Monday, June 22, 2009

Media Bias - ABC and the White House

I have developed a second track for this blog called "Media Bias." Even though the thrust of the blog is primarily the Constitution, specifically the First Amendment, I believe that the way the media presents that issue is slanted and contributes to furthering the misunderstanding the public has about the First Amendment.

Many eyebrows were raised this week when it was learned that ABC News was essentially turning over its programming on June 24 to the White House. The news will be anchored from within the White House, and there will be a "town hall" meeting from there discussing the President's health care plan. In my memory this is unprecedented. Even more interesting is the fact that ABC is not only refusing to broadcast an opposing (i.e. Republican) point of view, they will not even accept paid advertising that presents a different point of view.

Perhaps my readers can think back to the 8 years of President George W. Bush. Can anyone recall and of the three networks turning over so much broadcast to present the President's side of the issue? ABC says there will be both points of view represented at the town hall portion, but keep in mind the venue: the White House. That's a tremendous "home court advantage" for the President. How do you suppose the press would have reacted if President Bush has suggested debating Senator Kerry in 2004 from within the White House?

So what do we conclude? Could it be that ABC is biased on this issue? Some inference could be made from the following two charts. The first shows the positive vs. negative coverage ABC has given to the President's health plan. The second shows the balance of the political contributions made in the last election by ABC News staff.

The Chief of Staff of the Republican National Committee, Ken McKay, sent the following protest to ABC News. It did not sway ABC's position.

Dear Mr. Westin:

As the national debate on health care reform intensifies, I am deeply concerned and disappointed with ABC's astonishing decision to exclude opposing voices on this critical issue on June 24, 2009. Next Wednesday, ABC News will air a primetime health care reform “town hall” at the White House with President Barack Obama. In addition, according to an ABC News report, GOOD MORNING AMERICA, WORLD NEWS, NIGHTLINE and ABC’s web news “will all feature special programming on the president’s health care agenda.” This does not include the promotion, over the next 9 days, the president’s health care agenda will receive on ABC News programming.

Today, the Republican National Committee requested an opportunity to add our Party's views to those of the President's to ensure that all sides of the health care reform debate are presented. Our request was rejected. I believe that the President should have the ability to speak directly to the America people. However, I find it outrageous that ABC would prohibit our Party's opposing thoughts and ideas from this national debate, which affects millions of ABC viewers.

In the absence of opposition, I am concerned this event will become a glorified infomercial to promote the Democrat agenda. If that is the case, this primetime infomercial should be paid for out of the DNC coffers. President Obama does not hold a monopoly on health care reform ideas or on free airtime. The President has stated time and time again that he wants a bipartisan debate. Therefore, the Republican Party should be included in this primetime event, or the DNC should pay for your airtime.

Ken McKay, Republican National Committee
Chief of Staff

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