Pro-Obama bias and soft-focus hagiographies of the candidate are such common tropes that they’ve been lampooned by Saturday Night Live and the Onion. During the Democratic primaries, it was clear that the press was more enamored of Barack Obama than of Hillary Clinton. But similar assumptions about media coverage of the general election—that its bears traces of Nixon vs. Kennedy, with the press giving the mediagenic Obama a pass and training its guns on the stodgy, less PR-savvy John McCain—may be off the mark.
George Mason University's Center for Media and Public Affairs, which has previously released studies touted by conservative commentators to bolster their accusations of a liberal media bias, has just published new evidence of a mainstream media bias against Barack Obama. (Liberal bloggers gripe that these same conservative commentators might “accidentally not notice” the new report.)
The study’s author is Robert Lichter, a Fox News contributor who authored the aforementioned reports alleging a liberal media bias. But now he finds that when anchors and reporters on the big three networks ventured opinions about Obama, “28 percent of the statements were positive for Obama and 72 percent negative,” with a much narrower margin for McCain. And that’s not even taking into account Fox News’ more brazenly biased Obama coverage.
Meanwhile, the Tyndall Report states that Obama has received more than twice as much network airtime as McCain, but James Rainey of the L.A. Times points out that while such airtime may be ample, it’s not always favorable—just cast your mind back to the Jeremiah Wright “scandal.”
Rainey also echoes an old but probably accurate explanation for Lichter’s findings: News organs are concerned about being accused of liberal bias by the Hannitys and O’Reillys of the world, so they swing too far to the other extreme.