MediaWatch: February 1992

Vol. Six No. 2

PBS Omnipresence Scowls at Charges of Bias


Poor Bill Moyers. He spends his life serving as the moral umpire of the national conscience, dishing out criticism of our leaders' failures. But he can't take it. Witness Moyers' appearance at the annual PBS press tour on January 6 in California. In one press conference, Moyers protested "I have no agenda," "I tell you that I have no agenda," " I don't think I have an agenda," " I can't say that I have a political agenda," and finally, "I have no agenda."

After publicly declaring his supposed nonpartisanship, Moyers resentfully scowled at suggestions of liberal bias: "Anybody who looks at the bulk of my work over the last 20 years knows that it's a fallacious attack to find in it a left-wing agenda... they've been able to offer no substantive analysis of my work that would confirm their desire to label me, as I think he [conservative David Horowitz] said yesterday, 'a left-wing Democrat.'"

This comes from the man who spoke affectionately to a gathering of Democrats last March: "Down there in Texas, I was raised on mother's milk and Roosevelt speeches, and over the years, I still cherish the party's defining stands." Moyers even claimed: "Many of you have seen programs I've done which have been quite critical of Democrats." Yes, from the left. Take this criticism from last year's speech: "By the 1980s, when the Democrats in Congress colluded with Ronald Reagan and the Republicans to revise the tax code on behalf of the rich, it appeared the party had lost its soul."

Moyers offered reporters a new definition of liberalism: "Liberalism is not another program. What liberalism is, is a belief that a democracy like ours has to be tolerant. Has to open itself to ideas, that the answer to a bad idea is a better idea. Civility. I mean, I'd like to think that's what liberalism is. I define myself in that sense as a liberal." But the oh-so-tolerant Moyers also groused: "I find it very hard to have intelligent conversations with people on the right wing because they want to hit first and ask questions later. And I just simply don't let that criticism set my agenda." Earlier, Moyers had declared: "I have very strong opinions. Strong opinions mean strong enemies, and I have strong enemies, people who dislike my opinions, who don't believe they should be on public broadcasting." This from the man with no agenda.

Moyers topped all this off by announcing he would base two or three new programs this spring on the nine-part Philadelphia Inquirer series on how the middle class lost ground in the 1980s. The series won our December Janet Cooke Award for its liberal manipulation of statistics. Said Moyers: "I urge you all to read the 11-part [sic] Philadelphia Inquirer series."