Warning: Conservatives May Be Harmful to Your Mental Health

“If you hooked network news reporters and producers to polygraph machines and asked them, ‘Do you think you are guilty of liberal bias?’ most would almost certainly answer, ‘No.’  And they would pass the polygraph test because they’re not lying.  They honestly believe what they’re saying.  And that’s the biggest problem of all.”

I wrote those words 10 years ago in my first book Bias, a behind-the-scenes expose on how and why mainstream journalists often slant the news to fit their own liberal biases.  It’s still the biggest problem of all today.

But despite what some conservatives might think, there’s no grand conspiracy to slant the news in a liberal direction.  During my nearly three decades as a correspondent at CBS News I never once saw Dan Rather (or anyone else) summon his top lieutenants and tell them to cover a story in a way that would make liberals happy.  It doesn’t work that way.

The problem is that newsrooms are packed with liberal journalists who see the world through a liberal prism.  There’s a lot of racial and ethnic and gender diversity in newsrooms these days, but very little ideological diversity – very little diversity of opinion.  So, inside the bubble, everything to the right of center is (correctly) seen as conservative, but everything to the left of center is (incorrectly) seen as middle of the road.  Liberal views, in this world, aren’t really liberal.  They’re moderate.  They’re reasonable.  They’re mainstream.

That’s why there’s so much liberal bias in the news.   That’s why it’s so entrenched, so much part of the fabric of American journalism.

And now we have a brand new piece of evidence showing once again that liberal bias is alive and well in America’s newsrooms, even if mainstream journalists are oblivious to it.

This time the evidence is about labels – the ideological labels journalists slap on presidential candidates the way tobacco companies slap warning labels on packs of cigarettes.  One says “Cigarettes cause cancer.”  The other practically shouts: Look out, be careful, you’re about to hear from a CONSERVATIVE!

A study out this week by the conservative Media Research Center concluded that if you’re a Republican running for president there’s a good chance you’ll be labeled a conservative.  But if you were a Democrat running for president four years ago, there was virtually no chance journalists would call you a liberal.  Here’s what the MRC found:

“This year’s crop of GOP presidential candidates includes strong conservatives, just like the top Democratic candidates four years ago — Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards — were all staunch liberals. But a major, glaring difference between today’s campaign coverage and the early coverage of the 2007 Democratic nomination race is the impulse of journalists to repeatedly brand the 2012 GOP candidates as ‘conservative’ despite offering extremely few ‘liberal’ labels four years ago.

“Media Research Center analysts reviewed the ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news programs from January 1 through July 31 and found 62 ‘conservative’ labels for Republican candidates or those talked about as potential candidates. A check of the same broadcasts for the same time period in 2007 found a paltry three ‘liberal’ labels for the Democrats running that year, a greater than 20-to-1 disparity.”

Journalists identify conservatives because inside the bubble conservatives are out of the mainstream.  They’re different.  Their views are often seen as alien, even dangerous.  None of that applies to liberals, of course.  Their views are the very essence of mainstream.

What makes this especially dopey, is that while about 40 percent of Americans identify themselves as conservative, only 20 percent identify themselves as liberal.  So which side is really mainstream and which is different?

This kind of thing has happened before in American journalism, a long time ago. Then, it was about crime and race.

In the old days, pretty much the only time a criminal’s race was mentioned in a story is if the criminal was black.  So a story might begin, “Johnny Jones, a 25-year-old Negro from Smithtown, was arrested last night ….”  But if Johnny Jones were white, the story would simply read, “Johnny Jones, a 25-year-old from Smithtown, was arrested last night ….”  No mention of race.

Journalists, in those days, identified black people because, at some level, they saw them as out of the mainstream, as different, as alien, and yes, as dangerous.  White people were the mainstream.  They weren’t different.  They weren’t alien.

Let’s stipulate that nothing in America is exactly like race, so analogies go only so far.  But, as I say, something like what went on in the bad old days is happening again, now.

Journalists slap labels on conservatives today for the much the same reason they slapped labels on blacks decades ago. Both are, or were, seen as outsiders — alien, dangerous outsiders.

This kind of thing should embarrass journalists.  But, of course it doesn’t.  Several years ago I said that I’ve met guys who work the overnight shift at 7-11 selling cigarettes and Twinkies to insomniacs who have more introspection than a lot of journalists I know.  That’s something else that’s still true today.



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  • Kathie Ampela

    Sorry Bernie, but you were totally wrong on O’Reilly last night. The “just a pretty girl” thing is a distraction from the actual meat of the interview. I don’t always agree with Laura, she is very partisan, but she was brilliant in this case. We will never bring about real change (not just a catchy campaign slogan)in this country if people are bullied into “staying in their pens” and living in fear of being called “racist” and “hatemonger.” Laura was strong and brave as was Allen West whose comments the previous night is what precipated Rangel’s appearance. And even you yourself admitted to Bill if the guest is being dishonest, then they should be interrupted. If Rangel was frustrated it was because Laura wasn’t allowing him to give the official party line: hateful rheteroic, blame the tea party, blame Bush. I’m not sure Bill would have been “allowed” such an honest interview without screaming headlines of “racist, hateful rhetoric.” The “just pretty girl” slap actually worked in Laura’s favor.

  • Roger G

    Great segment on O’Reilly tonight Bernie. I’m no liberal, but I can’t stand how O’Reilly’s back-up hosts invite guests on, only to shout over them. Monica Crowley had a very intelligent immigrant rights lawyer on last week, and all that happened was Monica screaming that everyone should be deported. The lawyer was explaining how that’s impossible and how the government prioritizes the cases – but Monica kept interrupting and saying they should all go now.

    It was a real waste of what could have been an interesting segment.

    Anyway, thanks for not always telling people what they want to hear.

  • LockeSmith

    One of the problems with discussing bias is that most folks don’t have a clue how to work with trends (and statistics in general) and scientific method. They’ll offer one counter-example and think they’ve “proven” you wrong. Bias does not mean that every single case of media reporting is left-leaning. It only means that the majority is so. (I’d say probably at least a super-majority in fact.) Likewise, finding some examples of stalwart conservatives in media doesn’t mean that most aren’t. It just means some people are willing and able to buck the trend.
    It takes a special kind of introspection to stop and think when you stumble over an unexpected and possibly painful truth. Most people are agile enough to pick themselves up and walk on unaffected.

  • Wil Burns

    Bernie, I’d like to: Mention that the very liberal Fox News Channel has more viewers than CNN. and to:

    Mention that the Sunday PBS pundit show The McGlauglin Group is named and orchestrated by that liberal John McGlauglin with a panel of three conservatives (including Mr. McGlauglin), one moderate and one liberal.

    Mention that the second largest media organization is America is owned and controlled by that liberal Rupert Murdoch.

    Mention that the most listened to talk radio show in America is from that liberal Rush Limbaugh.

    Mention that the magazine with the largest circulation in America, TV Guide, is owned and controlled by that liberal Rupert Murdoch.

    Mention that the daily newspaper with highest circulation other than USA Cheeze Whiz, is the liberal Wall Street Journal.

    Mention that Newsweek’s back page editorial 3 out of 4 times is from that liberal George Will.

    Mention that ABC, CBS, NBC and their owners; Disney, Westinghouse and General Electric are liberal corporations.

    Mention that over 90% of the daily newspapers over the past 16 years endorsed such liberals as Reagan, Reagan, Bush, Bush, Dole and Bush for President.

    Mention that you can’t even turn a radio on the AM dial without hearing such liberals as Bob Grant, Ollie North, Rush Limbaugh, Gordon Liddy, Ken Hamblin, Michael Reagan, Armstrong Williams, Bill O’Reily, Sean Hannity and Laura Schlessinger pushing their liberal propaganda.

    Bernie, The problem is? Is it that you think we are stupid, or more likely, is it that the people that listen to you are stupid, but the fact is, you are just blowing smoke!

    • Ron Kean


      • Wil Burns

        A (short bus)second grader speaks!

        • Ron Kean


    • Brendan Horn

      The difference between conservative media and liberal media is that the conservatives are honest and they usually admit they are conservative while the liberals are pathological liars and pretend that they are moderate. The moron Chris Matthews even said this week that he believes almost all liberals are moderate in their views – which goes along with the gist of what Bernard has written in this article. I think a lot of liberals lie to themselves and consider themselves moderate, but I believe the people higher up in the liberal media lie in order to manipulate the masses into believing that all conservatives are radical and that liberalism is the same thing as moderation.

    • John Sullivan

      Your post, even if taken as a contraposition, makes no sense. It’s utter babble, making no point. Perhaps you just intended to show some sarcastic prowess, but even that failed.

  • joe from louisiana

    This is for Wil. Below is an excerpt from a George Will column. Before you pooh-pooh it, I do believe the left was touting Jon Stewart’s audience as more educated than Fox viewers and you all believed like gospel.

    Sixteen months ago, Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, published “Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism.” The surprise is that liberals are markedly less charitable than conservatives. If many conservatives are liberals who have been mugged by reality, Brooks, a registered independent, is, as a reviewer of his book said, a social scientist who has been mugged by data. They include these findings:

    — Although liberal families’ incomes average 6 percent higher than those of conservative families, conservative-headed households give, on average, 30 percent more to charity than the average liberal-headed household ($1,600 per year vs. $1,227).

    — Conservatives also donate more time and give more blood.

    — Residents of the states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 gave smaller percentages of their incomes to charity than did residents of states that voted for George Bush.

    — Bush carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.

    — In the 10 reddest states, in which Bush got more than 60 percent majorities, the average percentage of personal income donated to charity was 3.5. Residents of the bluest states, which gave Bush less than 40 percent, donated just 1.9 percent.

    — People who reject the idea that “government has a responsibility to reduce income inequality” give an average of four times more than people who accept that proposition.

    • Wil Burns

      Joe, Arthur C. Brooks is the president of the American Enterprise Institute.

      ’nuff said!

      • joe from louisiana

        Media matters is funded by Democracy Alliance which is funded by that lovable anarchist and hypocrite: George Soros.
        ’nuff said!

        • Wil Burns

          Joe, Was not your post was about Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University and the president of the American Enterprise Institute?

          • joe from louisiana

            I guess I juxtaposed the “you believe whom you want and I’ll do the same”. The trouble I have with the left is any conservative source shall not be trusted but the info highway of spin and lies is littered with wreckage from leftists idealogues.

  • RandyM

    Bernie, I believe you’re right on. And it is reflected in other ways from within the insulated media bubble. Global warming is man-made..no question. Evolution is fact..no question. Anyone who owns a gun is evil..no question. Ad nauseum.

  • Wil Burns

    Bernie, Did you watch Laura Ingraham’s,who is sitting in for Bill O’Reilly, interview with Charlie Rangel. She wouldn’t let him speak. She fired off questions like machine gun rounds in mini speeches, but Rangel couldn’t get three words into a reply before she interrupted him with another question on yet another topic. He kept trying to point out to her that she hadn’t let him answer the first couple of questions, but she’d just careen off into another direction and ask him even more questions. Seems she needs to be educated on how to conduct an interview. She came across as a total scatterbrain and quite ineffectual.

    Rangel did eventually get out a complete sentence in which he zinged her pretty good and then she got all indignant. It was just more of the usual confrontational idiocy typically served up from FAUX “news”. A select few might get a hard-on watching it but the majority would be reaching for the remote control.

    • joe from louisiana

      So Wil, where should we get our news?? From the mainstream media that filters the stories they want us to hear. There is a litany of news items that the media refuses to elaborate on(Operation gunrunner, reverse voter intimidation in Philadelphia, racist youth flash mobs, Biden sticking his foot in his idiotic mouth, etc.). This was illustrated beautifully when Brian Williams decided that Weinergate was not very newsworthy but Palin fumbling her words on Paul Revere was??? I love the gimmicky use of “Faux”. That comes right from the brainiacs at MSNBC. They love the high schoolish techinque of altering words to form desipient little homonyms. Did you see “Shampaign”. I watched that and thought; how old are these people? Very juvenile.

  • David

    I agree Bernie, there are no actual meetings or marching orders however with today’s “new media” such as Fox and talk radio I definitely feel the “press majority” have moved towards activism because they aren’t nearly as successful in swaying public opinion like in years past. I have watched and read with interest how the news media pounces on one Republican candidate to the next. For example before Perry entered the race nothing much was said about him however the day he entered the media went into hyper bowl, discrediting him and the state of Texas economy at every turn. I sense they view Fox News as a real threat to their cause and feel that they have the right to go further left to counterbalance what they see as a network far to the right.
    There is a real war going on inside the nations newsrooms for the heart and soul of the American people to renounce their conservatism and become the good little liberals like they are.

    • EddieD_Boston

      Couldnt agree more. Competition from alternative sources has caused them to tank to the left even further.

  • Paul Courtney

    Bernie: You would know better than I, but still… Sure, Brian Williams doesn’t call in D Gregory and Nora and Chris, telling them “today we’ll call conservatives ‘terrorists'”, and they bow or nod. Some days, though, they’re indistinguishable from the party activists who follow marching orders. And it has the desired effect, listening to NPR this am I was struck by several callers, very likely ordinary folk, who hit the same theme-The Tea Party are ruining the country to ruin Obama. Conservatives wanted the Country to default so Obama would lose. My guess is that these folks are pretty conservative on some subjects (local), but a steady diet of MSM flakes (The Breakfast of Sophisticated Champions) and they believe this palaver at the national level. For what it’s worth, from my observations, the opinion-making class do talk to each other and set an agenda, or they couldn’t manage this tweedle dee-tweedle dum act so effectively.

  • robin in fl

    I always enjoy reading your take on stuff bernie,,I have now discovered I am neither a liberal nor a conservative because many are just as bad as they claim the others are.what I mean is as soon as you have an opinion about a topic that is not what they think you should think,you are labeled a “bad” person,or a trouble maker..just join any political speak site and one will see this.
    off course they won’t just come out and say it and even the ones that are suppose to be un biased are still biased and will speak in a ‘put down ‘ sort of way,not realizing that they are coming off just like those they don’t like…so the left tells me if I listen to toby keith or like owning guns I am stupid and uneducated(but I also like pearl jam.sooo???)..and the right thinks if I am pro choice I have horns coming out of my head and want to kill all the babies ,yet they are all for the death penalty..um ok????

    and they all sit back and wonder why the right thinks the left is a bunch of brain dead pot smokers and the left thinks the right is a bunch of grouchy old white guys..I don’t know..but I’m neither a grumpy old white man nor a pot smoking idiot,,so I will now just sit on the fence and shake my head laugh at all of them I guess..if they only saw the damage it does to what they are trying to promote when they do it to sane thinking people that just happen to have opinions on their own..almost as if people must be drones with the same brain..VERY weird.

    btw bernie,how did you get so smart???you and dan abrams (when he was on the other network) are my 2 favs(glad he left that station,he was far too balanced for that place..keep up the good work.

  • EddieD_Boston

    When I teach Principles of Management there is a concept known as “group think” and how it’s a hinderance to innovation and adaptation to changing markets.
    I always try to explain it by using the example of the mainstream media and I always need to explain the media’s bias b/c most of my students are early 20’s and don’t get it yet. Plus, they’ve spent the last 12 years being brainwashed by school, TV and Hollywood.

  • DOOM161

    20% of Americans identify themselves as liberal because the rest of the liberals don’t understand that they are, indeed, liberal.

    Look at the Presdient: He truly believes that he isn’t an ideologue, despite having the most liberal voting record during his time in the senate.

  • Nancye

    Not too long ago I read an article by a psychiatrist who said that liberalism was a mental disease. I believe that truer words were never spoken. Liberals are sick in their heads and they don’t even know it!

    • Wil Burns

      Nancy, All Liberals are sick in their heads. What a stupid statement!

      • EddieD_Boston

        Nancy is right Wil. For proof liberalism is a mental disorder read the sob story in The Boston Sunday Globe about a high school dropout with two illegitimate kids from two different losers and pregnant with another and how the Globe blames her poverty on everyone but the stupid d-bag (sorry, there is NO other word for her).

        Liberalism is seeing things as they aren’t. It’s a sickness.

        • Wil Burns

          Eddie, And you, as an supposed teacher of Principles of Management, believe this is Liberalism? How foolish, you must be!

          • EddieD_Boston

            Yes Wil, the Globe is probably the most liberal daily newspaper in the country and they print foolishness like the above mentioned story all the time. Only a liberal could be so stupid to think this woman is somehow a victim.
            Read the article Wil, if you don’t come to the conclusion that this woman brought all of this on herself you’re a liberal because it means you really don’t get it.

        • Brian

          Wasn’t that Globe article about how the poor are having a worse time affording a decent life?

          Didnt get anything about the Globe blaming her poverty on everyone but her by reading the article.

          • EddieD_Boston

            You should read it again then. Manufacturing jobs moving overseas (read: evil corporations run by heartless republicans!)…state tax revenue being spent disproportionately inside Route 128…she only makes $9.00 an hour at McDonalds….blah lbah blah
            She brought all of this on herself and is no victim of anything but her own stupidity.
            Did they mention her child support checks? Maybe ‘cuz the losers who knocked her up don’t work or are in jail. Great choice of a boyfriend there huh?
            Think about all the money she has cost the taxpayers of Mass. None of the Ivy League grads at the Globe can grasp the true cause of her situation which is our welfare system that rewards stupid behavior which the Globe has endorsed for 40 years.
            Section 8 apartment, food stamps, welfare, etc. The working class taxpayer is the victim here not this d-bag.

          • Brian

            Re-read the article.

            She certainly is stupid for getting pregnant again, no one would debate that.

            Im still not taking away “corporations are evil” stuff from reading this article. Its more about how the “Bread-and-butter” jobs have gone by the wayside.
            Yes, there has been a lot of outsourcing for manufacturing and clerical support jobs and I dont know why someone would take issue with an article that mentions that.

            I have much less of an issue with gov’t funds being used for children than some dirtbag feigning a disability for a drug addiction. If they usethe funds for their children I have no issue with that and wouldnt lay a claim that i am some sort of victim.

        • Wil Burns

          Eddie, In your mind that is ‘proof of liberalism,’ how silly you must be!

    • Bruce A.

      An article on the Fox website a few months back mentioned the presence of a “liberal gene”. I believe it was a study at a univ. in Texas which came up with this.

    • Brian

      So Bernie writes an article on the liberal media unjustly labeling all Republicans as “conservatives” and you label all “liberals” as “sick in the head.”

  • Paul Borden

    The bias you point out, Bernie, sometimes shows in subtle ways. I wish I could remember the exact numbers but a few years ago when Alito was up for confirmation the Miami Herald ran an editorial in which it added together the percentage of people (according to an independent survey) who identified themselves as liberal and those who considered themselves independent to get a number greater than 50 percent. The editorial then stated this showed that the people did not want a conservative on the bench. Of course, had the Herald also added together those who identified themselves as conservative to those who claim to be in the middle, it could have used this as proof people did not want a liberal justice either. Guess that never occurred to them. BTW, I also looked up the original survey that was based on and it broke down groups like this: do you consider yourself liberal, middle-of-the-road, conservative, or ultra conservative? Why was there a split of conservative and ultra conservative but not liberal and ultra liberal? By keeping it liberal-conservative-ultra conservative, the numbers were very similar. Had conservative not been split, it would have been much bigger than the percentage who identified themselves as liberals.

  • Terry pogue

    I’m a liberal. To me President Obama is middle of the road. A good liberal would have worked for universal healthcare for instance. I’m in favor of gay marriage while the president is not. I’m finding it difficult to figure out why some think of him as liberal. I am suspicious of any “conservative” that substitutes prayers for thinking. That worried me about GW Bush and it would certainly worry me in any potential president. I’d rather not hear anything about religion. Usually that only comes up on the far right. I think Mitt Romney doesn’t bring up his religion. I also believe taxes are our patriotic duty. I don’t understand why conservatives seem to be so stingy. So I am liberal and I know the center does not always believe in what I do but conservatives never do

    • Paul Borden

      Conservatives stingy? Survey after survey has shown that conservatives donate more to charities than liberals do, and it’s not because they have more money. They give a higher percentage of their wealth to charity. What conservatives don’t like is liberals telling them to whom they should give their money. And they aren’t arguing for no taxes but for low taxes.

    • Ron Kean

      Religion is the foundation of civilized life. Don’t murder or steal etc. Despotic regimes and corrupt societies don’t subscribe to principles like that and they usually perish. Kant demonstrated that ‘reason’ is subjective based on experience. You can’t trust people to reason like you but you can trust (the great majority of) Christians and Jews to believe in civilization like you.

      Conservative Americans have made money and pay most of the taxes as well as give most of the charity. Conservatives like to choose who to help and not be told. Just like you. We all agree on defense, fire prevention and police. But ‘poor’ is a relative term and we don’t trust everybody’s word on that.

      • Wil Burns

        Ron, When Religion Ruled the World, They Called It the Dark Ages!

        • Ron Kean

          Did religion rule the world? I thought Kings and Dukes and Barons did and used Religion to pacify the masses. Religion can be calming.

          The end of the 30 years war brought tolerance between Catholic and Protestant and the age of reason brought some tolerance for Jews in Christian Europe. Then Napoleon gave equality and fraternity to everybody.

          It was the Godless communists and Nazis that killed in numbers hard to comprehend.

          • Wil Burns

            Survey after survey has shown that conservatives donate more to charities than liberals do, and it’s not because they have more money.>>

            Just how does any survey determine that? It’s impossible!

          • Wil Burns

            You are talking about the Renaissance, I said Dark Ages. Big difference!

          • Ron Kean

            How far do you want to go back? The Incas chopped out hearts in the name of religion. Do you want to say anything about Islam????

            The point I’m making is that Christian attitudes about tolerance have evolved and to a great extent have overcome a bloody past. Others including communism have not.

            I wish you’d admit you’re fortunate to live in a dominant Christian country and if you think Democrats or atheists give as much charity as Republicans and religious people, I believe you’re uninformed and I’m not going to spend any time searching for links because you’ve challenged me to.

          • Wil Burns

            How about researching the ‘Inquisition’ and then get back to me. And remember…
            Faith does not enhance reason, it replaces it.

          • Ron Kean


            Is there any reason that anyone should look to you for theological advice?

            You exist to criticize, to be contrary, and to just seem angry. You don’t want to be friendly, ‘get along’, or co-exist peacefully. You exist only to say that the good people here are wrong.

            Day in day out you fight everybody and show disrespect to our host who graciously allows you to express your often very misguided views.

            The best that can be said for you is that you’re tolerated like an itch or arthritis. Actually, I think you’re getting boring.

    • Will Swoboda

      Hey Terry, don’t you see, you consider all conservatives as far right fanatics when they are not. I’m not sure if you are healthy or not but universal health care is not the way to go. I have a friend in England who has a serious eye problem that will be taken care of in about 18 months. Their system is called NICE and it is as long as nothing is wrong. I believe that gays can marry without changing the definition of marriage. I believe that reefer should be legalize and the government should give drug addicts a fix that cost about $2.00 offer treatment if they want it, if not shoot till you die. This way, the addict would not have to be a criminal along with be an addict. I am a conservative.
      Your friend in Baltimore,

  • Ron Kean

    And that’s not saying much for those guys selling cigarettes at the 7/11 overnight.

    • Wil Burns


      Old Man Ron Yells At Cloud!


  • Ron Kean

    We understand.

  • James

    Bravo Bernie!