Is the news media’s treatment of Herman Cain an example of media bias?

What is the simplest explanation for these differences?
What is the simplest explanation for these differences?

From Newsbusters.

Excerpt:

Over a period of just three and a half days, NBC, CBS and ABC have developed an insatiable hunger for the Herman Cain sexual harassment story, devoting an incredible 50 stories to the allegations since Monday morning. In contrast, over a similar period these networks mostly ignored far more substantial and serious scandals relating to Bill Clinton.

[…]In comparison, over a similar three-day period these same programs were far less interested in charges against Democrat Bill Clinton. After Paula Jones held a public press conference in February of 1994, there was only one report on her allegations.

Following Kathleen Willey’s July 1997 claims of being groped by the President, there were a mere three reports. For Juanita Broaddrick, who came forward in February of 1999 to say Clinton raped her, only three stories followed charges appearing in the Wall Street Journal.

It should also be pointed out that all these women offered their names. They weren’t anonymous. Additionally, the accusations of assault and rape go far beyond what’s being mentioned with the Cain scandal.

Cain has a new ad out that calls the media out for media bias:

The news media doesn’t want Cain to be President. Why not? What is the most obvious reason for this egregious case of media bias?

Understanding sexual harassment laws and incentives

ECM sent me this interesting article by a trial lawyer who specializes in these lawsuits.

Excerpt:

When you consider that, more than a decade ago, Herman Cain settled some unspecified sexual-harassment claims, you also need to consider that the only things you need to file a lawsuit are the filing fee and a printer. Facts are optional.

Maybe Cain did harass some employees. But the dirty little secret among lawyers that defend business people from lawsuits — and among those lawyers who bring them — is that an enormous percentage of such claims are frivolous, if not flat-out lies.

Concepts like “truth” and “justice” have little meaning in the world of big-money litigation. Thanks to ravenous plaintiffs’ lawyers empowered by the politicians they buy with campaign contributions, every business person is in the crosshairs.

[…]Lawsuits are so expensive to defend that it makes good business sense to settle even the most frivolous cases. And businesses do.

TV and movies would have you believe that most lawsuits end up with a jury hearing the evidence and rendering a verdict. That almost never happens. Close to 97 percent of civil cases never see a courtroom. The vast majority settle, with the business paying good money to end the nightmare — money that could have gone to hiring struggling young people, buying new equipment or expanding.

And, as Herman Cain has learned, you never really can buy your peace. The accusers apparently signed nondisclosure agreements so that Cain and his company could put the accusations behind them. A lot of good that did. Whether it was the accusers or others who revealed the claims, the effort to buy peace now looks like wasted money.

In the world of sexual-harassment law, the accusations are bad enough. You’re guilty until proven innocent. The law is skewed toward the plaintiffs — it’s hard to get even the silliest charges tossed out, and even then it often costs upward of six figures to do so.

Businesses almost never collect their legal fees back after defeating frivolous claims, but a winning plaintiff usually does. And when the lawyer is working on a contingency, taking 40 percent or more of the haul and fronting the costs of the suit, there’s little incentive not to march down to the courthouse and file even the flimsiest case.

I’ve written before about the epidemic of false rape accusations – a recent Purdue University study has shown that 40-50% of rape accusations are false. Not unproven, but false – just like with the Duke University lacrosse team and the stripper. That post I linked to is filled with news stories of women recanting false rape charges. The same thing happens in divorces when women want to get custody of the children and the child support dollars. The easiest thing in the world to do is to make a false charge of child abuse – it never even goes to trial.

Excerpt:

A mother who consults a divorce attorney will be advised that her best chance of gaining custody is simply to take the children and all their effects and leave without warning. If she has no place to go, she will be told that by accusing the father of sexual or physical abuse, however vaguely (often simply stating that she is “in fear”), she can easily obtain a restraining order immediately forcing him out of the family home. She will also learn that even if her claims are false, there are no legal consequences she will face for making them; her trumped-up accusations cannot even be used against her in a custody decision. In fact, they work so strongly in her favor that failure to advise a female client of these options may constitute legal malpractice.

Far from being punished for child-snatching and false accusations, then, she is almost certain to be rewarded. Mothers who abduct children and keep them from their fathers, with or without abuse charges, are routinely given immediate “temporary” custody. But it is almost never “temporary.” Once a mother has custody, it cannot be changed without a lengthy (and, for the lawyers involved, lucrative) court battle. The sooner and the longer she can establish herself as the sole caretaker, the more difficult and costly it is to dislodge her. Further, the more she cuts the children off and alienates them from the father, slings false charges, delays the proceedings, and obstructs his efforts to see his children, the better her chance for obtaining sole custody. She can then claim child support and perhaps her own legal fees from the father.

We can’t fly off the handle based on anonymous charges. We have to wait for the evidence. There are lot of people who want Cain to lose, and those people will say anything. And they don’t have to prove any of it to hurt him in the polls.

What do studies tell us about mainstream media bias?

Now let’s take a look at media bias in general.

Here’s a UCLA study on media bias.

Excerpt:

Of the 20 major media outlets studied, 18 scored left of center, with CBS’ “Evening News,” The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ranking second, third and fourth most liberal behind the news pages of The Wall Street Journal.

Only Fox News’ “Special Report With Brit Hume” and The Washington Times scored right of the average U.S. voter.

The most centrist outlet proved to be the “NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.” CNN’s “NewsNight With Aaron Brown” and ABC’s “Good Morning America” were a close second and third.

“Our estimates for these outlets, we feel, give particular credibility to our efforts, as three of the four moderators for the 2004 presidential and vice-presidential debates came from these three news outlets — Jim Lehrer, Charlie Gibson and Gwen Ifill,” Groseclose said. “If these newscasters weren’t centrist, staffers for one of the campaign teams would have objected and insisted on other moderators.”

The fourth most centrist outlet was “Special Report With Brit Hume” on Fox News, which often is cited by liberals as an egregious example of a right-wing outlet. While this news program proved to be right of center, the study found ABC’s “World News Tonight” and NBC’s “Nightly News” to be left of center. All three outlets were approximately equidistant from the center, the report found.

“If viewers spent an equal amount of time watching Fox’s ‘Special Report’ as ABC’s ‘World News’ and NBC’s ‘Nightly News,’ then they would receive a nearly perfectly balanced version of the news,” said Milyo, an associate professor of economics and public affairs at the University of Missouri at Columbia.”

Here’s a Harvard University study on media bias.

Excerpt:

The programming studied on Fox News offered a somewhat more positive picture… of Republicans and more negative one of Democrats compared with other media outlets. Fox News stories about a Republican candidate were most likely to be neutral (47%), with the remainder more positive than negative (32% vs. 21% negative). The bulk of that positive coverage went to Giuliani (44% positive), while McCain still suffered from unflattering coverage (20% positive vs. 35% negative).

When it came to Democratic candidates, the picture was more negative. Again, neutral stories had a slight edge (39%), followed by 37% negative and 24% positive. And, in marked contrast from the rest of the media, coverage of Obama was twice as negative as positive: 32% negative vs. 16% positive and 52% neutral.

But any sense here that the news channel was uniformly positive about Republicans or negative about Democrats is not manifest in the data.”

From the Washington Examiner, a study of the political contributions made by the mainstream media.

Excerpt:

Senior executives, on-air personalities, producers, reporters, editors, writers and other self-identifying employees of ABC, CBS and NBC contributed more than $1 million to Democratic candidates and campaign committees in 2008, according to an analysis by The Examiner of data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Democratic total of $1,020,816 was given by 1,160 employees of the three major broadcast television networks, with an average contribution of $880.

By contrast, only 193 of the employees contributed to Republican candidates and campaign committees, for a total of $142,863. The average Republican contribution was $744.

[…]The data on contributions by broadcast network employees was compiled by CRP at the request of The Examiner and included all 2008 contributions by individuals who identified their employer as one of the three networks or subsidiaries. The data does not include contributions by employees of the three networks who did not identify their employer.

The CRP is the organization behind OpenSecrets.org, the web site that for more than a decade has put campaign finance data within reach of anybody with an Internet connection.

President Obama received 710 such contributions worth a total of $461,898, for an average contribution of $651 from the network employees. Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain received only 39 contributions totaling $26,926, for an average donation of $709.

And more from a study done by the radically leftist MSNBC.

Excerpt:

MSNBC.com identified 143 journalists who made political contributions from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign, according to the public records of the Federal Election Commission. Most of the newsroom checkbooks leaned to the left: 125 journalists gave to Democrats and liberal causes. Only 16 gave to Republicans. Two gave to both parties.

The donors include CNN’s Guy Raz, now covering the Pentagon for NPR, who gave to Kerry the same month he was embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq; New Yorker war correspondent George Packer; a producer for Bill O’Reilly at Fox; MSNBC TV host Joe Scarborough; political writers at Vanity Fair; the editor of The Wall Street Journal’s weekend edition; local TV anchors in Washington, Minneapolis, Memphis and Wichita; the ethics columnist at The New York Times; and even MTV’s former presidential campaign correspondent.

And here’s a bit from that same article about The New Yorker:

The last bulwark against bias’s slipping into The New Yorker is the copy department, whose chief editor, Ann Goldstein, gave $500 in October to MoveOn.org, which campaigns for Democrats and against President Bush. “That’s just me as a private citizen,” she said. As for whether donations are allowed, Goldstein said she hadn’t considered it. “I’ve never thought of myself as working for a news organization.”

Those are the facts.

So what?

Now consider this column from Brent Bozell, which explains the difference media bias makes to political intelligence.

Excerpt:

The Republican presidential contest is picking up steam. Obama is consistently polling under 50 percent. This one’s a toss-up, and in the thick of it is the Fox News Channel. It’s not just their role in hosting and vetting the candidates. It’s their role as the chief villain in the eyes of liberal Democrats struggling to push their version of the “truth” about Obama.

Jon Stewart rhetorically asked Chris Wallace about Fox on “Fox News Sunday, because he thought he knew the answer: ”Who are the most consistently misinformed media viewers? The most consistently misinformed? Fox, Fox viewers, consistently, every poll.”

In the real world – outside Stewart’s smug bubble – this is garbage. A 2008 survey by the Pew Research Center asked media consumers three questions: which party was in control of Congress (Democrats), who was the secretary of state (Condi Rice) and who was the prime minister of Britain (Gordon Brown).

Let’s document how the viewers of “Hannity &Colmes” were better informed than Stewart’s “Daily Show”  gigglers on basic political facts. Hannity viewers beat Stewart’s on the Democratic majority (84 percent to 65 percent correct answers), Condi Rice (a dramatic 73 percent to 48 percent gap) and Gordon Brown (49 percent to 36). Overall, as a percentage getting all three questions right, Hannity won 42-30.

Just keep that in mind when you are watching the mainstream media news shows. A very good site to bookmark and read is Newsbusters, which documents mainstream media bias daily. I even have an RSS feed of their latest stories on the front page on this blog.

UPDATE: New York Times cites abortion advocates as neutral sources.

5 thoughts on “Is the news media’s treatment of Herman Cain an example of media bias?”

  1. Great points about the stats and the bias, but even if he is innocent I’m disappointed in Cain for how he has bumbled this. It is hard to imagine a more amateur response.

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    1. Clinton asked for a definition of sex and it was defined by the congress as male genital to female genital contact only. There was no male genital to female genital contact between Lewinsky and Clinton according to both parties. So by the legal guidelines framed by congress, Clinton was not lying – he did not have sex with Lewinsky. Had congress not been a pack of prudes (remember, Christians in most states have successfully classified blowjobs as sodomy – you can google it, I’ll leave the links out so wintery’s site doesn’t have the “wrong” type of links per google), they would have wisely defined sex to be anything involving either parties genitalia (and maybe anal) regions having deliberate contact with any other part of the other participating party’s body.

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  2. One more thing to add to the mix. It is not the same but worth considering.

    John Edwards had an affair while his wife had cancer… the media did not seem to cover this all that much at the time. What if Cain were having an affair now? How much coverage would there be?

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