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Goldberg Interview Transcript
Interview was conducted 2003-10-30 13:05-14:01 by RatherBiased.com's Matthew W. Sheffield. This is a rush transcript. To facilitate reading, please consult the table at right. To listen to portions of the interview, see "2003 News."
RATHERBIASED.COM: You had a lot of success with your last book; did you expect that Bias would sell as well as it did?A lot of people in the trade press considered the book a surprise bestseller.
BERNARD GOLDBERG (Author, Arrogance): Two things on that. First, I'm always very fascinated when they use the word surprise--it's a surprise to them. When they say that, they mean 'who in the world would be interested in a subject like bias in the news?' They think that only people who have no teeth and/or who are dating their first cousin are interested in something like this. So when they say surprise, they don't--if two people are interested in the subject, it's a surprise to them.
When I say surprise, it means something totally different. I wrote this book after I left CBS News, I had no idea what it would do in terms of selling books. I did know this, though. I knew that millions and millions of regular Americans between Manhattan and Malibu were interested in this subject, that's number one. And number two, that the geniuses that I used to work for at CBS News, the executives and people like that, thought that nobody was interested in this. So I was surprised, pleasantly surprised, when it did so well. But I've since figured out why it's done so well, and it has nothing to do with my ability; it has to do with I tapped into a bubbling discontent in this country. And I caught up with the American people.
These are people who knew about bias long before I ever wrote about it and they had been complaining about it, but they'd been complaining about it where, you know, they might as well have been talking to the wall. Just as when I had complained about it privately at CBS News for seven or eight or nine years, I might as well have been talking to the wall. But then here comes a news correspondent, a mainstream news correspondent, who was with a mainstream news organization for 28 years, saying, 'You're right, there is a problem.' That's why it was as successful as it was, I think.
RATHERBIASED.COM: What made you want to write another book about the same subject?
GOLDBERG: Well, Bias identified the problem--liberal bias in the news--and then it occurred to me that given the reaction, that these people are incredibly arrogant. They not only--many of them ignored the book, and the ones who didn't ignore it just attacked me viciously for doing nothing but bringing up the subject of bias in the news. So, I said, 'You know, there's got to be a follow-up book here that does not, that does not set out to prove that there's liberal bias in the news. I already did that.' But this book should be about how entrenched the bias is, how these people not only don't get it, the media elites, not only don't get it, but refuse--you cannot talk to them about this subject without them saying about a second into the conversation, 'Oh, well if you think there's a bias, that proves you're biased.' That's what they think when anybody brings this up. And I said to myself, 'These people are as arrogant as anybody I've ever run into.' I decided to write a book, again, that wasn't about proving that there's a liberal bias in the news but showing why there's a liberal bias in the news. It shows how it's inevitable that there'd be a liberal bias.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Given the culture?
GOLDBERG: These people live in a bubble, they live in a bubble with like-minded people who think the same way they do about all the big important social issues of our time. Not talking about politics, I'm talking about feminism, gay rights, race, you know, affirmative action, abortion. All the big issues of our time. And because they're in this bubble, it would be incredible if they didn't come out as biased as they are. And that's why, and this is a major, major difference from this book and Bias that at the end of the book I have a solution section. Actually, it's a twelve-step section. If it's good enough for alcoholics, it ought to be good enough for journalists. If twelve steps can help them, maybe, just maybe it can help journalists.
RATHERBIASED.COM: One of the points you talk about in Arrogance is that there's been a deluge of recent books from liberal authors alleging a conservative bias in the news. What's your response to that argument? Do you think they, I mean are they just totally off base?
GOLDBERG: Totally. Totally. It's incredible. I knew it was going to be a matter of time before they stopped playing defense and simply saying, 'Oh there's no liberal bias, there's no liberal bias,' and would take the offense and go on offense. By saying, 'Not only is there no liberal bias, but there's a conservative bias.'
RATHERBIASED.COM: So you're saying it's something like a straw man, maybe?
GOLDBERG: I'm not saying they don't believe it. I'm saying they're delusional if they really do believe it. This is crazy. And this is what they point to to make their case: they say, 'Well, there's a Fox News, there's the Washington Times, there's talk radio, there are all these conservative commentators.' And I say, you know what, you're absolutely right. In the world of opinion, conservatives do have clout. But, in the world of opinion, liberals have clout, too. What they fail to mention is that the editorial page of almost every big-city newspaper and the op-ed page of almost every big-city paper is controlled by liberals. That's OK.
RATHERBIASED.COM: So you're saying--and you think they're failing to make a distinction between news and opinion?
GOLDBERG: That's--well, point one is that they fail to mention that they also have clout in the world of opinion. They just think that somehow if there's Fox News, that's a bad thing, but if the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and the L.A. Times, the Chicago Tribune all have liberal editorial pages, that's OK. Well, I think they're both OK. And the second point is the point you just made, quite rightly. They don't make the distinction between news and commentary. What I'm saying is, I don't care if the big-city papers are all liberal, and I don't care if the Washington Times is conservative, or talk radio is conservative. These are opinion forums; that's fine with me. What bothers me is when news people have this liberal slant, this liberal outlook on life and they don't even get it. They think that they are the only species on planet Earth that can put their biases aside and simply do their job. They don't think cops can put their biases aside, they don't think judges can, they don't even think juries can. Executives can't.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Why do they do that, do you think?
GOLDBERG: I'll tell you why. Because these are not introspective people. Many of them are quite smart. All of them are smart enough to be journalists because you don't have to be a brain surgeon, because journalism isn't brain surgery. Some of them are quite smart but all of them are smart enough. But very, very few of them have an ounce of introspection. They don't look inward. They're--by nature, they always look outward because they're always investigating somebody, whether it's somebody in the military or somebody in the church, or somebody in politics, they're always looking outward. So by not looking inward, it doesn't even occur to them.
RATHERBIASED.COM: But don't they have all of these journalism magazines and whatnot?--
GOLDBERG: You know, it's all bullshit as far as I'm concerned. Let's take one case in particular: abortion. A number of years ago, quite some time ago, David Shaw of the L.A. Times ran a big series on how abortion is treated by the mainstream media and came to the conclusion, and he works for a liberal newspaper, the L.A. Times, and came to the conclusion that mainstream journalists do not treat anti-abortion people well and are, in fact, pro-abortion in their coverage. That's not me. It's one of the top media critics in the United States of America, David Shaw of the L.A. Times.
A guy named John Leo, who writes a column for U.S. News and World Report, said this would have been a great subject for one of those magazines you just mentioned, the Columbia Journalism Review. Why not take David Shaw's piece and do a piece about that? Didn't devote a sentence to it.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Didn't do anything about it at all?
GOLDBERG: No. My point is that a lot of these magazines are written and edited by people who are part of the problem and not part of the solution.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Let's talk about bias. It's the title of your first book and the underlying theme of your second one.
GOLDBERG: Let me do it this way. Let me tell you what it's not. It is not a conspiracy. Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw do not go into their offices in the morning, summon their top lieutenant, lock the doors, pull the shades, give the secret handshake, and say, 'How are we going to stick it to conservatives?' it does not happen that way. I was with one news organization for 28 years, and I'm telling you, I've never, ever seen anything like that. What happens is arguably worse, because what I just described is so unacceptable that they'd have to stop. I mean if somebody said, 'You guys are going into a room here and making up an agenda,' they'd have to stop. But what they do is worse because it's far more subtle. They live in this bubble. They live in Manhattan and Washington, the media elites, overwhelmingly.
RATHERBIASED.COM: So you're saying it's subconscious mostly?
GOLDBERG: Yeah, because it's not a conspiracy. It's that they're unaware of it. Here's what happens: They don't think that their positions on the most controversial issues of our time are liberal positions. They think they're mainstream positions, because all their friends in the bubble think the same way as they do. They think everything to the right of center is conservative. Correct. And everything to the left of center is moderate and mainstream. That's how crazy it is.
And that's why you can go up to these people and say, 'Well, there's a liberal bias.' And they'll say, 'No there isn't. And anybody who says there is, is a conservative ideologue and that's the only reason they're saying it.' They don't look at themselves because it's as if you asked a fish what it's like to be wet all day. And the fish says, 'What do you mean wet? What's wet?' The fish has no concept of wet because he has no other frame of reference. Well, these people live in the same type of environment. And that's why--that's why fixing the problem themselves is so incredibly difficult.
RATHERBIASED.COM: You've said here today and in your books, both the last one and the current one, that bias in the news is mostly subconscious. But one of the themes you explore in your new book is that there are some cases, on some issues, where it's really quite hard to conclude that the bias is not deliberate, particularly in the case of guns used for self-defense.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, that amazed me. As a matter of fact, I did a lot of research on that, a lot. And I just figured this can't be true, and the more I did, the more true I found it to be. You want me to talk about that for a second?
GOLDBERG: I saw someplace, that a guy, a scholar, who was with several major universities and is now with a think-tank in Washington--
RATHERBIASED.COM: You're talking about John Lott?
GOLDBERG: Yeah, that's right. Had done some research and concluded that there were about 4 stories out of more than 200 that mentioned that the students who subdued the gunman at the law school in Virginia, Appalachian Law School in Grundy, Virginia--I don't have to tell you about the incident, you know that, right?
RATHERBIASED.COM: Uh huh.
GOLDBERG: That the people who had the guns--the people who subdued him also had guns. And I'm thinking, 'That can't be, that just can't be.'
RATHERBIASED.COM: Just too incredible?
GOLDBERG: It just didn't make any sense. So I spoke to him, and he seemed like a reasonable guy, but it didn't make any sense. So I did a little research and then I found a guy at the University of Iowa who did two separate studies and he came up with just basically--I mean when you go into Nexis, you're always going to have different numbers but--
RATHERBIASED.COM: Oh, definitely.
GOLDBERG: But it was basically the same conclusion. And I said, 'Nah. You cannot have either a hundred or two hundred papers and only less than five of them reporting that the guys had guns who subdued the gunman. Can't be.
So I did my own research. I went to a hundred major news organizations, major, that covered the story, only those who covered the story. And I came up, out of a hundred, I found six newspapers that reported it. The New York Times was one of them, by the way. And the others were--several of them were in the area of the law school. At least one of them was in Charlotte, North Carolina where one of the students came from, you know, his hometown. And I said, 'This is unbelievable.'
And then I found one of the guys, Tracy Bridges, one of the students and had a long talk with him. And he told me--he said, 'I spoke with about a hundred reporters. I told every one of them what happened.'
And I said, 'Well, what do you think happened?' and he said, 'Well at the beginning, I thought it was just like they, you know, didn't hear me or something. But then when I saw so many not covering that, I came to the conclusion,' this is Tracy Bridges talking, 'I came to the conclusion they didn't want to show guns in a good light.'
Now, I think America is split into gun people, people who like guns, and people who don't like guns. I am not a gun person. I am not a gun person. But I'm not an anti-gun person. I think a lot of people on the left who don't like guns are anti-gun. They want to abolish them. I don't like guns but I'm not an anti-gun person. So I looked at this simply as a reporter, a reporter who doesn't like guns even! And I said, 'This takes it to a new level. This goes beyond groupthink, this goes to group lying.' This is one of those things where you have to say, 'Wait a second, wait a second! How could you have left this stuff out?'
RATHERBIASED.COM: Well, are there any other issues where you've noticed that that's the case? That type of situation?
GOLDBERG: Well, I'll give you another one, the Erica Pratt story. A summer ago, not this past one but in 2002, lots of little girls were getting kidnapped. And they were white girls. And they were getting a lot of time on television. Well, a black girl in Milwaukee was kidnapped and the networks didn't devote one second of time to her. They didn't devote any time at all. Then, in Philadelphia, a little girl named Erica Pratt, I think she was seven years old at the time, was kidnapped, and it was the first happy ending. The kidnappers tied her up, put her in a basement, tied her up with duct tape, put her in a basement--vacant basement of a house.
RATHERBIASED.COM: And she chewed her way out or something.
GOLDBERG: And she chewed her way out of the duct tape and escaped. And all the networks were there the next day. And it was a big Hollywood ending to the story. And she was black, too, so they got two things out of it. Now they couldn't be accused of being racist because they didn't cover the other black girl in Milwaukee, and on top of that, it had a happy ending. So an hour later--I watched this on from six-thirty to seven on CBS--I later I got the transcripts from all three networks and they all covered it the same way--an hour later after CBS went off, I turned on Fox, and I watched Bill O'Reilly. And he had a local reporter on and he said, 'We have so-and-so on today and he's going to tell us about this brave little girl who was rescued and about the drug connection, the possible drug connection.' And I said to myself, 'What? I just heard the story an hour ago. What drug connection?' And this guy is talking about how the family has been in trouble, you know, and one uncle had been shot and killed, and another uncle had been shot, you know, and then the father was, you know, on probation for drug charges. And I'm saying, 'What the heck?'
RATHERBIASED.COM: And all of this was public information?
GOLDBERG: Well, it was in the Philadelphia Inquirer and when I found one of the reporters, the network reporters, who would talk to me on the record, she said that 'Yeah, it was known,' but they didn't want to rain on the girl's parade, was the official explanation. It was such a happy ending, why get into her dysfunctional family?
Well, the reason is, that's the reason why she was kidnapped--
RATHERBIASED.COM: In the first place.
GOLDBERG: It was a central point that she, that she was involved with a family that was involved with bad things and the kidnappers thought they could get some money out of the family. And they left it out. Well, why's that? You see what I'm saying? It's like, I think political correctness is run--is just, you know, crazy.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Another area where I've found this to be the case is in the area of campaign finance, quote, 'reform.' It's a violation of basic journalistic standards to call it that, and yet everybody does. And there seemed during the debate, a total--a virtual blackout of arguments against it.
GOLDBERG: Let me tell you one thing that there was a virtual blackout on. One way to solve the problem of so-called campaign finance reform, one way to reform the system--because money is at the root of all evil apparently--would be to say, OK, let all the networks during the presidential campaigns give a certain amount of free time to the candidates. I'm not saying that's a good idea or a bad idea, but it's a debatable idea.
RATHERBIASED.COM: And a lot of people be--
GOLDBERG: I didn't hear Rather, Brokaw, or Jennings talking about that. You know what I'm saying?
GOLDBERG: And if somebody had said to them, 'By the way, you can't report certain kinds of stories either because that might be slanting the news,' that would be a clear violation of the First Amendment and they would let you know in a hurry. But if it was taking somebody else's right to speak away, they weren't that concerned about it.
RATHERBIASED.COM: So that's why you think they worried about it?
GOLDBERG: I think there are certain issues that fall on the liberal side of the agenda. And I'm not taking sides on any of these things. I'm just going to tell you as a reporter, what I think they are. I think more liberals are against the death penalty than conservatives are. I think more liberals are pro-abortion rights than conservatives are. I think more liberals are for gay marriage and gay adoption than conservatives are and more liberals cared about campaign finance reform than conservatives did, at least the form that it took. I'm putting this in quotation marks, the 'acceptable' form of, you know, stopping people from speaking. And look, it's clearly that provision of it is clearly not constitutional, everybody knows that. Didn't the [Supreme] Court already rule on that?
RATHERBIASED.COM: Um, I don't think they've ruled on McCain-Feingold just yet.
GOLDBERG: Not any portion of it?
RATHERBIASED.COM: No, I'm not sure, but I really don't think so.
GOLDBERG: Well, I'm not going out on a limb to say that some of that is clearly unconstitutional. At least many people believe that that's the case. I think that campaign finance reform is one of those things that liberal people care deeply about and since liberals make up the overwhelming portion of the big media (and that is an undeniable point, that is not my opinion), then you're going to get that kind of take on the story.
RATHERBIASED.COM: OK, let's move on to another point. A lot of your critics have said that the news media didn't play it easy on Bill Clinton when he was president and now that they're not being soft with George Bush, therefore, the media are not liberal.
GOLDBERG: Say that again?
RATHERBIASED.COM: That the press was tough on Clinton and now they're being tough on Bush, so that means they're not liberal.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. No, I think that's a good point. I make the point very clearly in Bias, and it was so important that I made again in Arrogance. Mostly, bias in the news is not about politics. Politicians [sic] will run over their grandmothers, their liberal grandmothers if they think it will do them some good. They are always going after people in power, and yes, I think they were tough on Bill Clinton. And I think they're being tough on George Bush. But I don't think that's an indication that there's not a liberal bias. I, I think they'll go after anybody powerful enough, if the story's big enough. But where bias comes in is in the areas where we've already discussed.
RATHERBIASED.COM: But isn't it true that the criticism that Clinton and Al Gore received from the press was mostly in non-ideological areas, like, you know, personal, legal, internal shenanigans and whatnot whereas--
GOLDBERG: I've never done my own study to see where--somebody did a study and said that there were more negative stories about Al Gore in the last campaign. Let's assume that that's true. I don't know what the nature of the negative stories were. They may be what you're suggesting. I just don't know enough about that.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Well, it looks based on the stuff that I've seen--like during the campaign, we did a study of Bush's tax cut plan, and it was just, they said repeatedly that, 'Is this too big? Is it too conservative?' and they never said, you know, 'Is Al Gore's prescription drug plan too liberal?' or whatnot. It was all policy for Bush--policy and personal for Bush whereas Gore was just personal stuff.
GOLDBERG: That may be, as I say, and I'm willing to accept that if that's what you're telling me, but my point is that if you're looking for bias in the news, don't start with raw politics, start with the issues that effect our times, the big social issues of our times. When the L.A. Times runs a Page One story on abortion that makes fun of people who are against abortion, and its own editor, a fellow named John Carroll, has to write a scathing memo to his staff, that tells you something about how they handle abortion. You know what I'm saying? When ABC News does a piece, a documentary on gay adoption, and overwhelmingly gives time to people who are for it, and gives very little time to the people who are against it, that's the kind of stuff I'm talking about. Because even if you're right about the nature of it, A) I'm not expert at that, I just haven't looked at that part of it but B) they will go after liberal politicians, they will. Now, they may not do it as often as some people would like, but they will.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Or at least in some areas.
GOLDBERG: I'm not saying that you're wrong--
RATHERBIASED.COM: You just haven't looked into it.
GOLDBERG: --I'm not the person to talk to on that. I'm not plugged in enough.
RATHERBIASED.COM: OK. One of the more revealing passages in the book is some dialogs you have with Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes. Tell us a little bit about those.
GOLDBERG: Well, it started when Andy Rooney was on the Larry King show, and I didn't even see this on the national Larry King show, I saw this on the international Larry King show [note: the Rooney interview was broadcast on the U.S. CNN feed as well]. I was on, like two networks at the one time, so I was watching the inter--I don't have the quote in front of me but you probably do, it's in the book.
RATHERBIASED.COM: And this was after your first book came out.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. Well, first of all, Larry King has had about a half-dozen people on his show to talk about my first book, but he refuses to have me on to talk about it.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Oh, really?
GOLDBERG: Yeah. That's not my opinion; that's a fact. So I'm amused that every time he has somebody on, he says, 'What did you think of Bernie Goldberg's book?' it's like, 'Why don't you ask me for a change?'
RATHERBIASED.COM: So what did Andy say exactly?
GOLDBERG: Well, I can get the exact quote for you if you like.
RATHERBIASED.COM: No, it's all right, just give me a summary, that's all right.
GOLDBERG: Larry says 'What did you make of Bernie Goldberg's book?' and he says, 'I think Bernie made a lot of good points.' Right there, I mean I'm stopped in my tracks. Nobody has said that publicly in the big media. You know, I mean who's currently with it. I don't mean people who wrote reviews, I got some good reviews. I'm talking about no correspondent, no news correspondent has said, I think he made some--not publicly at least.
So then he says, 'I think there is a liberal bias in the news.' He said, 'I, Andy Rooney, am biased in my opinions'--that means nothing to me, he's a commentator. That's absolutely fine with me. And he said, 'And I think Dan,' referring to Rather, 'I think Dan is transparently liberal.' I almost fell off the couch! Transparently liberal? In my crazy--in my--I never said anything like that.
RATHERBIASED.COM: And you couldn't imagine somebody at CBS saying something like that.
GOLDBERG: And this is Andy Rooney saying this. So then he ends with, 'But then Bernie Goldberg is a jerk.'
RATHERBIASED.COM: So what happened after that?
GOLDBERG: Nothing. Nothing. I did nothing, I just thought, 'I've been called worse than a jerk.' Nothing. But I did write an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal about it. But that's, you know, nothing basically. But then, he writes a column--he's a syndicated columnist--and he writes a column about lying. And he says, 'You know, I'm not sure telling the truth is the best policy all the time, and I recently said something on 60 Minutes [sic] about lying and my boss, you know, said I shouldn't have said it. And I said to him, “Well isn't telling the truth the best thing?” And he scoffed, I think is what he did. So I'm thinking...'--and he concludes that his boss was right because that you can't be honest all the time.
So I'm thinking, 'Am I reading this right?' Is he saying that he told the truth about there being a liberal bias, something by the way that con--he confirmed what conservatives have been saying for, for years. A liberal CBS News confirmed what conservatives have been saying for years.
So I call him up. And I get the feeling, you know, that he doesn't have much time to talk but he was polite. And he says, and you have the exchange in the book there, right?
RATHERBIASED.COM: That's right.
GOLDBERG: He tells me all that and 'I'm feeling real uneasy about this' so I call him back a week or so later and now he tells me flat-out he's got to get his manuscript in so we don't have much time here. His book manuscript. So we talk fairly quickly and he tells me at the end of the conversation, 'Bernie, you've had some impact. Just drop it. Move on.'
And I'm thinking, 'When's the last time he told somebody who's doing a story about pollution to just move on?'
RATHERBIASED.COM: Or Iran-contra or something like that?
GOLDBERG: Or anything like that. So I write this letter that I think maybe I'm going to send to him, but decide not to because it's a waste of time. It's not just a waste of time, it's like 'Where's this gonna end?' You know, I write a letter, then he has a say and then I have a say. So I just wrote it and let him read it when everyone else reads it; let him say or do whatever he wants. But here's my real point, so just let me make this point, Matthew. That Andy Rooney is better than most. Andy Rooney acknowledged on worldwide television that, in his view, yes, there is a liberal bias in the news. And it got no play whatsoever. Nobody picked it up except the Washington Times. Now there may have been one other small place that did or one other place did. But the New York Times didn't, the Washington Post didn't. You know what I'm saying? It didn't get any play.
And I'm thinking, 'You know, Andy, you have a lot of clout. You said something and then you said, “Maybe I shouldn't have said that,” when you wrote the column. No. You should stand up. Why am I the only one out there twisting in the wind? You should stand up and say, “You know what? Bernie Goldberg is right about this. He may not be right about everything. I may not like the way he said it, but he's right about this and I am not going to back down because we are losing our credibility with our viewers and, and, I am joining Bernie and saying that this is a problem and it needs to be fixed.”' That would have been fantastic.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Yeah, well why was he afraid of doing that? And other people--
GOLDBERG: Uh huh. I don't, I don't want to play mind reader here. One possibility is that, ultimately, he, Andy Rooney, is like a bad boy. He does things and then when they reprimand him, he says, 'Oh, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done it.' And that was really my point. 'You know, Andy, if you're going to be courageous, dammit, be courageous. Don't wuss out at the end. Don't wimp out at the end.' Which is what he did, as far as I'm concerned.
RATHERBIASED.COM: So, you think he wimped out in the face of pressure from Dan Rather?
GOLDBERG: Yeah. Yeah. He spoke to the president of CBS News or the president of CBS News, Rather spoke to him. Didn't comment about whether there's a liberal bias or not, according to Andy Rooney, but said, 'You can't talk about a colleague that way.' As if this was about Dan Rather. This isn't about Dan Rather. You know what? This is about bias in the news. Don't worry about whether Dan's feelings are going to be hurt. Dan's a big boy, he can handle it.
RATHERBIASED.COM: You're saying it's bigger than you and Dan?
GOLDBERG: Oh, yes. And on that point, let me make, let me say this very clearly. This is not about, between me at the networks. This is not between me and the media elite. This is between them and their own viewers and readers. They have to make it right with their own viewers and readers who have lost trust in them. You go to the Gallup poll of most trusted professions and these guys are down around undertakers and used car salesmen and politicians. This is between them. This isn't between me and Dan or Dan and me. This is between those guys and their own audience.
RATHERBIASED.COM: OK. Let's talk a bit about your former boss, Andrew Heyward. He's lasted quite a bit longer than his predecessors, despite the fact that the ratings have been declining across the board and the flagship Evening News has been mired in dead-last for more than a decade. How can he survive still?
GOLDBERG: The honest answer is that I don't know. But I will tell you that Andrew Heyward is the brightest person that I've met in broadcasting, in terms of--in terms of--raw intellect. Not in terms of, necessarily, courage, you know, journalistic courage, but in terms of raw intellect. Your premise is correct, I think. The morning news has just been a bad joke.
RATHERBIASED.COM: And they've had to re-launch it twice, I think.
GOLDBERG: It's just ridiculous.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Do you think that has anything to do with Rather? I mean a lot of people inside CBS think he has too much power.
GOLDBERG: I think--Dan, rightly, I want to emphasize this, rightly had a lot of power at CBS News as the anchorman and managing editor of the flagship broadcast, the CBS Evening News. Rightly. Power comes from numbers in broadcasting. Since his numbers have gone down, I know for a fact that they've showed him what might be considered disrespect. There are certain things that are on the news that Dan doesn't want on, certain features, that they ram down his throat. And I know for a fact that he's not happy about that. And frankly, I don't blame him. It's his broadcast with his name on it and his face on it and if he doesn't want a certain feature on the show, it shouldn't be on the show. And I'm not talking about for ideological reasons. I'm talking about he doesn't like a certain kind of thing.
RATHERBIASED.COM: But what about his survival, though? His ratings have been really bad for about ten years [sic], and yet he's still around. A lot of our readers have wondered why he's still around. Is it because of ad money?
GOLDBERG: Look, I think Dan is a first-rate journalist. He has tremendous physical courage.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Well, definitely. He can be a good journalist when he wants to, I'd say.
GOLDBERG: And he's got tremendous physical courage. I do think that doesn't mean a whole bunch to the people in charge compared to ratings. And if they had someone to substitute for Dan, he'd be out before the news tonight.
RATHERBIASED.COM: But doesn't he help their ad rates? He has a fairly good reputation among a lot of older Americans.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, but the ratings are not good and the audience is slowly dying off.
RATHERBIASED.COM: But I'm talking about before that. The ad rates for now. The ad rates for CBS Evening News are higher than for Peter Jennings.
GOLDBERG: Oh is that right? That's interesting. What about for NBC? Are they higher for them, too?
RATHERBIASED.COM: They're higher at NBC.
GOLDBERG: NBC's higher because of the ratings. OK. Well, these guys are going to make their decision based on money. That's how they make all of their decisions. The fact that Dan is a first-rate newsman isn't going to matter to them if it's time for them to replace Dan. If they found somebody this afternoon who they thought would bring the ratings up significantly, Dan would be gone. But that's not a reflection on Dan. It's a reflection on that ratings are paramount to everything.
RATHERBIASED.COM: All right. Let's move on then. You've made some pretty damning allegations in this book as well as in the last one about former colleagues doing things like 'Ralph Reed makes me sick.'
GOLDBERG: 'Makes me wanna--'
RATHERBIASED.COM: 'Makes me want to puke,' or something like that. Has anybody among your former colleagues called you up and said, 'Look, this is just flat-out not true.' I mean has anyone called you up and said, 'Look, you're wrong'?
GOLDBERG: No. Zero.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Really? Wow.
GOLDBERG: I have been criticized by a colleague, a former colleague--former not just because I'm not there but because he's not there--who said on the story in the first book about Gary Bauer being the little nut from the Christian group, 'Why did you have to mention the producer's name? Why would you want to do that?'
Now, in other words, the story happened and thank God I was in the room with somebody else from CBS and they know it happened. The reason I didn't put that part in the book is because I don't want that person coming under pressure of them saying, 'You'd better say it didn't happen.' Then his job---you know what I'm saying? So it happened. And I never got a call from the producer I mentioned who said, 'That didn't happen.' Or from anybody else who said it didn't happen. I did get a call on that particular thing by saying, 'You shouldn't have mentioned her name. She wasn't important enough and that's not right.' And I just figured, 'OK, that may be a good point.' But it happened and I wanted--reporters already mention other people's names? So I mentioned the name.
RATHERBIASED.COM: So that was basically the only thing?
GOLDBERG: But that wasn't, didn't answer your question.
RATHERBIASED.COM: That's right.
GOLDBERG: So the answer is zero.
RATHERBIASED.COM: How common were incidents like the Ralph Reed and Gary Bauer insults?
GOLDBERG: Uncommon. Those are the only two I heard regarding conservatives.
RATHERBIASED.COM: In Arrogance, you outline a 12-step program to help the news media rid themselves of their bias.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Are you serious about all of the items there?
GOLDBERG: Oh that's a great question, I'm glad you caught that. The answer is I am, but I wrote it tongue-in-cheek at the same time.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Uh huh. I mean is it really feasible for them ship out?
GOLDBERG: You know what? You know what? If they followed these two steps, I would become Marcel Marceau. I wouldn't open my mouth. I don't know how old you are but do you know who Marcel Marceau is?
RATHERBIASED.COM: No, I don't, actually.
GOLDBERG: Marcel Marceau is like the most famous mime of all time. Every time you see a mime from the old television, it's Marcel Marceau.
RATHERBIASED.COM: So you're saying you'd just go away and shut up?
GOLDBERG: In other words, I'd have nothing to talk about--well I don't want to say it that way: I'd have nothing to be critical of. I'll give you an example of step two, where I say they have to leave New York.
GOLDBERG: And the point I make--I wrote half of that chapter and I printed it out to read it myself after I wrote it. And I almost threw it out thinking this was ridiculous. Move to Tupelo, Mississippi and Mitchell, South Dakota. This is ridiculous. And then I said, 'Wait a second, there are real people who live in Tupelo, Mississippi and Laughlin, Nevada, and Indianapolis, and Oklahoma City. They have real families. Their kids go to real schools. These people have real jobs. They live in real houses and real apartments.' This is where you're getting if I'm serious.
I know they're not going to move to Tupelo, Mississippi. But I'm saying if they did, they'd have a whole different outlook on America. Because they'd run into people with whom they disagree, or more importantly, who disagree with them.
RATHERBIASED.COM: But what about CNN? They've been in Atlanta forever.
GOLDBERG: An argument was made years and years ago, I think by Michael Barone. He's with U.S. News--
RATHERBIASED.COM: U.S. News.
GOLDBERG: And is a pundit, you know. Years ago, maybe 15 years ago, I read a piece someplace where he said, 'CNN is the most honest. And maybe that's because they're out of Atlanta where their people--'
RATHERBIASED.COM: Go home to regular neighborhoods and people.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. Yeah. And I think there's something to be said for that. I think when people criticize CNN, the criticism, I'll betcha, is overwhelmingly aimed at Washington CNN. But I think it's a good idea that CNN is out of Atlanta. I mean in this day of satellite--
RATHERBIASED.COM: Well, yeah, they've proved you can do television--
GOLDBERG: You can physically do it somewhere else.
RATHERBIASED.COM: --without being located in New York or Washington.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. What I'm saying is, 'Do I think they're gonna go to one of the cities I mentioned?' No. So in that sense it's tongue-in-cheek. The very serious point is that if they did, they would actually run into people with different points of view that would moderate theirs. Right now they can go through a whole day or a whole week or a whole month without ever running into someone who disagrees with them. That would end five minutes after they hit the ground in Tupelo or one of the other cities. That would be great. But I'm not delusional and I know it's not going to happen.
RATHERBIASED.COM: The first step in your twelve-step program is that they should say, 'I'm Joe Schmoe and I'm a biased journalist.' That seems like a good step to me, yet no one ever takes it. Why are people so afraid among the ones who do think--
GOLDBERG: Because they're not introspective. All they have to do is look inward and acknowledge--if they can't acknowledge that they have a problem of bias in the news--acknowledge that they have a problem because millions of people think there's a bias. Then, if they could acknowledge they have a problem, then maybe they could deal with it. But I know this for sure: if they don't acknowledge that they have a problem, then they'll never fix it.
RATHERBIASED.COM: One of the things I was wondering is that wouldn't one of the best solutions be for them to follow their standards that they already have laid down.
GOLDBERG: If they'd just follow their standards books, their standards books don't allow them to slant the news or anything.
RATHERBIASED.COM: That's right, so I mean--
GOLDBERG: Because that isn't where the problem is. It's not that they're violating--I mean there are cases where they violate their standards. I mean, like when you speak about Iraq and you say we shouldn't go to war with Iraq and then you cover a story about Iraq.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Or when you go to a fund-raiser for a party.
GOLDBERG: Yeah. Those are obvious things and they don't happen that often. The problem is--forgive me for repeating here but it's fundamental--the problem is that when you have so many like-minded people getting together in a newsroom, socializing with other like-minded people, you've got a problem. Oh, and by the way, if everybody in American journalism, or the people, if the majority of the people in big-time American journalism overnight became conservative through some crazy fluke, there'd be a conservative bias.
Do conservatives live in a bubble, too? Yeah, to some degree they do. But you know when I'll start worrying about that? When they start controlling the popular culture, including the news media culture. Right now, liberals control the news media, they control television shows, they control movies. You know--Jay Leno, that joke that Jay Leno told that's in the book--that liberals are complaining that they can't get their message out.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Yeah, I actually saw that when it aired.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, it's funny, when he said it. It's funny! It's like I'll worry about conservatives living in a bubble when conservatives are in charge of all those things. But right now, I'm worried about liberals living in a bubble.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Let me get back to the standards. There are some other provisions about airing both sides of the story. I mean, do those things not get punished or something like that?
GOLDBERG: That's not really the problem because people who say they only cover one side--
RATHERBIASED.COM: Or only do the other side to a lesser degree?
GOLDBERG: --they're not watching fairly. They cover both sides but if you're doing a big documentary--and I don't remember if the big documentary about gay adoption was one or two hours, it might have been two hours--if you're doing a big documentary and you cover both sides but one side gets, you know, a few seconds, and the other side gets the bulk of the time, that's not fair.
RATHERBIASED.COM: So what you're saying is that by giving at least a little bit of time, they can't be, technically, said to have violated their standards?
GOLDBERG: I'm saying, why do they go into the story--why do they go into certain stories thinking that the conservative view is the 'other' side? Why is the conservative view the other side?
RATHERBIASED.COM: Why can't there just be any side?
GOLDBERG: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Another point you make in the book is that liberals have an amazing amount of sway in the newsroom. We've found that to be the case in our research. For instance, not one CBS News show has ever featured a conservative critic of the prescription drug subsidies during Bush's presidency.
GOLDBERG: I rest my case, your honor.
RATHERBIASED.COM: By contrast, liberal groups have been on the shows repeatedly.
GOLDBERG: Because, because they think that big business--this is again the preconceived notion--somebody from a big corporation like a drug company starts out wearing the black hat. But anybody from a public interest, it's assumed that they automatically have no agenda other than the good of all mankind. Well they have a point of view, too. And I'm not saying they're wrong, by the way, the public interest groups.
RATHERBIASED.COM: So that's why they favor them then?
GOLDBERG: Because somehow, public interest groups are doing God's work so they're good guys, the white hats. Big corporations, well, we know they're all in it for the money so they're the black hats. And that's why, if what you just told me is accurate, that's why you get that. And if you said that, if you could say that to Dan Rather in a non-confrontational way, 'Mr. Rather, we did a study and you can check it out yourself. But you've had on a hundred people from various groups criticizing this and you never had a conservative spokesman on from this side, giving this side. Mr. Rather, please check it out, don't take my word for it, but if what I'm telling you is true, could you see how some of us think there's a problem?' How could he disagree with that?
RATHERBIASED.COM: I think that's a good point.
GOLDBERG: As a matter of fact, let me make this point. If one of the three network anchors steps forward and says, 'I've read Arrogance, and while I don't agree with every syllable in the book, Bernie Goldberg makes a lot of important points that need to be taken seriously by journalists because the American people are taking it seriously.' That person, that person's credibility, and--I think--even ratings would go up because millions of Americans would flock to that person and say, 'You know, that was fair thing to say?'
RATHERBIASED.COM: Actually, you bring up a question that I've been meaning to ask. You talk about Tim Russert in the book as a good example of a fair journalist, is--
GOLDBERG: Nobody's perfect. But by and large, he's a fair and honest guy.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Is there anybody else who you think does a good job of being fair?
GOLDBERG: Well, I think [NBC Sports host Bob] Costas does. He's in the book, too. There are times when I think that Ted Koppel is better than most and there are other times when I think that he isn't as introspective as he should be. Look, I'm glad you asked me this because I should have been more clear in the book. I don't think these are bad guys. I don't think that they're bad guys. I don't think that they're villains. I think that some are better than others but I don't think that any of them are bad guys or bad women. I think they can't help themselves because they don't look inward and they surround themselves with too many people who agree with them. So, I picked out one guy who, I'm guessing ought to be liberal--I mean he worked for Mario Cuomo after all--and I watched the show and I think he's pretty good, you know. He's good when he takes on conservatives and he's good when he takes on liberals.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Yeah, I think he does a good job, too.
GOLDBERG: Good. I'm glad we agree on that. Because, you know, my guess is you're to the right of center.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Perhaps. But not too, actually.
GOLDBERG: OK. But we're looking at this guy and we both think that he's pretty good. Will he ever do something that crosses the line? Sure. Of course. Has he? Sure. But--
RATHERBIASED.COM: So would anybody.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, because, you know what, if you're on long enough, you're going to do something that offends somebody. But he's better than most.
RATHERBIASED.COM: OK. Let me ask you about another journalism question. Another thing that sometimes is a problem is improper editing, and you talk about Maureen Dowd doing that. But a few months ago in an interview with Dan Rather, Saddam Hussein said that he thought that because Dan was such an quote 'outstanding man of the media,' that he, Saddam Hussein, would choose Rather to moderate a debate between himself and Bush. Now that interview made a lot of waves because of the call for debate. But because that 'outstanding man of the media' part got cut out, an important piece of history about Hussein and the foreign press was almost lost.
GOLDBERG: No, but you can't blame CBS for doing that.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Well, you can't, but I mean like how often does that happen where you cut out stuff?
GOLDBERG: You know what, if I did an interview-- Let's say, I'm interviewing you and this is going to be in the New York Times tomorrow and you say, 'Well, at least, Bernie, you're the most honest guy I know.' I'm not putting that in, because it's self-serving. It's embarrassing. You know what I mean?
RATHERBIASED.COM: Uh huh. Well, I mean in the case where--what about like in the case of Arnold Schwarzenegger where he was talking to Dan and he said something like, 'You're one of those guys that sees the glass half empty but I'm one who sees it as half-full.'
GOLDBERG: Did he put that in?
RATHERBIASED.COM: No, he didn't.
GOLDBERG: I think he should have. That's a better example. I think if he had put that in, it would show that there are people who have issues with the media and it makes him look bigger for doing it. But a lot of journalists don't put in things--a lot of journalists don't put in things where they're being criticized. I've written a number of letters to the New York Times, writing about things that I have first-hand knowledge of--
RATHERBIASED.COM: And they don't print them.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, they don't.
RATHERBIASED.COM: In the past few months, the networks have come under fire for repeatedly putting liberal activists on the air as average people. How do these people get on the air?
GOLDBERG: Because they don't see liberal activists as liberal activists.
RATHERBIASED.COM: So where do they come from? If they want someone to be the face for the prescription drug story, where do they go? How do they get these people?
GOLDBERG: Well, there's enough research out there that you know people who take sides. They like people basically who take sides. They don't want somebody down the middle on these things, understandably. They have a Rolodex.
RATHERBIASED.COM: And yet never identify where they come from.
GOLDBERG: That's the problem. They'll identify conservatives because they see conservatives as outside of the mainstream. And they think they need to identify them. And what that does is it tells the audience, 'Did you just hear that? This person has an ax to grind.' I don't have a problem with that. I'm OK with that. But then, they come along and put on somebody who also has an ax to grind, who's a liberal. It's like liberal is a four-letter word or something. They don't use it. They present the person as mainstream and moderate when the person has as much of a political point of view as the conservative does.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Yeah, but the thing is that the conservative groups are always offering people and stuff to the networks and yet, those people almost never get on. Why is that?
GOLDBERG: I think if a conservative is going to get on, he'd better be within the realm of mainstream conservative.
RATHERBIASED.COM: Well, that's true.
GOLDBERG: You know what I mean? You don't want somebody--
RATHERBIASED.COM: Certainly. Like, say, the Heritage Foundation, during the prescription drug thing, they were churning out studies, press releases, faxes, and yet none of their stuff ever got on the air. And I know that it must have gotten through.
GOLDBERG: Did they get on as soundbites?
GOLDBERG: OK, here's my answer: bias and arrogance. That's what it is. The Heritage Foundation. These are scholars. This isn't like some screwball living in a box who wants to come up with an opinion. So if you're right, and I haven't done any count on this, but if you're right, somebody as mainstream as that, then that's a problem.
[The exchange below is reprinted from follow-up emails:
RATHERBIASED.COM: I brought up the point of liberal activists being used on the air as average people. (If you'd like to check out our study on that, see this link). I bring that up because one if the things we noticed in doing the research for it was that CBS kept using the same liberal activists over and over as 'average' citizens. Why the same old people over and over? Is that a case of laziness, haste, or collusion with interest groups?
GOLDBERG: When they use the same people over and over, it is lazinesses, but only in this regard: they go to their files, they find a name, sometimes they don't even know the person was used before on the same broadcast, they call them up and interview them. It isn't collusion in the worst sense of the word -- in the sense that they say 'hey, come on the show and we'll stick it to those conservatives again.' It's simply the easy way to go. They need to expand their Rolodexes and they certainly need to identify activists.
RATHERBIASED.COM: As an example of that question, let me tell you about a woman named Viola Quirion. She is a member of the Alliance for Retired Americans (a group that was dissatisfied that the AARP wasn't liberal enough) and the Maine Council of Senior Citizens. She's lobbied her state government for more subsidies, taken part in a class-action suit against drug companies, and even testified before the U.S. Congress.
She has appeared on CBS programs on five occasions. Not once did anyone ever divulge her affiliations or past. In fact, every time, she was portrayed as just an average elderly American, even though she's anything but.
Just two examples for you if you don't have time for Nexis:
JOIE CHEN: Like many older Americans, Viola Quirion faces tough choices over what she needs to survive.
VIOLA QUIRION (Medicare Recipient): First, I buy my prescriptions to make sure I have enough money for that. Then if I have any left, that?s what I have to do with the food.
CHEN: The price of her prescriptions for ovarian cancer and a variety of other ills keeps going up. She says she and other Medicare recipients are in desperate need of prescription drug coverage. (Evening, 2003-03-04)
DAN RATHER: Millions of Americans squeezed by the soaring costs of prescription drugs could be in for some relief. Ruling 6-to-3, the US Supreme Court today gave the state of Maine an opportunity to at least try out a first-of-a-kind plan, a plan to force major drug companies to reduce prices for the poor and the uninsured. Many other states want to impose similar plans. CBS's Cynthia Bowers has the important ruling, and its potential impact on what you pay for prescription drugs.
CYNTHIA BOWERS: Today's Supreme Court decision could be a huge financial relief to Viola Quirion and others like her who have no prescription drug coverage; more than 300,000 in Maine alone.
VIOLA QUIRION (Maine Resident): It was bad for us. Today is a great, great day. I haven't felt good like that in four years. (Evening, 2003-05-19)
GOLDBERG: After reading your emails, I fear it's worse than even I thought.]
RATHERBIASED.COM: What advice would you give to young people who are considering a career in political journalism? If they really want to be fair, how can they do that in a climate that fosters liberal bias?
GOLDBERG: Don't go to the Columbia School of Journalism, that's number one. And be honest. Don't go in as an advocate for any position. Too many journalists today think that if they give equal time to a position they don't agree with, then that's being dishonest. They have to go in--if they want to go in to change the world, to make the world a different place, then go into social work. If they want to be honest brokers of information, then be honest. Just be honest and stand up for what you're doing. But don't go in there saying, 'Well we all know that this side is better than that side.' Then you're finished. You're finished.print_file('footer'); ?>