Compare that to the Tea Party stories. The victory of Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts spurred heavier network TV attention, another 42 stories in 2010. But now that they had to cover the Tea Party, the tone turned negative: Overall, 27 of 61 stories (44 percent) openly suggested the movement was fringy or extremist.
Contrast ABC's Peter Jennings then with ABC's Dan Harris now. Farrakhan was somehow a uniter, not a divider. But Harris warned Tea Party protesters "waved signs likening Obama to Hitler and the devil. ... Some prominent Obama supporters are now saying that it paints a picture of an opposition driven, in part, by a refusal to accept a black president."
And with that, everyone associated with the Tea Party movement, and everyone in sympathy with the Tea Party movement, had just been neatly tarred with the racism brush. What dramatic selectivity of "news judgment"! At left-wing rallies, reporters consistently and easily ignored hateful and extremist podium speeches from protest organizers. They paid no attention to objectionable signs. "Bush Lied, Thousands Died!" Big deal!
But at a conservative event, they go searching high and low for the kookiest, fringiest protester in a crowd of tens of thousands, so they can smear the entire crowd as a racist gathering.
The sanitize-the-left pattern happened at antiwar marches before the Iraq war in 2003. Signs at one January protest included "Bush Is a Terrorist," "USA Is #1 Terrorist" and "The NYPD Are Terrorists Too." Hateful? Objectionable? Not on your life!
ABC's Bill Blakemore ignored them, lauding the diversity of the marchers, "Democrats and Republicans, many middle-aged, from all walks of life." As one ABC producer admitted during the George H.W. Bush years, "We were looking for mainstream demonstrators."
The other networks echoed that approach. Take the issue of violence. On Feb. 15, 2003, "peace" demonstrators in New York injured eight police officers, and several protesters were arrested. But CBS reporter Jim Acosta still referred to the event as peaceful: "Despite some arrests and clashes with police, it was, for the most part, a peaceful reminder to the powerful that there is a divide over whether the nation should go to war."
Just weeks ago, when the Tea Party crowd came to Capitol Hill against ObamaCare, no one was arrested. But network anchors like NBC's Brian Williams were still lamenting that the health care debate had "veered into threats of violence."
This isn't "news" coverage. It's carpet-bombing.