Sunday, November 4, 2012

Media Bias 101: Benghazi vs. Watergate and Iran-Contra

Paul Kengor
Who'd have thought that hyenas could turn into lambs.

Question: How is Benghazi different from Watergate and Iran-Contra? The obvious answer: the media. Liberal journalists turned Watergate and Iran-Contra into gigantic national scandals by their consistent, relentless pursuit of both stories; to the contrary, they are consistently, relentlessly ignoring Benghazi.

The media's treatment of Watergate needs no explanation here. The press detested Richard Nixon unlike any modern president. Sure, the liberal media went after George W. Bush, but nothing like the way it attacked Richard Nixon. Liberals' hatred of Nixon was pathological. It dated to Nixon's work in exposing Alger Hiss. As Nixon would say at the end of his life, the Hiss-Chambers trial forever forged a legion of unwavering Nixon enemies on the left. I'm not saying that Richard Nixon was an angel, but if you want to understand Watergate, you need to understand the hatred of Nixon by the liberal media.

The media's feelings about Ronald Reagan were not quite the same, but nasty nonetheless. Liberal journalists demonized Reagan, calling him everything from an idiot to a nuclear warmonger. They caricatured Reagan as a dawdling old fool who wanted to blow up the world and who disliked the homeless, the poor, minorities, and on and on. They blamed Ragan for everything from greed to AIDS. And they searched diligently for a Watergate-like scandal to run Reagan out of the White House, as they had Nixon.

The operative words are "searched diligently." CBS, NBC, ABC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR, and the usual suspects looked everywhere for something -- gee, anything -- to hurt Reagan. Being political partisans first and journalists second, they dug furiously for their Watergate. And they thought they had it in Iran-Contra.

It's fascinating, however, to see how the Reagan team immediately reacted to the Iran-Contra allegations. The president and his attorney general wanted prompt and full disclosure. As soon as Attorney General Ed Meese learned of the situation, he brought it to President Reagan, and they together publicly disclosed the details to a hysterical media on November 25, 1986. They wanted to come clean immediately, to avoid even the slightest whiff of a cover up.

The media, however, was ferocious in its lack of charity and understanding, and ditto for its party, the Democrats, which ran Congress. In mere weeks, Lawrence Walsh, a former federal judge, was appointed Independent Counsel to determine whether the deal was illegal and which individuals should be prosecuted. For the press, the big question was the president's personal knowledge and involvement: What did Reagan know?

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