The media’s president

Rep. Lamar Smith Chairman, House Science Space, and Technology Committee
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As this year’s Election Day approaches, let’s take a look back at the last election and evaluate the media’s influence.

Since taking office, President Obama has enacted liberal policies that have increased spending, raised taxes and contributed to a record national debt.

It should come as no surprise that President Obama has enacted a liberal agenda since National Journal ranked him as the most liberal member of the Senate in 2007.

So why did Americans — who describe themselves as conservative rather than liberal by a margin of two-to-one — elect a liberal president in 2008?  It’s partly because Obama campaigned as a moderate.  But he also had help from a familiar liberal ally — the national media.

The 2008 presidential campaign featured the most one-sided news coverage in recent history.

News outlets essentially provided free advertising for Obama, giving him significantly more frequent and more favorable coverage than Sen. John McCain.  The Pew Research Center found that for 12 out of 13 consecutive weeks during the campaign, Obama was the presidential candidate most visible in the news.

It would have cost the Obama campaign many millions of dollars to buy the advertising that the media provided for free.

And the media didn’t just give Obama more free advertising than McCain; they also gave him far more campaign contributions.  Journalists who gave to Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign outnumbered those who contributed to McCain by 20-to-1, according to Investor’s Business Daily.

It’s no surprise, then, that campaign news coverage of Sen. McCain was three times more negative than coverage of then-Sen. Obama following the conventions, according to the nonpartisan Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Recently, leaked e-mail messages from an online forum for reporters and commentators called JournoList gave Americans a look behind the curtain of the national media — and the view isn’t pretty.

During the 2008 campaign, a group of journalists tried to protect then-Sen. Obama from a scandal that threatened his presidential campaign, according to messages obtained by The Daily Caller.

Journalists from Time, Politico, The Baltimore Sun and The New Republic, among others, expressed outrage over questions regarding Reverend Jeremiah Wright that Obama received during a debate.  Some of the journalists collaborated to shield Obama from his association with the radical preacher, according to The Daily Caller.

The facts show President Obama was clearly the media’s candidate in 2008.  But how did it impact the election?

President Obama won by about seven percent.  That means that if the media’s biased reporting changed the minds of just four voters out of every 100, the media determined the outcome of the election.

Such an impact is not hard to imagine.  Newsweek editor Evan Thomas once estimated that the liberal media’s influence in the 2004 presidential election was “worth maybe 15 points” to Sen. John Kerry’s campaign.  Surely it was worth at least half of this in 2008.

The media’s pro-Obama bias continued after he took office.  For example, the nonpartisan Center for Media and Public Affairs found that 58 percent of all network news evaluations of President Obama early in his term were favorable; only 33 percent of early assessments of President Bush were favorable.

The conclusion is clear.  The national media helped get President Obama elected and then gave him close to a free pass once he took office.  And polls show that Americans recognize that the media will try to impact this November’s election as well.

More than seven in 10 Americans say that news sources are biased, according to the Pew Research Center.

Just eight percent of Americans trust the media, according to a Zogby public opinion poll.

And a Rasmussen public opinion poll found that by a margin of more than three-to-one, Americans say the average reporter is more liberal than they are, rather than more conservative.  And by almost the same margin, Americans think reporters are trying to help President Obama pass his agenda.

If the 2008 election is any indication, the national media will continue to try to elect liberal candidates in the 2010 election.  Americans should ignore the media’s spin and the media should give voters the facts, not tell them what to think.

Lamar Smith (R-TX) is chairman of the congressional Media Fairness Caucus.