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Mrs. Graham, Do Liberals Exist?

Mrs. Graham, Do Liberals Exist?
by L. Brent Bozell III
February 20, 1997

Former Washington Post reporter David Remnick writes in The New Yorker that Washington Post owner Katharine Graham's personal memoir underscores "how ridiculous is the right-wing image of Graham as the matriarch of the liberal-media conspiracy. Her allegiance to democratic capitalism is no less firm than that of William F. Buckley Jr., and her inherent faith that the establishment elites will do the right thing is nearly absolute."

It makes you wonder: What possesses men like Remnick to write such foolishness? A simple challenge to provide the list of people who would place Mrs. Graham at the center of a "liberal-media conspiracy" would trigger the same number of people who believe she's a Buckley clone on economics. Remnick does concede that reporters are 89-percent pro-Clinton liberals, but like so many in the press, he offers a disclaimer, to wit: "that statistic has to be balanced by the conservatism of nearly all publishers." Remnick has no publishers' poll (because none exists) to validate his claim. He is fighting the sword of demographic fact with a wet noodle of empty speculation.

The evidence of a liberal bias ultimately should be found in the product, and for Remnick to deny its existence in The Washington Post is to raise the suspicion he hasn't read the paper that paid his salary.

The way a news outlet labels public policy leaders is a pretty devastating indicator. On the front page of the Post's February 4 edition, reporter (or is it lobbyist?) Thomas Lippman wrote that Sen. Jesse Helms "served notice yesterday that he will hold an international treaty banning chemical weapons hostage to his own foreign policy agenda....Suppporters of the treaty said Helms has created the first test of [Senate Majority Leader Trent] Lott's leadership, arguing that he should use his clout to win ratification of the agreement rather than letting Helms and his conservative allies control the agenda." Are there no supporters of the Chemical Weapons Convention who are "liberal"? Why not say it?

The same day, on A4, the American Bar Association, "the nation's largest and most influential organization of lawyers," voted to put an end to the death penalty. They were not "liberal." On the same page was a story headlined "Conservative Group Seeks Access to White House and DNC Data." Toni Locy described the efforts of Judicial Watch, dutifully describing it as a "conservative watchdog group." Also on A4, Rep. Bud Shuster's (R-Pa.) role in aiding two campaign contributors with a Boston highway project was denounced by two advocates for taxpayer-funded campaigns. The Center for Responsive Politics, "a campaign finance research group," and the Congressional Accountability Project, "a Ralph Nader-affiliated group," were not "liberal."

On Page A6, the Post headline read: "Archbishop Kindles Outrage in Gay Community: San Francisco Activists View Stand on Spousal Benefits as Beginning of Conservative Tide." Peter S. Goodman began: "When Archbishop William J. Levada arrived in San Francisco two years ago, many within this city's vast gay community saw it as an ominous sign. Levada was a rising and ambitious figure within the conservative ranks of the Roman Catholic Church. The man he was replacing, John Quinn, had been hailed as a voice of moderation, a barrier against the increasingly traditionalist winds of the Vatican. This irreverent city braced for a conservative storm." You can't stack up many more pejoratives against conservatives than that - and once again, not even a mention of the L word. (If they're not in San Francisco, where are they?)

Speaking of California, a week later, Post reporter John E. Yang swooned over freshman Rep. Walter Capps (D-Calif.) in a story headlined "Lawmaker With a Soul Purpose." Capps would be "contemplating the nourishment of the soul, not the building of electoral blocs," putting "a greater emphasis on principles than party loyalty." Capps spent the 1960s conducting anti-American teach-ins on the Vietnam War, and has written a book attacking the religious right, and yet not once could Yang call him a "liberal."

On the 18th, Post Supreme Court reporter Joan Biskupic produced the second attack piece in a year on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. "Nothing Subtle About Scalia, the Combative Conservative," read the headline. Biskupic wrote Scalia was "known for his fierce conservatism." Among those testifying were Alan Morrison, leftist lawyer for Ralph Nader's Public Citizen; liberal legal icon Laurence Tribe; and "mild-mannered" liberal fellow Justice David Souter. Yup: none of them were labeled "liberal."

(On June 30, 1996, Biskupic proclaimed Scalia, "on the far right of the spectrum...levels his attacks on people who are far from flaming liberals, either judicially or politically.")

Liberal bias reigns supreme, with or without the publisher's imprimatur, at The Washington Post. Aliens could read Kay Graham's paper and rightly wonder: Are there any liberals contesting the "far right" on this planet?