Lou Dobbs, Stephen Colbert and the myth of the liberal media

The CNN anchor wonders if the media's "liberal bias" explains its response to Colbert's routine.

Published May 3, 2006 8:03PM (EDT)

And with this, the world is officially upside down.

As Media Matters reports, CNN's Lou Dobbs is asking whether the mainstream media's "liberal bias" explains why Stephen Colbert's performance at the White House correspondents dinner hasn't been "more heavily criticized."


From where we've been watching, the problem with the mainstream media's coverage of Colbert's performance isn't that it has been insufficiently critical. It's that it hasn't existed at all. The New York Times' nearly 1,000-word report on the dinner didn't mention Colbert's performance. The Washington Post gave it short shrift. The three big broadcast networks ignored Colbert. So, too, did CNN in its early coverage of the dinner.

And when the mainstream media did mention Colbert, the discussion was almost always negative. When Time's Michael Allen said on "Hardball" that Colbert "went over about as well as David Letterman at the Oscars," Chris Matthews followed up by asking: "Why do you think he was so bad?" On "Countdown," Keith Olbermann wondered whether Colbert had used "the right tone at the right venue" or whether "a line" had been "crossed here in some way." The Washington Post's Dana Milbank responded by suggesting that Colbert's routine had paled in comparison with the president's own two-Bush bit. The New York Daily News' Lloyd Grove said Colbert had "bombed badly." NPR's Mara Liasson said that Colbert had "bombed" too, but then later posted a "clarification" saying that she'd meant only that Colbert's material hadn't gone over well with the swells in the room.

It was too late. By the time the New York Times finally got around to writing about Colbert's performance today, the verdict was in: Not funny. How do we know? Noted humorologists Noam Scheiber and Mary Matalin said so. Missed their acts at the local comedy club? Maybe you have: He's a writer for the New Republic; she's a former aide to Dick Cheney.

At the White House, Scott McClellan said he's staying out of the fray. "We'll let others be the entertainment critics," he told the Times. "I know better than to insert myself into that one." It may have been his best decision ever: When the mainstream media and its "liberal bias" are already going after Colbert, why should the White House take the risk of piling on?

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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