Is the Media Biased Against John McCain?

One of our regular posters, Truth, submitted a comment yesterday with a link to a website that proved that the media has run many more negative stories about McCain than about Obama. You can click here to visit the site he referenced.  I have no problem believing the data in the graph, so let’s assume that this is true.

While the data is true, and while it appears to confirm the Republican mantra about the “left wing media,” I would ask that you consider the analysis provided further down the page:

Is there some element in these numbers that reflects a rooting by journalists for Obama and against McCain, unconscious or otherwise? The data do not provide conclusive answers. They do offer a strong suggestion that winning in politics begat winning coverage, thanks in part to the relentless tendency of the press to frame its coverage of national elections as running narratives about the relative position of the candidates in the polls and internal tactical maneuvering to alter those positions. Obama’s coverage was negative in tone when he was dropping in the polls, and became positive when he began to rise, and it was just so for McCain as well. Nor are these numbers different than what we have seen before. Obama’s numbers are similar to what we saw for John Kerry four years ago as he began rising in the polls, and McCain’s numbers are almost identical to what we saw eight years ago for Democrat Al Gore.

I absolutely agree that there are liberal media outlets and conservative media outlets. I absolutely disagree that the journalistic institution, as a whole, leans to the left or the right. Before my conservative friends start cherry-picking websites and research that proves a left-wing media bias, I’ll remind you that there are just as many that prove either a conservative bias or no bias at all. I’ve checked, and I think you’ll find the same thing.

I strongly suspect that emotional memory trumps fact when it comes to personal regard for media bias. We remember all of the bad headlines (which we view as unfair) and forget all the good headlines (which we view as fair).

My conservative friends are outraged that Ayers and ACORN and Wright aren’t getting more attention from the media. I’m outraged that Palin’s several scandals and McCain’s Keating 5 associations aren’t getting more attention. Just like my conservative friends, I’m outraged that the other guy is getting a free pass on so many important issues. Perhaps the issue isn’t with the media, perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

The media loves a tasty headline, and it doesn’t matter whose head is on the chopping block.

22 responses to “Is the Media Biased Against John McCain?

  1. You prove yourself to be a moron. Just accept the media is liberal. They openly accept it.

    In recent surveys (which a link can be provided if requested) 68% of journalists and reporters claim to be “somewhat liberal” or “Very liberal” compared with 20% that claim to be “moderate” and 12% that are somewhat or very conservative.

    Numbers don’t lie.

    But how about this, name me 20 conservative members on CNN, MSNBC (that one will be very very tough), and the biggest newspapers and you will prove me at least a little wrong.

    Not “republican strategists”, true conservatives.

  2. New York Times 94% of their donations are to Democrats

    Discovery Communications (Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, Travel Channel, BBC America) 90% of their donations are to Democrats

    Viacom (CBS, MTV, VH1, BET, CMT, Commedy Central, Nickelodeon, Noggin, Paramount Pictures, Infinity Radio Broadcasting) 81% to Democrats

    USA Interactive (Home Shopping Network, Expedia, TicketMaster, CitySearch, Evite) 80% of their donations are to Democrats

    NBC (CNBC, MSNBC, USA Network, Telemundo, Bravo, Sci-Fi Channel, Universal Studios) 77% of their political donations are to Democrats

    CNN 71% of their donations for more than the last 5 years are to Democrats

    Hearst (ESPN, A&E, Lifetime, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Oprah’s Magazine, Redbook, Seventeen, Town&Country, SmartMoney, Local Broadcasting) 68% of their donations are to Democrats

    Sony (Sony Pictures, Columbia Records, Epic Records, Legacy Records, Playstation, Electronics, Individual TV Shows: Seinfeld, Mad About You, Jepoardy, Wheel-of-Fortune, etc.) 67% of their donations are to Democrats

    AOL Time Warner (Warner Brothers, Time Magazine, AOL, New Line Cinema, HBO, Turner Broadcasting) 63% of their donations are to Democrats

    Cablevision (Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, NY Knicks, NY Rangers, Local Programming) 59% of all their political donations go to Democrats

    Liberty Media (QVC, Starz Encore, Court TV, Game Show Network) 57%of all their political donations go to Democrats (from the top link)

    Disney (ABC, Disney Movies) 55% of all their political donations go to Democrats

    (Of course Clear Channel is 75% donations to Republicans)

    Aside from the liberal mainstream media, there are many other Corporations that are “Blue Corporations”. Someone started a myth that Corporations are Republican. It may be based on the fact that out of all Corporations in general, more money from Corporate donors go to Republicans, but many Corporations fund Democrats, the Democratic Party and Liberal Organizations. Corporations fund both Democrats and Republicans, although admittedly Republicans slightly more. Corporations who supported Kerry were Time-Warner, Microsoft, Viacom (CBS/MTV), Boston Capital, International Data Group, Mintz-Levin-Cohn-Ferris-Glovski-and-Popeo (Law Firm), Hale & Dorr and Skadden-Arps-Slate-Meagher&Flom (Law Firm), just to name a few (BBC News – Companies Donate for Access,,

  3. I agree with the moron. The media loves a story and it doesn’t matter who gets smeared. They just want a big headline. Various media organizations may donate more money to democrats, but it doesn’t mean they slant their stories that way. It’s like when I used to be in debate in college…you may feel one way but you can argue any side of an issue.

  4. Hmm, except I also followed up my claim by showing that McCain has had the most negative coverage of the candidates by far. Only 14% of his coverage has been “positive”. Sorry.

  5. Two thoughts.

    First, the link that JStat posted (the 14% link) is the exact same research that I posted. Apparently JStat liked the statistic offered by Pew, but not the analysis that followed. Read the quoted material in my original post!

    Second, and more importantly, it’s the job of journalists to research and report the world. They are more informed, more educated, and more aware of what’s going on in the world than the vast majority of Americans.

    And they give overwhelmingly to Democrats. That’s not media bias, that’s just a good example of how educated and informed people are more likely to vote Democrat.

  6. okay… how about this link, because this is actually where I first read it.,0,2260528.story

  7. Oh your talking about the Pew! (My fault, I apologize)

  8. Actually, according to gallup and based on 2004 data, Those who had “some college” and “college graduate” were primarily for Bush…

    its the pos-graduates and high school or less that would mostly vote Kerry or Democrat (though high school or less swings around each election cycle)

  9. Oh I also would like to say that the Keating 5 had a full blown investigation in the late 80’s and McCain was exonerated.

    What more do you want? Or do you just want the TV to say “KEATING 5!” Every time a criticism of Obama pops up… wait they already do that.

  10. jstat-

    All things being equal…you lose.


  11. I would LOVE it if it could say KEATING 5 in gigantic letters every time the news media showed a picture of McCain. While we’re wishing for cool stuff, I would also love it if it could say TROOPERGATE across the screen every time Palin was on. It would also be cool if Tina Fey could be Palin in real life and Will Farrell could be Bush in real life because they are hilarious and the world really needs more laughter.

  12. Oh, and maybe McCain has more negative coverage because his numbers are declining and covering someone who is losing is less interesting than covering someone who is winning. In my opinion, negative vs positive coverage doesn’t prove bias. It might be just how the election is shaping up.

  13. I am surprised at the lack of distinction here between reporting staff and editorial staff. In any decent newspaper there is a thick wall between the two. Those who write editorials offer their opinions. Reporters report the news. If the news is negative so will the story be. Sorry to have to overstate the obvious.

    J STAT — any non partisan media will offer editorials from all sides. CNN does, the NY Times does, the Washington Post does. Charles Krauthammer, for example, endorsed McCain today in the Washington Post. I religiously read David Brooks in the Times. There is nothing fair and balanced about the Washington Times, FOXNEWS or Rush Limbaugh.

    J STAT — why must you resort to name calling to make your point? Can’t we keep this discussion civilized?

  14. Brian Williams has completed several interviews with Gov. Palin and Sen. McCain which has been shown on NBC Nightly News over several nights. IMHO, Palin came across very well and improved my opinion of her, not that my opinion counts. Yes, she is not ready but she has many admirable qualities, some of which surpass Biden. See for each of several parts.

    Who would have guessed, J Stat, that her best interviews have come form MSNBC? (Not counting the softballs from FOXNEWS.) IMHO the question from Gibson about Bush Doctrine was absurd. Which Bush Doctrine?

    Did I accurately hear today that Palin said the VP was in charge of the U. S. Senate?

  15. @Moderate

    No I think you are missing my point, or at least we see things differently. FOXNews’s reporting is fair, in the sense that they offer both sides and just report. Then they have shows such as Bill O’ that are for commentary.

    Such a distinction is not made for CNN or MSNBC. Commentary and reporting are the same.

    Especially MSNBC, I take CNN as just another viewpoint, or whatever.. but NBC puts Matthews and Olbermann to report the news when they are as far left as you can get, at least Olbermann. Rush Limbaugh doesn’t say he’s fair, its not his job to be fair, its his job to give his opinion.

    Same with Olbermann’s countdown show, clearly that is a show for commentary and I can choose whether or not I agree with him, which if I do will keep me watching. (apparently not many do as NBC’s ratings are crushed by CNN and Foxnews) However, for post-debates and such Olbermann is put in the desk to report things as fact, when its anything but fact.

    CNN puts Anderson Cooper most of the time, and FOXNews does the emotion-less Brit Hume. Its bias from NBC that I am referring to.

    As for CNN, they have 3 minutes of “reporting” and the rest of the half hour sent out to its commentators, such as to avoid the criticisms I just mentioned about NBC, but at least they tell you its an opinion.

    So yes, I believe Foxnews is the better alternative, and is as fair as it gets in terms of pure reporting.

    David Brooks is a fraud. The fact that he writes for the NYT should give you a clue as to how much a phony the guy is. He’s never supported conservative ideals, and is always pushing for a “moderate” republican party.

    He’s a “me-too conservative” which this article very accurately points out.

  16. J Stat,

    And who appointed you as the arbitrator of what a Republican is or should be. By calling Brooks and others like him a fraud you also impugn William F. Buckley and so many others conservation bastions. One of the many reasons why the Republican Party will lose so much in this election is exactly because you, The Party and the “with us or against us” mentality have driven out moderates like me.

    If you did read the NY Times you would find that 1) the reporting is as unbiased as any major newspaper in the country. 2) the op-eds contain everything from very liberal to very conservative and 3) the editorial board tends to be liberal. You make the distinction for FOXNEWS about separating reporting from editorial. Why not other major media? BTW, the NY Times reporting dedicated more column inches to White Water than any other story in any other publication that I can remember. Ditto many other Pres. Clinton so-called scandals. As someone else pointed out, reporters could care less about party or bias; only what will make them headlines and gain market share.

    I don’t listen to Matthews or O’Reilly and consider them both rude people. I do respect Limbaugh and often agree with his analysis of the problem but differ on the solution. Maybe FOXNEWS is only biased in the morning time slot. “Fox and Friends” that I happen to have seen many times over the last three months talked about little more than Ayers, Acorn, those terrible Obama negative ads and other anti-Obama stories but nothing but good stuff about McCain. And then there was the time where FOXNEWS asked me if Obama or McCain’s economic policies and plans would be better for me. And they answered by putting on Steve Forbes, Mr. Flat tax, who said: surprise, surprise that … well you get the drift. Where any other opinions offered as you suggest? Nope. And then there was the softball interview of Gov. Palin by H&C. Nothing even close to this on CNN. Ad Nauseum.

    My favorite TV program is one the far right loves to bash – The Jim Lehrer Report where every issue is covered by representatives of both side and I can decide which side I agree with. BTW, I am a strong fiscal conservative (Republicans are no longer that but neither are the Democrats), believe in smaller government, and am more liberal on some social issues like abortion, taxes, energy and the environment but not Welfare etc.

    And, J Stat, thanks for not trying to label me or call me names. It is appreciated.

  17. Moderate, I apologize that your comments aren’t appearing as quickly as you are posting them. For whatever reason, the blog software thinks that some of your posts are spam, so I have to go in and de-spam them.

    I will check the spam que more often. Maybe it’s the email address or other info you put into the post. I dunno.

  18. Hey moderate I never said Brooks doesn’t deserve to be a Republican, but I don’t believe he is a conservative. The Times chose the farthest republican from the right wing ideology as they could get so they could say ‘We have David Brooks!!!” when they are criticized. The Times bias is well documented, and their CEO, I believe, openly admitted the bias a few years ago.

    A few notes that I wish to make about your statements…

    The H&C interview was a Sean Hannity interview, Colmes (the liberal) didn’t talk to her, however he was allowed a sizable margin of the hour long program afterward to give his thoughts.

    I must ask if you watch the O’ Reilly Factor? I mean more than three episodes. Because he has his explosions with guys like Barney Frank (youtube that its hilarious), but in general he’s very fair. In fact if you respect Limbaugh, Reilly should be a cake walk which is why I ask if you have watched his show.

    The Factor asks members from both parties, and those he is accusing, to come on the show and share their thoughts. Unlike Olbermann who only invites those who support his agenda. If you don’t believe me okay, but if you look it up statistically, its about 55 Republicans, 45 Democrats that have been on the O Reilly Factor and the only show that has had a better ratio than that is H&C (Go figure). Don’t take my word, watch the show for yourself.

    Matthews is a crude person. I take him over Olbermann, but thats about it. And Rachel Maddow.

    Fox and Friends can be favorable to the conservatives, I agree. And Lehrer I am not dead set against, just as I am not dead set against CNN. Its the far left networks like NBC and newspapers that I am referring to when I say liberal media.

    I think the media helps the Democrats. I don’t believe that is debatable. I do NOT believe, however, that the conservatives are unable to get their voices heard. Talk Radio and FOXNews have ended the long liberal monopoly, which is a good thing. (By the way, the Fairness Doctrine is a direct attempt to silence Limbaugh and others, Pelosi supports it)

  19. JStat: I am trying really hard, but I am still not getting how people like you actually think Fox News is really fair and balanced. I literally laugh out loud sometimes when I try to watch it because it is so far right. And it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with conservative views. My dad was a serious Regan republican fiscal conservative and although I live in the Denver area now, I grew up in a highly conservative area. O’Reilly fair? Really?

  20. In terms of reporting, FOXNews is more fair and balanced than any other network. That’s what I said.

    In terms of commentators, it doesn’t matter. Olbermann can be as far left loony as he wants to be and so can O Reilly. Their shows depend on ratings, (Foxnews occupies 9 of the top ten ten! lol) but even with that said I must ask you the same question… Do you watch the show?

    “O’Reilly fair? Really?” – More fair than anyone else, but I doubt you even watch the show. So its pointless to debate it.

    The “far right” didn’t support the bailout. The “far right” thinks socialism is never the answer EVER. The “far right” still believes the War in Iraq was a great decision. All three of those O Reilly disagrees with.

    Oh and name any show on any other network that has both a liberal and a conservative host. You won’t find it on DNCTV (MSNBC) or CNN. (again I don’t fault CNN, I believe they tilt left but they try to be fair)

  21. I actually watch O’Reilly about once a week. Don’t make unfair assumptions about what I watch on TV. And, I don’t classify most major network hosts as either liberal or conservative. You and I may classify the far right differently as well.

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