New ABC anchors: Interchangeable parts

Cal Thomas

12/8/2005 12:05:00 AM - Cal Thomas

The late Peter Jennings would be mildly amused that ABC News has named two anchors to replace him. He might also be pleased that the very pleasant looking Elizabeth Vargas and Bob Woodruff share Jennings' political philosophy. They are both liberal.

How do I know this? For the same reason I know that when a pope dies, his successor will not be a Methodist, but a Roman Catholic. Vargas and Woodruff, along with the new "Nightline" troika of Terry Moran, Cynthia McFadden and Martin Bashir (Ted Koppel, you get bragging rights because it took three to replace you) are all liberals.

If ABC News president David Westin wanted to make a bold statement and attract new viewers, he might have found at least one conservative to be part of the anchor mix. But where would he look and upon whom would he call? John Stossel, who appears on "20/20," is the only conservative-leaning reporter at ABC, but his chances of being tapped were about the same as mine: slim to none. During an interview two years ago with "60 Minutes" reporter Lesley Stahl, I asked her about journalistic bias. She asserted that there were people of differing political viewpoints at CBS News. Asked to name one, Stahl could not.

Liberal journalists see the world through their own prism: big government and higher taxes are good; abortion on demand is good; nothing wrong with homosexual practice or same-sex marriage; America is evil or, if not evil, the cause of much of the world's problems; religious people are by definition unintelligent and need watching; Democrats are better than Republicans and have a "divine right" (if they believed in the divine, which most big-time journalists do not) to run our government; Bush is evil and an idiot; the war in Iraq is a failure and nothing American soldiers are doing is worthwhile; Howard Stern is a First Amendment crusader (he was featured on last Sunday's "60 Minutes") while those who want culture to at least acknowledge their beliefs are radical imposers of a narrow religious view.

The Media Research Center, a conservative media-monitoring group, has collected some statements by Vargas and Woodruff. While the list is short compared to Jennings', Tim Graham, MRC's director of media analysis, explains in the Washington Times, "New anchorpeople need time to grow in pomposity."

Graham notes Vargas anchored a one-hour "documentary" publicizing "the whacko claims of 'The Da Vinci Code,'" which, he says, "underscores the liberal cultural mindset at ABC."

Woodruff, he notes, broadcast last June from North Korea. He chose to emphasize how much the North Koreans hate Americans. This is news? Woodruff later admitted he did not have a translator and depended on the communist government's handler for his information.

Anyone interested in some of Vargas' ideological record as a doctrinaire liberal can visit www.newsbusters.org/node/3090. There one finds examples of a liberal take on taxes, spending, Judge Samuel Alito, federal regulation and more. The way stories are chosen is also important when considering bias. In addition to stories that delight sponsors, (such as women's health issues that are frequently followed by a commercial promoting drugs the manufacturer claims will improve women's health), controversial political and cultural stories are framed in ways that also reveal a liberal slant.

When this evidence is pointed out to the anchors and network news executives, everyone denies any bias. They actually believe they are fair and accurate because they all subscribe to the same philosophy and they work and socialize with people who hold identical views. That is an undeniable fact.

It has been this way since the agenda-setters took over the newsrooms, and you can expect more of the same. And expect more "preaching" by overpaid anchors about problems they will never face because their salaries dwarf those of average Americans whose interests they champion. They do not understand why this one-dimensional and predictable approach contributes to their falling ratings and declining market share.

The country needs a robust debate and access to information from many points of view. ABC, CBS and NBC do not practice ideological diversity, which is why increasing numbers of conservatives have abandoned broadcast network news in favor of cable. Those who continue to view broadcast news deserve better, but these new anchors guarantee they'll get more of the same.