The Ten Worst Media Distortions of Campaign 2004

The Networks Outrageous Convention Double Standard

The media’s bias was never clearer than when it came to the two party conventions. In Boston, network journalists touted Democratic speakers as “rock stars,” but at the Republican convention in New York those same reporters led the resistance.

Less than 24 hours before the GOP convention convened, Tom Brokaw on the August 29 NBC Nightly News warned viewers not to believe that Republicans were sensible centrists just because moderates like John McCain were on the stage: “Streetwise New Yorkers may call that the political equivalent of a popular con game in this tough town — three-card monte. But then,” he rued, “that’s a game in which the dealer almost always wins.”

The next night, Dan Rather began the CBS Evening News: “Tonight, inside a post-9/11 security fortress, the Republican Convention opens in New York to re-nominate George W. Bush and showcase the party’s, quote, ‘moderate side.’ Will voters buy it?” On the August 31 Inside Politics, CNN’s Judy Woodruff worried out loud: “Can the Republicans get away with putting these moderate speakers up there and saying, ‘Hey, we’re really more moderate than what a lot of people say we are’?”

klein090704CNN hated the convention speakers, too. On the September 1 NewsNight, political analyst Bill Schneider complained, “This is a very angry convention, it’s a very belligerent convention. I mean, I’ve covered 16 conventions.” He zeroed in on Zell Miller’s keynote address: “I’ve never heard such an angry speech.” A few minutes later, Time magazine writer Joe Klein, a CNN regular, also castigated Miller, a Democratic Senator who crossed party lines to endorse Bush: “I’ve been doing this for a fair number of years and I don’t think I’ve seen anything as angry or as ugly as Miller’s speech.”

But five weeks earlier, CNN and the rest of the liberal media were enthusiastic about the Democratic convention. ABC’s Charles Gibson began the July 27 Good Morning America by celebrating the Democrats’ energy: “I’ve been coming to conventions now since 1968, and I know they’re controlled and they’re scripted, but you can tell a lot about how energized a party is. And Monday night, for a convention, was rocking here. People were juiced like I don’t think I’ve seen at a convention ever before. This place really was moving last night.”

Over on CBS, morning co-anchor Hannah Storm was even more ecstatic: “In this sports-mad town, it was like the Celtics were playing in a championship game here at the Fleet Center last night. It was absolutely electric. Good morning to all of you. It was just rocking here last night,” she began the July 27 Early Show.

TextBox4 NBC’s Brokaw, who would later complain about GOP “con games,” swooned over Bill Clinton’s opening night speech July 26. “The Democratic Party is off to its start here in Boston by bringing out their biggest rock star. They call him Elvis, and not for nothing,” Brokaw raved. Following Tuesday night’s keynote address by liberal Senate candidate Barack Obama, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews gushed that he’d “just seen the first black President.”

Most of the applause was saved for the candidates, however. Following John Edwards’ speech on Wednesday, July 28, CBS’s John Roberts admired how “just the personality that Edwards exudes when he comes to these events is something that’s pretty infectious with these delegates. And I talked to one delegate yesterday who says ‘you know, I’m coming to like John Kerry but I haven’t yet fallen in love with him, but I will tell you this: I have fallen in love with John Edwards.’ It’s obvious the charisma out there gets to everybody here in the Fleet Center.”

During live coverage on July 29, ABC reporter Dan Harris gushed how he watched John Kerry deliver his acceptance speech while “standing next to the young speech writer who worked with Kerry on this speech....The look on his face: Rhapsody throughout.” On CBS, Dan Rather championed how there was “an almost literal thunder inside the hall, shaking the Fleet Center in a way that it seldom shakes, if ever, even during a Celtics basketball playoff game.” Bob Schieffer echoed Rather: “This is the best speech I have ever heard John Kerry make. I listened to a lot of speeches back there in the primary. This was the best. This was a very deft critique of policy.”