Still Thrilled by Obama
Table of Contents:
Four years ago, the ABC, CBS and NBC morning shows celebrated the “rock star” Democrats running to replace George W. Bush, and no candidate set journalists’ pulses racing faster than Barack Obama. Now, after three years of high unemployment, trillion dollar deficits and an onerous new health care law, how are those newscasts covering Obama’s re-election campaign and the candidates vying to replace him?
To find out, Media Research Center analysts examined all 723 campaign segments which aired on the three broadcast network weekday morning programs from January 1 to October 31, 2011, using the same methodology we employed to study campaign coverage on those same programs for the same time period in 2007.
Four years ago, the network coverage promoted the Democratic candidates and cast their strong liberal views as mainstream. This year, our study finds the networks are disparaging the Republican candidates and casting them as ideological extremists:
- This year, network reporters have employed 49 “conservative” labels to describe the Republican candidates, compared with only one “liberal” label for President Obama.
- Four years ago, when Obama was a relatively unknown candidate, the morning shows also provided just a single “liberal” label to describe his ideology, and never once labeled Hillary Clinton, John Edwards or the other Democrats as “liberal.”
- By a 4-to-1 margin, ABC, CBS and NBC morning show hosts have employed an adversarial liberal agenda when questioning this year’s Republican candidates. But those same hosts’ questions for President Obama leaned in his direction, with mostly liberal-themed questions.
- Four years ago, questions for the Democratic candidates tilted by more than two-to-one to the left, a friendly agenda.
- In 2007, Democratic candidates were regularly tossed softball questions. This year’s interviews with Republicans have been much more caustic, with few chances for the candidates to project a warm and fuzzy image.
- Despite the poor economy and low approval ratings, the morning shows continue to treat Barack Obama as more of a celebrity than a politician, airing positive feature stories about the President and his family — a gift not bestowed on the conservative Republican candidates.
During the 2008 campaign, the network morning shows acted as cheerleaders for the Democratic field. This time around, they are providing far more hostile coverage of the various Republicans who are running, while treating Obama’s re-election campaign to the same personality-driven coverage that was so helpful to the then-Illinois Senator four years ago.
If the real decisions in our democracy are to be in the hands of voters, then the news media owe viewers a fair and unbiased look at the candidates in both parties. That means asking the candidates questions that reflect the concerns of both sides — liberals and conservatives alike. And the syrupy coverage awarded year after year to the Democrats’ celebrity candidates in no way matches the pretense of journalists holding both sides equally accountable, without fear or favor.