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” (highlight video clips on NewsBusters), 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
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.”
Before moving on from “Barack Obama's Magical Media Tour” of the past week, a look at an Associated Press story so over the top that the Washington Posts's Howard Kurtz on Friday cited it as an example of coverage which “bordered on gushing,” though in this case there really was no “bordered.” In the July 22 dispatch in advance of Obama's arrival in Berlin, “Obamamania in full flight ahead of tour of Europe,” the AP's Matt Moore and Melissa Eddy hailed how Obama's “superstar charisma” will meet “German adoration” with a promise to “redeem” America (as posted by Google, by Yahoo):
Europe is about to give Barack Obama one of the grandest of stages for statesmanship. In this city where John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton all made famous speeches, Obama will find himself stepping into perhaps another iconic moment Thursday as his superstar charisma meets German adoration live in shadows of the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate. He then travels to Paris and London where he can expect to be greeted with similar adulation.
It's not only Obama's youth, eloquence and energy that have stolen hearts across the Atlantic. For Europeans, there have always been two Americas: one of cynicism, big business and bullying aggression, another of freedom, fairness and nothing-is-impossible dynamism.
If President Bush has been seen as the embodiment of that first America, Obama has raised expectations of a chance for the nation to redeem itself in the role that — at various times through history — Europe has loved, respected and relied upon....
Barack Obama's overseas trip this past week proved “he's not a left-wing ideologue” or a “dove” and, “if anything, he's center, even center-right, on foreign policy issues,” Bloomberg News world affairs columnist Fred Kempe, a veteran of the Wall Street Journal, declared on this weekend's Political Capital show which airs several times Friday night and Saturday on Bloomberg TV.
Host Al Hunt, formerly Executive Washington Editor of the Wall Street Journal, opened the segment with Kempe by showing video of Obama shooting a basketball as he enthused, “You might call it the shot heard 'round the world: Barack Obama, at a military base in Kuwait, meeting with the troops and sinking a three-pointer.” Asked his assessment of Obama's trip, Kempe echoed: “If it weren't a three-point shot, I would have called it a slam dunk. In any case, wherever he went he had perfect pitch.” Hunt concluded the segment: “From a three-point shot to 200,000 people in Berlin, it was an extraordinarily memorable week.”
FNC's Hannity & Colmes on Friday night featured Times of London Assistant Editor/U.S. Editor Gerard Baker reading aloud his hilarious Friday column, “He ventured forth to bring light to the world,” in which he recounted Obama's life story and trip to the Middle East and Europe as if told through a gospel in the Bible. The lead to Baker's satire: “And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.”
Baker's narrative mocked the media's infatuation:
And so it was, in the fullness of time, before the harvest month of the appointed year, the Child ventured forth -- for the first time -- to bring the light unto all the world. He traveled fleet of foot and light of camel, with a small retinue that consisted only of his loyal disciples from the tribe of the Media....
From there the Child went up to the city of Jerusalem, and entered through the gate seated on an ass. The crowds of network anchors who had followed him from afar cheered "Hosanna" and waved great palm fronds and strewed them at his feet.
Video: The entire reading took Baker more than six minutes, enhanced with matching video and pictures added by a Fox News producer. The Flash video above provides about half (3:35) of it, cutting out the beginning and end. MP3 audio (1.3 MB)
A minor item for a Friday night. File under: Which way is it?
ABC anchor Charles Gibson contended that French President Nicolas Sarkozy's “effusively kind words” about Barack Obama, who joined Sarkozy at a press conference in Paris, “bordered on an endorsement.” On CBS, however, anchor Katie Couric reported that Sarkozy said the French people have been following Obama “with passion” but, she noted, he “quickly pointed out that was not an endorsement.”
The very short items on the July 25 newscasts:
Just days after a Rasmussen Reports survey was released showing more than three times as many likely voters “believe most reporters will try to help Obama with their coverage” than help John McCain, a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll taken July 22-23 of 900 registered voters discovered six times as many think “most member of the media” want Obama to win than wish for a McCain victory. On Thursday's Special Report, FNC's Brit Hume relayed: “67 percent of the respondents think most media members want Obama to win. Just 11 percent think most in the media are for McCain.”
A FoxNews.com article added this damning finding: “Only about 1 in 10 (11 percent) volunteers the belief that the media is neutral on the race to become the 44th President of the United States.” Those polled recognize the tilt in action: “When asked to rate the objectivity of media coverage of the campaigns, Americans feel Obama gets more of a positive spin by a better than 7-to-1 margin (46 percent more positive toward Obama; 6 percent more positive toward McCain).”
Barack Obama's Magical Media Tour hit its high point Thursday night as the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all led with Obama's speech in Berlin, with NBC's Brian Williams and Andrea Mitchell the most giddy, though ABC featured a German man who hailed Obama as “my new messiah.” ABC and NBC saw Obama on a “world stage.” Charles Gibson teased ABC's newscast: “In a city steeped in history, before a massive crowd, the candidate calls on the world to tear down this generation's walls.”
NBC anchor Brian Williams, in Berlin, trumpeted how “the first ever African-American running as presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party brought throngs of people into the center of Berlin, streaming into this city, surging to get close to him, to hear his message. And when it was all over, he talked to us.” Viewers next heard a sycophantic Williams ooze to Obama:
When an American politician comes to Berlin, we've had some iconic utterances in the past. We've had “ich bin ein.” We've had “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Is the phraseology that you would like remembered, “people of Berlin, people of the world, this is our moment, this is our time”?
Talking with Andrea Mitchell, an impressed Williams marveled over how “I heard one American reporter tonight say it's hard to come up with a list of others who could draw such a crowd, but then again it's hard to know what we witnessed here today.” An equally awed Mitchell gushed: “It's hard to figure out what the comparison is, what do you compare this with?” She soon asserted that in his speech Obama “acknowledged America's flaws.”
David Letterman, who a month ago doubted George Bush and Dick Cheney have any “humanity,” on Wednesday's Late Show pushed a guest to confirm “that George Bush's administration is clearly guilty of war crimes.” Far-left “journalist” Jane Mayer of the New Yorker was invited onto the Late Show to plug her new book, 'The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals.' Late in her second segment, Letterman recalled how “about a year ago” a Democratic presidential candidate was a guest and during a commercial break Letterman had wondered:
“What do you think George Bush's legacy might be?” And he says, “well, I tell you what ought to happen to him, he should be arrested and tried for war crimes.” And we all sort of thought, well, he's being wacky, he's being funny. But now, you wonder...
After Mayer suggested “I don't think they're laughing about it in the White House” and relayed how “in Congress there are people who are at least pushing for truth commissions,” Letterman pressed her: “But can a case be made that George Bush's administration is clearly guilty of war crimes? That's easy enough to make that case, or.” Mayer demurred: “I'm not a lawyer.”
The Wednesday CBS Evening News story on Barack Obama's day in Israel presumed Jewish concerns about his commitment to Israel are unreasonable as reporter Sheila MacVicar empathized with Obama's plight while she fretted about how an Israeli newspaper columnist “referred to him by his full name: Barack Hussein Obama.” After noting that Obama “did spend an hour with the Palestinian President, something John McCain did not do on his trip here,” MacVicar stressed the “the focus of the day was to try to reassure Jewish voters who are suspicious of him.” From Jerusalem, she then held up a copy of the newspaper as she rued:
It's an uphill battle. An example? A commentator writing in this morning's Israeli Ha'aretz newspaper referred to him by his full name: Barack Hussein Obama, talked about his Muslim stepfather, his childhood in Indonesia, his openness to dialogue with Iran as real sources of anxiety for both the Israeli establishment and American Jewish voters.
MacVicar concluded by bemoaning: “However unfair it may be, it will take more than this trip to alter the very deeply held perception of some that on Israel the Senator is not to be trusted.”
Matching CBS/Katie Couric on Tuesday night, on Wednesday evening ABC's World News followed its exclusive Barack Obama session of the day with a shorter interview segment with John McCain as anchor Charles Gibson teased: “Barack Obama, here in Israel, holding meetings at breakneck speed on the Middle East conflict.” Obama got a full five minutes with anchor Charles Gibson in Israel, not counting a glowing minute-long introduction -- Obama's “schedule here in Israel looked like a Middle East shuttle mission” -- while ABC allocated two-and-a-half minutes to David Wright with McCain. Gibson did press Obama on his foreign policy “inexperience” and Obama's declaration that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel,” wondering if that was “a rookie mistake?”
Wright began by scolding McCain for his “extraordinary statement” that “Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.” Wright demanded: “Do you really think he's that craven?” Wright also lectured: “But what you seem to be saying there is that it's all about personal ambition for him and not about what he honestly thinks is right for the country.” Bizarrely, as if the media's decisions are not primarily responsible, Wright told McCain the fact that “the narrative of this campaign is being driven by whatever Senator Obama does” shows a McCain campaign failure:
You've been touring here in the states, had the domestic stage all to yourself. And yet, we're talking an awful lot about foreign policy. It seems like the narrative of this campaign is being driven by whatever Senator Obama does and that you're left to kind of react to that.
CBS tried to bring some balance Tuesday night to Barack Obama's Magical Media Tour by having Katie Couric interview both Barack Obama and John McCain, and though she pressed Obama repeatedly on the success of the surge, Obama still came out ahead since CBS devoted more than seven minutes (over two excerpts) to Couric's questions and Obama's answers as the two sat together in a foreign setting compared to barely three minutes allocated to Couric and McCain by satellite. Couric touted at the top of the CBS Evening News: “We spoke exclusively and separately with both presidential candidates today and what emerged was a kind of a long distance debate. And their differences on the wars have never been sharper or clearer.”
At the end of the newscast, from Amman Couric wondered: “Will this summer of love last” for Obama? And she conceded the media are part of the infatuation:
It has been an Obamathon ever since the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee touched down in Afghanistan. At today's press conference in Amman, a throng of reporters recorded his every move. In total, 200 journalists requested seats on “Air Obama” -- 40 of them were accepted. The bill for the trip? About $20,000 each.
More than three times as many Americans see a media tilt in favor of Democrat Barack Obama than toward Republican John McCain. A Rasmussen Reports telephone survey released Monday, of 1,000 likely voters, “found that 49 percent of voters believe most reporters will try to help Obama with their coverage, up from 44 percent a month ago,” compared to a piddling 14 percent who “believe most reporters will try to help John McCain win” while “just one voter in four (24%) believes that most reporters will try to offer unbiased coverage.”
Exactly half, 50 percent, “believe the media makes economic conditions appear worse than they really are,” a separate Rasmussen Reports telephone survey posted on Monday determined. That poll discovered “a plurality of Americans (41%) similarly believe that the media has tried to make the war in Iraq appear worse that it really is, while 26 percent say reporters have made it look better than reality and 25 percent think they’ve portrayed it accurately.”
Meanwhile, the “Scapbook” section of the latest (July 28) edition of the Weekly Standard magazine dubbed Newsweek “Obamaweek” and illustrated the media's infatuation with Obama by displaying images of six Newsweek covers featuring Obama, five of them just this year. (See miniature image above right, larger image after the jump.)
ABC's Terry Moran, who back in 2006 was already enthralled with Barack Obama (“You can see it in the crowds. The thrill, the hope. How they surge toward him. You're looking at an American political phenomenon”), on Monday night from Iraq refrained from such infatuation as ABC's World News, nonetheless, gave Obama a lengthy platform to espouse his Iraq policy. Moran began his lead story by trumpeting how “Barack Obama came to Baghdad, and he brought his star power with him.
The tree doesn't grow far from the apple. A little under two years after Katie Couric, Dan Rather's successor as anchor of the CBS Evening News, suggested just before the 2006 election that President Bush was manipulating gas prices to benefit Republican candidates, on the syndicated Chris Matthews Show over the weekend a conspiratorial Rather predicted “the people who can affect the price of oil would prefer a Republican” presidential victory, so “watch the price of oil.” Rather didn't identify these people, but presumably he meant Big Oil executives who he thinks can raise or lower prices at their whim. In the “Tell me something I don't know” segment, Rather told Matthews:
Things to watch with the thought in mind many people vote their pocketbooks when it comes to voting for President: price of oil. The price of oil has been high. The people who can affect the price of oil would prefer a Republican presidential candidate. Watch the price of oil. If it goes down, which it may very well it could help John McCain quite a bit.
Matthews tried to clarify: “October surprise?” Rather promised “October or before” and then anticipated “you'll hear the argument, 'listen, we never were in a recession, it was a near recession but wasn't actually a recession.'” Of course, as things stand now, that would be the truth, but in Rather's eyes that apparently would reflect some kind of nefarious scheme to fool the public.
For the second night in a row, on Sunday night the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all led with Barack Obama's overseas trip as CBS Evening News anchor Forrest Sawyer trumpeted: “Tonight, Barack Obama on the U.S. challenge in Afghanistan, laying out the stakes in an exclusive CBS News interview.” Reporter Lara Logan set up a condensed version of her interview which had consumed the first ten minutes of Face the Nation: “Speaking out for the first time since arriving in Kabul this weekend, Senator Barack Obama offered a bleak assessment of the worsening conditions inside Afghanistan.”
On ABC's World News, anchor David Muir led with how “Barack Obama is calling it one of the biggest mistakes made in the war on terror: The Bush administration's decision to focus on Iraq rather than Afghanistan.” NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt admired Obama's need to walk on a “diplomatic and political tight rope, trying to balance his role as a U.S. Senator versus that of a presidential candidate” before heralding:
His words tonight are reverberating from the war fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq to the Pentagon.
A great first day on national television news for Barack Obama as he began his much-hyped overseas trip with a stop in Kuwait before moving on to Afghanistan. CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, seemingly channeling the media's own excitement, on Saturday night hailed it as “a trip that seems to be captivating the rest of the world as much, if not more so, than many in the United States.”
ABC, CBS and CNN showcased video of Obama making a basketball shot at a gym with troops in Kuwait. Over video troops cheering Obama as he walked into the gym, on ABC's World News Jim Sciutto touted: “Though the destinations were new, the greeting was familiar. Senator Barack Obama signing autographs with soldiers on his first stop in Kuwait, even taking time to play some basketball...” Forrest Sawyer, anchoring the CBS Evening News on Saturday night, apparently with a new job after many years with ABC and MSNBC, highlighted how Obama “sank a shot from way outside the paint.” Sawyer announced over matching video:
Now, before Afghanistan Senator Obama stopped off in Kuwait to talk to the troops there. You remember all that grief Obama got for being a terrible bowler? Well, at a local gym someone handed him a basketball and he promptly sank a shot from way outside the paint. He made it look easy. You just have to pick the game.
Will Katie Couric be as tough with Barack Obama as North Korean television is with Kim Jong Il? The last time Couric (and the other anchors to, for that matter) interviewed Obama the liberal Democrat had no more to fear from her and them than the communist dictator ever has from his state media.
Pressed at the TV critics session with the networks in Beverly Hills on Friday as to whether ABC, CBS and NBC sending their anchors along with Barack Obama on his overseas trip is “justified or reflect media infatuation with the presumptive Democratic nominee,” the AP's Lynn Elber reported (as did the Washington Post's Lisa de Moraes) CBS News correspondent Jeff Greenfield predicted: “I have a strong hunch the people interviewing Obama will have tough questions. It's not like North Korean television covering (communist leader) Kim Jong Il.” Couric, also appearing via satellite from New York City, promised: “It's not going to be like, 'How do you like the weather in Jordan, Senator?'”
Yet, when Couric last sat down with Obama, back on June 4 when he had become the presumptive nominee, Couric was so giddy she couldn't complete her question: “Did you ever think you'd see this day? I mean, are you still just completely-” Pressing Obama about picking Hillary Clinton as his VP consumed five of her seven questions aired in the CBS Evening News excerpt.
Toward the end of the lead story on Friday's CBS Evening News about Barack Obama embarking on a trip to the Middle East and Europe, Jeff Greenfield acknowledged: “This saturation coverage has already led the conservative blogosphere to offer blistering critiques of a liberal media slavishly treating Obama as a pop star.” But, Greenfield assured anchor Katie Couric, who, along with Brian Williams and Charles Gibson, will accompany Obama, “the sheer presence of media in no way guarantees favorable coverage. In some ways, it makes the possibility of a misstep that much more dangerous.” That prompted a worried Couric to wonder: “What do you think is the biggest potential landmine for him?”
When Greenfield advised that Obama “doesn't have to equal McCain” in foreign policy expertise, “he just has to make voters seem like he's okay, he knows what he's talking about,” Couric chirped in: “Especially if he draws big crowds, right? That might help him as well.” Greenfield insisted: “I think the sight of an American politician being cheered in Europe at this stage would probably be welcomed by most Americans.” Couric had cheerily led her newscast:
Good evening, everyone. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for President, is about to begin a major overseas tour designed to bolster his foreign policy and national security resume, and help him be seen as a credible Commander-in-Chief and potential leader of the free world...
The media love affair with Al Gore continues. Thursday night, after Gore delivered a speech calling for the end of “carbon-based fuels” within ten years, CBS anchor Katie Couric asserted that “as many as 10 million families could have their electricity shut off this year because they simply can't pay their bills,” but, she assured viewers, “Al Gore says there is a green answer.” Reporter Nancy Cordes then trumpeted: “The man who has cast himself as the country's environmental conscience issued an audacious dare to America's next President.” Cordes concluded with how “both Barack Obama and John McCain accepted Gore's challenge. As McCain put it, Katie, if the Vice President says it's doable, I believe it's doable.”
Introducing her interview with Gore, which she traveled to Washington, DC to conduct, Couric hailed: “Al Gore laid down a green gauntlet today.” And she couldn't resist reminding viewers that Gore's “environmental work earned him a Nobel prize” before she helpfully cued him up on energy policy: “It really is multi-tiered, isn't it? I mean, it's a national security issue, it's an environmental issue.” Couric soon moved on to pushing Gore about accepting the VP slot or at least “being, say, an environmental czar” in Obama's administration.
“Our Planet,” fill-in NBC anchor Ann Curry teased, "Al Gore's ambitious energy plan for America off fossil fuels within ten years. Is it possible?” Reporter Ann Thompson celebrated how Gore “threw down the gauntlet to the nation to dramatically change the way America generates electricity.” After reporting Gore's plan would cost $3 trillion, Thompson called Gore “undaunted” and concluded: “And he says the time to move is now.”
A Question from Katie Couric on Wednesday night illustrated how members of the media will use lack of majority support amongst whites for Barack Obama to raise potential racism. Citing a new CBS News/New York Times poll in which Obama leads McCain by 45 to 39 percent overall, Couric pointed out “it showed that John McCain had a slim lead over Barack Obama” (by 46 to 37 percent) with white voters so, she wondered: “Is there any way to determine if race is playing a role in those numbers at all?” She didn't mention how Obama leads McCain by a near-unanimous 89 to 2 percent amongst blacks.
Jeff Greenfield undercut her premise: “I really don't think so. White voters have tended to vote Republican for the last 44 years.” The night before, July 15, Greenfield noted: “Obama does trail among whites by nine points, but remember John Kerry lost the white vote by nearly twice that margin in 2004.” And yet a day later Couric saw racism.
In Greenfield's Wednesday night CBS Evening News story, he featured liberal professor and blogger Michael Fauntroy, nephew of former DC federal delegate Walter Fauntroy, who contended John McCain spoke to the NAACP in order to appease “Republican moderates” who “do not feel comfortable being associated with a party that's known as hard right.” What “hard right” party? I wish there still was one.