One of the more interesting and fulfilling debates concerning media bias took place on Wednesday night’s Charlie Rose on PBS as fill-in host Andrew Ross Sorkin moderated a discussion between CNN’s Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter and Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro with the latter firmly denouncing the inability for the media to fact-check Hillary Clinton and questions that the media doesn’t have a liberal bias.
The first point of contention came on Hillary Clinton’s health history and Stelter found it fitting (despite being billed as a neutral media critic) to channel Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” line to attack some on the right who wonder if Clinton’s health is so grave that she could die in an instant.
Stelter ruled that those who “feel vindicated” for what they saw over the weekend shouldn’t feel that way to which he then parroted Clinton on Trump supporters:
There’s a basket of legitimate questioning about Hillary Clinton`s health and some conservative commentators and media figures fit into that basket. They`re right to wonder about her health in some cases. Then, there’s this other basket, the truly deplorable basket. Sean Hannity fits into it, so does Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones and others. These are people who bring up rumors and innuendo about Clinton`s health, and have been doing it for years. I`m not saying Hannity or Limbaugh fit into these necessarily, but they — some of these figures want her to be sick. They want her to be dying. They want her to be on her death bed.
Whether these commentators are actually causing harm to the political discourse is another discussion, but it wasn’t exactly a fitting analogy and instead could lead diehard Trump supporters to feel like they are indeed being targeted when it’s not just Clinton using the “basket” line but someone who’s supposed to critique the media does too.
Naturally, Shapiro disagreed and drew a disappointment shaking of the head from Stelter at one point before moving onto where the two agreed:
[N]o, I don`t think the media were asking the appropriate questions about Hillary Clinton`s health. Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post, five days ago, six days ago wrote a column about why we shouldn’t be asking any question about Hillary Clinton`s health, then she collapses, and then all of a sudden it`s perfectly legitimate. You know, are you going to release her health records, why you have consistent record of hacking this much and again, none of that is illegitimate. I agree with Brian that baseless speculation and these videos that go around saying she has Parkinson`s disease or M.S., you know, all of this is nonsense.
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The heart of the debate and the further divulging of opinions came when Sorkin broadened the discussion to whether the media is biased with Shapiro succinctly informing viewers that there’s both conscious and unconscious biases that can be first chalked up to the personal biases that reporters have.
“[T]here is conscious bias in the media, and then there's kind of the generalize unconscious bias most of the people who are in the mainstream media are people who are Democrats and will vote for Hillary Clinton come November, and they don't reveal that before they go on air and so, yes, unconscious bias has an impact on how people perceive these particular issues,” Shapiro explained.
When it came to the challenges the media face in fact-checking both Clinton and Donald Trump, Stelter not surprisingly defended the media on holding Clinton’s feet to the fire (ex. fact-checking chyrons) because somehow her lies “may be more complicated, maybe more nuanced, may take a lot more explanation versus some of what Trump has said.”
Shapiro later unloaded that he “wildly disagree[s]” with Stelter and pointed out that Trump has been challenged on his positions but the problem has been Trump’s inconsistencies while Stelter’s claim that it’s difficult to apply the facts to Clinton statements was absurd:
But the idea that Hillary Clinton gets off scot-free because her scandals are just too complicated, I mean, the fact is, that Hillary Clinton scandals are not complicated at all. She creates her private server....She`ll say things like I never had classified material on my server, and the FBI said, no, you did have classified material on your server. And the chyron underneath will say Clinton: No classified material on my server, and there is no parenthesis that says not true, but they will do that with Trump all the time. And so this is — this sort of quasi, you know, even-handed treatment — it doesn’t really exist. I mean, Trump is always perceived to be fibbing. And sometimes that`s true. A lot of the time he is fibbing.
In a statement that could be extended to much of Clinton’s life in the public eye, Shapiro noted that “she`s always perceived to be telling the truth, and then later if it turns out she`s lying, then the media sort of retroactively rushed to coverage” with the health and e-mail scandals being examples.
Once Shapiro finished, Stelter shot back that he doesn’t “know what shows you were watching” before going on a tangent hinting that he’s tired of hearing from conservatives “sometimes is the victimization narrative” and ruled that there’s “many liberals who are equally frustrated by news coverage this year” at the idea of a Trump presidency.