Senate Dems Getting Wise to Media’s ‘Balance’ Bias?

There’s an interesting piece by Alexander Bolton in the Hill (8/3/11) that suggests Senate Democrats are frustrated by the Beltway media’s tendency to cover political standoffs between the parties as situations where everyone’s to blame.

Bolton writes:

This frustration boiled over during a Wednesday press conference on the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration and what Democrats call the GOP’s extortionist tactics.

The FAA had to temporarily lay off 4,000 workers because Senate Democrats and Republicans cannot agree to a reauthorization of the agency.

Democrats are angry that members of the media appear to be accepting the GOP argument that Democrats are to blame for the temporary shutdown.

Consider this moment with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and California’s Sen. Barbara Boxer:

“The fact is that you’ve got to dig a little bit behind the surface here of what this is really about,” said Boxer. “Whatever the issue is, this is about government by threats, government by one side making its demands.”

“And these folks falling for it,” Reid interjected, gesturing to the reporters in the Senate radio and television gallery.

The only reporter singled out is Jonathan Karl from ABC:

When Jonathan Karl, a correspondent for ABC News, asked why Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) had blocked a short-term FAA extension offered by Republicans on the Senate floor Tuesday, Democrats lost their patience.

“There’s a certain naivety that comes with your question,” said Boxer. “The story here today is the fact that our leader is reaching out to [House Speaker John] Boehner [R-Ohio] to say, ‘If we want to resolve a particular issue, whatever it might be, let’s talk about it,’ but not have one side say, ‘Take it or leave it or people will be out of work.’ And the essence of your question doesn’t understand that.”

If the criticism is that some reporters “accept GOP arguments,” then Jonathan Karl is one of the strongest examples–see this July Extra! piece about his history of parroting GOP talking points. Or his disgraceful “false balance” report likening Tea Party activists to a USAID administrator’s claim that cuts in humanitarian aid would cause deaths–a conclusion that led Karl to label him a “hothead.”

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.