A former CBS News correspondent now lashing out at TV networks for what he calls a liberal slant in coverage has taken his case to America’s archenemy of liberalism: Rush Limbaugh.
Bernard Goldberg, who spent 28 years with the network, made a guest appearance yesterday on Limbaugh’s nationally broadcast radio show, promoting his new book, “Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News.”
“It’s not at all unusual to hear on the news a description of right-wing Christians, right-wing politicians, right-wing radio talk-show hosts, right-wing Miami Cubans,” Goldberg lamented. “The only time you hear the word left-wing is if they’re talking about part of an airplane. … They don’t even think there’s a liberal or left-wing position.”
Limbaugh, who rarely invites guests on his program, devoted an hour to questioning Goldberg about his thesis. The radio host himself has spent years examining the issue.
“Each day this program could be about nothing but media bias,” said Limbaugh. “People still on every program today call and give me an example. … It’s become pervasive.”
In fact, it can be argued that Limbaugh rose to the top of his field by being one of the few national voices to challenge accepted practices by the media establishment. “I am equal time!” Limbaugh often thunders on why he doesn’t interview guests with views opposing his staunch conservatism.
Limbaugh even thinks his political stance hindered him in his quest last year to become an analyst on ABC’s “Monday Night Football.” He says he was told one of the reasons why he didn’t get the job was that “management couldn’t face cat calls at cocktail parties for hiring [him].” ABC selected comedian Dennis Miller over Limbaugh, and ratings for “MNF” have since been among the show’s lowest ever.
In Goldberg’s book – which media writer Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post points out is published by “conservative house” Regnery Publishing – the author rips into his former employers as well as anchorman Dan Rather, whom he calls “ruthless and unforgiving,” with a touch of Richard Nixon’s “paranoia.”
Goldberg says CBS News President Andrew Heyward once told him: “Look, Bernie, of course there’s a liberal bias in the news. All the networks tilt left. … If you repeat any of this, I’ll deny it.”
Kurtz reports that “Heyward declined to be drawn into a debate with Goldberg, saying: ‘Bernie asked to see me before the book was published and said he didn’t want to be portrayed as a liar or a disgruntled employee. Therefore, I have no comment.’”
Goldberg says the implication he’s a disgruntled employee and other statements saying he’s committed treason show the network is in what he calls full-attack mode.
“They’re hemorrhaging audience; they’re hemorrhaging viewers,” he said, referring to a continual dwindling of television newswatchers.
As an example of bias in network reporting, Goldberg says producers and reporters often seek comment only from liberal-minded groups. On women’s issues, he says you can often expect to hear someone from the National Organization for Women.
“Do they do anybody a service when they only go to NOW?” asked Goldberg rhetorically. “They don’t even see that as a liberal bias, because the only way to define liberal bias in their world is if you’re tough on Republicans and easy on Democrats.”
He also recounted how a CBS weekend news producer referred to presidential candidate Gary Bauer as “the little nut from the Christian group,” with no one raising an objection.
But Goldberg added that the situation for balanced-news seekers is not hopeless, telling Limbaugh that his impact in radio is being echoed elsewhere.
“Your show is a crack in the dam; the Internet is a crack in the dam … and I hope in a small way my book is a crack in the dam,” he said.
He specifically cited the Fox News Channel as a mainstream network that does what it says in providing “fair and balanced” coverage.
“I think when Fox went up, it was like the Berlin Wall coming down,” he said.
As far as why viewers have recently gravitated toward Fox, Goldberg says many have collectively said, “I just don’t trust those guys anymore at the three main networks.”
In recent days, Limbaugh has been harping on reporters for their lack of willingness to choose sides in the U.S. war on terror. He said American failures had been magnified by the press while successes were ignored, adding that journalists’ new mantra was to be critical in order to be credible.
“I don’t expect anybody to go ‘rah rah!’ on the nightly news,” Limbaugh said. “If you are a media person, I don’t think it’s unrealistic to hope your country wins.”
Limbaugh offered his own reasoning why modern broadcast journalists tend to lean left. He said if someone asked a student at an average journalism school why he or she were there, the response would be something like “I want to change the world.”
“Journalism has taken this ardor of social justice, righting the wrongs,” he said.
Limbaugh pointed out that Goldberg was in effect a whistleblower whom the news media would normally love – had he exposed any other target besides journalists. To that, Goldberg responded, “If I were writing about Big Tobacco or Big Oil … I would be a national hero.”
Goldberg, who now works for HBO’s “Real Sports,” says he’s hearing from both former as well as current employees at CBS who are glad he’s going public with his book.
“We agree with you, but we can’t say anything,” he said is the common theme of their remarks.
Editor’s note: Bernard Goldberg will be Geoff Metcalf’s guest on his online radio talk show on Friday at 5 p.m. Pacific, 8 p.m. Eastern.