Jewish World Review Sept. 20, 2004 / 5 Tishrei, 5764

Thomas Sowell

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Rather not | CBS newscaster Dan Rather apparently thinks that the best defense is a good offense. After an ever-growing number of document experts have turned up an ever-growing number of discrepancies to indicate that the document he relied on to smear President Bush's National Guard service are forgeries, Rather now demands that the President "answer the questions" raised by his 60 Minutes broadcast.

Think about it. If this or any other President of the United States spent his time answering all charges made in the media, including charges based on forged documents, there would be no time left to do anything else.

To say that Dan Rather has often shown poor judgment would be an understatement comparable to saying that hurricanes are windy. This is the same man who flew to Baghdad to interview Saddam Hussein on the eve of the 2003 invasion, providing the Iraqi dictator with a worldwide propaganda outlet in which to promote his murderous regime.

This is the same Dan Rather who once broadcast a pronouncement that a "startling number of American children are in danger of starving" because "one out of eight American children is going hungry tonight." This was based on another unreliable source — and Rather's own hasty conclusions.

Some left-wing advocacy group had asked parents whether they had, at any time during the previous year, fed their children less, or less of a variety of foods, because they were short of money. In other words, did you ever feed the kids hot dogs, when you would like to have given them steak and potatoes and a salad and dessert?

Apparently one out of eight parents said that this had happened at some time or other during the previous year. From this Dan Rather concluded that one out of eight children was going to bed hungry each night — and was in danger of starving!

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It is amazing how little evidence is necessary for media liberals to believe things that fit their vision. Had Rather checked other sources, he might have discovered that there was no significant difference in the intake of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients from one income level to another, except that obesity — not starvation — was more common at low income levels.

In today's memorandum forgery controversy, Dan Rather says that he is not the issue, Bush is. This may be a clever tactic to deflect the growing criticism, but half of his statement is right. It is not just Rather or CBS News whose credibility has been damaged. This exposes media bias in general.

The one-sidedness of the media was demonstrated in a recent New York Times poll that showed Beltway journalists as being for Senator John Kerry by 12 to 1. Some may claim that, however they vote, this does not stop them from reporting the news straight. But there is too much evidence that it does.

Evan Thomas of Newsweek is a liberal, but he is also candid enough to admit that there is a liberal bias in the way news is reported. He estimates that this bias is worth 15 percentage points in the polls for Democrats.

If so, then Senator Kerry's poll numbers would be 15 points lower than they are — which means he would be completely out of it — if the media reported the news straight. But, with the liberal media spinning the news his way, Kerry is still in the running.

Maybe that is why CBS' "60 Minutes" has run story after story about what George W. Bush supposedly did or did not do in the National Guard more than 30 years ago — and why they seem not to have been too finicky about their evidence.

The big question is how long the public will stand by the three big broadcast networks that used to have a virtual monopoly of television news and public affairs programs. Just last month, for the first time, a cable network — Fox News — had a larger audience for its broadcast of the Republican convention than any of the established big three broadcast networks had.

Fox News' motto — "We report, you decide" — is apparently attracting viewers who are wising up to the slanted reporting in the mainstream media. Talk radio and Internet blog sites are also claiming their share of the declining audience for news from CBS, ABC, and NBC.

It's about time!

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JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, "Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One." (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) To comment please click here.


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