Lessons in Media Bias for Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart recently claimed on Fox News that the media was not partisan, just lazy. I thought I’d offer him an example to the contrary. This could be a continuing series, but I’ll start with one glaring example. Pay attention, Jon, this is for your own good.

On Monday, Michele Bachmann officially announced her candidacy for President. After the announcement she gave an interview to Fox in which she claimed that John Wayne was from Waterloo, IA. You’ve heard this story, right? Turns out The Duke’s parents had met in Waterloo but he grew up a few towns over in Winterset. Okay, it’s a minor mistake, fair enough.

Only some wag noticed that John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer, had spent a few years in Waterloo. He didn’t grow up there or commit his infamous murder spree there, but he was there for a couple years. A narrative quickly emerged, based on nothing except the fact that it was amusing, that Michele Bachmann had confused one John Wayne for the other. The media immediately began reporting this invented story as a fact:

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Do they really believe that Michele Bachmann was talking about Gacy? Did she quickly scan Google and get confused as this video clip claims or is that an invented detail to support the invented story? Well, Bachmann denied that she was speaking about Gacy and Gacy wasn’t born or raised in Iowa. He grew up in Chicago. Plus he’s not exactly a role model. Bachmann was clearly talking about The Duke not the mass murderer.

But the joke/story that she had confused the two John Wayne’s was repeated in nearly 800 “news” articles. That doesn’t include the thousands of blogs that wrote about it. Was it true? Probably not, but it got saturation coverage on the day of her announcement. Liberals were obviously enjoying themselves at her expense.

Now compare the treatment of Bachmann to the press’ handling of another gaffe just a few days earlier.

Four days before Bachmann’s gaffe the President of the United states told a group of soldiers that he’d given a Medal Honor award to one of their members while he was still alive. Only the man the President named got the Medal posthumously and the man who received it while still alive was not part of that division. Oops!

It’s a similar mistake to the one Bachmann supposedly made, i.e. confusing two people with similar heroism rather than similar names. So how many news outlets reported the Obama gaffe? Going again to Google News, we see the answer is eleven. Granted there are hundreds more articles listed in this search, but most of those came after Obama admitted the gaffe and apologized for it. The media was not at all eager to jump on this gaffe. And even if you include all of the stories, it’s still a 4:1 spread in favor of Bachmann (if by “in favor” you mean against her).

So when Bachmann makes a mistake about a long deceased actor’s birthplace, the media makes up a story about what they think she meant and runs with it even after she denies it. When Obama makes an undeniably embarrassing gaffe about someone he’s actually met in the past year, the media ignores it and only lightly touches on it after he’s had time to apologize.

Is the media biased against conservatives? You tell me, Jon.


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