AP Report Promoting Pelley's Barbs at Trump Claims CBS Has 'Long Played It Straight'

March 8th, 2017 6:22 PM

Associated Press media reporter David Bauder wrote a story Tuesday that overwhelmingly praised CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley for being a “blunt evaluator” of President Trump. Most of the story channels the bizarre idea that these blunt evaluations are somehow not the opposite of an objective method. The lowest point is this completely untrue and unhistorical comment by former CNN reporter Mark Feldstein:

"It's striking because it's such a departure from the traditional norm of objectivity that serious news anchors have always gone for over the last few generations," said Mark Feldstein, a journalism professor at the University of Maryland.

For decades at the Media Research Center, we have been transcribing and publishing examples of network anchormen erupting in similar outbursts to Pelley’s. All these anchors have erupted in support of the liberal/Democrat viewpoint. Here’s how Bauder set up his positive story on Pelley:

After Trump's claim of underreported terrorist attacks last month, Pelley said on his newscast that "it has been a busy day for presidential statements divorced from reality."

He was just getting started.

—"The president's real troubles today were not with the media, but with the facts," he said on Feb. 24, reporting on a skirmish with the media.

—"Today we learned the length of the president's fuse — 28 days," he said, before a story about Trump's first news conference as president.

—"Some of the problems Mr. Trump promised to solve last night don't actually exist," he said on the broadcast after the president's address to Congress.

—"Today, the president had another Twitter tantrum," he said on March 3, the day BEFORE Trump accused former President Barack Obama of ordering a wiretap against him.

That’s not unique at all. For example, take the Notable Quotables newsletter we published for MRC’s 20th anniversary. Here are all three network anchors going after the Republicans after the 1994 wave election:

“The new Republican majority in Congress took a big step today on its legislative agenda to demolish or damage government aid programs, many of them designed to help children and the poor.” — Dan Rather, March 16, 1995 CBS Evening News.

“When NBC Nightly News continues: In Washington, if they cut food stamps, who doesn’t eat?”— Tom Brokaw, March 22, 1995.

“Next week on ABC’s World News Tonight, a series of reports about our environment which will tell you precisely what the new Congress has in mind: the most frontal assault on the environment in 25 years. Is this what the country wants?” — Peter Jennings in an ABC promo during the July 9, 1995 This Week with David Brinkley.

Bauder promoted a speech Pelley gave that implied Trump was a greater threat to democracy than the terrorists:

In a speech last year after winning an award named for another predecessor, Walter Cronkite, Pelley said that "charlatans" who publish or broadcast lies without regard for the values of journalism are one of the profession's greatest threats.

"Is terrorism the greatest threat to our country?" he asked. "A recession? I suggest the quickest, most direct way to ruin a democracy is to poison the information."

Andrew Tyndall, who monitors and counts evening news stories at the Tyndall Report, claimed it's not editorializing since, as Bauder summarized, "each of Pelley's characterizations is immediately backed up by stories that prove Pelley's point." So "To me it's not commentary," Tyndall said. "It's actual reporting."

My quote – less than a sentence – came next:

Conservative media watchdogs don't see it that way. The Media Research Center considers CBS a liberal outlet, has for many years. Trump's Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, got a much friendlier reception on CBS, said Tim Graham of the MRC.

When Pelley makes his remarks about Trump, "we're going to remember, this is not the way you were with other presidents," Graham said.

Trump might point to Pelley's kissy-kiss to Hillary and her "global star power" on 60 Minutes in 2010.

Bauder turned to Rather for a five-sentence speech in Pelley’s defense:

"I understand where people are coming from when they say that," said Dan Rather, one of Pelley's predecessors as CBS Evening News anchor, and an outspoken Trump critic. "Nobody wants a broadcast that is shot through with partisanship, political or ideological propaganda. But that's not what Pelley is doing. Pelley is not saying that it's my opinion that the president has told a falsehood here. This is what the record shows. That's a different thing."

These people literally want to have their cake and eat it, too -- to proclaim Trump is a petulant liar and then proclaim they haven't succumbed to partisanship or liberal bias.

Now remember the Rather quote above about demolishing programs for the poor – not to mention Rather’s infamous yelling at George H.W. Bush that he “made us hypocrites in the eyes of the world” – as Rather bizarrely claims he was never allowed to display an opinion like Pelley:

Rather said he couldn't imagine saying the types of things Pelley is — or being allowed to by management — when he was a CBS News anchor, but that's because the situation with Trump is different now. CBS News has long played it straight, but also has a tradition of anchors stepping out in extraordinary situations, like when Edward R. Murrow took on Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his campaign against Communists in the 1950s, and Cronkite's February 1968 editorial that it was time to negotiate an end to the Vietnam War.

"CBS has long played it straight," the AP reporter says. And these people think Trump recklessly lies!

I insisted to Bauder that CBS's eight years of service to Obama through gushy Steve Kroft interviews on 60 Minutes easily prove that their "blunt evaluations" are saved for Republicans, while Democrats were given what we called "Syrupy Minutes."