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Friday, March 22, 2019

By Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg News (TNS)

We’ve had a terrific demonstration over the last week or so of why the belief in liberal media bias is so strong.

It isn’t because of actual liberal media bias. Academic research finds plenty of ways the press gets things wrong, but an ideological slant isn’t one of them.

Most bias has to do with the industry’s norms (stories involving the president get more play than articles about governors, and so on). In some cases, the self-interest of the media plays a role, whether it’s promoting freedom of the press, for example, or building up anyone who might take on Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination as a way to build interest in that snooze fest.

What sustains the belief in liberal bias? It’s the go-to explanation among conservatives for almost everything that happens, and has been for at least four decades. Repeat something long enough, without strong opposition, and people will accept it.

So the reaction to the Rudy Giuliani story, in which the former New York mayor claimed Barack Obama didn’t “love” America, invoked howls of media bias from conservatives. Some said it wasn’t a story at all — Giuliani hasn’t been in office for years, so who cares what he says? Isn’t there real news out there? Others were upset that Republican candidates were pressed to agree or disagree with Giuliani — look, the liberal media is trying to make conservative politicians look stupid!

But we had an almost perfect parallel in the coverage of Howard Dean’s complaint that Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin shouldn’t be president because he didn’t graduate from college.

Giuliani left office in 2001, ran for president in 2008, has since been out of active politics but shows up on TV all the time. Dean left office a year after Giuliani did, ran for president in 2004, was Democratic National Committee chairman through 2008, has since been out of active politics but shows up on TV all the time.

Republicans were forced to take a stand on whether Obama loves America; Democrats were pressed to say if they thought a college dropout was unqualified to be president.

The Giuliani story was bigger only because attacking the president is a bigger deal than attacking one of many Republican presidential candidates, and New York (where much of the national media is based) trumps Vermont.

Both accusations were pretty much denounced by everyone; both sparked predictable partisan bashing and a few interesting reflections.

But liberals didn’t go crying about conservative media bias in the Dean-Walker case because they don’t see every news story as an example of prejudice against them. Conservatives do.

For example, they screamed that the media ignored the scandal ending the career of Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon, but as Philip Bump explained, this too was caused by ordinary press norms, not ideological bias. Kitzhaber’s scandals were undercovered (at least in the national media) compared with those of Republican Chris Christie because Christie is running for president and he’s a governor in the New York area. Think about it. The press hardly ignored scandals costing Democratic Governors Rod Blagojevich or Eliot Spitzer their jobs. It’s just that Democrats never interpreted those firestorms as examples of Republican media bias.

There’s nothing wrong with pointing out when news coverage is wrong or wrong-headed. But ideology isn’t at the root of those mistakes and biases.

Jonathan Bernstein is a columnist for Bloomberg View. Readers may email him at

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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9 responses to “Don’t Blame Liberal Media For Giuliani Gaffe”

  1. Frank KIng says:

    Giuliani needs to control his rhetoric because it has a way of not only embarrassing himself but those around him who run for cover to escape any comment on his mindless statement. How can anyone relate to the degree of love anyone or another has in his psyche for anything or anyone outside of a family member or close friend. The President has demonstrated beyond doubt of his concern for the nation and its welfare by working diligently and tirelessly to rectify the mess the last right wing bunch visted upon the nation and in the face of relentless obstructionism and personal animosity by the opposition. Giuliani is just another right wing hack verifying his animosity and dislike for the President with a vitriolic comment he himself described as horrible before he uttered it. The President’s demeanor and grace throughout his tenure exemplify what we expect in a leader with a difficult and awesome responsibility and task. He can’t do it without the love of country and its people which he demonstrates daily. Hail to the Chief! Don’t you just”love” him

  2. Alexis Bannister says:

    When dealing with liberals, it’s important to remember that they couldn’t care less about the Constitution.

    • Frank KIng says:

      When dealing with “conservatives”, it it important to know that they use the Constitution in an attempt to deny rights guaranteed to all citizens race,creed, sex or orientation

    • gmccpa says:

      When dealing someone who mindlessly parrots lame little talking point, its difficult to discuss anything without them inserting completely…and usually false…non relevant statements.
      Unless, of course, you erroneously believe that what newspapers/media choose to publish, or not publish, is somehow covered by the Constitution. If that’s the case, your statement moves from being completely non relevant…to completely stupid.

    • Gary Ligi says:

      When dealing with idiots who make posts like this, it’s important to use tools in your browser to identify the location of the IP address such inane and ill-informed horse exhaust is being issued from.

  3. Dominick Vila says:

    The only person responsible for Giuliani’s stupidity is Rudy Giuliani. Rudy’s comment was designed to prove his ultra-conservative credentials, to appeal to the base of the GOP. Unfortunately for him, mainstream Americans have moved past the days of looking for commies under our beds, Trump’s birth certificate obsession (which does not apply to Rafael Cruz), and that most of us are finally focusing on what is really important to determine the qualifications of potential presidential candidates, and assess the performance of an incumbent. He is a relic of the past. His political future is not too hard to envision.

  4. Gary Ligi says:

    The only people who should be surprised that Rudy Giuliani is stupid are those who bought the 9/11 campaign to make this clown a hero. He was stupid before 9/11, and like Bush — another preeminent idiot made into a hero by the liberal media — he was given the national cod piece of honor for having been available to hoist a megaphone when Bill O’Reilly was not available.

    Anyone remember his Gestapo campaigns to clean up crime in NYC by giving cops the authorization to sodomize detainees with broomsticks?

    This man should be in prison or at least in observation.

  5. dylan pepperling says:

    Blame Rudy, of course I can. He is a simpleton.

  6. Bill Cortell says:

    When dealing with liberals, it’s important to remember that they couldn’t care less about the Constitution.

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