When Nonsense Is Your Reality, Reality Naturally Seems to Have a Slant

Washington Post ombud Patrick Pexton (9/30/12) presents conservative opinion as a prima facie case for a left-wing slant in corporate news media: “Republicans think the news media are being too easy on Barack Obama…. Everyone sees more bias, and Republicans see it more than other groups.”

WaPo ombud Patrick Pexton

Patrick Pexton

Offering this as evidence of a left media bias is, of course, highly dubious. Sixty-seven percent of Republicans say that humans aren’t warming the planet. Sixty-three percent still maintain that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction.  Fifty-eight percent of Republicans “believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years,” according to Gallup. People who adhere to false beliefs are likely to falsely perceive a slant in truthful reporting.

On the subject of Obama, 34 percent of conservative Republicans think he’s a Muslim. Sixty-four percent of Republicans believe he wasn’t born in the United States. Why wouldn’t people under such delusions think that media were being soft on Obama by accepting the reality that he’s a Hawaii-born Christian?

To be sure, Pexton isn’t offering the right-wing view of media as proof that media are left-wing–only as substantiation for his own perception of a leftward slant at the paper he works for:

With the exception of Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza, who cover politics in a nonpartisan way, the news columnists almost to a person write from left of center…. If the Post wants to wrap its news in commentary, fine, but shouldn’t some of those voices then be conservative?

You may remember Dan Balz as the guy who called Newt Gingrich “an idea-spewing machine,” a “one-man think tank” with a “keen intellect” who has “remained in the forefront of the public policy debate over a span of decades.” Cillizza, on the other hand, is one of the two Post writers who jeered that “Mad Bitch” was the appropriate beer for Hillary Clinton to drink.

But we’ll grant that both Balz and Cillizza are what corporate media deem to be “centrists,” of the Democrats-should-move-to-the-right, money-should-determine-who-gets-to-debate variety. What’s more puzzling is Pexton’s idea of who qualifies as “left of center.”

Ezra Klein, sure–though I think Klein is totally sincere when he writes that he would like very much to be a centrist. And the Post has tried hard to balance its left-leaning blogger, hiring first Dave Weigel (who had to step down when caught straying from  conservative orthodoxy), then  Ben Domenech (dropped amidst plagiarism charges) before finally settling on Jennifer Rubin. Rubin, too, would no doubt be on the Post‘s front page if she did the kind of reporting Klein does.

But does Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein “generally write from a progressive perspective”? The guy who wrote that what American workers need is a pay cut (and maybe another depression)?

Walter Pincus would be more accurately described as generally writing from the CIA’s perspective.

And Dana Milbank–Dana Milbank?

Dana Milbank (photo by Matthew Bradley)

Dana Milbank (Matthew Bradley)

Milbank was the other half of the Post‘s “Mad Bitch” duo. Milbank red-baited the Progressive Caucus for calling its deficit-reduction plan “the People’s Budget,” saying it “conveyed an unhelpful association with ‘the people’s republic’ and other socialist undertakings.” He similarly sneered at single-payer advocates (“socialism is not dead”) and mocked Rep. Dennis Kucinich as a “leprechaun.”

He defended White House press secretary Robert Gibbs’ assertion that Obama’s progressive critics “ought to be drug-tested,” writing that “Gibbs and his colleagues have reason to be frustrated by the constant carping from the professional and semi-pro left.”

If Milbank is Pexton’s idea of a “progressive perspective,” it’s no wonder he perceives a left-wing slant at the Washington Post.

Patrick Pexton can be reached at ombudsman@washpost.com or on Twitter @WaPoOmbudsman.


About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.