THE BLOG
11/20/2014 04:13 pm ET Updated Jan 20, 2015

If Sharyl Attkisson's Such a Fair Reporter, Why Is Right-Wing Media Defending Her?

Since former CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson revealed herself to be an anti-Obama, conservative-leaning reporter, the Media Research Center has had her back, defending her by ignoring the shoddy nature of her reporting. Which raises an important question: This defense by the MRC and other right-wing media outlets undermines any claim Attkisson might have to being a fair and balanced reporter.

For example, MRC officials Brent Bozell and Tim Graham devoted their Nov. 12 column to singing Attkisson's praises. The first clue that they don't intend to tell the full truth is their shading of the MRC's past criticism of Attkisson:

She has a record of playing it pretty straight and digging into the facts. We've flagged her for an occasional tilt over the years, like this one against President Bush in 2001: "Adding yet another twist to the President's dilemma, even conservative senators from his own party are urging him to support stem cell research." For a "conservative," Attkisson picked the late Arlen Specter, who had a lifetime rating of 41 percent from the American Conservative Union.

Bozell and Graham have apparently forgotten -- or decided to forget -- about Attkisson's advocacy of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, which the MRC also dinged her for. But Bozell and Graham are more concerned with bolstering Attkisson's supposed journalistic bona fides:

But liberals have tried to undermine her professionalism, starting with CBS colleagues who hypocritically charged her with having a "political agenda." When Attkisson appeared on MSNBC's "All In," host Chris Hayes laid out the liberal line, appropriately identifying it as "the most cynical."

[...]

The folks at MSNBC refuse to admit Attkisson has exposed the real cynicism inside the media, namely: Why would we look into rampant Obama administration corruption when it's "our job" to offer Obama a "successful presidency"? Chris Matthews announced that "most cynical" line on the purpose of TV journalism two days after Obama was elected president.

Sharyl Attkisson has never been a political operative. She's been a fairly objective journalist -- something that MSNBC would never understand.

Needless to say, Bozell and Graham don't mention that Attkisson's post-CBS journalism has appeared exclusively in conservative-leaning media outlets like the Daily Signal (operated by the Heritage Foundation) and Sinclair Broadcasting (which infuses the local news broadcasts of the TV stations it owns with conservative bias). And they refuse to admit one glaring fact: If rabid right-wing political operatives like themselves are running to Attkisson's defense, she cannot possibly be "playing it pretty straight" or be "a fairly objective journalist." Objective and fair reporting, it seems, is something the MRC would never understand.

But Bozell and Graham aren't the only MRC employees trying to ignore inconvenient facts about Attkisson's bias. In a Nov. 10 NewsBusters post, Melissa Mullins fawned over the party being held for Attkisson's new book, Stonewalled, which included "members in the media, whistleblowers from other scandals, and the outgoing House Oversight committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa." Mullins highlighted Issa's speech lavishing praise on Attkisson:

Darrell Issa, who has been just as much a key player in the Benghazi investigation by chairing the House Oversight Committee, also spoke to the crowd. "My committee is a desert island if not for a press that will look at stuff fairly and scrutinize it," Issa said. "In many of our investigations, Fox News led; CBS, on occasion, was there and made a big difference; on very rare occasions ABC; never NBC."

Investigations, he said, worked only "if the press, and particularly reporters, will go out and meet people and get the story from whistleblowers and then report it and give them a fair hearing."

Mullins expresses no curiosity about why a powerful congressman is attending the book party for a reporter who covers him. She doesn't mention that Attkisson uses her book to praise Issa and defend him against the not-unreasonable accusation that Issa's targeting of the Obama administration is politically motivated -- or that much of Attkisson's recent reporting has depended on leaks from Issa's office, which indicates an unusually close relationship between them.

If Issa were a Democrat and he attended the book party for, say, Chuck Todd -- not to mention regularly feeding information to him -- the MRC would be howling about the unseemly mingling of media politics. But because this is Darrell Issa and Sharyl Attkisson, the MRC looks the other way.

Again: If Attkisson wasn't doing conservative-friendly things, the MRC wouldn't be so eager and desperate to defend her. If Attkisson had gone after a Republican president the way she has President Obama, Bozell and Graham would not be so effusively singing her praises.

(An expanded version of this item is posted at ConWebWatch.)