The indictment of 13 Russians and three companies for allegedly creating a "sophisticated network designed to subvert the 2016 election and to support the Trump campaign" is only half the story. While the Justice Department targeted foreign influence, others could have easily said something about the role U.S. media played in influencing the election's outcome. While not criminal, the U.S. media should at least be shamed for its unrestrained bias for and against both left and right.
According to the Media Research Center, the conservative media watchdog, in conjunction with a poll conducted by the market research firm YouGov, eight in 10 voters believe coverage by the news media during the 2016 presidential campaign was biased, with nearly a 3-to-1 majority believing the media favored Hillary Clinton. Even one-third of Clinton voters believe the media were pro-Clinton.
From the left, a PBS poll found that mainstream media outlets engaged in "journalistic bias" that skewed coverage in favor of Donald Trump's campaign and under-covered Democratic candidates, especially Bernie Sanders.
Granted, Trump was a far more interesting story than the boring Hillary Clinton and the quirky Sanders. Polls have shown most journalists favor Democratic candidates and vote for them. When confronted with such polls, they claim it has no effect on their reporting. Given their pro-Democrat comments over many years and voting records, that stretches credulity.
What should be of even greater concern than media biases is the lack of coverage of important issues. According to the PBS poll, "Only 11 percent of coverage focused on candidates' policy positions, leadership abilities or personal and professional histories." In other words, coverage was mostly about the horse race and personalities, not what touches the lives of most Americans. That's journalistic malpractice.
The Hill has reported on one of many examples of unbalanced coverage. It was mid-October 2016, a little more than two weeks before the election. On one evening the three broadcast networks spent a combined 23 minutes on allegations by several women that Donald Trump sexually assaulted them.
By contrast, only one minute seven seconds combined was devoted to coverage of a WikiLeaks email dump of Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, which included derogatory remarks about Catholics, Latinos and the NAACP, sympathy for Wall Street, advocacy for open borders and blatant examples of media collusion with the Clinton campaign. "Ratio of negative coverage of Trump vs. Clinton: 23:1," reported The Hill. How is that not biased?
Since Trump's inauguration, biased coverage has gotten worse. Again, according to a study by the MRC, evening news coverage by the three broadcast networks "found an overwhelming negative bias against the Republican president ... the media covered the president more in his first eight months than they covered President Obama during the entirety of his final two years in office ... a remarkable 91 percent of the coverage of Trump over the summer (of 2017) was negative, surpassing the bias of the coverage of his first three months."
While the government can't -- and shouldn't -- do anything about the American media's biases in favor of Democrats, viewers and readers can. Distrust of the broadcast news outlets has been growing for some time. Ratings are generally down and big city newspapers face declining readership of their print editions.
The Department of Justice declared that Russian meddling didn't change the election outcome, and 97 percent of voters who responded to the MRC poll said they did not let media bias influence their vote.
The casualty in all of this is the country, which needs a fair and strong press. As the recently minted Washington Post slogan says: "Democracy Dies in Darkness." The problem for the Post and other major news media is that they are the ones turning out the lights.
Cal Thomas, America's most-syndicated columnist, is the author of 10 books.