Romney Strategist Fails to Grasp Media Bias

Accuracy in Media

In his first public criticism of the conduct of the media during the presidential campaign, the chief strategist for Mitt Romney meekly suggests that reporters “often felt morally conflicted about being critical” of President Obama.

Obama “was a charismatic African American president with a billion dollars, no primary and media that often felt morally conflicted about being critical,” Stevens says.

But if this is all that Stuart Stevens takes away from the campaign coverage, he is woefully ill-informed about the nature of media bias. While it is certainly true that reporters didn’t want to criticize the first black President, Stevens’ comment doesn’t explain the intensity of the media attacks on Romney and the media cover-ups on Obama’s behalf.

Stevens wrote his piece defending Romney’s campaign for The Washington Post, one of the big guns of the liberal media establishment. Jennifer Rubin, a conservative blogger for the paper, points out that Stevens seems to blame everybody but himself for what went wrong with the campaign.

Stevens was undoubtedly one of the advisers who told Romney that he should avoid criticizing the press. We reported on this fact, noting Romney’s comments during the campaign that he had no plans to challenge liberal media bias and that he would get out his message through ads and other means.

In her criticism of Stevens, Rubin praises another Romney adviser, the lobbyist and former top Republican official Ed Gillespie, as a “class act,” when Gillespie had been explicitly quoted as justifying Romney’s silence on liberal media bias. Gillespie said the campaign had a “no whining rule” about media coverage.

Ironically, the statement of purpose on Gillespie’s website says, “A well conceived strategy is the central, cohesive element of any successful effort to achieve an important objective.” How can a Republican win the presidency without taking on press bias?

We know that Gillespie knows better, as we found a piece he wrote for National Review back in 2009 on liberal media bias. In the piece, subtitled, “How the GOP should handle increasingly biased journalists,” he writes that when he joined the Bush White House in June 2007, “I was still naively hopeful that we could get an honest hearing from the MSM [Mainstream Media]. It did not take long for the scales to fall from my eyes. The national press corps loathed the president—not personally, I don’t think, but politically. Their reporting dripped with disdain, and their stories were frequently riddled with negative adverbs and adjectives. On issues like the Iraq War, the environment, and life, there was often little distinction between our treatment in liberal blogs and our treatment in major daily newspapers.”

Some of Gillespie’s other points:

  • “…the media will play the role of attack dog for Democrats, but not for Republicans. The media will stay on a negative story for days and continue pressing for answers when it involves a Republican.”
  • The Left “perfected the cycle” of attack: “A blog posts an attack on a Republican candidate one day, the local daily paper runs a story two days later based on the blog account, and two days after that, a national Democratic campaign committee launches a “ripped from the headlines” attack ad citing the dailies. No Republican should be caught off-guard by this phenomenon again.”
  • “…be willing to call out the media on instances of blatant bias….Reminding voters that the media often have their own agenda can help offset bias.”
  • “…go around the traditional news outlets.”

It is intriguing that Gillespie disavowed his own very informative article by saying this year that the Romney campaign had adopted a “no whining rule” on media bias.

“Too many reporters no longer report; they comment,” Gillespie had said in National Review. “The lines between news and ‘news analysis,’ and between ‘news analysis’ and opinion, have been all but washed away in the 24/7 Internet-and-cable news environment.”

However, Gillespie went on to say that there are still “reporters who strive to be fair, report the facts, and avoid commentary,” and that “…one successful media outlet, the relatively new Politico, seems intent on hiring every ‘old school’ reporter in Washington.”

How wrong Gillespie turned out to be.

Politico is another gun in the liberal media arsenal and recently hired disgraced journalist David Chalian, who was fired by Yahoo! News for making a vicious “joke” during the campaign accusing the Romneys of hating black people. Several Politico reporters were members of the now-defunct listserv, JournoList, an association of several hundred liberal journalists, professors and activists who discussed story ideas and lines of attack on conservatives.

JournoList was started by Ezra Klein, while blogging for The American Prospect. He later took a position with The Washington Post, blogging about politics and writing articles.

At the September 21st AIM “ObamaNation” conference, Pat Caddell had urged the Romney campaign to go after liberal media bias and singled out Klein for criticism, saying, “Their organizations need to be called out. Ezra Klein still writes for The Washington Post? I mean, this is unbelievable! They had a secret operation group, ‘Journo’ group, online, coordinating how they would promote Obama, and how they would attack Republicans—and he’s still there?”

Not only is Klein still at the Post, he is said to be in the running to host a new show on MSNBC, the openly pro-Obama cable network.

The title of Gillespie’s National Review article was “Media Realism.” It looks like he didn’t follow his own advice. And Romney’s campaign suffered because of it.

Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism and can be contacted at cliff.kincaid@aim.org.


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