ABC News showing its bias

June 19, 2009


Not so long ago in a vastly different media environment there were such things as journalistic ethics. Reporters were prohibited from taking trips paid for by individuals or groups they might cover. They couldn’t accept money for speeches. And they surely could not accept money or gratuities in exchange for reporting on a story in which a corporation or individual might have an interest. Too much socializing with sources was also frowned upon.

Today, when news is sold as a product, like toothpaste and erectile dysfunction pills, the press has become a subsidiary of the advertising department, catering to target groups that are most likely to buy advertisers’ products.

The ABC News division has taken this one step further. On June 24, it will essentially become a mouthpiece for the Obama administration and its position on reforming health care. A special, “Questions for the President: Prescription for America,” moderated by Charles Gibson (who is old enough to remember the days when a wall separated advertising from news), will air from the East Room of the White House. Gibson will also deliver “World News Tonight” from the White House’s Blue Room.

The programs should not originate from the East Room and Blue Room. Instead they should be broadcast from Obama’s bedroom since ABC (and much of the slavish media) is in bed with this president.

That the media fix is in on health care is evident from ABC’s response to a request from the Republican National Committee (RNC) that it be allowed to air opposing views. RNC Chief of Staff Ken McKay wrote to David Westin, president of ABC News, expressing his deep concern and disappointment with ABC’s “astonishing decision to exclude opposing voices on this critical issue on June 24.” In addition to “World News Tonight” and the special, ABC will feature “reporting” on the Obama health care plan on all of its other news shows. No word yet on whether any opposing views will be allowed on those programs.

McKay wrote Westin, “In the absence of opposition, I am concerned this event will become a glorified infomercial to promote the Democrat agenda.” Noting that the President “has stated time and time again that he wants a bipartisan debate,” McKay wrote that “the Republican Party should be included in this primetime event, or the (Democratic National Committee) should pay for your airtime.”

ABC News Senior VP Kerry Smith defended the program, saying ABC “is looking for the most thoughtful and diverse voices on the issue.” It is difficult to see how diverse voices will be heard in a show that features no thoughtful opposition to the Obama plan.

The media have found that Obama sells. With his high approval ratings, it appears they are targeting Obama supporters who would tune into the news equivalent of religious programming on which atheists and people with different beliefs never appear.

In doing these programs from inside the White House, ABC has thrown its remaining credibility to the wind and becomes an appendage of their advertisers, the Obama worshippers and the Democratic Party.

Try to imagine this happening in a Republican administration. You can’t, because it would never happen.

By the way, guess who’s the new director of communications for the White House Office of Health Reform. It’s former ABC News correspondent Linda Douglass, who left journalism last year to join the Obama campaign.

This should settle, once and for all, the matter of big media bias. Only those in complete denial could argue there will be anything “fair and balanced” about the ABC programs. And the public, on an Obama high right now, is going to be the big loser in the end when it awakens to the erosion of our hard-earned freedoms. But by then it will be too late.

Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.


Alia Ahmed 8 years, 7 months ago

Sounds like Cal Thomas has changed his mind and now advocating for the Fairness Doctirne. This what he had to say about the subject previously. He also hoped prior to the election that the losing party wouldn't work to undermine the President, be it McCain or Obama. Almost every column he writes tries to undermine President Obama.

Cal: I hope you're right, but I am also worried what a huge Democratic majority would do to the First Amendment. Liberals, especially, have strongly hinted they would like to shut down talk radio by restoring the "Fairness Doctrine," which existed in a totally different media environment with far fewer outlets for divergent views. You would oppose restricting free speech in this way, wouldn't you?

Cal: But whatever the outcome, I hope that people on my side of the ideological divide won't start working to undermine a President Obama, and I would have the same hope about your side should we elect a President McCain. We had enough people, in 2000 and in 2004, saying George W. Bush "isn't my president" and threatening to move to Canada or overseas. If the Republicans lose, I hope the party accepts defeat more graciously. Though they would benefit from self-examination.

jonas_opines 8 years, 7 months ago

"Not so long ago in a vastly different media environment there were such things as journalistic ethics."

And then there were people like me, Cal Thomas.

cowboy 8 years, 7 months ago

Tom , now you have real insight into how about 75% of the country felt the past 8 years. Latest survey on those who id as republicans , 25% , well on your way to join the Whig party in history. you have no one to blame but yourself being distracted into meaningless jingoism which the average american finds both useless and divisive. Turn off fox news and get out in the real world.

dandelion 8 years, 7 months ago

Tom, you forgot you told us that you don't listen to Rush. You'd make a great politician. But you need to calm down before you go out and shoot a father and his 9 year old daughter. You radicals are getting dangerous. And I hope you aren't like your other hero who wanted to shoot up the Jews. Radical conservatives are blowhards who are covering up their mental illnesses. So what does Rush have to say about these guys? Good job? http://www.kvoa.com/global/story.asp?s=10526106


quik 8 years, 7 months ago

Do you think there's a chance that one of the big 3 network news programs could switch to leaning right rather than leaning left? Since Fox is the only one, cable or network, that leans right, they have roughly half of the population to themselves leaving the others to fight over the other half. CBS might be a good candidate because they are last in the ratings. They would probably have to clean house first. There has got to be immense pressure to do better in the ratings and I wonder if CBS might be kicking around such an idea. It might cause them to lose viewers of other network programs, where I believe they are doing well, if they made such a move. What do you think?

dandelion 8 years, 7 months ago

I recieved that sound bite from the salivating leftist media who is doggedly determined to protect The Annointed One. Try again.

I thought you didn't believe everything they say. How do you know they weren't lying about Rush? Or did they simply quote what he said. What bad, biased reporting! Quoting what people say? How irresponsible! (sarcasm intended)

quik, so you admit that Fox leans right. No pretense that they just report the facts or are trying to be objective. That's refreshing. I don't mind that the right has a news outlet, I just never cared for those who tried to say that Fox's reporting was objective. It can only claim balanced, because of the assumption that CNN, their major competitor, is liberal, since they don't have shows reserved for only the conservative side. I don't have any problem with FOX. All sides should be heard. I would like to see more "just the facts, maam" reporting from all news outlets, but that probably won't happen anytime soon.

Alia Ahmed 8 years, 7 months ago

Mr_Nancy_Boy_To_You (Tom Shewmon) says…

Alia, your comment about Cal and the Fairness Doctrine is not even relevant. This is about the whitehouse using a major network who is in the tank (you read the article right?) and is putting together a major infomercial to promote this administrations policies.

Tom, the word "informercial" is right from the RNC's talking points. It is obvious when the 21% of you who still claim to be Republicans speak, it is simply repeating propaganda from the RNC. The RNC is upset because ABC refuses to let them dictate how a story they've decide to run (not the Whitehouse) should be presented. The RNC thinks they should be able to present their views in ABC's story about the current administration's healthcare plan. That's what the story is about, the current administration's plan, not the RNC's attempts to derail healthcare reform. My point about the Fairness Doctrine is the RNC is opposed to it if it means the Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Coulter, Hannity and others should present or allow for opposing opinions, but now the RNC thinks ABC should allow the RNC to provide an opposing view to a story about the president's plan.

By the way, I started to describe the RNC in terms as equally offensive as your "far-left zealots", "The Anointed One" to name a few, put have decided to tone down the rhetoric.

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 7 months ago

ABC's "Prescription for America" sounds a lot like Kansas Public Radio's "Kansas Health: A Prescription for Change."

NPR, KPR and KCUR are already shills for socialized medicine. In fact, the 7:00 a.m. time slot this past Sunday on 89.3 fm was basically an hour-long infomercial for government medicine. This is on top of Brian Thompson's weekly endorsement on 91.5 fm of cradele-to-grave government healthcare.

It's not surprising that ABC is moving in the same direction.

newmedia 8 years, 7 months ago

And they all wonder why FOX News kicks their rear ends day after day, month after month, and year after year... duh !!

dandelion 8 years, 7 months ago

I think the networks should report on Obama's plans to fix the health care crisis, then let the Republicans present theirs. Oh yeah, all the want to do is criticize Obama's plan. They don't have any solutions; there is no problem. The Republican reps and senators all have insurance. Why should they worry about people who don't. They have theirs, the hell with everyone else. Problem solved.

sinverguenza 8 years, 7 months ago

jonas_opines (Anonymous) says…

“Not so long ago in a vastly different media environment there were such things as journalistic ethics.”

And then there were people like me, Cal Thomas.

Good one as always, jonas!

I actually have to agree with Cal on one level, though. We need to hear both sides, all the good and the bad, because this issue could change a whole lot of how we live our lives in America.

On the other hand, this ABC love-fest with Obama is no different than the Fox love-fest with W. Bush and I'm sure countless other love-fests before my time.

Not a huge fan of DailyKos, but their mash-up of the hypocrisy on this is downright hilarious, and so telling.


Andrew Phillips 8 years, 7 months ago

While I think that ABC is getting to close to the subject (the president) on this story, and perhaps skewing the story to be favorable to the administrations proposal, I Strongly disagree that this single story reflects an overall media bias to the left. How does one story, by at TV news network, prove that all of the media is left leaning? Furthermore, people should be getting their news from newspapers anyway b/c TV media is full of sensationalism and violence mongering. Also, if people consume news media from multiple sources, they will be able to form an aggregate understanding of the story and distill out the biases that each individual media outlet may have by bridging the main ideas contained in each of the stories.

Studies show that more educated people are more likely to be liberal in their politics, and educated people are more likely to be the producers and consumers of the news. I think the alleged "liberal bias" is possibly a result of the more educated placing a higher emphasis on news and information.

Overall, ABC should be covering the bipartisan bill proposed by Dole and Daschle.

Alia Ahmed 8 years, 7 months ago


The Weather Channel is so biased. ;~). They are so pro-weather. Just kidding, of course. Seriously, they do present a fair amount of information about climate change and I can imagine some people who believe climate change is a myth think they have a political agenda.

Andrew Phillips 8 years, 7 months ago

I think both sides should be presented in this debate, as health care reform is a Trillion dollar issue and can effect millions of Americans. In my opinion, ABC needs to give coverage to the opponents to Obama's health care plan and other options for healthcare reform, such as Daschle and Dole's bipartisan plan

ultimately i think the video that sinverguenza posted shows how hypocritical some in the media are by calling ABC's move unprecedented and biased

Alia Ahmed 8 years, 7 months ago

sinverguenza, thanks for the link. Nothing like Fox's own words coming back to haunt them.

autie- I couldn't agree with you more. Science is science.

jhwk2008 8 years, 7 months ago

Um, Cal, I don't have to try to imagine this happening in a Republican administration. It happened in February 2007.

"FOX News' Bret Baier was granted unprecedented access by George W. Bush as the president begins the final year of his extraordinarily consequential tenure.

This historic documentary — shot in high definition — takes you inside the Oval Office, to the president's Texas ranch, aboard Air Force One and into his private sanctums in the White House residence.

In a series of no-holds-barred interviews, the president talks openly of his aim to consolidate his mark on history, his "Freedom Agenda," the failure to catch Usama bin Laden, the role faith has played in his presidency and how he was inspired by the writings and deeds of Abraham Lincoln."


jimmyjms 8 years, 7 months ago

"Try to imagine this happening in a Republican administration. You can’t, because it would never happen."

Say what?

Fox has been part and parcel of the GOP for at least a decade.

beatrice 8 years, 7 months ago

Just looking at the headline I knew this was a Cal Thomas article.

jumpin_catfish 8 years, 7 months ago

Someone call 911, the liberals are overdosing on the Obama kool-aid again. Those who can't or won't see the media's bias may live to regret it. Ask the folks in Germany who are still around from the 1930's and 1940's. I'm serious ask them, the media has been hijacked by big government and special interest. Where are the common folk to go for the facts?

funkdog1 8 years, 7 months ago

I find it interesting that Cal Thomas, who is all about laizzez faire economics, is bemoaning the fact that news is paid for by advertising. Just how does he suggest news be paid? By the government? (Tee hee.)

dandelion 8 years, 7 months ago

"I'll always be able to protect myself, dandelion. Will you? "

Against right wing nut cases? Yes, I think so. But you have nothing to fear from them, do you? And most of the liberals I know don't even own guns, so what are you afraid of? That's the problem with you guys. You are afraid all the time. That bunker mentality. Just because you think everyone is out to get you, doesn't mean they are? Not all of life is a political agenda.

dandelion 8 years, 7 months ago

Actually I don't think you can say this is biased reporting from NPR. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105572592

I rather like the former senators plan, see below. Except I demand that any plans that the government is paying for should not be a for profit plan. The insurance companies should give an at cost price for government assisted plans,so they can continue making profits from their regular plans, because the government isn't creating a national medicine plan. The Republican plan is the same old plan of tax credits, which is great for the independent wealthy, but how can someone making just enough to pay for housing and food come up with the money to pay for insurance, then get a tax credit? It just is not functional in the real working class world.

"And a bipartisan troika of former Senate leaders unveiled a $1.2 trillion plan, fully paid for, that would cover the uninsured. The plan by Democrat Tom Daschle and Republicans Howard Baker and Bob Dole would tax some health care benefits as if they were income. It would leave it up to the states whether or not to create public insurance plans." Quote from NPR story above.

Alia Ahmed 8 years, 7 months ago

According to a recent WSJ/NBC poll, 76% of Americans support a public option for healthcare. Let's see if the powerful healthcare and pharmaceutical lobbies can influence this policy decision rather than over 3/4 of the American people.

Tom, Here's a link to the report about 21% of Americans identifying themselves as Republicans. Of course, you don't have to be Republican to be conservatives. Most middle of the road conservatives don't like the direction the Republican Party has taken and may identify themselves as independents or Democrats. Before you reject the links I provide below for being left-leaning media, you just provided a link from the hill or do you cherry pick the statistics you want to use?



jimmyjms 8 years, 7 months ago


Yes, it's from Dailykos. But the words and pictures are all from the mouths of Rove, Hannity, and Fox News.

You cannot deny that Cal's contention is laughable.

beatrice 8 years, 7 months ago

Liberals are now akin to Nazis. Thanks jumpin-c for the hyperbole.

I also believe you have won today's "Bill O'Reilly's Kool-Aid Comment of the Day" Award! Congratulations!

Funny how many people repeat O'Reilly's Kool-Aid nonsense, especially when it is meant to indicate others not thinking for themselves. Irony, sweet irony.

jimmyjms 8 years, 7 months ago

"Where are the common folk to go for the facts?"

Lemme guess...Fox?

jimmyjms 8 years, 7 months ago

And now it comes out that the husband of Sen. Ensign's mistress sent a letter to Fox news in the days before Ensign revealed his affair.

And what did Fox "News" do? They tipped the senator off, which is why he came out and admitted what had happened.

Yep. Fair and balanced. And the vast left wing media bias. And all that.

thusspokezarathustra 8 years, 7 months ago

"RNC Chief of Staff Ken McKay wrote to David Westin, president of ABC News, expressing his deep concern and disappointment with ABC’s “astonishing decision to exclude opposing voices on this critical issue on June 24"

Hmm, if they really feel this way then why did they propose this legislation in 2007:

the Broadcaster Freedom Act of 2007 was proposed in the Senate by Senators Coleman with 35 co-sponsors (S.1748) and John Thune (R-SD) with 8 co-sponsors (S.1742) [39] and in the House by Republican Representative Mike Pence of Indiana with 208 co-sponsors (H.R. 2905).[40] It provided that: “ The Commission shall not have the authority to prescribe any rule, regulation, policy, doctrine, standard, or other requirement that has the purpose or effect of reinstating or repromulgating (in whole or in part) the requirement that broadcasters present opposing viewpoints on controversial issues of public importance, commonly referred to as the `Fairness Doctrine', as repealed in General Fairness Doctrine Obligations of Broadcast Licensees,

Gareth Skarka 8 years, 7 months ago

Ah yes, the latest Republican/Fox News talking point.

Seriously -- you should watch this video: http://www.dailykostv.com/w/001852/

The video juxtaposes footage of Rove and Fox news bitching about "unprecendented access" given to ABC News... and Fox news clips from a few years back, reporting from inside the Bush White House, and bragging about their "uprecedented access."

Another case of "It's OK if WE do it, but we bitch if anyone else does."

Honestly -- do they not understand that all of this is out there, on video, for anyone to see?

notjustastudent 8 years, 7 months ago

I think it's hilarious that anyone would think news outlets, not just Fox, have been unbiased until now. All media has connections to larger corporations and are biased, it's been that way for decades. More recently, the idea of full disclosure has taken hold, and people are more forthright in acknowledging these connections. But seriously, there is no more bias in the media now than there ever was. They've made movies about this it's so well known...

jaywalker 8 years, 7 months ago

"And what did Fox “News” do? They tipped the senator off, which is why he came out and admitted what had happened."

Link, please.

Funny conversation. The bias in the overall media toward President Obama has been so incredibly obvious for darn near a year now. I don't believe it's some sort of grand conspiracy. I do see it as orchestrated from time to time, probably from the Prez's PR team. In fact, their use of all forms of media has been fairly remarkable and shrewd. They owned the internet during the campaign and have takn every advantage of the public and major media fascination with him and his family. Some of you are throwing out the one 'all access' pass W gave to Fox. Wasn't that near the end of his terms? And we're gettin' ready to see the second and third all access love fest in the WH in 5 months? How about all three major networks takin' the Europe/ME tour last summer? Please.

Ya'll can throw out Fox News all you want as being biased, and they are, no doubt. But they have more viewpoints represented from the left than CNN or MSNBC have from the right. And Fox along with one AM radio station and two major city newspapers - Washington Times and Chicago Tribune (like the LJW, conservative from the editorial board only)- doesn't come close to stacking up against all the news media with a hard left slant: Time, Newsweek, NY Times, Washington Post, Tampa Tribune, Atlanta JC, LA Times, Chicago Sun-Times, ABC, and every single NBC affiliate.

Sorry, charlies. Left leaning bias in the media is way too obvious. I'll say again, I don't believe there's a 'conspiracy' behind it all, but I'm saddened noone representing a solid left position on these boards either can't see it or refuses to acknowledge it.

Gareth Skarka 8 years, 7 months ago

Would that be the same Washington Post that hired Krauthammer and just fired Froomkin?

Are you f#cking kidding me?

I'm so tired of this lame "liberal media" BS -- the corporate media is damn near 100% OWNED BY REPUBLICANS.


BigAl 8 years, 7 months ago

I agree with bennyoates. This is a tired old right wing spin.

Alia Ahmed 8 years, 7 months ago

Here's an interesting article about the history of the "myth of the liberal media". It's a dangerous method the RNC has employed for some time to intimidate and bully the media in an attempt to influence the way the news to presented.


Gareth Skarka 8 years, 7 months ago

You know, Tommy Boy: "Elite" means "Better than you."

Glad to see you know your place.

jaywalker 8 years, 7 months ago


I may have gotten the Times and Post mixed up, I can never remember which one's which.

"the corporate media is damn near 100% owned by republicans."

Not sure what that has to do with the conversation, nor if it's actually true. I suspect it's not. Whether a 'republican' owns a media outlet has little to nothing to do with the slant in a reporter's writing, though. Op eds and columnists are for opinion. Reporters should present the facts, period, with as little of their own agenda implied as possible. If your 'argument' is the simplistic, "if it's conservative owned they're gonna print what the owner says", then there's no point discussing this further. I've worked for two major city papers and never once was there the slightest hint we needed to write from a certain perspective. Rupert Murdoch ain't handing out assignments, proofreading, editing, nor directing how something should be written.

"you're not an oppressed minority. get over yourselves."

Hope that wasn't directed my way. I've never said anything remotely close to 'oppressed' or 'minority'.

jimmyjms: “And what did Fox “News” do? They tipped the senator off, which is why he came out and admitted what had happened.”

Latest: "Asked if Fox News received the letter, a company spokeswoman referred the AP to comments from one of its producers that were reported on the Huffington Post, a Web site. Tom Lowell, senior producer of "America's Newsroom," told the Web site that a booker on the show received an e-mail from Hampton with the letter attached on June 15, the day before Ensign's appearance before reporters.

Lowell said that when reporters followed up with Hampton, he "seemed evasive and not credible, thus we didn't pursue it."

"Definitely no one on our editorial team called anyone in Senator Ensign's office prior to the announcement," he said>

It's also been reported that the cuckold in question has been demanding money and other 'incentives' from Ensign for a few months now.

Gareth Skarka 8 years, 7 months ago

jaywalker: "I've worked for two major city papers and never once was there the slightest hint we needed to write from a certain perspective. "

Which is why you should see that the idea of "liberal media bias" is ridiculous. You didn't get "the slightest hint" that you needed to write from a certain perspective -- and guess what: nobody else gets marching orders, either.

Hell, I worked as a reporter for an NPR affiliate for a while back in the mid-90s, and despite the reputation as one of the poster-children of the supposed "liberal elite media bias", there was never any directives to report from an agenda.

It's a myth. A useful myth, which the conservatives trot out every time that the facts on the ground go against them. It's an ancient strategy: Kill the Messenger.

KUnlv13 8 years, 7 months ago

The modern day party system serves as a means to alienate and infuriate groups of citizens, which unfortunately leads to the blinding of said groups to the corruption taking place on a daily basis. Red, Blue, whatever the party affiliation; those with the power in this country are in the end on the same team folks. www.infowars.com Check out 'The Obama Deception' (also available on Google video) ps: Not produced by Crazy Righties, as the title may imply; and in fact that website also has quite a few expose's regarding G.W. as well.

Or disregard, just thought I'd share an alternate viewpoint.

del888 8 years, 7 months ago

this is the dumbest thing i've ever read

jaywalker 8 years, 7 months ago

"Which is why you should see that the idea of “liberal media bias” is ridiculous. You didn't get “the slightest hint” that you needed to write from a certain perspective — and guess what: nobody else gets marching orders, either."


Obviously you read my first post, so I'll just remind you that not once but twice I stressed that I do not see a conspiracy afoot here. And like your experience jibes with mine, there were no 'marching orders' on how to present a story.
My opinion is strictly based on what I've witnessed and read over the past year, perhaps stretching back further, but it's the last year that's really stood out to me. From blatantly obvious slant in a beat reporter's writing to subtle manipulation of phrase, tone, and vocabulary, it's my opinion that there has been a very strong 'liberal bias' across the media. That phrase, 'liberal bias', for my purposes here, simply means each particular reporter's personal agenda has been bleeding through. That shouldn't happen, at least not to the level I've witnessed. Like I said, op ed's and columnists have carte blanche in that area. It should be invisible coming from say, the AP, who have founded their entire existence on detached, accurate reporting of the facts.
Mags like Time and Newsweek have more play in the opinion-influenced content. Even so, the sheer volume of articles pro-Obama vs. milquetoast-McCain last summer was stunning. I actually did some research on such discrepancies last year, too long and detailed to get into, but if I could just lay out photographs in front of you to prove my point I'm confident you'd see what I'm talking about.

Nevertheless, I think what you and others are labeling a 'myth' is right and wrong. There's been a lot of talk on these boards that tend toward a conspiracy theory, media 'in bed' with Obama, etc. I don't see it that way, per se. But the media's infatuation with the President is worn on their sleeves. And it shouldn't be. Hell, it's even beyond the media. Have you heard their dog, Bo, now has his own 'baseball card'? What the..?!

Not that it matters much, just to qualify, but I voted for President Obama.

Also, I've recommended this a few times on these boards, but if you're interested in hearing both sides' opinion with no slant from the publication, pick up The Week. It's the only political mag I suscribe to and I love it. Consists mostly of top news events here and around the globe, a clean, concise weekly.

Dan Eyler 8 years, 7 months ago

The cost of the obama plan is at least 1.6 trillion. That is his minimum cost for insuring some 40 million people. For the past 20 years that 40 million hasn't changed. What has changed is the additional 25 million illegal mexicans and others in the country. All of who will get the very same insurance. The price tag just jumped another trillion. Congress and americans have to know this is nuts. Illegals deserve just enough care to get them feeling a little better and then an immediate bus ride to the border. We owe them nothing for breaking our laws. Most of you want to hang the cop for stealing 600 buck In computer games but allow these illegals to steal millions and millions in government services to say the least. Liberalism is truly a mental disorder.

staff04 8 years, 7 months ago

"What has changed is the additional 25 million illegal mexicans and others in the country. All of who will get the very same insurance."

Wait, I think I saw this as some chain e-mail...and they're getting social security and a shiny new truck too. And only conservatives have to pay for it, right?

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