A Grain of Saul is a weekly column that digs into some of the biggest issues we face as a nation and as an international community in search of reliable data, realistic solutions, and — most importantly — hope.
Over the last year, a previously little-discussed political talking point has become accepted as fact by a growing number of Americans: the media is biased in favor of liberal candidates.
This narrative of a biased media has only been exacerbated by the rise of Donald Trump — who is known for insisting every negative story about him is a product of the biased media — and a recent batch of WikiLeaks documents, which showed a few journalists offering favorable coverage in exchange for access to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Most recently, the idea that the media is biased was propped up by one of the most-read media outlets in the world: The Wall Street Journal, which published a widely-shared opinion piece by Kimberley A. Strassel entitled "The Press Buries Hillary Clinton's Sins."
But let's get something straight: the media isn't biased. And if it were, there is just as much evidence to show it's biased towards giving conservatives favorable coverage, not the opposite.
Firstly, and most importantly, let's consider exposure: the largest and most-watched news station in the world is Fox News, a decidedly right-wing outlet whose content has been deemed the most inaccurate on television by several different research projects.
Fox News, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal and Reuters are all hugely popular news websites — as well as hubs of conservative discussion online. The New York Post has the sixth biggest circulation of any print newspaper in the U.S. and is decidedly right-wing. The Wall Street Journal, where Strassel so boldly claimed that the press buries Clinton's sins, is the most-circulated print newspaper in the country.
In radio, it's all conservative, all the time. Talkers Magazine's 2016 "heavy hundred" list, where the 100 most important radio talk show hosts in America are ranked, lists only conservative talk show hosts in its top five: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, David Ramsey, Glenn Beck and Mark Levin.
Simply put: many of the most popular sources of news information for Americans are conservative-leaning.
Hannity, one of Fox News' most-watched anchors, recently defended his open support of Trump by insisting that he is "not a journalist" and therefore has no obligation to be balanced. This belief has allowed him to give lip service on his television show to conspiracy theories like the "Clinton body count" and the myth that President Barack Obama was born in Kenya.
This skewing of fact and opinion by legacy media outlets has given rise to a wave of online conservative publications that position themselves as delivering news, but in truth seem more geared to delivering an agenda. Drudge Report claimed they uncovered proof Obama was born in Kenya and insinuated Hillary Clinton was a lesbian. Breitbart and Infowars, long-known for being central to pushing outlandish conspiracy theories and nationalist populism, now find themselves retweeted by Trump and his family.
And yet it's CNN, with a bipartisan host like Jake Tapper — who doesn't identify as a Democrat or Republican — that is accused of being the "Clinton News Network." It's the same CNN that helped give Trump $3 billion worth of "free advertisement," the most of any candidate this year, with its unending coverage of his campaign.
"I've gotten so much free advertising, it's like nothing I'd have expected," Trump told the New York Times early in his run. "When you look at cable television, a lot of the programs are 100% Trump, so why would you need more Trump during the commercial breaks?"
After billions of dollars of free advertising, CNN went on to hire former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, a man still on the Trump payroll, who was seen exiting his plane as recently as October 15. This, apparently, is not enough to appease Americans who think the media is biased.
Even when people accuse the media of being biased, they're forced to cite the media's reporting as evidence. Take Strassel's assertion that the media buries Clinton's sins. She starts off by claiming that the nation "now has proof of pretty much everything she [Hillary Clinton] has been accused of," apparently forgetting that the aforementioned news organizations have accused her of murder, rigging elections, being a demon, wearing a wire during a presidential debate, and having a progressive brain disease that has left her with memory loss.
But Strassel goes on to discuss Clinton's emails and WikLeaks by citing the very work that's been done by other journalists to somehow try and prove that journalists aren't covering Clinton's email scandals. She claims the "press is in Mrs. Clinton's pocket," noting that Donna Brazile — a mutual enemy of the far left — sent Clinton debate questions before a town hall. Brazile has subsequently been fired from CNN for her actions. That Donald Trump has now hired Breitbart News CEO Bruce Bannon as a campaign manager, former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes as an advisor, and continued to pay Lewandowski as he shills for Trump on CNN, doesn't seem to bother Strassel at all.
None of this is even worth addressing when you consider the premise of Strassel's argument: that Clinton's email scandal is being ignored or buried. On the contrary, the Tyndall Report — which tracks flagship nightly news coverage — found that NBC Nightly News, ABC World News Tonight and CBS Evening News have dedicated 100 minutes this year to Hillary Clinton's emails and just 32 minutes for all other issue-based coverage. The emails were covered so redundantly that Bernie Sanders, while running against Clinton in the Democratic primaries, famously quipped on national television that he thinks he speaks for all Americans when he says he's "tired of hearing about your damn emails."
Meanwhile, it's those very outlets that could just as easily be accused of burying Donald Trump's sins. For instance, a presidential candidate facing accusations of raping a 13-year-old girl should be front page news, but has been largely ignored during this election. Trump actually has two upcoming court dates: one on November 28 for a Trump University class action lawsuit, another on December 16 for the aforementioned rape allegation. I could accuse "the media" of staying silent on such issues. As Paul Waldman of The Washington Post put it: "Trump's history of corruption is mind-boggling. So why is Clinton supposedly the corrupt one?"
Perhaps they fear losing press credentials the way The Washington Post did when Trump pulled their access for not giving him "favorable" coverage. Perhaps they fear lawsuits, something Trump has threatened various news organizations throughout his campaign, including The New York Times.
The truth is, the media isn't biased: we are. We as readers are seeing things we don't like and then accusing the sources of having partisan intentions, rather than giving a plain and fair look at the evidence in front of us.
And if the media still seems to have a liberal bias these days, it probably has more to do with Trump being a bad candidate than journalists not doing their job. Let us not forget that scores of stalwart conservative newspapers have endorsed Clinton this year: The Arizona Republic gave its first Democratic endorsement in 126 years. The Dallas Morning News gave its first Democratic endorsement in 75 years. The Cincinnati Inquirer broke a 100-year-long streak. The Houston Chronicle, who have only ever endorsed Democrats in the 2008 and 1964 elections, also endorsed Hillary Clinton. They are a few of many.
What Americans need to realize is that journalists from both sides of the aisle, the people following this election most closely, are lining up behind Clinton for a reason, and it's not bias.
It's because she's the better candidate.
You can follow Isaac Saul on Twitter at @Ike_Saul.