L. Brent Bozell separates fact, fiction in biased reporting – Interview – Cover Story
The founder and chairman of the conservative Media Research Center has made a career of skewering the dominant liberal news media for unfair advocacy of left-leaning people, causes and ideas.
Longtime conservative activist L. Brent Bozel III, 42, is founder and chairman of the board of the Media Research Center, or MRC, a media-watchdog organization based in Alexandria, Va. His group keeps its eye focused on the doings of the liberal media, and takes their many biases to task in MRC publications, which include the newsletters MediaWatch, Notable Quotables and MediaNomics. About his work as a media watchdog, Bozell tells Insight, “It s not a job. It s an adventure!” Bozell also is coeditor of the hook And That’s The Way It Isn’t: A Reference Guide to Media Bias.
Bozell’s Parents Television Council, based in Hollywood, annually publishes the Family Guide to Prime Time Programming to help parents select what programs their children will watch on TV.
His commentaries and reports have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and National Review. Bozell warns that Washington types must keep themselves aware that the real world is elsewhere. “We conservatives don’t realize the degree to which `Beltwayitis’ has afflicted and damaged us,” he says.
Insight: There’s certainly a lot of talk going around about Steve Forbes for president. Who would you like to see on the GOP presidential ticket in 2000?
L. Brent Bozell: I’m not ready to commit at this point. However, I am intrigued by a Forbes/Ashcroft [Missouri Sen. John Ashcroft] ticket. I think as a duo they would bring an awful lot of firepower to the fight for good sense.
I think Forbes is doing everything right by the book. If I were writing a presidential-campaign manual, I would say do exactly what Forbes is doing. He has been running for president since day one, and he’s giving the right messages and working with the right coalitions and saying all the right things.
But Ashcroft also brings something. He brings the cultural-conservative base to the table. Geographically, there’s a mix as well [Forbes is from New Jersey]. I’d love to see those two team up. I could really get enthusiastic!
Insight: What about the Democrats? Is [House Minority Leader] Dick Gephardt [of Missouri] going to give Vice President Al Gore a difficult time?
LBB: I think that this could be a delicious mano a mano for us to watch! Gephardt you do not underestimate because he is a scrapper. And Gore: I think he is overrated. Gore’s got the Clinton baggage he’s going to have to carry. Not just ethical baggage, but political baggage. You need the activists on the left to get the [Democratic] nomination, and Gore’s losing them.
You’ve got unions like the Teamsters and Jimmy Hoffa [Jr.] saying that Democrats can’t necessarily count on them. You’ve got the United Mine Workers, another very powerful union, after Kyoto [the December Conference on Global Warming in Japan where Gore made an appearance favoring a treaty drawn up by the delegates] letting Gore know that they’re going to come out against him.
Gephardt’s got these guys, so this could be interesting. It’s about time the Democrats beat each other up for once!
Insight: But doesn’t Gore have a big head start on Gephardt, however much of a scrapper he might be?
LBB: What Gore has going for him is that the media like him more than they like Clinton. The media don’t like Bill Clinton personally as much as a lot of people think they do. They like his policies and they certainly prefer him over “Attila the Gingrich.”
But that doesn’t mean they personally like him. There are reporters who’ve told me — told me off the record — that they think he [Clinton] is a sleazeball. They think he is a liar. They don’t trust him as far as they can throw him.
With Al Gore, it’s different. Gore they really like because they like his agenda, because they know he’s far more liberal than Clinton is, that he’s far more committed to a liberal ideology. And just as they supported Clinton because he promised them more liberalism, I think they are going to be inclined to support Gore because he’s much more doctrinaire.
Another point about the media: By the year 2000, all the scandals revolving around Gore right now probably are going to be forgotten.
Insight: Your Media Research Center has been taking the liberal media to task now for a decade. Have things improved?
LBB: It’s interesting. For the first eight years or so, I could say with a degree of confidence that I saw signs of improvement. It might be public awareness in surveys. It might be developments in over-all reporting. There would be signs from year to year that there was improvement, however marginal it might be.
After the 1994 elections, when Republicans were jumping up and down with joy, I predicted publicly in a letter to our supporters that the Republican Party had no idea what was about to happen and it was going to wake up at some point in 1995 and wonder what happened to its revolution.
And yet even I didn’t predict just how bad it was going to be. The attack on the Republican Party began in late September 1994, and [House Speaker Newt] Gingrich’s approval rating plummeted — not that he didn’t put his own foot in his mouth on several occasions.
But studies show that the media, during a three-month period, gave 100 percent negative coverage [to Republicans and the Republican revolution]. Not moderate, not balanced. Negative.
The media did a number on the “Contract With America” that is still felt today. Republicans still are shell-shocked about what happened. They still are wondering what to do next.
So 1995 was the year of bias-by-commission, a period in which I’ve never seen a more activist media. In 1996, it was bias-by-omission: There was virtually no mention whatsoever of the Clinton scandals in the presidential campaign until about Oct. 15th, when it was too late to help Bob Dole!
Insight: Has America genuinely moved to the right?
LBB: I think politically, yes. Culturally, no. People sing the song “Happy Days Are Here Again.” The budget is coming under balance! There’s growth! The liberal political agenda is dead! We are in control of the agenda.
Politically, that’s correct. However, if you look at cultural matters, there is cause for great concern. If you look at the core of our society, it’s rotting from the inside. You’re seeing 14-year-olds open fire with guns inside the schools; no one knows why, and it’s not an aberration. It’s becoming commonplace. You’re seeing kids at proms having babies and trying to flush them down toilets. It’s a very sick society. Culturally, we conservatives have lost control of the agenda, and that is the most important agenda, as far as I’m concerned.
As a movement we aren’t doing enough to address cultural issues. We seem too mesmerized by the day-in, day-out battles in Washington. In the final analysis, [those battles] don’t address the real issues that face America.
Insight: What do we do about the profound social and cultural problems you say we have not been addressing?
LBB: My personal opinion is that it all goes back to abortion, to Roe vs. Wade. If conservatives were focused where I’d like to see them focused we’d be putting our energies on that one date: Jan. 22, 1998 [the 25th anniversary of the decision], because on that day this country officially turned away from protecting human life. We put the first foot onto the slippery slope.
I recall that in 1971 my father predicted that, following the acceptance of abortion by the Supreme Court, euthanasia would follow. That’s what happened. What he didn’t predict was that young couples would have babies and smash them against dumpsters, and that there would be people who then would say those young couples were “victims” of something.
That’s the rot, and that’s the cultural area that I think conservatives need to focus upon. It’s not a right-left proposition so much, because there are many on the political left who feel the same worries and are equally concerned. There need to be new alliances, I think, along those lines.
Insight: What part should religious faith play in our political life?
LBB: It should be the cornerstone. Whatever role it plays, it’s not enough. You look at first causes. You ask yourself what is right, and what is right ought never to be based on political expediency, but on moral imperatives.
As a Catholic, I oppose the death penalty. I might as well take some hemlock for that one. In conservative circles, one is not allowed to take that position. As a Catholic, I understand that conservatives have fallen short on social issues. We preach social justice, but we don’t live social justice.
Let’s do a gut check and ask ourselves, “In our lives, do we live a life of charity? Do we give of ourselves personally’? Which of us can do enough?”
What attracted people to Ronald Reagan, I think, was that his message was about the possibility of heroes, and his was the everyday hero. The man who works at a gas station and does a good job. The woman at the checkout counter, who does her job well. That gets at a basic truth which people understand and appreciate; it’s not gobbledygook from Washington. He cared about values and thought legislation should and would follow sound values.
RELATED ARTICLE: Personal Bio
L. Brent Bozell III: chairman, Media Research Center and president, Conservative Victory Committee, shown at an earlier age with four of his children.
Born: July 14, 1955, Washington, Roman Catholic. Married, with five children.
Education: University of Dallas.
Favorite Books: Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Leftism Revisited. “He’s written more books than I have years, but that one’s special.” Anything on the Civil War: “There was a sense of duty, honor and patriotism on both sides that this country has lost, and needs to regain.”
Favorite Movie: Schindler’s List. “Spielberg achieved what no think tank could ever accomplish in getting us to focus on the important things of that era. What struck me was the power that Hollywood has for good. We talk about the destructive nature of Hollywood, and it does have a destructive nature. But there’s that good side, too: Hollywood could do more to change the inner cities than anybody else in America.”
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