Conservatives ‘Work the Refs,’ Chapter Eleventy Billion

Following the 1992 GOP convention, FAIR’s magazine Extra! (11/92) highlighted remarks made by Rich Bond in which the then-Republican national chair explained the strategy behind the right’s relentless charges of liberal media bias:

There’s some strategy to it. I’m the coach of a kids’ basketball team and Little League Teams. If you watch any great coach, what they try to do is “work the refs.” Maybe the ref will cut you a little slack next time.

In a recent appearance on MSNBC‘s Hardball With Chris Matthews (10/19/09), Pat Buchanan gave a first-hand account of how the strategy paid off for him and at least one other member of the Nixon administration:

BUCHANAN: I know when we hit the New York Times, for example, in the ’60s, all of a sudden, they blossomed with an op-ed page that had some conservatives on it and conservative voices there, and all the other newspapers did, as well.

MATTHEWS: That’s how you got Bill his job. Is that how you got Bill Safire his job?


BUCHANAN: Well, listen, they went out looking for conservative–that’s how I got my job! Create a vacuum out there and a real demand, you’ve got to put these people on, Chris, and go to work and….

Like Bond, Buchanan acknowledges that the ploy is disingenuous: In a Los Angeles Times interview (3/14/96) during his 1996 campaign for president, Buchanan praised the media for fairness: “I’ve gotten balanced coverage and broad coverage…. For heaven sakes, we kid about the liberal media, but every Republican on Earth does that.”

And of course it helps that the corporate media is acutely sensitive to charges of liberal bias–regardless of whether they are true or not.

About Steve Rendall

Senior Media Analyst and Co-producer of CounterSpin Steve Rendall is FAIR's senior analyst. He is co-host of CounterSpin, FAIR's national radio show. His work has received awards from Project Censored, and has won the praise of noted journalists such as Les Payne, Molly Ivins and Garry Wills. He is co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error (The New Press, 1995, New York City). Rendall has appeared on dozens of national television and radio shows, including appearances on CNN, C-SPAN, CNBC, MTV and Fox Morning News. He was the subject of a profile in the New York Times (5/19/96), and has been quoted on issues of media and politics in publications such as the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and New York Times. Rendall contributed stories to the International Herald Tribune from France, Spain and North Africa; worked as a freelance writer in San Francisco; and worked as an archivist collecting historical material on the Spanish Civil War and the volunteers who fought in it. Rendall studied philosophy and chemistry at San Francisco State University, the College of Notre Dame and UC Berkeley.