Follow the Money (Media Edition)
MSNBC.com has posted an "investigative report" on journalists who have recently made political contributions. Analyzing records from the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the website identified 144 reporters, producers, anchors, copy editors, columnists and other members of the Fourth Estate who gave money to politicians over the past three years.
We'll give the website (and its reporter, Bill Dedman) some credit for tackling a subject the MSM studiously avoids. After all, how many times have we been told that journalists are "objective;" whatever their political affiliations or leanings might be, they can still cover stories fairly and accurately. Riiiighhhhht. Funny, but we thought the MSM's left-wing bias has been proven beyond any shadow of a doubt, thanks to books like Bias and Coloring the News.
But we digress. Dedman and his colleagues also deserve kudos for contacting (or attempting to contact) the media types who made those contributions. Some of their "excuses" or explanations are particularly revealing. A sampling is provided below:
ABC News, Mary Fulginiti, "Primetime" correspondent, Hollywood, Calif., $500 to Gov. Bill Richardson, Democratic presidential candidate, 2007. Before she joined ABC in November 2006, lawyer Fulginiti gave $6,000 to Democratic candidates.
ABC forbids political activity by journalists.
"A friend asked me to contribute" to Richardson, Fulginiti said. "This is not a reflection of my political views. Look, I've made a mistake here. I'm a legal analyst — this is all new to me. I have been politically active in the past. This is when I was just starting out at ABC. I was still thinking as a lawyer."
CBS News, producer, Edward H. Forgotson Jr., "CBS Sunday Morning," $1,000 in June 2006 to Patrick J. Kennedy, Democrat, the Rhode Island congressman and son of Sen. Ted Kennedy. The donation was made two weeks after Kennedy pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of prescription drugs in an accident on Capitol Hill.
A CBS spokesman said the network's policy was tightened in September 2006 to forbid contributions to political campaigns. Previously, there was a bit of wiggle room.
"My donation pre-dates the clarification of CBS News policy," Forgotson said. "I've made no contributions to any candidate or party since."
CNN, Guy Raz, Jerusalem correspondent, now with NPR as defense correspondent, $500 to John Kerry in June 2004.
Raz donated to Kerry the same month he was embedded in Iraq with U.S. troops for CNN. He also covered reaction to Abu Ghraib and President Bush's policies in the Middle East. In 2006, he returned to NPR, and covers the Pentagon.
"Yes, I made the donation," Raz said in an e-mail. "At the time, I was a reporter with CNN International based out of London. I covered international news and European Union stories. I did not cover US news or politics."
Both CNN and NPR prohibit political activity by all journalists, no matter their assignment.
MTV News, Gideon Yago, "Choose or Lose" presidential correspondent, $200 to Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark in January 2004; $500 to America Coming Together, which campaigned against President Bush, in September 2004; $250 to the Democratic National Committee in September 2004; $250 to VoteVets, which is running ads against the president's handling of the war, in March 2006, and $250 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in October 2006. He said he is no longer at MTV News.
Gideon Yago, raw:
"I don't understand. Things that I do as a private citizen?
"We're not a traditional news network in the sense of NBC or Fox or CBS.
"We're sensitive about equal time or fairness. We're non-biased.
"I mean, what the f---, man?
The New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg, senior editor, $2,000 to John Kerry in three payments in 2004. Hertzberg often writes the Comment in the front of the magazine, and was a speechwriter for Jimmy Carter.
Hertzberg, in answer to the question whether he made these donations, sent this reply: "Damn right."
The New Yorker, John Lahr, theater critic, $200 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in June 2006, $250 to the Democratic National Committee in September 2004, and $500 to John Kerry in March 2004.
Sometimes Lahr works an anti-Bush quip into his work. (Such as, to the president, "thinking is a fuse that has to be blown in order for him to do what he wants to do.")
"The whole point about criticism is to stimulate debate," Lahr said. "My biases are transparent, because I express them. One of the implications of your question is that people have no integrity — that people wouldn't be fair.
"What would you have me write? It would be hard to find a sentient person who could take a strong position for what the Republicans have done in the past six years. What are you going to do, take a position for their position on global warming or the war in Iraq? C'mon!
"This is a Puritan folderol. If you scratch farther into the people who make these rules, say at The New York Times, they're all in somebody's pocket."
In fairness, MSNBC actually found a few journalists who gave money to Republicans, but they are decidedly few and far between. And that brings us to our major gripe with their investigative report. While the website dutifully places a "D" or "R" in front on each journalist donation that was discovered in the FEC records, they never get around to actually tabulating the results, which (surprise, surprise) confirms an overwhelming bias for Democratic candidates and causes.
So, in the interest of full disclosure, we did our own analysis. Of the 144 journalist contributions listed by MSNBC, 126 went to the Democratic Party, 88% of the total.
Why is that figure significant? It tracks very closely with previous surveys of political preferences among reporters, beginning with Robert Lichtenberg and Stanley Rothman's landmark study, "The Media Elite," published in 1981. They found that 81% of the nation's most influential journalists voted for the Democratic Presidential candidate between 1964 and 1981.
Similar trends were also noted in a 1995 poll of White House correspondents representing major media organizations (conducted by U.S. News and World Report), and a 2004 survey of campaign journalists, organized by columnist John Tierney of The New York Times. While the U.S. News and NYT surveys weren't scientific, they confirmed a heavy bias in favor of Democrats. Tierney's poll revealed that journalists outside Washington, D.C. favored John Kerry over George W. Bush by a 3-1 margin, while reporters inside the Beltway favored Mr. Kerry by a 12-1 margin.
But remember, they're "sensitive about equal time or fairness." They're "non-biased."