Martin Bashir Peddles Faulty Pew Survey About Media Coverage on Obama

April 24th, 2012 11:55 AM

On the April 23 version of Martin Bashir, Liberal journalist Martin Bashir treated Democratic National Committee Chairwoman and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) to a friendly bull session, giving her some free air time to bash Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, as well as give her a chance to further MSNBC’s "GOP War on Women" meme.

During the interview, Bashir fed the DNC chief a helpful talking point by insisted that “Pew Polls suggests that the president, as the result of things that were said during the Republican primary, has been attacked more negatively than Romney.” Yet as we at NewsBusters have shown, that's complete malarkey. [Audio can be found here, video after the jump.]

As my colleague Rich Noyes explained yesterday, the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) survey that Bashir mentioned has some serious methodological flaws (emphasis mine):

PEJ's "good press/bad press" statistic mixes reports of the campaign horse race (who's ahead, who's behind) with judgmental coverage of a candidate's background, issue positions, etc. And, according to PEJ's own statistics, the vast majority of the reports they examined (they peg it at 64%) are about campaign strategy.

[Check out my earlier blog post for more explanation of the flaws in PEJ's methodology.]

What this all means is that the GOP candidates got better "good press" scores because they each won primaries this year. This is obvious when you look at the report's explanation of how Romney, Santorum and Gingrich each fared with "the press"...


PEJ is not actually tracking how the press -- journalists, reporters, commentators, etc. -- are evaluating, ranking, spinning, etc., the campaign. Their sample is so heavy with redundant Web posting of the same horse race results that it completely masks the spin that journalists impart to the coverage.

Think about it this way: Can any serious media observer argue that the media elite have been more positive towards Christian conservative Rick Santorum than Barack Obama? On its face, this study is not measuring what it purports to measure, i.e., the tone of campaign journalism.

It's unfortunate that a division of Pew devoted to "excellence in journalism" uses such flimsy methodology to argue against the clear liberal media bias present in campaign coverage. It's also unfortunate, but completely predictable, that MSNBC hosts like Bashir would run with the misleading statistic to laughably argue the Obama-defending media are actually hard on President Obama

The transcript is below.

Martin Bashir
April 23, 2012
3:20 p.m. EDT

MARTIN BASHIR: Some people have said that the Republican primary experience over the last six, seven months has been a brutal and bruising one for Mitt Romney. But, in fact, Pew Polls suggests that the President, as the result of things that were said during the Republican primary, has been attacked more negatively than Romney.

DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, DNC chairwoman: Well, they certainly have spent an extraordinary amount of time attacking the President....

BASHIR: And it looks as though it's had an effect.

SCHULTZ: Well, but I think it is having a pretty damaging effect on them. Particularly with women. I mean there is now anywhere from a 13 to a 23 point gap with the President being ahead with women. Because it's clear that Mitt Romney is dramatically out of touch with women in the issues and the priorities that matter to us. You know, wanting to take us back to a time when insurance companies could drop us or deny us coverage simply because of our gender being considered a preexisting condition. Charging us up to 50% more, simply because we're women. Focusing on not making sure that we can have access to affordable birth control and taking us back to a time when we had to worry about that. Those are things, I have never been more concerned, Martin, in my life. In my generation of women has never been more concerned where my rights that I have, I have, accepted and taken for granted for far too long are in jeopardy if Mitt Romney becomes President of the United States, as a woman.

BASHIR: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, thank you so much for coming in, and you’re always welcome to come back.

SCHULTZ: Thank you so much.