Reagan also negotiated directly with America's enemies.” But Mikhail Gorbachev hadn't promised to nuke Israel.
Over on NBC, Brian Williams teased his lead story: “President Bush on the world stage delivers what was widely seen as an attack on Barack Obama.” Williams described it as “today's political shot heard 'round the world. The concussion was instantaneous. Upon hearing the news, one Democratic Senator used a word we can't use on this broadcast.” Reporter John Yang called it “the first salvo of this fall's general election campaign” and, with “THIS IS B******T” on screen, relayed how “Senator Joseph Biden characterized the President's words with a word we can't use.” Yang contended Bush's admonition “would also apply to Mr. Bush's former Secretary of State” who urged engagement with Hamas. But not a personal sit-down with the President of the United States.
Trumpeting the “major endorsement” from John Edwards for Barack Obama, the day after Obama was trounced by 40 points in West Virginia all three broadcast network evening newscasts led Wednesday night with the “dramatic” announcement of the “political prize” that gives Obama a “major boost.” Katie Couric returned at the end of the 6:30 PM EST CBS Evening News feed to reiterate “our top story tonight” as she effused over live video of Edwards speaking at the rally: “John Edwards endorses Barack Obama, saying he's one man who knows in his heart that it's time to create one America, not two.”
ABC was so excited that its 6:30 PM feed of World News went live at about 6:40 PM to Grand Rapids, Michigan for 90 seconds of Obama introducing Edwards, compete with a Bruce Spingsteen song as Edwards bounded on stage. Gibson then acknowledged:
Timed for maximum exposure, timed to coincide with the evening newscasts, timed to give Barack Obama a needed boost after his bad defeat yesterday in West Virginia. George Stephanopoulos, this is the kind of publicity that you can't buy.
Indeed, no need to pay for it when ABC News is eager to give it to you for free.
FNC's Brit Hume on Tuesday night highlighted how “some in the media elite have found that Karl Rove, in his new role as a commentator” for Fox News and writer for the Wall Street Journal and Newsweek, “is, to their apparent astonishment, a pretty good guy.” Hume cited the admission, by an unnamed Newsweek editor, that realizing Karl Rove is not the devil portrayed by the media “complicated my world view. I may like Karl Rove.”
Picking up on the Monday New York Times story by Jim Rutenberg and Jacques Steinberg, “The Pundit Analyzing Obama? Some TV Upstart Named Rove” (Tim Graham's earlier post on the story), Hume noted how the article reported that Newsweek's top editor, Jon Meacham, revealed “Rove had been received surprisingly well in the magazine's newsroom, where he has been a reliable colleague who files his articles on time and works diligently with fact checkers.” After one editor dealt with him, Meacham told the newspaper: “The editor called me and said, 'This just complicated my world view. I may like Karl Rove.'”
A week after ABC focused a story on two pitiable Minnesota families living in the dark because higher energy and food prices mean they “can no longer afford to pay for electricity,” Tuesday's World News highlighted the replies from sad case stories solicited on ABCNews.com, starting with a woman who says she must skip breakfast to put $4 a day toward gas. ABC displayed “FEELING THE PAIN” on screen as Charles Gibson set up the story that David Muir started by fretting about “the price of a gallon of gas jumping more than a dime in just the last week” -- which is a piddling $2 more to fill a 20-gallon tank. Nonetheless, he asserted “the e-mails we've received show the pain is being felt far and wide. Single mother Caroline Saunders wrote to us from New Jersey.” He read aloud from her e-mail with her quote on screen:
I now skip breakfast to save the extra $4 per day. That gives me an extra $20 added to my gas budget.
Muir proceeded to recite two less ridiculous complaints, a trucker upset about a 60 percent hike in diesel fuel over the past in two years and a woman who found a job that requires $110 a week in gas to commute 140 miles round trip.
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams on Monday evening gave credibility to the extremist environmental theory that the Earth is reacting to mankind's mistreatment by spawning a rash of tornadoes. Williams reported how “this has been one of the most active, deadly tornado seasons in a long time” with more tornadoes so far this year than through August last year. He then forwarded to NBC Weather Plus meteorologist Bill Karins the kind of reasoning he hears during his daily routine:
I talked to three people, casual conversation today, all of them smart, saying “I don't know, we must be doing something to our Earth.”
Karins gently corrected him: “Well, there are correlations that can be made. Global warming not quite one of them. La Nina, more likely.”
Just as segregation in the South “blunted the force of moral outrage against the Nazis” during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Washington Post arts critic Philip Kennicott contended in a Saturday lead “Style” section piece on a new exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on the 1936 games, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have also undermined arguments against Chinese political repression before the Olympic games there this summer.
Deep into his May 10 treatise, “Playing With Fire: U.S. Holocaust Museum Revisits Fascist Iconography of 1936 Games and Beyond,” Kennicott asserted:
It's impossible to walk through the current exhibition without feeling a repetition syndrome. Just as Jim Crow laws blunted the force of moral outrage against the Nazis, the specter of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo has blunted the force of arguments about Chinese political repression.
Brian Williams, who slobbered over Barack Obama in their last interview in early January, did so again in a Thursday session conducted at Washington, DC's Newseum and excerpted on the NBC Nightly News. Back on January 7, Williams handed Obama a Newsweek with “Inside Obama's Dream Machine” as the cover story and wondered: “How does this feel, of all the honors that have come your way, all the publicity? Who does it make you think of? Is there, is there a loved one?” On Thursday, Williams didn't pose a single challenging question nor mention Jeremiah Wright in any of the ten questions aired, but pulled the same magazine stunt, this time holding up the new Time with a smiling Obama on the cover by the words, “And the Winner* Is...” Williams fondly recalled:
Last time we were together, I handed you a copy of Newsweek, it was the first time you'd held it in your hands with you on the cover. Have you yet held this in your hands?
Obama said he had not, prompting Williams to remind him: “Last time you looked at it and you thought instantly of your mom.” Obama effused: “She'd like that picture. She always encouraged me to smile more.” Proceeding to cue up Obama for a long recitation on how he's not an elitist, Williams empathized: “You end up with people talking about your bowling score, gutter balls, wearing a tie, wearing a tie with farmers. And how have you dealt with that? Is there an operating theory that guides your life these days?”
“It took much too long for major news media outlets to appreciate the importance of the Wright connection” to Barack Obama, Don Campbell, who spent “nearly two decades as a Washington reporter, editor and columnist for Gannett Newspapers and USA Today,” asserted in a Wednesday op-ed piece for USA Today. The headline over the piece by Campbell, now journalism lecturer at Emory University in Atlanta, asked: “Wright story: What took so long?” Only after “the most incendiary clips...landed on YouTube” were the news media, Campbell observed, “dragged into the controversy holding their noses, but by then Obama had the goal line in sight.”
Nonetheless, Campbell contended “Obama has been ill-served by a press corps that seemingly was mesmerized by the large, frenzied crowds who turn out to see the Democratic rock star.” Indeed, “crowds can be deceiving,” as Campbell recalled: “McGovern, nobody's idea of a rock star, attracted huge and exuberant crowds throughout the fall of 1972 -- on his way to losing 49 states to Richard Nixon.”
Last October the NBC Nightly News was the first broadcast network evening newscast to highlight the first Medal of Honor award since Vietnam for a member of the Navy, Lieutenant Michael Murphy, a SEAL killed in combat in Afghanistan in June of 2005, and on Wednesday the newscast stood alone in highlighting the Navy's announcement that a guided-missile destroyer will be named the “USS Michael Murphy.” Anchor Brian Williams outlined what earned Murphy the Medal of Honor recognition:
During an intense firefight in Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan back in '05, while pinned down under fire, he chose to stand up to get a signal on his satellite phone to communicate their location. He knew that standing up would expose him to withering fire. It did. He was hit several times and killed.
Williams also noted that a park in Patchogue, New York was dedicated Wednesday “in his name on what would have been his 32nd birthday.” Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter made the ship naming announcement during the dedication ceremony at the park along side Lake Ronkonkoma where Murphy had been a lifeguard.