Scott Whitlock is the associate editor for the Media Research Center's NewsBusters.org site.
Scott Whitlock is the associate editor for the Media Research Center's NewsBusters.org website. Previously, he was a contributing editor and the MRC's senior news analyst. Scott's work has been published in The Washington Times, National Review and other outlets. He has been cited in publications such as The Washington Post, Red State, to name a few. Scott's articles have also repeatedly been linked to on the Drudge Report.
Scott is a graduate of George Mason University and grew up in Northern Virginia. He can be contacted at SWhitlock@MRC.org. You can also follow Scott on Twitter.
Latest from Scott Whitlock
Sometimes media bias can be found in what the networks don’t say. On Tuesday, Wal-Mart suffered a major blow when the liberal 9th Circuit Court in California ruled that a class action lawsuit claiming sex discrimination could proceed against the company. All three evening newscasts reported the story, with ABC and CBS noting that a "federal appeals court" had sided with the female plaintiffs. Over on NBC, "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams simply used the phrase "federal court."
However, the 9th circuit isn’t just any court. This is the group of judges that ruled the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional. And, according to a report by the Center for Individual Freedoms, 32 percent of the reversals by the United States Supreme Court in 2003 came from the 9th Circuit. And yet, none of the network anchors thought this a pertinent point. "World News" anchor Charlie Gibson instead chose to hype the enormity of the case:
Charles Gibson: "It is a lawsuit so large in scope and size, that it staggers the imagination. A federal appeals court ruled today that a gender bias suit against Wal-Mart can proceed in what is known as a class-action suit. That means a million and a half to two million women would-be plaintiffs arguing, as a group or class, that Wal-Mart discriminated against them in providing promotions and in paying them less than male employees. Here's our senior law and justice correspondent, Jim Avila."
On Tuesday’s "Good Morning America," anchor Diane Sawyer continued to gush over the dictator of Syria. As already noted on NewsBusters, the ABC anchor gingerly questioned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over the country’s political and cultural repression. But she also defended him, reminding American viewers that "change must come slowly."
A second segment focused on Assad’s wife, Asma. In this piece, Sawyer’s most laudatory yet, she profiled the Mideast power couple and a viewer could be forgiven for assuming that this was a look at the wife of a 2008 presidential contender and not the spouse of a dictator.
Sawyer informed her audience on just what an amazing couple they make and closed the segment with a direct appeal for more understanding of the Syrian dictatorship:
Diane Sawyer: "So, while the world debates the intentions of her husband on the world stage, the two of them are clearly symbols of a new generation in the Middle East. The former doctor, the former banker, schooled in England, steeped in Syria. And she might say, asking the West for a new conversation about a new day."
As already noted on NewsBusters, ABC’s Diane Sawyer threw softballs to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in an interview for Monday's "Good Morning America." However, GMA featured a section segment that was, amazingly, even worse. In the piece, the hard-hitting journalist probed the dictator about pertinent issues such as his favorite movies ("Pursuit of Happyness"), music (Shania Twain and Faith Hill), and whether he enjoys video games (no). Rather then press Assad over points such as the fact that Freedom House recently gave the country its worst scores (7 out of 7) for both political and civil liberties and ranked it "not free," Mrs. Sawyer allowed the Syrian leader to play film critic:
Diane Sawyer: "And American movies?"
Bashar Assad: "Sometimes. Not– Not– Not very much to movies in general. I don’t have time actually."
Sawyer: "But you like true stories?"
Assad: "True stories and historical stories. Want to know the names?"
Assad: "Yeah. ‘The Pursuit of Happyness.’"
Sawyer: "And you liked it?"
Assad: "Yeah. It tells you a story that you– Maybe there’s many beneficial things to learn from, about real life. Providing that it's accurate about the story. The real story."
On Friday’s "Good Morning America," reporter Elizabeth Vargas openly lobbied for the passage of legislation that would require employers to offer six weeks of paid time off to workers for maternity, illness, or the care of a loved one. In addition, the ABC correspondent bashed America for not having "flexible, family friendly polices." According to Vargas, a new Harvard University study places the United States near the bottom among countries that provide paid maternity leave. She also offered only token opposition to the idea that all employers should be forced to give six weeks, plus the standard sick time and vacation. For the most part, the segment came across as a stinging indictment of the U.S.:
Robin Roberts: "Now to a new study from Harvard about paid maternity leave all around the world. It ranks countries based on how generous or stingy their benefits were. And the bottom five countries may have you scratching your head and saying, 'You must be kidding.' ABC's Elizabeth Vargas is here with the details. And we did see this and we were like, no, no, no. This cannot be right."
Elizabeth Vargas: "Everybody has that reaction, Robin. 26 million mothers in this country work. The vast majority say to make ends meet, they must. With that many moms in the workforce, you'd think the U.S. would lead the way in flexible, family-friendly policies. Think again. For millions of working moms, those first weeks after giving birth are a time to take off, recover, and bond with your new baby. But increasingly, the question is who pays?"
When it comes to the subject of global warming, members of the media have lost all restraint. CNN’s Larry King nervously wondered if climate change might "really kill us all?" Could it "submerge cities like New York and Washington and San Francisco under floods from melting Arctic ice caps?" Not to be outdone, "Good Morning America’s" weatherman warned of the dire threat of global warming. The next day, an ABC graphic fretted, "Will billions die from global warming?"
For anyone that questioned whether "Newsweek" is biased, public appearances by the magazine’s top staffers should answer the question. Editor Jon Meacham suggested that President Bush is outside "reality." "Newsweek" columnist Anna Quindlen recently debunked the "myth" that Hillary Clinton is a liberal.
"Good Morning America" weatherman Sam Champion has accomplished the impressive feat of turning the morning show’s meteorology segment into an opinion piece. On Tuesday, he approvingly reported on a new study that blames humans for the effects of global warming. During a follow-up piece on Wednesday’s edition, ABC included one of the most alarming graphics to grace American television screens:
ABC Graphic: "Will Billions Die from Global Warming? New Details on Thirst and Hunger"
Billions? Could that be a slight exaggeration?
Proving that even the weatherman can be biased, "Good Morning America’s" Sam Champion used Tuesday’s edition of the ABC program to tout an apocalyptic study on global warming. In a report that featured no skepticism about the cause or genuine threat of climate change, Champion utilized dire language to discuss an impending report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It should be noted, as previously reported by NewsBusters, that this meteorologist has a committed agenda when it comes to global warming and environmental issues. He recently touted the "very sexy" group of actors and environmental activists/actors. Champion began Tuesday’s report by forshadowing the immediate future:
Sam Champion: "This morning, 500 of the top scientists in the world are meeting behind closed doors to finish up a landmark report on global warming. And the picture they're painting isn't pretty. We're talking about change that's not 100 years away, but within the next 10 years. This is not the future -- it's happening today."
The morning weatherman went on to cite the liberal position on global warming: A call for reducing carbon emissions and he also noted that the IPCC scientists cite humans as the cause: "No one’s really gotten together to blame it on humans--this big of a crowd."
On Tuesday’s "Good Morning America," co-host Diane Sawyer and reporter Jake Tapper highlighted the Democrats’ strategy to "get tough on the White House." The ABC correspondent discussed plans to begin hearings on holding the Bush administration accountable for issues such as global warming, Hurricane Katrina, Darfur, and Iraq. Tapper indicated that the President would soon be assailed from all sides. A sampling of the report’s phrasing seems to indicate approval for these hard-nosed Democrats:
Diane Sawyer: "Well, global warming. We said that the Democrats had promised to get tough on the White House. They're doing it with hearings on all fronts. But up first, global warming, and the charge that scientists who warned about global warming were muzzled by the Bush administration."
Next, Jake Tapper apparently found a phrase that he enjoyed:
Jake Tapper: "It's just one of many Democratic investigations where they hope to hold the White House's feet to any number of fires. The White House is under attack from every angle. From global warming, to the rebuilding of New Orleans, to Darfur, to Iraq."
Later in the report, he discussed hearings on Hurricane Katrina and returned to the fire analogy:
Tapper: "This week, a Senate committee went to New Orleans to hold the President's feet to the fire on Katrina recovery."
CNN analyst, author, and former Clinton operative James Carville appeared on Monday’s "Good Morning America" and complained that journalists are too tough on Hillary Clinton. Referring to the comment made by the New York Senator and 2008 presidential candidate that she has experience dealing with "evil and bad men," Carville asserted that members of the media should be lauding her strong sense of humor. The Louisiana native also touted Mrs. Clinton’s nascent White House run, saying that it was the best campaign kick off ever. However, the CNN analyst became most animated when speaking of Hillary’s recent joke:
Diane Sawyer: "I want to turn to Iraq in a moment, but you mentioned sense of humor. So, who did you think she was talking about when she said that about bad men?"
James Carville: "You know– You know, journalists are funny. All you hear is, [Adopts whiney tone] 'Hillary don't have a sense of humor. She’s too cold. She does this and that.' And then, she cracks a joke, which, by the way which was a pretty funny joke. And they say, 'Well, look at this. Look at this.' You know? And I thought it was sophisticated, and the fact that she didn't answer it is an element of good humor. And I know her personally to be a very warm and humorous person and I was delighted to see that come out. Good joke, Senator. Way to go."
Appearing on Thursday’s "Colbert Report," former "60 Minutes" anchor Mike Wallace mostly discussed innocuous subjects such as the joys of smoking. However, after being prompted by host Stephen Colbert to share his "doubts about our system of government," Wallace segued into an odd digression about how a parliamentary system would give Americans an easier way to get rid of its leaders. In other words, don't wait for Bush to go back to Crawford, kick him out now:
Stephen Colbert: "Now, you say you, you have some doubts about our system of government. I agree with you. Should we get rid of the Congress or the judiciary first? What, what do you mean by that?"
Mike Wallace: " I'm not kidding."
Colbert: "Okay. I know you’re not."
Wallace: "Forget– Forget impeachment. What you– Forget impeachment? Good luck. The– The– A representative government in which you can vote no confidence in a president or the leader and get rid of him."
Colbert: "Well, that's Canada, sir. That's Canada!"
As the 2008 campaign heats up, members of the mainstream media are having trouble deciding between their old favorite (Hillary) and the new flame (Obama). Both CNN and ABC leapt to the defense of Senator Barack Obama after he was accused of attending an Islamic madrassah as a child. (Of course, ABC once devoted an entire episode of "Nightline" to murky allegations that George W. Bush did coke as a younger man.)
But perhaps Obama should be a little worried. The "Early Show" demonstrated exactly why Hillary is still the media’s favorite. Over on MSNBC, Chris Matthews told Hillary Clinton that "ideologues on the right" were responsible for the death of her famous health care plan.
ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos asked another 2008 candidate, Bill Richardson, if, as president, he would please just raise taxes.
On Thursday’s "Good Morning America," ABC’s Jake Tapper continued the media’s campaign to defend Senator Barack Obama against charges that, as a young child living in Indonesia, he attended a madrassah, an Islamic school that teaches virulent anti-Americanism. Co-host Robin Roberts and Mr. Tapper alternatively referred to the charges as "smears," "dirty tricks" and "lies." According to a 1999 MRC Reality Check, ABC gave no such courtesy to then-Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush. On August 24 of that year, "Nightline" host Ted Koppel devoted an entire half hour episode to the unsubstantiated rumors that Bush used cocaine as a younger person. Obama, who has admitted trying cocaine as a teenager, was not asked about it in a January 24 GMA appearance. Here is Koppel’s explanation for the media’s interest in Bush’s youth:
Ted Koppel: "So here we are in this curious twilight in which [Bush] plainly acknowledges excessive use of alcohol until he turned 40, makes no claim of privacy in the area of marital infidelity, unlike some people we know he did not cheat on his wife, but leaves the question of youthful cocaine use ambiguously addressed with this assertion: I did make mistakes years ago."
-Nightline August 24, 1999
And here is the combined defense of Robert's introduction and Tapper's report on the January 25 "Good Morning America."
Robin Roberts: "Now, to the field of contenders, the presidential hopefuls who want President Bush's job. And the dirty tricks seem to have already begun. The target? Senator Barack Obama."
On Wednesday, during an interview with Dick Cheney, "Situation Room" anchor Wolf Blitzer continued to badger the Vice President and quizzed Cheney about the month-old story of the pregnancy of his lesbian daughter, Mary. (Hat tip to Drudge) Cheney bluntly responded to the CNN anchor, " I think you're out of line with that question." That comment came after Blitzer, who appeared to be attempting to drive a wedge between conservatives and the Vice President, quoted a Focus on the Family statement, from December 6, 2006:
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 5:35pm on January 24, follows:
Wolf Blitzer: "Your daughter Mary, she's pregnant. All of us are happy. She's going to have a baby. You're going to have another grandchild. Some of the -- some critics, though, are suggesting, for example, a statement from someone representing Focus on the Family: ‘Mary Cheney's pregnancy raises the question of what's best for children. Just because it's possible to conceive a child outside of the relationship of a married mother and father, doesn't mean it's best for the child.’ Do you want to respond to that?"
Dick Cheney: "No, I don't."
Blitzer: "She's obviously a good daughter."
Cheney: "I'm delighted -- I'm delighted I'm about to have a sixth grandchild, Wolf, and obviously think the world of both of my daughters and all of my grandchildren. And I think, frankly, you're out of line with that question."
Vice President Dick Cheney squared off with CNN host Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday in a contentious, multi-part "Situation Room" interview. Blitzer seemed to openly adopt the mantra and talking points of the Democratic Party. In fact, in a tease for the interview, Blitzer promised, "The Vice President takes on his critics, including me." Cheney, whose wife Lynne aggressively sparred the cable anchor back in November, told Blitzer that a question about administration blunders was "hogwash." Elaborating on a clip of Democratic Senator Jim Webb, the "Situation Room" host asked Cheney about Bush failures:
Wolf Blitzer: "And it’s not just Jim Webb. It’s some of your good Republican friends in the Senate and in the House are now seriously questioning your credibility because of the blunders, of the failures. Gordon Smith– Gordon Smith--"
Dick Cheney: "Wolf. Wolf. I simply don’t accept the premise of your question. I just think it’s hogwash."
Blitzer: "That what? That there were no blunders? The President himself says there were blunders."
At the beginning of Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Bush graciously discussed Nancy Pelosi and her history making role as the first female Speaker. He also congratulated Democrats on their new majority status. This, however, wasn’t enough for Paul Begala.
Tuesday’s "Good Morning America" attempted to simultaneously trash George Bush while also building up the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, who, according to anchor Robin Roberts, is "electrifying" the presidential race. Meanwhile, the ABC program chose to allow political columnist Mary Ann Akers to assert President Bush will be delivering his 2007 State of the Union address "from the gutter." GMA correspondent Claire Shipman set up the nasty quote by remarking on how little applause is expected during the speech:
Claire Shipman: "And we’re also told that the speech will run about an hour, that’s taking into account anticipated applause. But, of course, they can't be counting on an overwhelming amount of that this year. The State of the Union address is normally an occasion marked by steady applause, lawmakers scrambling over each other to glad-hand the President. This year’s address, Bush's first in front of a Democratic Congress, may have an entirely different tone."
Mary Ann Akers (Columnist, Washington Post website) "Essentially, President Bush is going to be delivering his State of the Union address from the gutter. His approval ratings are dismal. The American people, according to the latest polls, are relying more on Congress than they are on the President to resolve the Iraq war."
Akers has delivered snarky, liberal-pleasing comments in the past. She previously wrote the "Heard on the Hill" column for Roll Call. And in 2006, as a Huffington Post columnist , Akers sarcastically wrote about George Allen’s campaign troubles, noting that the Senator’s newly found Jewish heritage had resulted in a nickname: "Macacawitz."
Documentary filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has directed a new film that takes a look at the evangelical movement in America. Appearing on Monday’s "Good Morning America," she discussed the now disgraced Reverend Ted Haggard who served as a guide for her film crew’s tour of Red State America. Pelosi told host Diane Sawyer that most people think of evangelical Christians as "holy roller Jesus freaks," and seemed surprised that Haggard didn’t fall into that category. During the discussion, both the ABC anchor and the filmmaker appeared to be trying to treat evangelicals with respect. However, each succumbed to the occasional condescending sounding slip-up. Sawyer asked Pelosi whether the trip to conservative parts of America left her feeling as though "you had to get a visa to a foreign country." And later, Pelosi described the journey "as sort of a sociological field trip." It was the "Jesus freak" comment, however, that appeared too much for even Diane Sawyer:
Alexandra Pelosi: [On the Ted Haggard scandal] "I was heartbroken. Because pastor Ted was my tour guide. And he was so good to me. He took me under his wing and said, ‘Let me explain the red states to you’. And it was hard for me to understand, most people think of evangelicals as being these holy roller Jesus freaks, and Ted wasn't like that. And so, it was interesting for me to understand and say, these are good people. He was reasonable. He was reasonable. He was a normal, every day man. And so, it was hard to stomach, what had happened."
Sawyer: "Yes, and I'm going to have everybody write you who wants to write about ‘holy roller Jesus freaks,’ okay?"
When Diane Sawyer interviewed Nancy Pelosi on Friday’s "Good Morning America," the ABC anchor seemed more interested in subjects such as building up the new House Speaker’s reputation for toughness and talking about trash, then she did on quizzing Pelosi about Iraq. While Sawyer did ask about the conflict, she also pressed the San Francisco Democrat from the left, twice wondering if Pelosi would consider cutting off funds. More often, Sawyer characterized Pelosi in positive, almost glowing terms. She began, however, by asking whether toughness or determination would be a better description of the new Speaker:
Diane Sawyer: "For two centuries in America, the Speaker of the House looked like this. [Montage of former Speakers, all male obviously] So, how is it a 66-year-old mother of five, and grandmother, broke the mold? Like a freight train she's already moved six major pieces of legislation through the House. Everything from stem cells to minimum wage. And whatever side you're on, when this new Speaker moves, she moves fast. Nancy Pelosi says power is not handed to you. You have to know how to win it. When she walks into a room, she is quiet, polite. But her fellow politicians say she's galvanized steel with a smile. Now, 100 hours. 100 hours in. What's the word that you, that you would use for yourself in those first 100 hours? Tough? Determined? What's the word?"
As already noted on NewsBusters, "Good Morning America" anchor Diane Sawyer conducted a fawning interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on such issues as Iraq. However, the ABC journalist also opened and closed the segment by obsessing over how Pelosi picked up lint from the floor of the Capitol Rotunda. For many people, this would be a minor detail. Sawyer, however, saw it as a historic event and teased her colleagues about it prior to the interview:
Diane Sawyer: I’m going to tell you what she did, I’m willing to bet, no Speaker of the House has ever done in the entire history of the United States of America. You want to guess? Sam? David? Robin?"
Later on, Sawyer giddily recounted the exciting event:
Diane Sawyer: "We're walking along with the camera, she looks at the carpet. It has lint on it, little scraps of paper. She can't stand it. She gets down and cleans the carpet so we could walk. And she looks up at me and says, ‘It’s just the bonus of having a female Speaker of the House."
Robin Roberts: "Yeah. Don’t think any of the guys did that. All right, Diane. Have a safe trip back home"
David Muir: "A clean rotunda on Capitol Hill."