The MRC's Tim Graham Spars With Brian Stelter: ‘You Don’t Like the Guy Who Got Elected!’

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Media Research Center Director for Media Analysis Tim Graham appeared at The Paley Center on Tuesday and sparred with liberal CNN host Brian Stelter about media bias in the age of Trump. Graham shot down Stelter’s argument about “hate movements” on the right, saying of the need to hold journalists accountable:  “I want to say to Brian very seriously, I don't hate journalists. I don't want to be part of a hate movement.... Yes,  I have a site called NewsBusters. But journalism's important. Journalism's important enough that we need to hold it accountable.” 

Speaking directly to Stelter, he explained, “And one of the reasons... why we have media watchdog groups is we have these pompous slogans about ‘Democracy dies in darkness’ and ‘The truth is more important than ever.’ Well, why is it more than ever now? Because you don't like the guy who got elected.” 

 

 

Here’s one of the volatile exchanges: 

BRIAN STELTER: Because [Trump is] lying more, Tim. Tim, it’s about the lies.

TIM GRAHAM: Oh, so the Clintons never lied? Is that what we are trying to say? We had eight months of lying about Monica Lewinsky. That was okay? 

STELTER: And he was crushed by the media. Bill Clinton was destroyed by the press corps!

GRAHAM: No, he wasn’t.

CHRISTINE QUINN: Oh My God!

STELTER: He lies every day, Tim. 

GRAHAM: Go back and read what we wrote. 

STELTER: I understand that when we cover the lies, it does make us seem adversarial. 

GRAHAM: It is adversarial. 

STELTER: And I understand that many voters it makes us seem biased. For us not to acknowledge the deception and deceit and the propaganda coming from the White House would be a failure of journalism. And that's the tension that we're in. And that's what the struggle for newsrooms right now, how to cover Trump fairly without sounding biased. 

GRAHAM: You’re not. It’s not fair. 

In his opening statement, Graham explained why conservatives don’t trust the press: 

 

 

That's where you say one of the things you always get when people talk about media bias is well, we miss the era of shared facts, and what the conservatives say back to you is “You're not sharing the facts about Trump when it's good news.” And that's the kind of thing we're looking at to say, “You have to analyze this.” If our objective here is to say, can both sides in American politics get a chance to speak? I mean, don't come to conservatives and lecture them about by the end of democracy or democracy is dying in darkness and then say, “People shouldn't really be allowed to talk about the climate!” We want our say. That’s why people are upset about the press. 

Partial transcripts can be found below. Click “expand” to read more. The full event can be found here. 

The Paley Center for Media
9/17/19

TIM GRAHAM: On climate, there's no opposing opinion that should be allowed. Chuck Todd comes on NBC and announces, “We're not having anybody who disagrees with us on this issue.” Okay? There's a lot of issues like that. The number of issues on which this happens  is growing, in which you say, “Your side is not allowed to speak.” All right. So that established. The Media Research Center was established in 1987. We've been recording  network and cable evening news since 1987. We have hundreds of thousands of hours of videotape. And you can see it today. We put up something on NewsBusters today, which is a a collection of amusing clips about Joe Biden's plagiarism scandal in 1987. Right about the time that we started. 

What did you do with all of these hundreds of thousands of tapes? We try to analyze them for bias Now, On  the other hand, since we have these hundreds of thousands of hours of tapes, people come to us or used to come to us to get these clips. So for many years, for example, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart would come ask us for clips. We would make clips  for them, which they would put on this show. Now, at this point, I don't know which side of this divide should be or embarrassed, but it happened.

Okay, so we try to do daily anecdotal analysis, but we also try to do systematic research. So, for example, our big effort in the last three years since Donald Trump again  his career, we've analyzed the network evening news programs to determine how  positive or negative is the coverage, and it averages out to 90 percent negative over the entire three years. And most months it's 92, 91, 88, 90. That, to me, suggests an inordinate amount of hostility. 

And when you start using words like weaponized -- that feels like a weapon to Trump voters and to the President. Weaponized information, everybody says that the information they don't like is weaponized. But the fact of the matter is, it's overwhelmingly negative. Why? Well, for example,  we counted the last time we did a count 2634 minutes, just on Trump and Russia.  On these network evening news shows -- 30-minute shows. That is almost 20 percent of Trump's  entire coverage. What are they not covering? They're not covering the good news.  

We have all the time. They in 2017, they were skipping routinely new Dow records, stock market records -- didn't cover them. Unemployment. We have a lot of months  where the unemployment rate comes out and they don't cover it. So this just happened  a couple of days ago, All right? New unemployment rate comes out. It's the same.  It's 3.7 percent like it was before CBS did nothing. NBC did nothing! ABC gave it 14 seconds. PBS NewsHour gave it 30 seconds, because they're the substantive ones. And that's where you say one of the things you always get when people talk about media bias is well, we miss the era of shared facts, and what the conservatives say back  to you is “You're not sharing the facts about Trump when it's good news.” And that's the kind of thing we're looking at to say, “You have to analyze this.” If our objective here is to say, can both sides in American politics get a chance to speak? I mean, don't come to conservatives and lecture them about by the end of democracy or democracy is dying in darkness and then say, “People shouldn't really be allowed to talk about the climate!” We want our say. That’s why people are upset about the press. 

...

GRAHAM: If you’re a Republican or you’re a Democrat, you’re saying we want both sides to be able to present what they think is their most effective argument. That’s what we’re looking for. A lot of times what we’re saying is, “We would like conservatives to get a moment, some time, and to not be slandered and demeaned.” And I want to  say to Brian very seriously, I don't hate journalists. I don't want to be part  of a hate movement. Okay? I minored in journalism, and that's but yes,  I have a site called NewsBusters. But journalism's important. Journalism's important enough that we need to hold it accountable. And one of the reasons the Media Research — why we have media watchdog groups is we have these pompous slogans about democracy dies in darkness, and the truth is more important than ever. Well, why is it more than ever now? Because you don't like the guy who got elected. 

BRIAN STELTER: Because he's lying more, Tim. Tim, it’s about the lies.

GRAHAM: Oh, so the Clintons never lied? Is that what we are trying to say? We had eight months of lying about Monica Lewinsky. That was okay? 

STELTER: And he was crushed by the media. Bill Clinton was destroyed by the press corps. 

GRAHAM: No, he wasn’t.

CHRISTINE QUINN: Oh My God!

STELTER: He lies every day, Tim. 

GRAHAM: Go back and read what we wrote. 

STELTER: I understand that when we cover the lies, it does seem adversarial. 

GRAHAM: It is adversarial. 

STELTER: and I understand that many voters it makes us seem biased. For us not to acknowledge the deception and deceit and the propaganda coming from the White House would be a failure of journalism. And that's the tension that we're in. And that's what the struggle for newsrooms right now, how to cover Trump fairly without sounding biased. 

GRAHAM: You’re not. It’s not fair. 

 

NB Daily Media Bias Debate CNN Video Tim Graham Brian Stelter

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