Former RNC Chairman on “Increasingly Biased Journalism”

By Chris Ariens 

Former RNC chairman and counselor to Pres. Bush Ed Gillespie appeared on Reliable Sources Sunday morning to talk about a piece he wrote for National Review Online about how the GOP should respond to “increasingly biased journalism.”

In the NRO piece Gillespie writes, “Too many reporters no longer report; they comment. The lines between news and ‘news analysis,’ and between ‘news analysis’ and opinion, have been all but washed away in the 24/7 Internet-and-cable news environment.” Gillespie singles out MSNBC and host Chris Matthews whom he calls, “a TV-news host now famous for the tingle Barack Obama sent up his leg.”

Howard Kurtz pressed Gillespie on the issue asking, “It’s not only in the liberal direction. You talk about MSNBC, what about Fox News?”

Gillespie: “Well, I would say that Fox in their news hours, their news blocks, as opposed to their opinion shows…are more balanced than MSNBC and their news programming.”

In response, an MSNBC insider tells TVNewser Gillespie’s characterization is, “laughable.”

This part of the Gillespie-Kurtz conversation is after the jump…

KURTZ: But not always. When you were the White House counselor, you ripped MSNBC as a partisan network, you criticized NBC’s Richard Engel for, you said, selectively editing an interview with President Bush. I don’t want to re-litigate that, but the whole thing was posted online. I wrote about it when you did that.


KURTZ: You were picking a fight. You were trying to get some traction on beating up on what you saw as a network that leans to the left. So how is that any different than what Gibbs does?

GILLESPIE: Well, first of all, what maybe MSNBC and NBC News wouldn’t say, there’s a distinction between them and Rush Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh is a conservative commentator with a clear point of view that is pronounced and understood by all of his listeners. I think NBC is supposed to be an objective news outfit that doesn’t bring that kind of perspective to bear. So I think there’s a pretty clear distinction between the two that NBC, and maybe even MSNBC, would say, well, I don’t think they’re apples and apples.

KURTZ: In that “National Review” piece, you criticize CNBC’s John
Harwood — you didn’t mention his name — for responding to your letter, the one criticizing MSNBC, as completely disingenuous.


KURTZ: Why shouldn’t he be able to say what he thinks?

GILLESPIE: Well, as I noted in the piece, he hadn’t — he responded to a letter that I wrote to NBC about that, and he never even read the letter, and wasn’t even aware that it was going to come up on the segment, as he later said. I didn’t use his name.

KURTZ: Right. Well, Harwood told me that he did regret using that particular language.

GILLESPIE: Yes. But my point is, this — I was using that to illustrate what I think is a problem in journalism today, which is this line between commentary and opinion and news analysis and reporting has really kind of been washed away in the 24/7 news cycle.

KURTZ: I agree with that, but it’s not only in the liberal direction. You talk about MSNBC. What about Fox News? What about…

GILLESPIE: And can I finish on that?

KURTZ: Please.

GILLESPIE: So this reporter on the air calls me completely disingenuous in response to a setup from Chris Matthews, who’s not exactly the most objective newsman in the world.

KURTZ: Nor does he claim to be. But go ahead.

GILLESPIE: Well, but he serves…

KURTZ: He’s an opinion guy. He’s an MSNBC opinion guy.

GILLESPIE: Who also takes that cap off sometimes and is an NBC newsperson.

KURTZ: Which I’ve been critical of. But we’ve got to bring Fox News into the discussion.


KURTZ: How do Fox News pundits, some of whom cheerlead for Republicans — these are the opinion guys now — how do they not do the same thing? And you don’t seem to have a problem with that, but you certainly do have a problem with MSNBC.

GILLESPIE: Well, I would say that Fox, in their news hours, their news blocks, as opposed to their opinion shows…

KURTZ: Sure.

GILLESPIE: … are more balanced than MSNBC and their news programming. And the fact is, I’m not saying that there are not some folks who bring a different perspective as a rule. You know, in the Pew survey, by 4 to 1, reporters identified themselves as liberal versus conservatives. So I’m not saying there aren’t some…


KURTZ: Their job is to keep it out of their work.

GILLESPIE: That’s my point, Howard. Their job is to keep it out of
their work. And increasingly, they’re not doing it as much as they used to.

KURTZ: All right. Ed Gillespie, thanks for stopping by.

GILLESPIE: Thank you.

KURTZ: We’ll have a Democratic strategist on in a future program to talk about this subject.