Review of U.S. Election News Coverage

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This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," Nov. 3, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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JOHN GIBSON, HOST: TV networks spent millions to cover the elections. So, did viewers get their money's worth?

Bernard Goldberg (search) is author of "Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite" now out in paperback.

Bernie, today's big question — and we refer to your other book, "Bias": considering "Bias," how well did the networks cover the election contest?

BERNARD GOLDBERG, AUTHOR, "ARROGANCE: RESCUING AMERICA FROM THE MEDIA ELITE": If you mean last night, I think they covered it fairly well. They remember what happened four years ago where it wasn't only the election in Florida that was a disaster, but it was also the coverage of the election. And I think they were cautious and maybe just a bit overcautious.

As a matter of fact I heard from some people at CBS News that they planned to call the election for George Bush some time before New Year's Eve.

GIBSON: Did you sense — it's the worst-kept secret in the world — that yesterday there were all these exit polls floating around that said that Kerry was going to win and it didn't turn out to be true. Did you sense a disappointment in the big three network coverage that you saw?

GOLDBERG: The very fact that you're asking that question suggests that people have lost so much faith in the so-called mainstream networks that anything they do is looked upon with suspicion. I think that they covered the presidential campaign in a biased way — and I could talk about that if you'd like — but let me get past last night.

GIBSON: Where did you see it in the campaign then?

GOLDBERG: Well, some independent, nonpartisan polls came out that said during the homestretch of the campaign, there was twice as much negative news about George Bush as John Kerry. Now maybe the news just broke that way but I doubt it.

I think this year more than any in my memory, the mainstream media, or the so-called mainstream media, insinuated themselves into the presidential campaign. I believe they took sides. There's no question that since most reporters are liberal, they favored Kerry. And I think it did come out in their coverage.

The best single example is the forged memos on "60 Minutes."

GIBSON: What about the missing munitions story?

GOLDBERG: That's another one.

GIBSON: Jeff Fager, the executive producer at "60 Minutes." A letter to the editor of the "New York Times" today saying it was outrageous of William Safire to suggest that "60 Minutes" was trying to drop a bomb the night before Election Day. But it sure looked like it to more than just William Safire.

GOLDBERG: Yes, absolutely. Ed Murrow (search) once said that "Journalists don't have thin skins; they have no skins at all." And that's a pretty good example. William Safire may have said it, but he only said it in the "New York Times." Millions and millions of other people said it all over the place.

Look, that may have been a legitimate story: explosives stolen from an ammunition dump. But to put it on the air on the Sunday night before the election, about 36 hours before the polls open, as CBS News planned. You know, it's suspicious; it just makes you wonder.

And I think that type of thing gives ammunition to all the critics of the so-called mainstream media, because they don't trust them to begin with and then something like that happens and they say, "You see?"

GIBSON: Bernie, somebody I know is a high-placed executive in the news business said a while ago, "You are not going to see a positive story about George Bush this next year until after the election." And I kind of kept track of it, and I didn't. Is that another indicator? Never mind the negative news, the fact that nobody had anything nice to say about him?

GOLDBERG: Yes, it was really quite remarkable, if you just watched the news, even on a casual basis, it was as if they were covering Kerry and if he had won, they would have covered it as a coronation. But they covered George Bush as if they were covering a funeral. And I think their biases in this case, actually slipped out.

I've often argued that bias in the news is not about going easy on Democrats and tough on Republicans. It's about how they see all the big social issues. But this time, this time, John, I think it was different. I think they did cross the line.

GIBSON: Well, it is true, isn't it, that it's safe to regard the major networks as "blue state" media?

GOLDBERG: Yes, that's a very, very important point. People in the red states, the reason they didn't vote and they don't vote democratic is because they think the Democrats don't respect them, don't respect their values, think they're stupid, think they live in flyover country.

Well you know what? The people in the red states think the exact same thing about the elite media. The Democrats lost yesterday, but the elite media is losing on a daily basis and it's because they are seen as having as little respect for "ordinary" — and I use the word in the best sense — Americans in the middle of the country, as the Democrats have for ordinary Americans in the middle of the country.

The only difference, John, is that the media elites are even bluer than the people in the blue states, I think.

GIBSON: Bernie Goldberg, author of "Arrogance: Rescuing America from the Media Elite." Now out in paperback.

Bernie, it's good to see you again. Thanks.

GOLDBERG: John, always good to see you. Thanks.

GIBSON: All right.

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