Even in death, conservatives can’t get an even break – especially from the Associated Press. Writer J.P. Freire caught the supposedly neutral news service bashing the late Margaret Thatcher in her obituary, while lionizing socialist nutball Hugo Chavez in his obit just one month earlier.
To AP, Britain’s first woman prime minister was an autocrat who “imposed her will,” by “breaking the unions,” until she was pushed out by a “mutiny.” “Love her or loathe her,” the obituary began. It was obvious which one AP chose. And all that in the first 70 words recalling her 11 years of service to Britain and the world.
Then there’s Hugo Chavez, who AP called a “fiery populist,” who “crusaded” and “championed.” AP didn’t even hint at Chavez’s controversial nature until the third paragraph and there they still softened the criticism. “He polarized Venezuelans with his confrontational and domineering style, yet was also a masterful communicator and strategist who tapped into Venezuelan nationalism to win broad support, particularly among the poor,” wrote AP.
Let’s not forget that Chavez was a man so nutty that even lefty “Saturday Night Live” parodied his funeral with Justin Timberlake playing Elton John performing a redone version of “Candle in the Wind.” Timberlake sang some fun memories of crazy Hugo, including how he traveled to the U.N. and called then-President George W. Bush “the devil” who smelled of “sulfur.”
But AP kept up with its tribute, calling him a “political survivor” and a “burly president [who] electrified crowds with his booming voice.”
Buried in the seventh paragraph was this lovely nugget of Venezuela under Chavez: “Inflation soared and the homicide rate rose to among the highest in the world.” And this: “He insisted all the while that Venezuela remained a vibrant democracy and denied trying to restrict free speech. But some opponents faced criminal charges and were driven into exile.”
While AP wouldn’t call him a dictator, it was there, buried deep enough you would need an archaeologist to find it – all the way down in the thirty-second paragraph. “Chavez was re-elected in 2000 in an election called under a new constitution drafted by his allies.”
He was a dictator, but hey, he was “fiery!”
For Thatcher, AP chose a point-counterpoint approach, always careful to give critics their chance to bash.
“For admirers, Thatcher was a savior who rescued Britain from ruin and laid the groundwork for an extraordinary economic renaissance. For critics, she was a heartless tyrant who ushered in an era of greed that kicked the weak out onto the streets and let the rich become filthy rich.”
Even the first quote AP chose for comment on her death played up the controversy, not her many successes. "Let us not kid ourselves, she was a very divisive figure," AP quoted Bernard Ingham, “Thatcher's press secretary for her entire term.”
Then there was the time IRA terrorists tried to kill Thatcher. Only AP won’t call them "terrorists," they were “audacious” for trying to assassinate a world leader. “The IRA detonated a bomb in her hotel in Brighton during a party conference, killing and injuring senior government figures, but leaving the prime minister and her husband unharmed,” wrote AP.
Dan Gainor is the Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture. He writes frequently about media for Fox News Opinion. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.