Editor’s note: This is another in a series of “WND/WENZEL POLLS” conducted exclusively for WND by the public-opinion research and media consulting company Wenzel Strategies.
The names are legendary: Edward R. Murrow, Eric Sevareid, Walter Cronkite, Paul Harvey, Peter Jennings, David Brinkley and Chet Huntley.
All powerfully influential in their time because of their positions delivering the news to Americans.
Now follows NBC’s Brian Williams, picked in a new scientific poll as the media personality thought to be the most influential in America today – even though his liberal bent is so well-known President Obama himself publicly joked about being in bed with him.
One in four respondents picked NBC’s Williams in response to the question, “Of the people on this list I am going to read to you, please tell me which media personality do you think is the most influential figure in America today?”
Williams beat Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Oprah Winfrey.
The results come from a scientific telephone survey of nearly l,100 respondents conducted Aug. 20-22 with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.93 percentage points, according to Wenzel Strategies, which worked on the project.
Williams was picked by 31 percent of the Democrats, 21.9 percent of the Republicans and 21.4 percent of the independents responding to the poll, for a total of 24.8 percent of all those who answered. Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly was second with 17.7 percent of the vote, talk show entertainer Oprah Winfrey third with 16.6 percent, ABC’s Diane Sawyer fourth with 13.7 percent and Rush Limbaugh fifth at 11.7 percent.
Fox News’ Sean Hannity had 6.4 percent, CBS’ Scott Pelley was at 3.6 percent, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer at 3.1 percent and Bill Maher brought up the end with 2.4 percent.
The Media Research Center has profiled Williams’ liberal bent a number of times: when he equated elite U.S. military members with terrorist bombers, when he championed leftist U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi for “making history,” when he asked a World War II veteran who was part of the crew that delivered the war-ending atomic bomb on Hiroshima whether he was remorseful, and when he giddily touted “two for the price of one” when interviewing Bill Clinton about Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency, among many other incidents.
It was in 2009 when Obama was addressing the 65th Annual Radio and Television Correspondents Association Dinner that the president acknowledged that mainstream journalists are to be credited with making him a celebrity and even joked that an NBC news anchor is in bed with him
“I have to admit though, it wasn’t easy coming up with fresh material for this dinner,” Obama said. “A few nights ago, I was up tossing and turning trying to figure out exactly what to say. Finally, when I couldn’t get back to sleep, I rolled over and asked Brian Williams what he thought.”
The comments come about the 4:40 mark on the video:
“Why bother hanging out with celebrities when I can spend time with the people who made me one?” Obama asked the crowd of black tie journalists and media personalities gathered at the Washington Convention Center. “I know where my bread is buttered.”
And while the president’s joke was likely a reference to NBC’s “Inside the Obama White House” program, in which Williams and a camera crew shot a reported 150 hours of occasionally intrusive footage at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the double meaning of a reporter “in bed” with the president wasn’t lost on some critics of the press.
“Although this is a funny joke, it’s actually sad because the joke’s really on us,” Noel Sheppard, associate editor of NewsBusters, commented at the time, “for the underlying truth is that Williams and NBC are indeed in bed with the new administration, and everybody present including the guest speaker knows it.”
President Obama joking with media
Williams earned more support than any other choice from those who identify themselves as liberal, moderate and conservative. Those who identify themselves as liberal put him in second place behind Oprah Winfrey and those who identify themselves as very conservative put him in sixth behind Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity, Sawyer and Winfrey.
“From a small list of media figures the survey found that NBC News anchor Brian Williams was, far and away, the most influential media personality in America today,” said Fritz Wenzel, chief of Wenzel Strategies.
“One in four respondents – 25 percent – said as much, while Fox’s Bill O’Reilly finished in second place with 18 percent. Oprah Winfrey came in third with 17 percent, while ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer finished fourth with 14 percent and Limbaugh finished fifth at 12 percent.
“Both men and women agreed Williams is the top influencer among media stars, but men preferred O’Reilly and Limbaugh in the second and third slots, while women favored Oprah as second- and Sawyer as third-most influential figures in the media world,” he said.
Williams also was picked first by those who are white, black and Hispanic, and was put in third behind Winfrey and O’Reilly by Asians. He was the top among respondents from the West, Midwest, South and East as well as those in their 40s, 50s and 60s. He was third among those under 30, behind Sawyer and O’Reilly, and tied with Limbaugh for second among those in their 30s behind Winfrey.
His network profile says he’s only the seventh anchor in the history of NBC Nightly News, has won 11 Edward R. Murrow Awards, 12 Emmy Awards and others, including the George Foster Peabody Award.
Some honors for Williams, who once suggested George Washington might have been considered a terrorist, followed his work in New Orleans covering Hurricane Katrina.
He previously was the NBC News chief White House correspondent and former anchor of The News with Brian Williams on MSNBC and CNBC.
Whistleblower magazine recently highlighted the political leanings of journalists, pointing out, “Today, an overwhelming number of ‘mainstream’ journalists, rather than serving the traditional role of the press as professional truth-tellers, have shifted 180 degrees in their mission, to become – ‘Anti-Journalists.'”
The report says journalism has “morphed into a virtual branch of government, an unofficial ‘propaganda ministry’ for the establishment elite. As such, it thrives – along with the increasingly aggressive ‘media watchdog’ groups like Media Matters – on attacking those who dare to speak the truth or ask unwelcome questions.”
If you’d like to sound off on this issue, please take part in the WND poll.
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