Major-league media offensiveness

By W. James Antle III
web posted September 11, 2000

Bush giving his opinion to CheneyEnough of the puritanical braying about George W. Bush calling New York Times reporter Adam Clymer a "major-league a-----e." The fact of the matter is, that is the most charitable thing that can be said about most of the mainstream national press.

Clymer has devoted his alleged journalistic career to sucking up to big-government lefties of every stripe, a penchant most nauseatingly displayed in his sycophantic biography of Ted Kennedy. In typical statist-speak, Clymer went so far as to write "his achievements as a Senator have towered over his time, changing the lives of far more Americans than remember the name Mary Jo Kopechne." What is one woman's life worth compared to the infinite value of all that government spending?

Mickey Kaus, hardly a Republican apparatchik, has called Clymer's reviews of the Republican nominee's ads and record as Texas governor "heavily biased against Bush." Clymer's recent assertion that Bush did not have a prescription drug plan, when in fact one had been devised and a date for its unveiling already publicized, was verifiably false.

Of course, the liberals have returned Clymer's favor. Al Gore's flunky Chris Lehane babbled inanely about their campaign's great respect for "the Fourth Estate."

Bryan Gumbel, who not long ago was seen on camera calling conservative family policy expert Robert Knight a "f-----g idiot" on national TV, questioned whether Bush had "put his foot in his mouth with a vulgar comment."

Most preposterously, there was much ado about whether Bush's use of a naughty word confirmed that he was somehow un-presidential. These are the same people who found it perfectly presidential for Bill Clinton to penetrate a White House intern only a little older than his daughter in the confines of the Oval Office. Only in the fantasy world of the media, one part self-righteousness and the other part self-absorption, could one really believe that a person who uses a profanity to describe a reporter will trample the First Amendment and churn out Nixonian "enemies lists."

Harry TrumanHarry Truman had a vocabulary that would make a sailor blush. He also threatened to punch out a Washington Post critic who panned his daughter's piano concert. Bill and Hillary Clinton use the "F-word" religiously, with Mrs. Clinton most recently accused of calling her husband's 1974 congressional campaign manager a "f-----g Jew bastard." Clinton in 1993 complained about the "damn knee-jerk liberal press" who questioned his big-government credentials, and through a spokesman expressed an interest in punching columnist William Safire in the nose following a column that described Hillary as a "congenital liar."

If Republicans are a little miffed at the media, perhaps that is less due to contempt for the First Amendment than the inordinate slant toward the left in its coverage. No major news outlet frames the abortion issue in terms of "the right to life" or fetal rights; pro-abortion terminology such as "abortion rights," "pro-choice" and "reproductive freedom or choice" is used. Opponents of abortion are only occasionally portrayed as pro-life, but much more frequently in negative terms such as "abortion rights opponents."

Nearly all coverage of fiscal issues is biased against tax cuts as "trickle-down economics" and slanted toward bigger government.

This is an unsurprising result, since countless surveys (most famously the one that found 89 percent of newsmen voting for Clinton) show the media to be well to the left of the American people at large. Even a cursory glance at the media mavens' resumes shows ideological liberalism and Democratic partisanship.

At CBS, Dotty Lynch worked two years for the Democratic National Committee and was a pollster first for Gary Hart and then Walter Mondale in 1984. At ABC, Jeff Gralnick was George McGovern's press secretary in 1972 and Jeff Greenfield was a speech writer for Robert Kennedy in 1968. At NBC, Tim Russert was chief of staff to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and a special counselor to Mario Cuomo. Maria Shriver is the daughter of Kennedy brother-in-law and 1972 Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sargent Shriver, and worked in both the McGovern and Ted Kennedy presidential campaigns. At CNN, Tom Johnson was on President Lyndon Johnson's staff and Ken Bode drafted the McGovern Commission Democratic delegate reform rules.

Moving on to the print world and such broadcast outlets as National Public Radio, the list becomes endless. Reflecting on the history of Democratic advocacy by many of the nation's most well-placed journalists, World magazine columnist George Grant has written "The only thing really surprising about the press coverage of the current political scene is that it is not even more biased than it has been."

Which itself glosses over the role many in the media have played as apologists for communist tyranny (from the very beginnings of the Cold War through the recent Elian Gonzales saga), cheerleaders for world government, promoters of failed socialist schemes foreign and domestic and blatantly editorializing in the guise of reporting.

If there weren't so many substantive reasons to engage in it, the right's press-bashing would indeed become tiresome. What is instead tiring to a great many Americans is hearing the media contribute to a climate of hostility, division, incivility and cynicism and then condemn its most mild and unintentional critics for the same. Bush's description of Clymer mirrors these Americans' sentiments about journalists who are giving political coverage a bad name.

W. James Antle III is a senior writer for Enter Stage Right and can be reached at

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