Opinion: Partisan Bias and Neutrality in News Sources

Photo Credit: Elayseah Woodard-Hinton

Hagel visits Kuwait

” It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity “. Nowadays it often seems as though Republicans and Democrats along with Fox and MSNBC should be included in Dickens’ list of opposites. By examining partisan biases in recent articles on Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel from The Economist, The New York Times, Fox News, and The Associated Press, these sharp contrasts become all the more evident.

I’ll start with the most partisan: from Fox News and The Associated Press.

The AP article alleges to Republicans asserting that Hagel “endorses automatic cuts to the defense budget, [and] that he wants to decimate the nation’s nuclear arsenal.” However, Fox News is not as biased as I would have initially thought. The Fox article’s main bias lies not in asserting that those claims are true, but rather that the article presents the claims mentioned by the AP, presents (conservative) affirmative arguments, then jumps to suggesting we should reserve judgment without having presented the other (liberal) side. 

Similarly in the portion of the AP article, “FACT CHECK: The Stretched Case Against Chuck Hagel,” the AP presents their side of the argument, refuting conservative attacks on Hagel’s position on the U.S. nuclear arsenal, military budget cuts, and Hagel’s Chevron board position.  On the other hand the  AP article ignores Hagel’s potentially less defensible past: opposing the successful Iraq surge and his previous opposition to gay rights. Both the AP article and the Fox News article demonstrate bias, not by twisting the facts as the other side would have us believe, as much as by omitting information contrary to their point.

The Economist avoids such cherry picking of evidence in the article “Obama picks his soldiers”. The Economist dismisses some Republican criticism as “wilder comments” and “huffing and puffing,” but the article does acknowledge other points.  For instance, “in 2006 he triggered a minor storm by saying that the ‘Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people’ in Congress.”

It appears mainstream news sources retain their integrity, although some coverage bias appears in the AP and Fox News articles, neither source brought up any misleading information or falsehoods, and blatant advocacy for one side remains restricted to editorials such as the New York Times’ “A Confirmation Ordeal”. However, the fact that news publications present such bias by omission demonstrates how clearly partisan lines have divided our country and society.