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Bill Press is a syndicated columnist, the co-host of CNN's Crossfire, which airs Monday-Friday at 7:30 p.m., and author of the newly-published book Spin This!

Bill Press: The myth of the liberal media rides again

By Bill Press
Tribune Media Services

WASHINGTON (Tribune Media Services) -- If you say something often enough and loud enough, people will believe it -- no matter how untrue it is.

Bernard Goldberg has been complaining about the liberal media so long, people not only believe him, they have propelled "Bias," his jeremiad against the media, to the New York Times Bestseller list. Unfortunately, it's ranked as nonfiction.

In the first version of this column, I wrote that Goldberg had been fired by CBS. That was wrong. He retired from the network in the summer of 2000.

Goldberg first attacked CBS for liberal bias on the op-ed page of the February, 13, 1996, Wall Street Journal -- comments made he insists, just to get the conversation started. He got the cold shoulder from CBS executives instead.

And now he's getting his revenge. Goldberg devotes half of his book to evening the score against CBS and Dan Rather. The other half he spends trying to tear down the rest of the media, too, with little supporting evidence. Goldberg doesn't come close to proving a liberal bias in the media.

Exhibit A in Goldberg's attack on CBS is a report by Eric Engberg on the Feb. 8, 1996 "Evening News," poking holes in Steve Forbes's proposal for a flat tax. The piece was not kind to Forbes. In it, Engberg and economists describe the Forbes plan as "wacky," "untested" and "hog heaven for tax lawyers." No one is quoted in support of the flat tax.

So Goldberg has a small point. That one Engberg segment, indeed, was not balanced. But does that prove a wholesale liberal media bias? No way. Liberals weren't the only ones who opposed the flat tax. Newt Gingrich dismissed it as "nonsense." Bob Dole, running against Forbes, also condemned it.

Besides, Engberg was more of a commentator than a reporter, whose specialty was skewering sacred cows on both the right and the left. He also, for example, did an earlier report trashing Hillary Clinton for the travel office firings. Curiously, there's no mention of that in Goldberg's book.

Going after the other networks, Goldberg is on equally thin ice. As further proof of liberal bias, he accuses ABC of inventing homelessness during the Reagan years and ignoring it under Clinton, only to reinvent the problem under George W. Bush.

However, when you look at the transcript of Bob Jamieson's report from Aurora, Illinois, on Feb. 11, 2001, he says: "The 175-bed shelter in this city of 130,000 has recorded a steady increase in homelessness for the last year, particularly families with children." In other words, Jamieson traces the problem back to Clinton. Where's the liberal bias?

Time and again, Goldberg falls flat. But no more so than when he takes on the New York Times, accusing the Gray Lady of feeding feminist hostility toward men. If you don't believe me, growls Goldberg, read reporter Natalie Angier in the Times, back in 1994: "Women may not find this surprising, but one of the most persistent and frustrating problems in evolutionary biology is the male. Specifically ... why doesnt he just go away?"

Sounds convincing, doesn't it? The New York Times hates men! Unfortunately for Goldberg, as Bob Somerby revealed on his Daily Howler Web site, that article appeared in the Times Science Section and didn't involve men at all. Angier wasn't writing about male humans. She was writing about male snails, snakes and insects -- who have never been known to have a liberal, or conservative, bias.

The bottom line is, Goldberg can't prove a liberal bias in the media because there is none.

Look at the op-ed pages. Compare the number of conservative columnists with liberal columnists. Listen to talk radio. Count the number of nationally syndicated liberal talk-show hosts. Watch the cable TV talk shows. Count the number of liberal and conservative pundits. Conservatives far outnumber liberals.

And whatever liberal voices may have existed before September 11 have almost disappeared since. With few exceptions, the media today is no more than a cheering squad for George Bush -- not only on his conduct of the war, but on domestic policy, too. They won't even hold him responsible for Enron.

The truth is, the media may have been dominated by liberals long ago, back in the days of Spiro Agnew. It is no longer. Conservatives own today's media. They just never admit it.

Instead, Bernard Goldberg and others continue to complain about "the liberal media" --and you can't blame them. It helps keep a conservative myth alive. And it sure sells books.




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