Brent Bozell: The Media Never Loved Reagan
(Commentary) - Is it not amazing that it’s taken the news media exactly 100 years to discover that Ronald Reagan was a role model? While he lived and even after he died, they shot every arrow and dropped every bomb they could on this man and his reputation. Now that it’s his 100th birthday and America is celebrating, they find him useful. They’re trying to rub Reagan’s magic all over a floundering Obama.
After Obama’s latest State of the Union speech – a dreary, boring spectacle for a normally riveting speaker – all three networks praised Obama as “Reaganesque,” as if he were one of the sunniest American exceptionalists. Time’s latest cover reads “Why Obama [Hearts] Reagan,” and the cover story inside is titled “The Role Model,” oozing that Obama “realized long ago that Ronald Reagan was a transformational president.”
This is all a grand deception.
The multitude of Americans who were very young or yet unborn in the Reagan years might be misled from one enormous reality: in his prime, the same media that now honor Reagan deeply despised him. He was stupid, he was uncaring, he was evil, he was senile, and he was going to ruin America, if not destroy the world in a nuclear war.
The Media Research Center has assembled a Special Report to recount some of the most pernicious and false attacks on Reagan. Let’s consider just a few examples, among hundreds.
Take the class war. The “news” people were always waging it. ABC’s Richard Threlkeld went to a Miami riot scene in 1989 and announced: “There is an Overtown in every big city in America. Pockets of misery made even meaner and more desperate the past eight years.” NBC’s Bryant Gumbel proclaimed in 1989: “Largely as a result of the policies and priorities of the Reagan Administration, more people are becoming poor and staying poor in this country than at any time since World War II.”
NBC reporter Keith Morrison took the cake in 1992: “Did we wear blinders? Did we think the ’80s just left behind the homeless? The fact is that almost nine in ten Americans actually saw their lifestyle decline.” Morrison completely ignored reality: (Census Bureau data shows median family income increased in all income classes from 1981 to 1989.)
The meanest attack was that Reagan’s lack of caring led to a pile of AIDS deaths. NBC’s Maria Shriver asked activist Elizabeth Glaser at the 1992 Democratic convention: “You place the responsibility for the death of your daughter squarely on the feet of the Reagan administration. Do you believe they’re responsible for that?”
A 1998 PBS program on Reagan claimed: “AIDS became an epidemic in the 1980s, nearly 50,000 died. Reagan largely ignored it.” CBS “Sunday Morning” TV critic John Leonard sneered that Reagan “took this plague less seriously than Gerald Ford had taken swine flu. After all, he didn’t need the ghettos and he didn’t want the gays.” He added, as Reagan’s legacy: “by 1992, 194,364 American men, women, and children were dead.”
(In reality, AIDS funding skyrocketed in the 1980s, almost doubling each year from 1983 – when the media started blaring headlines – from $44 million to $103 million, $205 million, $508 million, $922 million, and then $1.6 billion in 1988. This is what CBS calls “largely ignoring it.”)
But defense spending was, by contrast, an enormous waste. Take it from ABC’s Jim Wooten in 1990: “The dreaded federal deficit, created, for the most part, by the most massive peacetime military buildup in America’s history.” (But in 1990, defense spending was a fourth of the budget and had decreased 16 percent in the previous five years, while entitlements were half the budget and grew sharply.)
The reality of the Reagan years was a historic economic recovery, a strong defense posture that led to the demise of the Soviet empire, and an America that once more burst with pride. But media liberals were so obstinate in denying reality that CBS’s Morley Safer huffed just days after Reagan passed away: “When it gets down to the real substance, I don’t think history has any reason to be kind to him.”
All Reagan received was mudballs like this one from NBC's Tom Brokaw at the end of 1989: “Reagan, as commander-in-chief, was the military's best friend. He gave the Pentagon almost everything it wanted. That spending, combined with a broad tax cut, contributed to a trillion-dollar deficit....Social programs? They suffered under Reagan. But he refused to see the cause and effect."
The “objective” press that never saw any reason to be kind to President Reagan can only manage to do it now to try and save the sinking ship that is Barack Obama’s presidency. No one should let them put these two men in the same sentence, unless it’s to discuss how far we’ve fallen as a nation.