When In Doubt, Cry “Liberal Bias!”

In today’s news, Michelle Bachmann is protesting that she is not getting equal limelight in the GOP Presidential nomination debates, and that this injustice is driven by liberal reporters. Her campaign manager:

“We need to show the liberal media elite that we won’t stand for this outrageous manipulation.”

We have to remember where Representative Bachmann is coming from. For the last few years, this junior member of the House has owned the news airwaves. She may have enjoyed more blanket news coverage than any other member of Congress, with the possible exception of congressional leadership. Bachmann has become accustomed to saying outrageous things and becoming the center of attention for days on end. Heady stuff. But now after she says outrageous things at debates, indifferent reporters quickly move to “what say you, Mitt, Rick and Herman?” Getting blown off by fickle reporters is a new sensation for her.

Happier times.
Bachmann’s claim is partially correct. She is not getting equal debate billing with the frontrunners. We didn’t need an email from CBS News to tell us that. As always, candidates showing stronger support in polls are getting the most attention from reporters.

It is also true that the Bachmann fade during debates is driven in large part by reporters. They do not ask Bachmann as many questions or follow-ups as they do to Mitt, Rick and Herman. In a recent SNL skit, the reporter references “six people who will never be president but showed up anyway.” That satire pretty much sums up the attitude of reporters.

But where Congressman Bachmann has it wrong is her claim that this is rooted in the political ideology of the reporters involved.

The reason Bachmann is getting less attention during debates is that she polling at 4%. Four percent is the electoral real estate typically occupied by joke candidates like Ole Savior. THAT is why Michele Bachmann is not getting equal billing, not the political preferences of the reporters.

If liberal reporters were conspiring to harm conservatives, they would be trying to artificially PROP UP the minor candidates like Bachmann, Santorum, Paul and Huntsman to 1) keep the circular firing squad of conservative candidates as large as possible for as long as possible in order to damage and muddle the field and 2) take the media limelight away from Romney and Perry, the candidates who have the best shot of defeating President Obama, according to the polls.

If this were a liberal conspiracy, reporters also wouldn’t be giving roughly equal questioning to Bachmann and Jon Huntsman, the least conservative candidate in the field. And reporters wouldn’t have started to give more debate attention to Herman Cain, and now Newt Gingrich, the moment their poll performances improved. Clearly the polls steer the media spotlight, not the politics of the reporters.

I do feel Representative Bachmann’s pain. The polls do become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy as the campaign progresses, and that has to be frustrating. But Bachmann would be more credible if she would focus her argument on the overreliance of early polls, and left out the tired “liberal elite” part of her indictment.

– Loveland

3 thoughts on “When In Doubt, Cry “Liberal Bias!”

  1. The more I study media bias, the more it occurs to me that coverage tends towards the extremes because viewers “vote” with their eyeballs. We get a disproportionate amount of scrutiny on sexual harassment allegations for a variety of reasons, but one of them is certainly that the story line is driving viewership. Combined with the extensive amount of news “bandwidth” that simply needs to be filled, media outlets are motivated to keep a hot story alive by digging up all kinds of corner cases, then sensationalizing them as “new developments.” In contrast, giving Michelle Bachmann more air time than she has viewing interest does not make sense for the network. It’s an inexact science, but their job is to promote viewership … which drives ad revenue …which increases company profits, equity value, and personal paychecks.

    It’s tempting to see a conspiracy here, but I think this is mostly just capitalism in action.

  2. PM. says:

    Joe:
    If Mme. Bachmann was to follow your advice and decry the overreliance on early, meaningless polls (or the “horserace” approach to politics of the media), then she would be passing up the chance to play the victim card, which has become so popular among Republicans. We are regularly treated to this silly charade of the Republican candidates trying to out do each other over who is the real victim of the librul media. This pandering to conspiracy minded simpletons appears to be driving those early polls, by the way–look at the polling performance of the Hermannator for evidence.

  3. Joe Loveland says:

    And here the liberal media elite viciously grill the new frontrunner about the rationale for his opposition to the Obama Libya policy:

    Psst, Herman, four words: “Because Obama proposed it.”

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