Washington (CNSNews.com) - Former conservative author-turned-liberal activist David Brock, whose new book and website are devoted to denouncing conservative media outlets, says network news personalities have privately praised him and told him, "Thank God you are doing this..."
Brock, the author of The Republican Noise Machine: Right-Wing Media and How it Corrupts Democracy, told an audience of several hundred fellow liberal activists about off-the-air exchanges he has had with network news hosts.
Brock spoke Thursday in Washington at the "Take Back America" conference, which is billed as a gathering of progressive activists.
"In the past few weeks -- as I have been on some of these TV shows, either talking about my book or about [my website] MediaMatters.org -- I have been -- off air -- been told by network talent: 'Thank God you are doing this because we can't do it -- because James Dobson can send an e-mail and turn NBC upside down,'" Brock said. Dobson is the conservative Christian leader of Focus on the Family.
Brock did not specify which "network talent" had praised him. Brock recently has appeared on numerous network news programs promoting his book, including a May 18th interview with Katie Couric on NBC's Today show.
"I think they (network news outlets) are afraid," Brock said. Brock made the comments while participating in a panel discussion called "Challenging the Right: Message and Media."
Brock said that the timidity of the "mainstream media" has allowed unprecedented growth of conservative media outlets.
"For a long time, the mainstream media has not stood up. They've essentially allowed Fox [News Channel] to happen. They do not cover [Rush] Limbaugh -- he is a serious political figure in this country -- they don't write about what he says," Brock said.
Brock is president of the new media watchdog website MediaMatters.org, which is demanding that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld remove Limbaugh's radio show from "taxpayer-funded American Forces Radio."
Brock described how "organized right-wing groups" help shape the "mainstream media's" news coverage.
"There has been organized pressure of organized right-wing groups where they systematically complain to mainstream media institutions about what they see that they consider to be biased," Brock said.
"This is a funded activity, and over the years it has had an effect. It has moved --- not just Fox [News Channel] -- it has moved the GE cable channels, etc., [to the right]" he added.
Brock said he believes that the best way to reduce the impact of conservative talk radio and Internet sites on the "mainstream media" is to expose it and hold the networks accountable.
"When CNN cites a report from the Drudge Report -- and this happened -- if they are called out [on it], they will think twice the next time," he said.
Brokaw, Jennings, Rather called 'right of center'
Former Clinton administration Chief of Staff John Podesta told CNSNews.com there is no liberal bias in the media.
"If there is a liberal bias, I can't find it any longer," Podesta said in an interview with CNSNews.com following the panel discussion. Podesta currently serves as president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
According to Podesta, the network news anchors -- NBC's Tom Brokaw, ABC's Peter Jennings and CBS's Dan Rather -- can now be considered conservatives.
"Over the course of the years, they may have actually tipped a little bit to the right of center," Podesta said.
Podesta agreed with the premise of Brock's new book that conservative media outlets are "corrupting democracy."
"I think when you get so distant from the facts as guys like Limbaugh or Sean Hannity do, I think that tends to corrupt the dialogue," Podesta said.
Podesta also took a jab at Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly when an audience member asked about the possibility of filing lawsuits against news outlets that "propagate direct lies."
Podesta responded, "What about television? It's time to sue Bill O'Reilly." The crowd of liberal activists showed their approval by erupting in applause.
'Knifes you in the back'
The wife of Hollywood actor and liberal activist Ed Asner addressed the conference, denouncing conservative talk radio in general and radio host Sean Hannity in particular.
Cindy Asner told the audience during a question-and-answer session that she feels betrayed by some conservative talk radio hosts. Asner described how liberals have been lured in as guests on conservative programs only to have the hosts later turn on them and distort their comments.
"[The host] turns around and knifes you in the back," Asner said.
Asner specifically singled out Hannity as not treating her husband fairly. "Ed goes on the air and then [afterward Hannity] invites the audience in and criticizes everything he says and then turns it completely around and before you know it, is all over the air with some impossible lie which is really detrimental to us," Asner said.
After the panel discussion ended, Asner told CNSNews.com that all her husband desires is a "fair hearing" on Hannity's program.
"You want to be able to say your full say, not be interrupted, not have your mike turned down and then when you go off the air you don't want them to badger you," Asner said.
Asner said she has voiced her complaints about what she considers to be her husband's mistreatment directly to Hannity and she said the radio talk show host "denies it."
Asner could not readily explain the appeal or the success of conservative talk radio. "It's not just a simple matter, it is a highly complex issue," she said.
She also dismissed the notion of a "liberal bias" in the media. "It's an absolute fallacy because they have to answer to their corporate bosses and they are all owned by corporations and the corporations are not liberals," she said.
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