opinion

OPINION: Mainstream news media is biased against progressives



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Cenk Uygur is the host and co-founder of "The Young Turks" online talk show. Tribune News Service

Since the rise of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in his 2016 presidential run, the news coverage from legacy print and broadcasting media has either largely ignored progressive politicians or downplayed them as unpopular.

Despite being portrayed as radical or "too far left" by mainstream media outlets, the progressive agenda is incredibly popular across the political spectrum. Policies such as raising taxes on the wealthy, single-payer health care, tuition-free public college and ending offensive regime-change wars overseas have only risen in popularity among young people and the working class.

Working class Americans are suffering, and the country’s economy and allocation of funds need to change now. The media is supposed to challenge those in office and hold them accountable, but in recent years coverage has fallen short.

Much of the media coverage of Sanders and his progressive allies is hardly objective, often framing attacks from a center-right perspective. 

Most notorious was the “Bernie Blackout,” in which media outlets such as the New York Times, CNN and MSNBC severely limited their coverage of Sanders last year. However, now that Sanders has proven himself likely the most viable 2020 Democratic candidate, according to FiveThirtyEight’s election forecast, it is more difficult for news media to continue ignoring him.

Sanders has rarely been given a fair shake by the mainstream media networks. Outlets like the Washington Post have a consistent anti-Sanders bias, one day in 2016 even running 16 hit pieces on Sanders in 16 hours — highly disproportionate compared to other candidates.

The most pervasive claim propagated by established media networks is the infamous “Bernie Bro'' narrative, which insinuates his support is entirely composed of white males. In reality Sanders has arguably the most diverse support base of any current presidential candidate, with over 5 million individual donations and leading in youth support.

In one egregious example, a legal analyst on MSNBC said Sanders was not a “pro-woman candidate” without any evidence except saying, "Bernie Sanders makes my skin crawl. I can’t even identify for you what exactly it is." In fact, Sanders has raised more money from women than any other candidate, according to the Center for Responsive Politics last month.

However, Sanders is not alone: Progressive politicians across the country are not treated fairly by the mainstream press and broadcasting networks.

Long-time progressive political commentator and activist Cenk Uygur is running for congress in California's 25th District and has been repeatedly smeared as a misogynist and racist even after repeatedly disavowing past offensive blog posts.

Uygur helped found one of the largest progressive media outlets in politics, as well as Wolf PAC and Justice Democrats. These organizations aim to get money out of politics and back some of the most successful progressives in office today, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-MN, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-MA and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-MI.

Policy discussion is rarely the focus when analyzing progressives. Instead commentators offer nonsensical moral outrage. This was clearly demonstrated last year when Tlaib and Omar were called anti-Semitic by Jewish Groups and congressional Republicans for taking a stand with the Palestinian people against Israel’s oppressive occupation.

Even when discussion focuses on policy, the approach is usually from a right-wing perspective.

Take "Medicare for All," for example. CNN host Jake Tapper ran a “fact check” last August evaluating the cost of Medicare for All in which he misled viewers, challenging Sanders’ claim that the proposal will save the American people money. Three days later, facing backlash, he acknowledged the need for corrections.

In the wake of the disastrous Iowa caucuses, media coverage of progressive politicians has not changed at all.

At 62% of the votes counted, former South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg had the audacity to claim he won the Iowa caucus. Instead of dismissing him and exposing his suspicious ties to the makers of the faulty Shadow app, the main media broadcasting networks published several articles backing his “victory." With 100% of precints reporting, Sanders won the popular vote, while Buttigieg had a slight lead in state delegate equivalents. The Iowa Democratic Party is still recanvassing the results.

The primary print and broadcasting media networks are not doing their job. It should be no surprise that both Democrats and Republicans have become more distrustful of news media recently.

More Americans now get their news from social media than print newspapers. Twitter may not represent real life, but its communities and users’ political attitudes are. The stories espoused by legacy media corporations are not gospel, and the American people are smart enough to see through that.

Jonah Hyatt (he/him) is a junior studying political science and philosophy. He is the treasurer of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee at IU.

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