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Op-Ed: Evidence suggests media has abandoned “Liberalism” for party

Former CBS News chief says the “liberal leaning” media has “passed its tipping point.”

In an opinion editorial in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, Van Gordon Sauter, a past president of CBS News, says:

“The highly influential daily newspapers … the three broadcast network divisions … two of the three leading cable news sources” are “liberal.”

This is a complaint frequently repeated in conservative and Republican circles. There are national organizations devoted to exposing “liberal bias” in the news media.

Does the news media really have a liberal bias? Evidence suggests that journalists may be more in line with the Democratic Party’s needs than it is with liberal ideals.

For example, during the 1992 campaign for president, then-candidate Bill Clinton excoriated President George H. W. Bush over the liberal issues of human rights and proliferation in China:

“In China, the president continues to coddle aging rulers with undisguised contempt for democracy, for human rights and for the need to control the spread of dangerous weapons technology,” said Clinton on the campaign trail.

But prolific author and former liberal Kenneth Timmerman explained to this reporter in a 1999 interview:

“I was working at that time [1993] on the Hill as an aide to Tom Lantos, who [was] a Democrat from California, precisely on these issues of technology transfers to various regimes … very early on, the administration dropped the emphasis on human rights — very early on the Clinton administration dropped any kind of scrutiny toward high-technology sales to China — and punished those who tried to bring that to light.”  

As the Clinton administration dropped its emphasis on human rights in China, so did the news media which instead attacked Republicans who challenged the Clinton administration on its record in China. For example, in 1999, the New York Times once considered the bastion of liberalism, referred to congressional Republican requests for answers about China as “concerted Republican attacks on the Clinton administration.”

During the Clinton years, multiple investigations turned up evidence of collusion with China from ignoring human rights abuses to decontrolling weapons technology that enabled the communist Chinese government to further oppress its citizens. Throughout all of this, the news media abandoned liberalism and defended the Clinton administration.

The media seemingly took a turn back towards liberalism during the Bush 43 presidency when it became a fierce advocate for terrorism suspects. Following the attacks on September 11, 2001, Bush signed into law bills such as the Patriot Act, which gave the federal government more tools to spy on potential terrorists. Democrats took up the terrorist cause and renamed the bill “Bush’s domestic wiretap program,” a phrase the news media adopted as well. But the same media protested little when President Obama expanded those powers and used them to spy on journalists, members of Congress, and apparently President Trump’s campaign.

Mr. Sauter, the former CBS News president, says that bias in the media is here to stay and news media self-labeling may be the answer:

“A return to balance would be commercially nonviable. The best solution may be an honest embrace of bias.”

Perhaps journalists enjoy being labeled “liberal” more so than an alternative description such as “Democrat Party hack,” but there is no polling data available to indicate one way or another.

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