Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Biased Reporting of Tom DeLay

Both CNN and Fox News ran stories about House majority leader Tom DeLay stepping down after being indicted. Biases are revealed in how they talk about the Democratic district attorney from Texas, Ronnie Earle, who indicted DeLay. In both articles Delay is quoted as calling Earle a “partisan fanatic.” However here is how each provided different information:

CNN: CNN’s article provides data on Earle’s public corruption cases which supports Earle’s position that he was not politically motivated. They offer little else from Delay’s perspective other than the “partisan fanatic” quote. It is possible that CNN may update their article later but here is what CNN said as of 6:30pm (PDT) on Wednesday:

At a news conference in Austin, Earle, a Democrat, declined to comment on any evidence he had linking DeLay to the alleged conspiracy.

Earle denied any partisan motivation, telling reporters that 12 of the 15 public corruption cases he has prosecuted involved Democrats. His record on high-profile corruption cases has been mixed.

"The law says that corporate contributions to political campaigns are illegal in Texas," he said. "The law makes such contributions a felony. My job is to prosecute felonies. I'm doing my job."

DeLay, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives since 2002, called Earle "a partisan fanatic."

FOX: Fox News, on the other hand gives much more information from DeLay’s perspective. They mention that more Democrats were indicted by Earle than Republicans but do not give the data. Here is some of what Fox said on the matter:

DeLay also accused Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who is leading the investigation, of pursuing the case for political motives. Earlier, DeLay attorney Bill White told reporters, "It's a skunky indictment if they have one."

"In an act of blatant political partisanship, a rogue district attorney charged me with one count of conspiracy ... a reckless charge wholly unsupported by the facts. This is one of the weakest, most baseless indictments in American history and Mr. Earle knows it," DeLay said.

Calling Earle a "partisan fanatic," DeLay said Earle has a vendetta against DeLay and said he "is abusing the power of his office to exact personal revenge."

"I happen to have a copy of the indictment in my hand right here and I think the indictment has some problems," said Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, who said Earle pursued the indictment for three years and six grand juries because he knew that under House rules, there would be "instant punishment as the result of an indictment."

The indictment has "escalated politics into the courthouse," Carter told FOX News.

"This is a ham sandwich indictment and we just ask 'where's the beef?'" said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. "[Earle] just wants to harm Tom DeLay for being an effective Republican leader."

Kevin Madden, DeLay's spokesman, also dismissed the charge as politically motivated.

"This indictment is nothing more than prosecutorial retribution by a partisan Democrat," Madden said, citing Earle.

"We regret the people of Texas will once again have their taxpayer dollars wasted on Ronnie Earle's pursuit of headlines and political paybacks."

Lott said it's no coincidence that Earle has a history of going after those in political office.

"We've got an active district attorney, a prosecutor that really wants to indict somebody," Lott told FOX News. "He can indict a ham sandwhich before most grand juries. When you look at the record of this prosecutor, I can't say I'm particularly surprised." …

Former Rep. Chris Bell, D-Texas, told FOX News that the DeLay indictment is "long overdue" and defended Earle, saying he has prosecuted more Democrats than Republicans during his career. "He's a fine, upstanding district attorney with a fine record," said Bell, who was defeated in a re-election bid last year after the state map was redistricted.

Links to the articles:,2933,170681,00.html

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Iraq War: Protests and Counter-protests

Fox News and CNN ran identical AP articles about Iraq war protests in DC and elsewhere. Counter-protests were mentioned in the article but Fox News paid more attention to it. One way they did this is through the pictures with the article. CNN chose two pictures; one is of protesters in London and the other is protesters in DC. Fox News chose three pictures; one is of the protesters in DC, the second is of Cindy Sheehan, and the third is the following of Joseph Williams taking down a picture of his son, who was killed in Iraq, at the end of a counter-protest:

Fox News photo (AP/The Reporter, Brad Zweerink)
Posted by Picasa

Fox also inserted a link, in the middle of the article to an article on the counter-protests:
Click here to read about counter-protests. In the middle of that article, Fox has a link back to the anti-war protest article.

Links to the articles:,2933,170312,00.html

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Photos of Senator Reid (D-NV)

Reid (D-NV) announced his opposition to John Roberts. CNN ran an AP story while Fox News ran their own article, with contributions from the AP. I find it interesting to look at the photos each chose to use. CNN shows a reflective Senator Reid on the Senate floor while Fox shows a rather mean-looking picture of a glaring Senator.

CNN: Senator Reid (Senate TV)

Fox News: Senator Reid (AP)
Posted by Picasa

Links to the articles:,2933,169924,00.html

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Pres. Bush at the Pentagon

President Bush spoke today at the Pentagon. CNN ran an AP article and Fox News ran their own with contributions from the AP. The differences in the headlines are subtle. It is my belief that even these subtle biases can make a difference, especially if one reads only one source over time. In this case CNN’s headline is: “Bush: United States must not retreat in Iraq.” The way this is phrased it has Bush on the defensive and it has a negative tone saying that we don’t want to do something bad. Compare that with Fox which had a headline of “Bush: We must show courage against terror.” This is more positive by emphasizing a good quality, courage. It also focuses not on Iraq but on the war on terror; or that Iraq is part of the war on terror. Both headlines are accurate but the perspectives are different.

Links to the articles:,2933,170151,00.html

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Katrina: Feds vs. Local

Per my post yesterday, this morning is an example of how CNN is perhaps focusing more on the federal administration issues whereas Fox is looking closer at the local leadership issues. Here are two screenshots. The first is from CNN which is highlighting FEMA problems. The second is from Fox which has the New Orleans mayor on the defensive.

Screen shot of, Sept. 18, 2005; 7:30 am (PST)

Screen shot of, Sept. 18, 2005; 7:30 am (PST)
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Saturday, September 17, 2005

More on Katrina

One type of evidence of bias in Katrina coverage would be how critical either CNN or Fox News is of federal officials compared with local and state leaders. Today’s articles may show a little of that. Fox ran an AP story and CNN their own (with contributions form AP) concerning New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s decision to allow some people to return to the city contrary to the opinion of the federal leader, Admiral Thad Allen. CNN’s headline is “Admiral asks New Orleans residents to delay return” whereas Fox’s headline is points more specifically to a problem: “Coast Guard: Timeline for Residents' Return 'Problematic'.” Here is how CNN opens its article:

CNN: “New Orleans business owners started trickling into the city on Saturday and residents were expected to return next week, but the head of the federal government's response to the storm said he wished they wouldn't.”

Fox, on the other hand opens with a much stronger statement critical of the mayor’s decision.

FOX: “The mayor of New Orleans has set up an "extremely problematic" timeline for allowing residents to return to the evacuated city, which is still threatened by a weakened levee system, a lack of drinkable water and heavily polluted floodwaters, the head of the federal relief effort said Saturday.”

In the last two days, CNN has these two articles critical of FEMA leadership:

A disturbing view from inside FEMA (09.17.2005) As Hurricane Katrina bore down on the Gulf Coast three weeks ago, veteran workers at the Federal Emergency Management Agency braced for an epic disaster.

Clinton: FEMA chief should be experienced (09.16.2005) Former President Bill Clinton on Friday said it should be required that any future head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency have "prior experience in emergency management."

Links to the articles:,2933,169670,00.html

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

John Roberts Hearing

CNN and Fox News each ran their own articles on the John Roberts hearing. The headlines were very similar but biases can be seen within the articles with Fox being more pro-Bush/Roberts than CNN. Here are some examples:

1. CNN’s opening sentence says that Roberts “deftly sidestepped the volatile issue of abortion.” That sounds more like he was a little slippery compared with Fox’s description that paints a picture of a stronger nominee with senators out to get him. Fox said that Roberts “battled a number of senators who tried to wring out of him opinions on hot-button issues like abortion and end-of-life issues. But he stood his ground, …”

2. The only Republican mentioned by CNN is Se. Arlen Specter (PA). Fox, on the other hand, mentioned Senators Hatch (UT) and Grassley (IA), plus Fred Thompson, who is acting as the White House liaison.

3. CNN slips in a comment about the “the infamous he-said, she-said battle between Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill riveted the nation in 1991.” Fox slips in a comment about Democratic Senator Schumer (NY): “As chairman of the committee charged with electing Democrats to the Senate in 2006, the Times reported that Schumer has used the confirmation battle to raise money for campaigns and to strengthen his standing as a party leader.”

4. CNN makes this statement:

“But Biden grew animated when he claimed Roberts was refusing to answer specifics, contrasting his responses with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's testimony during her 1993 confirmation.”

Fox adds more background information that is more supportive of Roberts:

“Republicans like to point out that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg refused to answer some 60 questions during her own confirmation hearings on the basis that in doing so, she would be giving clues as to how she may rule in certain cases. Refusing to answer such questions has therefore been dubbed the "Ginsburg Rule."”

5. The following was mentioned by Fox and not noted in CNN’s article:

“Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., pressed Roberts about his writings on civil rights while a lawyer in the Reagan administration two decades ago. … Kennedy continued to interrupt Roberts and was told by Specter to allow the nominee to finish his answers.”

Links to the articles:,2933,169216,00.html

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Katrina: CNN vs. FOX

I am sure these are not the only examples but here is an article covered only by Fox and another only by CNN:

Headline: Dems Used Katrina to Raise Funds

Opening sentence: A new Democratic effort to whip up indignation about the Bush administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina also tried to raise money for Democratic candidates.

Friday, September 09, 2005
Associated Press,2933,168889,00.html

Headline: Firms with White House ties get Katrina contracts

Opening sentence: Companies with ties to the Bush White House and the former head of FEMA are clinching some of the administration's first disaster relief and reconstruction contracts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Different perspectives on FEMA Director Brown

Both ran very different views of FEMA Director Michael Brown being relieved of on-site hurricane relief duties. Friday, CNN ran an AP article and Saturday Fox News ran their own article with a credit to AP contributions. Look at the dramatic differences between their headlines and opening sentences:

Headline: Brown relieved of hurricane responsibilities
Opening: Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown, the principal target of harsh criticism of the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, was relieved of his onsite command Friday.

Headline: FEMA Chief Taken Off On-Site Efforts
Opening: Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown was recalled to Washington to oversee national Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Friday.

Links to the articles:,2933,168915,00.html

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

timeout for vacation again

I'll be away from a computer for a few days but look for a new post over the weekend.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Criticism of Federal Response to Katrina

It has been difficult for me to do fair comparisons about the Hurricane Katrina stories since there have been numerous articles which are being continually updated. However, today I looked at some coverage of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Could there be bias in coverage of the federal response to make President Bush and/or his administration look bad or good?

CNN devoted to an article to Chertoff’s comments at a news conference Saturday in which he is quoted as saying the combination of the storm and the levee breaks was a surprise. CNN offers contradictions to Chertoff’s arguments in defense of the federal response. The headline and sub-headline sum up the gist of the article: “Chertoff: Katrina scenario did not exist; However, experts for years had warned of threat to New Orleans.” I could not find reference on Fox News to Chertoff’s statements.

[CNN link:]

CNN also covered on Sunday a Times-Picayune newspaper editorial that was not covered on Here were the headlines from CNN: “New Orleans paper rips federal response; Times-Picayune: Everybody at FEMA should be fired.” Is CNN going out of its way to bring up criticism of the federal response? Fox News is covering the criticism but are they downplaying it at all?

[CNN Link:]