It’s time for the folks at Britannica to replace whatever picture they’ve been using to illustrate “poetic justice” and insert Rachel Maddow’s picture in its place.
Last Friday, Fox News broadcast a special episode of the Sean Hannity program that promised to get “Behind the Bias,” of what he called the liberal, Obama-mania media. What was truly special about the show is that it came in second place to Rachel Maddow’s show on MSNBC. Maddow beat Hannity in the key advertising demographic of 25-54 year olds. How fitting for Hannity to lose to a liberal on the night he thought he would be exposing them.
Hannity began the program by saying…
“Now, it is common knowledge that the mainstream media, from the major television networks to the country’s most influential newspapers, are biased against the GOP.”
Common knowledge? Sure it is. It is common in that it is unexceptional or of inferior quality. And it is knowledge in the same way that lemmings “know” to follow their fellow lemmings off the cliff.
Hannity provided nothing in the hour-long program to support his opening assertion of bias against the GOP. He certainly didn’t address the fact that the top Sunday news broadcasts have featured far more Republicans than Democrats. And he failed to note that all three broadcast networks are owned by giant, multinational corporations with predictably conservative leanings. And there was no mention that even newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post advance conservative themes like support for Wall Street and foreign wars. And, of course, he didn’t discuss the role of Fox News itself as the preeminent organ of institutional bias and its being a part of a conservative empire that includes the Wall Street Journal, 27 television stations, dozens of newspapers, Internet sites, and satellite broadcasting.
The show was mainly a collection of incidents that Hannity regarded as bias. However, that does not actually prove bias. It only catalogs it. And since Hannity makes no effort to catalog all incidents of bias, including those on the right, he proves nothing. Furthermore, there is a difference between cataloging random, subjective soundbites by individuals, and conducting an objective content analysis that looks at the whole institution of the media. Hannity doesn’t come anywhere near that sort of examination.
In short, Hannity’s program on bias was blatantly biased. It would be easy to collect twice as many examples of right-wing media disparaging the left as Hannity presented directed at Republicans. But what is even worse is that Hannity had to manufacture some of his evidence of bias.
For instance, he played a clip of Katie Couric saying “Good morning. The Gipper was an airhead.” Hannity left that sentence fragment hanging with the implication that it was Couric expressing her own opinion. Had he played the clip for a few seconds longer, his audience would have heard her say “The Gipper was an airhead. That’s one of the conclusions of a new biography of Ronald Reagan that’s drawing a tremendous amount of interest and fire today.” She went on to say that the book’s conclusions were “startling” and that the author still thought Reagan was “a great president.” But Hannity chose to misrepresent a tiny slice of the comment in order to advance his phony premise.
It is heartening to know that Hannity’s hour of deceit was so poorly received. It is even more gratifying that he was beaten in the ratings by someone as conscientious and committed to honest discourse as Rachel Maddow.