Report Card Gives CBS an 'F' for Coverage of Bush's First 100 Days

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:19 PM EDT

( - CBS received a failing grade for its allegedly biased coverage of President Bush's first 100 days in office, according to a Washington-based media watchdog. Two other networks, ABC and NBC, received a "C minus" and "B minus," respectively.

For example, CBS' John Roberts cited and quoted a critique of the Bush tax cut given by Citizens for Tax Justice's Robert McIntyre without labeling him a liberal.

Despite CBS's own poll showing the Bush tax cut receiving wide public support, Roberts featured two tax cut opponents to illustrate the public's negative reaction to Bush's budget speech in late February.

The study also found that CBS news anchor Dan Rather "denigrated Bush's policies, calling his tax program a 'gamble' and a 'cut-federal-programs-to-get-a-tax-cut-plan.'"

In compiling the network grades for their coverage of the president, the think tank catalogued and compiled a list of quotes attributable to the network anchors and reporters.

"All three networks fed the public a heavy dose of liberal criticism of Bush, often times not even labeling the critics as liberal," said Media Research Center President L. Brent Bozell III. is a division of the MRC.

"Truly balanced coverage would have included labeling critics with a political agenda just that, instead of positing them as unbiased experts," Bozell said.

Similar liberal spins could be found on ABC, the analysis showed. ABC's Peter Jennings accused the Bush administration of "very militant" rhetoric in the U.S. standoff with China on the April 2 edition of "World News Tonight."

"Terry, before this incident the Bush administration had been very militant rhetorically with the Chinese government. Any fear there might be a backlash?" Jennings said to White House reporter Terry Moran.

The MRC found that Moran complained about the president's use of the phrase "energy crisis," even though ABC used the same words the following day in a promo for an upcoming story.

Moran did get credit for pointing out that the liberal claim of Bush's tax cut plan favoring the rich was based on only one set of statistics. When it's presented another way, Moran reported, the tax cut actually gives more benefits to lower and middle-income taxpayers.

NBC did not escape criticism either. The Media Research Center report card pointed out that Today's Matt Lauer demanded that Bush look him in the eye "and say that you are a president committed to cleaning up the environment."

The peacock network did receive kudos, though, for Meet the Press host Tim Russert's interview with Bush critic and California Governor Gray Davis, in which Russert asked, "If you don't cut taxes, Governor Davis, won't Congress spend the money?"