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Fred Barnes: The ABCs of Media Bias (A mystery memo, biased reporting, and the usual suspects)
The Weekly Standard ^ | April 4, 2005 | Fred Barnes

Posted on 03/25/2005 11:27:18 AM PST by RWR8189

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER BILL FRIST never saw it. Neither did the Senate Republican whip, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The number three Republican in the Senate, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, didn't get a copy. Nor did the senator with the closest relationship with President Bush, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. And the senator with the familiar Republican last name, Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, didn't see it or read it. The same is true of Senator Mel Martinez, the rookie Republican from Florida.

Yet the infamous memo that argued Republicans stood to gain politically by saving the life of Terri Schiavo was characterized by ABC News as consisting of "GOP Talking Points." True, a few paragraphs were of Republican origin. They had been lifted, word for word, from a Martinez press release outlining the provisions of his legislative proposal, "The Incapacitated Person's Legal Protection Act." This was the inoffensive part of the memo. The offensive part--it didn't come from Martinez--left the strong impression that Republicans are callous and cynical in their attempt to save Schiavo's life, ill-motivated in the extreme.

Two paragraphs were the problem. One contended Republicans should save the disabled Schiavo's life because "this is a great political issue" that could lead to the defeat of Democratic senator Bill Nelson of Florida in 2006. The other said dwelling on the Schiavo issue would excite pro-lifers, a key Republican constituency.

Supposedly the memo was distributed only to Republicans on the Senate floor. Ergo, it was a Republican document. ABC correspondent Linda Douglass first reported its existence on March 18, saying the network "has obtained talking points circulated among Republican senators, explaining why they should vote to intervene in the Schiavo case." She mentioned the two offensive passages, and the memo was shown on the screen. The ABC website was explicit about the source of the memo: These were "GOP talking points on Terri Schiavo." Two days later, the Washington Post referred to it as "an unsigned one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators."

There wasn't a hint in these reports the memo could have any other source but Republicans. Yet there was no evidence it had come from Republicans. It was unsigned and had no letterhead or date. Nothing indicated it came from the Republican leadership or the House or Senate campaign committee or from the Republican National Committee or even from a stray Republican staffer. The only evidence was of a dirty trick--and there wasn't much evidence of that. Powerline, the influential blog, found a version of the memo with typos cleaned up on left-wing websites.

The only basis for blaming Republicans was the unsubstantiated allegation that the memo was spread among Republican senators. Yet no senator stepped forward and said, "Yes, I got that memo." Now consider what would have happened if a damning memo had been distributed to Democratic senators, saying the Schiavo issue could be used politically against Republicans. Would anyone in the mainstream media have jumped on it? I doubt it. Only right-wing bloggers would have.

So rather than an example of aggressive reporting, the memo story turns out to be yet another instance of crude liberal bias, in this case against both Republicans and those who fought to have Schiavo's feeding tube restored. Naturally the memo had a second life when the story was picked up by other news outlets, pundits, and columnists. How did ABC and others get wind of the memo in the first place? It came from "Democratic aides," according to the New York Times, who "said it had been distributed to Senate Republicans." Not exactly a disinterested source.

As the memo flap suggests, media bias against Schiavo's parents, who led the fight to have her feeding tube restored, and their allies was extensive. The mainstream media failed to report lapses in Terri Schiavo's medical examination, diagnosis, and treatment. One had to turn to bloggers. To find anything less than favorable about Michael Schiavo, the husband who insisted Terri's feeding tube be removed, the alternative press was the best bet. The mainstream press, meanwhile, twitted conservatives for hypocritically abandoning states' rights in the effort to save Terri. Liberals, suddenly champions of states' rights instead of federal power, got a pass.

Bias seeped into polling. An ABC News poll question said Terri Schiavo was on "life support" and has "no consciousness and her condition is irreversible." "Do you support . . . the decision to remove Terri's feeding tube?" A large majority said they did. But Schiavo was not on life support as most people understand the term, may have some consciousness, and some neurologists believe she has a chance of partial recovery. Given those facts, would you want to stay alive? ABC didn't ask.


Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: barnes; bias; fredbarnes; mediabias; memos; propagandawingofdnc; weeklystandard

1 posted on 03/25/2005 11:27:20 AM PST by RWR8189
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To: RWR8189

Forged documents all over again...typical MSM actions.

2 posted on 03/25/2005 11:30:47 AM PST by housewife101
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To: RWR8189

The damage was done. "A lie travels round the world while Truth is putting on her boots"
The media is in full attack mode against President Bush and the Republican Party.
They have reveled in the killing of Terri Schiavo.

3 posted on 03/25/2005 11:30:52 AM PST by jjmcgo
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To: jjmcgo

The libs are the callous ones trying to profit from Terri. No surprise they'd stoop that low. The better question is: What took them so long?

4 posted on 03/25/2005 11:36:40 AM PST by henkster (When democrats talk of "the rich," they are referring to anyone with a private sector job.)
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To: RWR8189
Fred Barnes, Fox News Contributor and frequent round table pundit for Fox News Sunday.

It's not just ABC with the bias. Chris Wallace of FNC grilled Senator Martinez without ever questioning it's legitimacy. Please ask Chris Wallace to retract as well as the rest of FNC.
5 posted on 03/25/2005 11:37:30 AM PST by Republican Red (DU: ''Reality sucks. That's the problem. We want another reality.'')
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To: jjmcgo
Yep. And instead of doing his job, Jeb is washing his hands and making excuses that the Judiciary won't give him permission to do his job. I don't remember when they were ever given authority to dole out to the executive or the legislature..

6 posted on 03/25/2005 11:40:11 AM PST by Havoc (Reagan was right and so was McKinley. Down with free trade. Hang the traitors high)
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To: Republican Red

That pantywaist Tim Russert was flogging the talking points as well.

7 posted on 03/25/2005 11:44:07 AM PST by Thebaddog (Dawgs off the coffee table.)
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To: RWR8189

BTTT -- gotta read it later.

8 posted on 03/25/2005 12:03:13 PM PST by The Ghost of FReepers Past (Legislatures are so outdated. If you want real political victory, take your issue to court.)
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To: housewife101

You'd think Dan Rather would step forward at some point.

9 posted on 03/25/2005 12:06:23 PM PST by Eric in the Ozarks
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To: Havoc

10 posted on 03/25/2005 12:09:15 PM PST by John Lenin (The closer you get to death the more respect you have for life)
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To: John Lenin

Judicial Friends of the MSM
11 posted on 03/25/2005 12:15:17 PM PST by stocksthatgoup (Polls = Proof that when the MSM want your opinion they will give it to you.)
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To: RWR8189
When this "memo" came out, a Bush bashing friend of mine tried to rub my nose in it by using it as an example of evil Republicans only being motivated by political gain and not by what's morally right.

He was incredulous that my position was I didn't believe in the authenticity of the memo and I refused to discuss it unless and until it was authenticated.

a few days later I called him back to say "See, I told you so." I hope to make some headway in convincing him that there are no objective news sources, only advocates for points of view who have varying standards of integrity.
12 posted on 03/25/2005 12:30:24 PM PST by spinestein ( ''Reality sucks. That's the problem. We want another reality.''--DUnderhead poster)
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To: spinestein

All well and good but ABC hasn't come out to say so. As far as most of America's concerned... it WAS a Republican memo!

13 posted on 03/25/2005 12:36:30 PM PST by johnny7 (Ever wonder what's the 'crust' in 'Ol Crusty'?)
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To: RWR8189

Tomorrow's headline: "Fake but accurate."

14 posted on 03/25/2005 12:39:51 PM PST by freespirited
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To: johnny7
I'm not sure of that. NBC CBS ABC CNN NYT NPR have only a fraction of the credibility they used to have.

FOX RUSH FR now have just as many total adherents, if not more.

The marketplace of journalism has spoken.
15 posted on 03/25/2005 1:23:57 PM PST by spinestein
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To: RWR8189
This little dirty trick points to several oft used tactics of the left.

"Leaking" something and loudly blaming the other side. This happened to Ken Starr. The tactic is intended to raise suspicion, put the target on defense, point the finger away from the real culprit, and get plenty of media coverage.

To make the opposition seem crass with nothing but political advantage in mind. Called projecting your qualities upon others.

Utilize the friendly media, even co-conspirators, to suppress the truth, trumpet false information, and cast great shame upon it.

We see the same charade done routinely.
16 posted on 03/25/2005 1:32:01 PM PST by Mind-numbed Robot (Not all things that need to be done need to be done by the government.)
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To: RWR8189
Why this was reported by Linda Douglass, who along with her public interest lawyer, John Phillips, were/are good buddies of Web Hubbell. John got Web a job with some non-profit group that paid Web $ to write some articles, which not sure he ever wrote. Douglass and Phillips took the Hubbells on a 10 day Greece vacation before Web went to slammer (this per Newsmax and Byron York articles).

Wonder who some of Linda's other friends in DC are. She couldn't be compromised ala Rather could she...

17 posted on 03/25/2005 1:50:55 PM PST by uvular
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To: spinestein
I'm not sure of that. NBC CBS ABC CNN NYT NPR have only a fraction of the credibility they used to have.

You assume.

As far as 'the news' is concerned, unless it appears on one of the MSMedia outlets... it is liable to be... how do I say... not up to the 'quality standards' of the true, 5th Estate.

As far as the 'marketplace'... the MSM has lost NO revenue due to slanted, skewed or even ficticious reporting.

Chew on that.

18 posted on 03/26/2005 4:43:08 AM PST by johnny7 (Ever wonder what's the 'crust' in 'Ol Crusty'?)
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To: RWR8189

I've come to realize that all the "news" I digested as a child / teenager in the 80s was complete lies. Anybody interested in a Class Action Lawsuit against ABC/NBC/CBS for "fraud knowingly committed onto the public?"

19 posted on 03/28/2005 7:41:27 AM PST by GianniV
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