Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Media Bias and the Israel Factor

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Media Bias and the Israel Factor

Article excerpt

Media Bias and the Israel Factor

The difference in media treatment accorded the Democratic and Republican National Conventions and their aftermath quickly became obvious to readers and viewers all over the United States. The bias was particularly evident in back-to-back interviews with Clinton-endorsing "typical Americans," with "balance" provided by "persons in the street" who did not endorse either ticket but complained in apocalyptic tones about the economy.

The CBS "Inside Washington" talk show for August 23 reached an apogee of bias, with every participant vying to bash Bush, Quayle, and Baker for good measure. On the following weekend, host Gordon Peterson mentioned casually that "a number of listeners had complained," and there was a painfully obvious effort at some semblance of balance. The next day The Washington Post, which apparently had heard complaints from its own readers, printed an article discussing the proClinton, anti-Bush media bias:

"Television coverage of Bush in recent weeks has generally been critical," wrote Howard Kurtz. "On the network evening newscasts in the first three weeks of August, 65 percent of the comments about Bush by nonpartisan sources were negative, compared to 41 percent of the references to Clinton, according to the Center for Media and Public affairs."

Kurtz quoted ABC White House Correspondent Brit Hume as saying: "There are things written about Bill Clinton and Al Gore that I've never seen written, even by opinion reporters. I think there has been a double standard."

Biased treatment of the opinion polls became grist for Bush spokesman Marlin Fitzwater, who held up for the cameras three reports published within 10 days in The New York Times. The first report, showing Clinton leading Bush by 15 points, was 25 paragraphs long. The second, showing Clinton's lead had dwindled to 10 points, was five paragraphs long. The third report, showing Clinton's lead down to 5 points, consisted of a single paragraph.

Kurtz listed five possible reasons for "an unconscious bias among reporters [that] produces a pro-Clinton tilt in the coverage." The first reason was that "most reporters are relatively liberal and naturally sympathetic to Clinton's activist approach to government." There are also "baby-boom reporters who tend to identify with the 46-year-old Democrat." The other three reasons cited in the Kurtz article were that if Clinton were elected "some reporters would likely become White House reporters," "other journalists might cross the line into government" and "reporters who know Clinton well could enjoy special access."

Access For All

Why reporters who might share Bush's age or politics or might want to keep access to the Bush administration are having no influence on the coverage was not explained. Not even touched upon in Kurtz's lengthy examination was the Israel factor.

Self-appointed spokespersons for America's Jewish community predict Clinton may get up to 90 percent of Jewish votes in November. Some of those 90 percent surely are in the media, and are as likely to be influenced in their election coverage by their feelings about Bush and Israel as by the other factors Kurtz cites.

On the lists of "celebrity endorsements" issued by the two campaigns, Jewish names are conspicuous on Clinton campaign lists, and conspicuously scarce on Bush campaign lists. …

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