NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

A Classic Case Of Media Bias

February 16, 2001

Bias is most insidious, just as propaganda is most effective, when it is subtle. A clear case of subtly shading the news in a biased way was recently pointed out by L. Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center.

Take two parallel situations: On January 22, 1993, President Bill Clinton threw out Ronald Reagan's executive order prohibiting U.S. funding for international agencies that subsidize or promote abortion. On exactly the same date eight years later, President George W. Bush reinstated that policy.

Both presidents' acts were consistent with their campaign platforms. Both fulfilled promises to supporters. However, the news media characterized these presidential actions differently:

Now: ABC's Peter Jennings said, "President Bush begins by taking a tough line on abortion."

Eight years ago: Jennings said only, "President Clinton keeps his word on abortion rights."

Now: NBC's Tom Brokaw said, "the new President's very active day, which started on a controversial note."

Eight years ago Brokaw simply reported, "President Clinton kept a campaign promise..."

CBS's Dan Rather perpetuated this double standard, but then added that President Bush's executive order served to "quickly please the right flank of his party...."

Just as individuals usually only perceive bias in the news media when they disagree with the point of view a journalist favors, could it be that news anchors only perceive decisions as "controversial" when they disapprove of them?

Source: L. Brent Bozell (President, Media Research Center), "Media Bias On Abortion," Morning Edition, National Public Radio, February 1, 2001.


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