Tom Brokaw's Strange Political Spectrum

Tom Brokaw's Strange Political Spectrum
by L. Brent Bozell III
October 23, 1997

The "Notable Quotables" newsletter (published by the Media Research Center, which I head) reprints statements made by the sages of journalism which demonstrate their proclivity to slant their news reports. In the mail the other day came a note from Tom Brokaw taking exception to NQ's citation of a recent "NBC Nightly News," specifically his report that "some women's groups feel that Promise Keepers, their warm and fuzzy ideology, is a mask for something more sinister." Brokaw protested. "The same broadcast also featured a Promise Keeper's wife, in her own words, no correspondent defending the concept [that the Promise Keepers were sinister]," he wrote. "I guess that was lost in your editing."

Overlook the rich irony of anyone in the network news business lecturing conservatives about selective editing. The suggestion that this story was balanced by this tit-for-tat formula provided the opportunity to visit the elements of bias overlooked by Mr. Brokaw:

1. What was the story about? It wasn't really a feature on the Promise Keepers, or their planned event in Washington. It dealt with controversy, specifically: Does Promise Keepers have a hidden political agenda? That puts PK squarely on the defensive, where at most it will be found not guilty of the charges.

2. Is the accusation credible? Head-scratch time: How can an organization that calls for it to hold large public rallies with participants making deliberately public commitments hide anything? Is it a secret tightly held by the millions who've attended these events? Is it help by PK's leaders and being thrust on several million unsuspecting souls - the "poor, uneducated, and easy to command" types?

3. The sinister agenda charge makes no sense. But the charge is being leveled nonetheless, and by "some women's groups" to boot. Who are these groups who, that phrase implies, represent the mainstream beliefs of women? You already know the answer: The National Organization for Women.

If there was ever a moment when the radical feminists of NOW looked stranger or more out of the mainstream than attacking Christian men committing themselves to their wives and children, I can't think of it. (Their rabid support for partial-birth abortion comes pretty close.) When Brokaw begins by just noting "some women's groups" think Promise Keepers are sinister, there's no liberal label, not the slightest hint that they might have a political agenda, and a far-left one at that. So who is hiding something here?

But here's how NBC's Jim Avila introduced a soundbite from NOW's Patricia Ireland: "There will be protesters, too, and as their fundamentalist doctrines become better known, [Promise Keeper] donations are dropping and rally attendance falling. Many women think the Promise Keepers are frightening. It's not just about returning to family and church - it's about controlling women." Given that the rally later generated one of the largest turnouts in the history of the Republic, it can safely be said that Jim Avila had no idea what he was talking about. And who are these "many women" who find PK "frightening"?

Avila wasn't finished: "And critics say there is more dangerous doctrine in the Promise Keepers agenda, that to some looks more right-wing than religious. [Founder] Bill McCartney spoke at anti-abortion rallies, calls homosexuality a sin, and his group has received money and support from Jerry Falwell, the Christian Coalition, and Pat Robertson." Who are these unlabeled "critics"? Avila aired Alfred Ross of the "Center for Democracy" - but had no reason to attach any kind of ideological label to him. Ross said: "Men supremacy is simply no more acceptable in our society than racial supremacy." So who is he? Actually, Ross works for the Center for Democracy Studies, which its web site explains, "was founded in June 1996 as a project of the Nation Institute" (as in the far-left Nation magazine) that works to "defend the democratic system from assaults by right-wing political and religious extremists." Oh.

All of which tells us what? An organization that enjoins men to honor their wives and children constitutes an "extremist" group with a "sinister" agenda in the eyes of mainstream, non-political "women's groups."

Tom Brokaw and Co. thus take a popular movement for simple traditional values and put it on the extreme right. By contrast, their opponents at "women's groups" and "centers for democracy" are solidly in the mainstream. Such a massive left-wing shift of the political spectrum is apparent to all but those who share those liberal beliefs, which is why Mr. Brokaw's statement entered the annals of "Notable Quotables."