THE STUDY NOVEMBER 14, 2011
Pity Michele Bachmann. The Minnesota congresswoman and certifiable presidential aspirant saw her poll numbers rise throughout the summer, but when autumn came, those heady days ended and she fell—as must all false messiahs of these unsustainable GOP boomlets—back to Earth. Now, with poll numbers hovering around 4 percent, she is reduced to trading insults with journalists. (It’s not quite the same as staring down Qaddafi.) It all started over the weekend, when CBS political director John Dickerson demurred at the opportunity to interview Bachmann after Saturday's debate and accidentally copied one of her campaign staffers on his email. “Let’s keep it loose,” he wrote, “since she’s not going to get many questions and she’s nearly off the charts in the hopes that we can get someone else.” Keith Nahigan, Bachmann’s campaign manager, furiously called for Dickerson (a “fraud” and a “piece of shit”) to be fired. After calming down slightly, Nahigan emailed the campaign’s remaining supporters with “concrete evidence confirming what every conservative already knows—the liberal mainstream media elites are manipulating the Republican debates by purposely suppressing our conservative message.” The candidate herself said she had “clearly” been censored. Is Michele Bachmann a victim of media bias?
It will surprise few that Bachmann, who has a history of clashing with reality, has little supporting evidence for this claim. The distinctive characteristic of Bachmann’s campaign coverage, as a Pew report found last month, is precisely how positive it has been. In a 23-week review of over 11,000 media outlets, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism found that “Bachmann’s coverage in news outlets was substantially more positive than negative.” Bachmann was covered more positively than Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and President Obama (that’s some liberal media!). What’s more, she actually received not just more positive coverage, but more coverage overall. Reviewing coverage from 52 major print, television, web, and radio outlets, Pew found that Bachmann’s share of total coverage ranked only behind those of Romney and Perry. These numbers do suggest that something was slightly askew about the media’s treatment of Bachmann, but censorship? Please.