Sheryl Gay Stolberg takes over Stephen Labaton's PBS beat with Friday's "Researcher's Appraisals of Commentators Are Released," an analysis of research commissioned by new Corporation for Public Broadcasting chairman Ken Tomlinson about the liberal leanings of PBS shows like "Now" with Bill Moyers.
"A researcher secretly retained by the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to monitor liberal bias in public radio and television set his sights on several media personalities, including Bill Moyers, Tucker Carlson, Tavis Smiley, David Brancaccio and Diane Rehm, according to documents made public Thursday. Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, released 50 pages of what he called the 'work product' of Fred Mann, a researcher who has been connected to conservative journalism centers and who was hired by the corporation's chairman, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson. Mr. Dorgan pronounced the work 'a little nutty' and a sham."
That "nutty" comment is repeated in an accompanying picture caption of Dorgan. Stolberg, predictably  , does not identify Dorgan as a liberal Democrat. Dorgan is also the source for the Times' precious piece of evidence they've used of late to try and discredit Fred Mann's work: "His research, however, provides a window into his efforts to categorize public figures in Washington. The guests are tagged with labels - liberal, conservative, neutral - though in some cases, Mr. Dorgan said, Mr. Mann was wrong. He classified Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, for example, generally regarded as a mainstream conservative Republican, as 'liberal.'"
Though Stolberg doesn't get into it, Mann's research documents and a National Public Radio story  show indicate a consistent error in pro-PBS reporter Stephen Labaton's previous Times' reporting on Mann's research.Labaton has tried to insinuate that Mann's finding of a liberal bias at "Now" was faulty by parroting that same "Hagel" claim from Dorgan about wrongly labeling Hagel as liberal during an appearance on "Now."
But it turns out Hagel was labeled "L" for liberal based on an appearance on another PBS show, "The Tavis Smiley Show." Here are some of the "conservative" Hagel's words regarding Iraq, as quoted back to him by Smiley on the June2004 broadcast : "What we didn't plan for was an occupation. We failed. We are in a mess. I think we are right on the edge now in Iraq.
Yet Labaton wrote  three different stories over five days claiming the Republican Hagel was labeled liberal based on an appearance on "Now," in an apparent effort to undercut the credibility of the anti-"Now" argument
For the record, Mann put another "Now" guest, liberal populist Bush critic and author Kevin Phillips, in the Conservative/Republican camp, which not even the Times does anymore. Yet Labaton didn't use that fact to argue that Mann was too soft on the liberal bias of "Now." Mann also labeled a Smiley guest, singer Henry Rollins,the Bush- loathing  lead singer for the '80s punk band Black Flag (who went on a U.S.O. tour to entertain the troops in Iraq and Kuwait) "conservative" for saying the troops were upbeat and that people who had problems with the Iraq War should still support the troops.
If one wants to be as picky as the Times, don't conservatives have an equally good  case  that Phillips and Rollins should not have been called conservative, just as liberals don't consider Hagel liberal (although they've certainly quoted  him enough of late)?
To read the full Stolberg on PBS, click here: