Liberal bias

From Academic Kids

"Liberal bias" is a common phrase used in American political discourse to express the view that the American media generally has a liberal bias. The expression is frequently used by critics of the network news stations of CBS, ABC, and NBC, as well as major newspapers and newswires, especially the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post, as well as the Associated Press and others. Others seriously dispute this, with some claiming that there is, instead, a conservative bias. Still others say that what is often labeled as "liberal bias" is more accurately termed sensationalism, not necessarily anything biased in favor of liberalism.

Claims of "liberal biases" prevail mainly in the United States; however, some prominent figures on the right-wing in Britain have also claimed that the British media is left-wing, especially the publicly funded BBC. Conservative critics in Canada have similarly attacked the state-funded CBC, as Australian conservatives have done to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.



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Bernard Goldberg's Bias
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Bob Kohn's Journalistic Fraud
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Ann Coulter's Slander

One of the earliest claims that liberal bias dominates the media dates back to November 1969, when Spiro Agnew, then Vice President under Richard Nixon made a landmark speech denouncing media influence on politics.1 From the 1990s onwards, some American conservatives have increasingly voiced their perception that liberals dominate the American mass media and present a liberal point of view.

Several authors have written books on liberal bias in the media. Some examples include:


People who use the phrase "liberal bias" believe that liberal biases are evident in both the choice (what stories are favored, or "played," over others) and coverage (how stories are researched, portrayed, and presented). According to their perceptions, a left-wing agenda is promoted because of a "slant" or "spin" in news.

The specific criticisms of proponents of the theory tend to be two-fold. First, the objectivity of anchors and newswriters is called into question, and second, the priorities and focus of the media network stations and corporations in general is disputed.

Conservative critics often accuse prominent anchors such as Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, and Peter Jennings as being rather "open" liberals instead of political neutrals, and point to various speeches and comments they've made that supposedly illustrate their views. Other anchors may be criticised for their past, non-media careers, in which they may have been supporters, campaigners, or fundraisers of left-wing political candidates. Surveys have been done which indicate that by a rather large margin journalists in the United States tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic in federal elections. Conservatives argue that when news anchors and producers have private, politically-active backgrounds, it inevitably skews their outlook when delivering the news or holding interviews. They also accuse a majority of the channels (most often CBS, NBC, ABC, and CNN) of having an extreme liberal bias.

Such allegations of pre-exisiting political biases lead into the other main criticism, which is that mainstream news covers events in a way that supports the liberal perspective while minimizing the conservative counterarguments. Conservatives claim that issues such as abortion or the PATRIOT Act are examples of issues in which conservative counter-arguments to liberal opposition are rarely given much time on the news.

Another main allegation is that the media routinely portrays Republicans in an unflattering light, pointing to media coverage of Ronald Reagan, Dan Quayle, and George W. Bush as examples. Republicans, they argue, are routinely portrayed as stupid, incompetent, fanatical, or worse due to the media's focus on an alleged number of tactics, such as selective quoting, "gotcha" tactics, or excessively emotionally-driven coverage.

The breaking of the Lewinsky scandal by Matt Drudge, instead of Newsweek, is often cited as an example of liberal media bias.

Another allegation of liberal bias is a tendency to inflame stories which suggest that guns in the hands of private citizens are responsible for crimes (and ignore when a gun in the hand of a private citizen apprehended the same criminals[1] (,

Opposing views

Mainstream media organizations accused of slanted reporting often go to great lengths to defend their objectivity. In addition, some individuals maintain that there exists in the media the precise opposite -- a conservative bias.

Critics of the concept of liberal bias argue that it is largely an invention of the conservative right. Many of these critics also say that most media outlets are owned by wealthy individuals, many if not most of whom are on the right (for example, Rupert Murdoch, the owner of FOX News; FOX is often a target of those who charge conservative bias). Moreover, they say, both the print and broadcast media survive from advertising revenues, which makes the media rely to an extent on corporations; they thus claim that these media are less likely to present information that could harm potential advertisers.

However, those who claim there exists widespread liberal bias argue that a number of these wealthy business owners are liberals, so great wealth does not necessarily entail conservatism. They point to Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, as well as other left-leaning figures who are multimillionaires such as George Soros, John Kerry, Jesse Jackson, Ted Kennedy, John Edwards and many Hollywood stars.

Critics also point to the worldwide perception that US media is more right-wing than in most other democracies, and less likely to challenge an official position than most other countries' media.

Certain neoconservatives, such as Irving Kristol, have said that the charge of "liberal bias" has been exaggerated for rhetorical purposes.

Eric Alterman, author of What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News is one of those who argues against any significant liberal bias. Reviewer John Moe sums up Alterman's views:

"The conservatives in the newspapers, television, talk radio, and the Republican party are lying about liberal bias and repeating the same lies long enough that they've taken on a patina of truth. Further, the perception of such a bias has cowed many media outlets into presenting more conservative opinions to counterbalance a bias, which does not, in fact, exist." [2] (

The article 'spiking' contains an account by film critic Roger Ebert in which a reporter from NBC approached a story with preconceived conservative bias.

It can often be seen that foreign news agencies break stories before the domestic press when the contents might be unfavorable to an American right-wing point of view. For example, when the BBC ran revelations that the state of Florida had been over-aggressive about removing alleged criminals from the voter register, no US news agency ran the story.

The Propaganda model by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky deems possible bias of the journalists themselves to be an insignificant matter, but claims that structural and economic causes filter the type of news published. It has been argued that any political slant is overwhelmed by the media organization's drive to report the stories that will sell newspapers and draw viewers, and to report them in the most eye-catching way they can. This is often called sensationalist bias.


  1. Extracts from Agnew's talk here (
  2. Lichter, S.R., Lichter, L.S. and Rothman, S., 1992. Watching America: What Television Tells Us About Our Lives.

See also

External links


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