New York Times "TV Watch" columnist Alessandra Stanley focused Friday on MSNBC's embarrassingly partisan coverage of the Republican National Convention and tried to contrast it with the struggle of NBC's more objective reporters to remain above the fray: "MSNBC, Arch Counterprogramming to Fox." The online head was more interesting: "How MSNBC Became Fox’s Liberal Evil Twin." Stanley even accused MSNBC host Chris Matthews of "thuggish" behavior in an interview with a female Republican governor.
But do NBC reporters Andrea Mitchell and Chuck Todd (or anchor Brian Williams) really "keep their opinions to themselves" as Stanley claims? Hardly. In fact, they fit in quite well with the liberal partisans at MSNBC.
You can agree with everything that Rachel Maddow or Ed Schultz say on MSNBC and still oppose their right to say it.
Especially when they and their hyped-up panelists shout that Republican claims are “lies,” or Chris Matthews says that Republicans view welfare recipients as “looters.” MSNBC panelists gave Mitt Romney his due on Thursday but mocked his audience. Mr. Matthews noted that when Mr. Romney called for Americans to give the poor a helping hand, Mr. Matthews said, “He got zero applause,” adding, “I think that’s so telling about tonight.”
MSNBC has pumped up its ratings by recasting itself as a left-leaning riposte to Fox News, and that’s fine. Fox long ago proved that a lot of viewers like to hear cable anchors echo what they already think; MSNBC is just playing catch-up. Fox is still well ahead, especially during a Republican convention, but on Tuesday, there were times when MSNBC drew significantly more convention viewers than CNN.
That’s because MSNBC offers counterprogramming, not coverage. All that arch sarcasm and partisan brio may rev up the cable channel’s fans, but it constrains -- and stains -- NBC News, its corporate sibling, which is still the country’s No. 1 source in the evening.
Both Fox News and MSNBC have experienced reporters in the field who stay neutral even when their anchors let loose. The NBC network’s anchors keep their opinions to themselves, and so do its star reporters, like Andrea Mitchell and Chuck Todd, who appear on both cable and network shows, and somehow skillfully navigate past the rockier shoals.
It's interesting when one liberal media outlet acknowledge the liberal slant of another. But a casual glance at MRC and Newsbusters will show that Dodd, Mitchell, and Williams don't "keep their opinions to themselves." Here's just a small taste of the liberal slant of those NBC political reporters.
Just last night, Todd channeled MSNBC-style left-wing attacks on Paul Ryan. Media Research Center's Brent Baker wrote: "In packaging Obama campaign talking points, however, Chuck Todd had to concede the accuracy of what Ryan asserted in his Wednesday night convention address, humorously leading Todd to conclude that 'what he said many times was technically factual' but, 'by what he left out,' he 'actually distorted the actual truth.'"
In April of this year MRC's Kyle Drennen revealed how Todd, NBC's chief White House correspondent, referred to denigrating remarks by Hilary Rosen about Ann Romney as a "manufactured controversy" eight times during a one-hour program on MSNBC. (Rosen had said that Ann Romney "has never worked a day in her life.")
MRC's Scott Whitlock reported on how Andrea Mitchell berated Rush Limbaugh in a magazine interview, deriding the conservative star as a "bully with a megaphone." Whitlock commented on Mitchell's MSNBC-style behavior: Mitchell is often billed as one of the network's serious journalists, but sounded more like Rachel Maddow in the article. Discussing Sandra Fluke in the June issue, the reporter sympathized that the college student became 'part of a national debate where her reputation was being sullied by a bully with a megaphone.'"
In addition, Stanley's article included this photo caption: "Brian Williams, NBC’s anchor, has sought to stay neutral." But on the first night of the convention Williams pestered Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio if he was worried about the “rape debate” surrounding his party. MRC's Geoff Dickens found that all of Williams' "questions were negative as he pestered Rubio about the 'closed-in' nature of nominee Mitt Romney and the 'language' of the GOP’s platform."