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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Flood the Zone: Media Bias Watch on the Trent Lott Story

ABC News brings us up to speed on the Lott debacle. Liberal bias, or just dismal reporting?

After a recap of the birthday party tribute, we get this:

'Chilling Message’ and an Apology

Civil rights groups are outraged by Lott's comment. "It sends a chilling message to all people," said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., incoming chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

And today the NAACP demanded Lott resign as majority leader, calling his remarks blatant bigotry. "I think that's about as racist as you can get," said NAACP Executive Director Kwesi Mfume.

Well, as an aside, is Lott's comment really about as racist as you can get? Regardless, what about Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who were among the first prominent blacks to speak out? Bad reporting, or are these two insufficiently mainstream? Jesse ran for President, and Al is planning to.

Let's bash on. A recap of Lott's "I'm sorry if you were upset" apology, and then:

... some prominent Democrats don't believe Lott misspoke at Thurmond's centennial birthday.

"I understand that Senator Lott has made an apology, and he can apologize all he wants. It doesn't remove the sentiment that escaped his mouth that day at that party," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the newly elected House minority leader.

Former Vice President Al Gore, who is considering another run for the White House, said on CNN: "The statement was a racist statement ... I think it is good that he has apologized for it."

And after initially saying he understood how Lott could have verbally slipped at a microphone, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle took a tougher stance today. "Regardless of how he intended his statement to be interpreted, it was wrong to say it and I strongly disagree with it," said the South Dakota lawmaker.

Well, Al Gore gets buried amongst other Dems who came very late to the party. Why hide Al? He was criticizing Lott on Monday as the first, and for one day the only, mainstream Dem putting the heat on Lott - more of the anti-Gore bias that liberals claim as invalidation of the "liberal media bias" theory?

As to Nancy Pelosi and her profile in courage, here is a rival excerpt from the Associated Press:

Black Caucus members also demanded that fellow Democrats not play down the seriousness of the issue....

Later in the day, several top Democrats issued strong statements against Lott. Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, who on Monday said he accepted Lott's explanation that he never intended his remarks to be interpreted as they were, said that regardless of the intent, ``His words were offensive to those who believe in freedom and equality in America.''

...Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, who next month succeeds Gephardt as Democratic leader, said Lott ``can apologize all he wants. It doesn't remove the sentiment that escaped his mouth that day.''

Hmm, she seems a bit less like a leader in the AP version of events. But I can see why ABC might want to puff her up. And Daschle's 180 pirouette gets a virtual pass, although the ice skating judges applauded.

OK, back to ABC:

Conservatives Share Concerns

More worrisome for Lott is the reaction from some conservatives. "I think it was racially ignorant," said Robert P. George, an African-American syndicated columnist who writes from a conservative perspective. "It was historically ignorant and racially ignorant."

Conservative writers say Lott has damaged the Republican Party's efforts to reach out to black voters. But outgoing Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts, Congress's only black Republican, is giving Lott the benefit of the doubt.

"He went too far and I think he realizes that and I think that's why he apologized," Watts said.

Ahh, only black conservatives are irate! I had a vague suspicion that many on the NRO are white, that Bill Kristol was white, that Andrew Sullivan was white... oh, never mind. I'll just adjust my monitor to darken the pictures a bit.

So, ABC News, which broke this story deep in "The Note", now delivers instant air-brushing. Please.


Here is the CBS News wrap up, written Tuesday afternnoon. Very quickly, an outline:

Lott apologizes;
Black Caucus is upset;
Earlier, Gore was critical;
Jesse Jackson was critical;
More from Gore;
Background on Lott and the birthday party comment;
Jesse Jackson again - Lott should step down;
Kevin Martin of the African American Republican Leadership Council, said people were overreacting;
Daschle's defense of Lott;
Background on Thurmond;
Lott and the Council of Conservative Citizens.

Well, nothing about outrage on the Right, but also no reporting on reaction from the White House. The silence amongst Dem leaders is left to speak for itself. I think this story could fairly be described as tilting left, although it does not bash Gore.

UPDATE: A column on media bias from Michael Kelly.

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