Les Moonves, the president and CEO of CBS, took his wife, the former CBS news anchor Julie Chen, on a date on June 6 – to a star-studded Beverly Hills Democratic Party fundraiser starring President Obama. He told a reporter for the Los Angeles Times of his respect for Obama, whom he said “has shown great leadership” – by bringing his support for gay marriage out of the closet.
Did I mention he runs CBS News?
Moonves tried to say “I run a news division. I’ve given no money to any candidate.” No, of course not. He merely donated between $2,500 and $25,000 to the DNC “LGBT Leadership Council,” which will helpfully pass it along to the candidates of their choosing. Then he acknowledged what many have worked decades to emphasize, and which the likes of Moonves have steadfastly denied all along: “Ultimately, journalism has changed … partisanship is very much a part of journalism now."
Byron York of the Washington Examiner asked CBS spokesman Dana McClintock whether Moonves was referring to CBS News. McClintock sent back a four-word response: "No he was not." Of course not.
Moonves is living that leftist bias by his very appearance at a glitzy Hollywood DNC buckraking event. It had all the political finesse of former CBS anchor Dan Rather showing up at a Travis County Democratic Party fundraiser in Austin, Texas to please his eco-activist daughter Robin in 2001.
Democrat Dan had some curious things to say when exposed. Rather said he "wouldn't be surprised" if critics use the incident to call him a closet Democrat. "I'm going to get that criticism whether I deserve it or not." Rather claimed he hadn't realized beforehand that the event was a fundraiser.
Rather had the denial act down. As Bernie Goldberg said Monday on Fox, “If you hooked Dan Rather up to a lie detector machine and said, ‘Was there a liberal bias when you were the anchorman of the CBS Evening News,’ he would say no, and the needle wouldn't budge. I mean, he's not lying. He's delusional.”
That was then. Today, the denial of partisanship is ancient history at CBS.
Douglas Brinkley’s new biography of CBS News legend Walter Cronkite exposes the degree to which this partisan approach to politics has been part of the CBS DNA – forever.
In a shocking piece in Newsweek, Howard Kurtz announced that Cronkite pulled scams that could get an anchorman fired today.
Brinkley’s book unveiled the so-called “most trusted man in America” had secretly bugged a committee room at the 1952 Republican convention in Chicago. This, from the man who found the Watergate bugging to be horrific on the level of a constitutional crisis? Kurtz bluntly called it “a stunt of questionable legality that should have disqualified him from ever holding his subsequent powerful position of public trust.”
Few Barry Goldwater backers forget 1964, when Cronkite repeatedly smeared the GOP nominee. When Goldwater accepted an invitation to visit a U.S. Army facility in Germany, CBS hack Daniel Schorr said he was launching his campaign in “the center of Germany’s right wing.” Kurtz recalled that on the day of JFK’s assassination the year before, Cronkite nodded his head in thinly veiled contempt when handed a note on air that Goldwater said “no comment.” Never mind that Goldwater was attending his mother-in-law’s funeral that day.
In 1968, Cronkite met privately with Robert Kennedy in his Senate office. “You must announce your intention to run against Johnson, to show people there will be a way out of this terrible war,” said The Most Trusted Man in America. Soon afterward, Cronkite was awarded an exclusive interview in which Kennedy left the door open for a possible run—the very candidacy “Uncle Walter” urged him to undertake.
Kurtz concluded: “I am shaking my head at the spectacle of a network anchor secretly urging a politician to mount a White House campaign—and then interviewing him about that very question. This was duplicitous, a major breach of trust.”
As Brinkley said to Kurtz on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday, “Everybody had made a decision in America. They liked Walter Cronkite. They didn't want to hear anything negative about him. And the journalists, the press world thought of him as like the king daddy of the Fourth Estate, Uncle Walter -- almost a patriarchal figure to young reporters, so he had immunity.”
That immunity is dead. Cronkite’s image is in need of correction, as ultimately Rather's was. So, too, must the idea of objectivity at CBS “News” be vaporized once and for all, given Moonves’ public and unmistakeably partisan words and activities.
And still, CBS denies it has a bias.