Research for a new book out next week reveals an implicit bias present throughout the White House press corps: Reporters attending in-person briefings rank 12:1 Democrat to Republican.
In “Suppression, Deception, Snobbery, and Bias: Why the Press Gets So Much Wrong―And Just Doesn’t Care,” Fox News Contributor and former Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer unearths the political affiliations of those present at a White House briefing on June 7, 2021.
“Every seat was filled for the first time in over a year as the social distancing rules resulting from the COVID pandemic were relaxed,” Fleischer wrote in an excerpt shared exclusively with The Federalist. “By a ratio of 12:1, the seats were occupied by Democrats!”
Fleischer drew upon research solicited by the D.C.-based investigative firm Delve, which combed through publicly available data.
“I guess the good news is that the ratio wasn’t 24:0, like it was during my encounters with students at Columbia Journalism School. It was only 12:1,” Fleischer wrote. “No matter how you cut it, the White House briefing room does not look, sound, or register to vote like America.”
Towson University tenured Professor Richard Vatz, who specializes in political persuasion and rhetoric, told The Federalist that Fleischer’s discovery “echoes findings over many decades.”
“In major media survey after major media survey [1962-1996, journalists of ‘national media,’ ‘Washington Press Corps,’ etc., were found to be overwhelmingly liberal, and in poll after poll they voted for Democrats,” Vatz said.
Vatz cited a 1982 survey from the State University of California at Los Angeles which polled 1,000 journalists across 50 daily newspapers and found that only 25 percent of those interviewed voted for then-President Ronald Reagan.
More than a decade later, a 1995 joint study from the University of Colorado’s Media Studies Center and Cornell University’s Roper Center surveyed “Washington-based bureau chiefs and congressional correspondents” and found that 89 percent voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. Only 7 percent reported voting for George H.W. Bush, and 2 percent for Ross Perot. Half identified as Democrats, and only 4 percent Republican.
“America would be well served to have a robust press corps representing different outlets, considerations, and, most of all, questions for the president on down,” Curtis Houck, the managing editor of Newsbusters at the Media Research Center told The Federalist. “Having watched press briefings for the last six years, it’s no surprise that the White House press corps tilt left as, along with a built-in geographical bias living in a far-left city, they have zero perspective or belief that their mindset might be wrong and/or self-serving.”
Steve Krakauer, another media critic and author of the Fourth Watch newsletter, also told The Federalist that the media’s geographic bias embedded in the Acela Corridor is a key variable when evaluating press corps perspectives.
“On the face of it, political affiliations of these reporters don’t necessarily connect to problems with their coverage, or invalidate their coverage,” Krakauer said, while conceding the media has leaned left for decades. Krakauer argued, however, that the media’s left-wing bent has grown far worse over the past seven to eight years driven primarily by geographic bias and a visceral reaction to Donald Trump. The press, Krakauer said, has begun to allow personal perspectives to infect their reporting with the belief that, “well, there’s a higher mission here. Now we have to save democracy.”
“It’s changed not because affiliations have changed in that room but because of how they’ve allowed their biases and their points of view to seep into their coverage in ways that never did nearly as much in Ari’s time,” Krakauer said.
Vatz said the partisan makeup of the White House press corps unfairly skews what the media offers nationwide attention.
“The effect on media coverage is that certain topics in major media do not even get covered if they rebound to Republican advantage, and when pro-conservative-interest topics do get covered, they are spun negatively,” Vatz told The Federalist.
Vatz highlighted the corporate coverage of last week’s “star witness” before the House Committee on Jan. 6 who made a series of uncorroborated allegations related to Trump’s conduct the day of the Capitol riot. Trump, former White House aid Cassidy Hutchinson claimed based on third-hand hearsay, attempted to hijack the presidential limousine and drive himself to the Capitol by assaulting a Secret Service agent.
“ABC Evening News did not even mention,” Vatz said, “that the Secret Service had indicated that President Trump did not grab the steering wheel and lunge at agents in ‘The Beast,'” after agents told reporters they were prepared to go under oath refuting Hutchinson’s claims.
Vatz’s analysis was backed up by a report from Houck at the Media Research Center. Analyzing network coverage the morning after Hutchinson testified, Houck found, “ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS Mornings, and NBC’s Today spent four minutes and 42 seconds on Hutchinson’s claim, but only two minutes and 33 seconds on the pushback from her colleagues and the Secret Service, including offers from the latter to have the agents involved testify under oath that none of that was true.”
While Trump dealt with a hostile press corps that turned daily coronavirus press conferences into sparring matches over whether the term “Chinese coronavirus” was racist, President Joe Biden has enjoyed far friendlier treatment. Biden’s rare press conferences have been full of soft-ball questions from pre-selected reporters who’ve given the White House little grief for keeping the president away from the media. Data from the American Presidency Project show Biden is one of the least accessible presidents in modern American history, having conducted only 16 total press conferences since taking office last year, including nine alone and seven as joint affairs.
Trust in the media, meanwhile, has collapsed to a new low, according to Gallup. In its latest survey findings on institutional trust released on Tuesday, Gallup reported that just 16 percent of Americans trust “newspapers” with a 30-point gap between Republicans and Democrats. Thirty-five percent of Democrats said they maintained a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in newspapers, which is still a three percent drop from last year, while only 5 percent of Republicans said the same.
“As to what could make the field of reporters more diverse, it is very simple,” Vatz told The Federalist. “Pressure the president of each news organization to insist on disinterest coverage — there is some evidence that this is beginning at CNN, for example, but it could happen at the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere as well.”