Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called out the media for their biased coverage of presidential campaigns, and refusal to inform the American people during an interview on CNN’s Reliable Sources.
During the interview, Sanders hit on the media bias against discussing issues, and the media’s obsession with negative campaigning.
STELTER: With your campaign now a few weeks in, are you finding that the media is taking it seriously or are you finding they’re using you only as a foil to Hillary Clinton to get headlines?
SANDERS: I think we are doing pretty well. And I think the media — we have gotten more serious discussion on our issues than I might have thought about.
But this is what I worry about. In terms of campaign coverage…
SANDERS: … there is more coverage about the political gossip of a campaign, about raising money, about polling, about somebody saying something dumb, or some kid works for a campaign sends out something stupid on Facebook, right? We can expect that to be a major story.
But what your job is, what the media’s job is, is to say, look, these are the major issues facing the country. We’re a democracy. People have different points of view. Let’s argue it.
STELTER: Fundamentally, you’re describing what is the systemic issue in press, in the nation’s news media, which is an interesting spectacle over policy.
SANDERS: To me, it is astounding. And correct me if you think I’m wrong. When you have ABC, CBS, and NBC not devoting one minute to the most significant trade agreement in the history of the United States of America, help me out, help me out. Give me an explanation.
SANDERS: I mean, television is an important medium. You cannot ignore that. You cannot ignore the reality of income and wealth inequality.
You cannot ignore the fact that Citizens United is undermining our democratic way of life. Now, there are two sides to the story. I’m not saying everybody has got to agree with me, but have that issue, have that debate. That’s what elections should be about.
STELTER: Some people might say, how do you do that in a way that keeps people watching, that gets people stay tuned and not turn the channel?
SANDERS: Oh, all right, good question, good question. All right.
So, let me back it up. About a year ago, there was a poll out there. Pollsters asked the American people, tell me which political party controls the U.S. Senate and controls the U.S. House? That was a year ago, when the Democrats controlled the Senate.
STELTER: It’s always disappointing to see how many people are wrong with their answers.
SANDERS: Sixty-three percent of the people in this country did not know that answer.
Who bears responsibility for that? Does the media bear any responsibility? How do you have a serious discussion? If you don’t like what’s going on in Washington, which nobody does, who are you going to Plame if you don’t know which party controls what? So I think that, instead of coming up with the next news of the moment, breaking news, there was an automobile accident, a cat got run over, here is breaking news. For 40 years, the American middle class has been disappearing and the rich have been getting richer. Why?
The reason TPP isn’t getting discussed in the mainstream press is that the media is run by large corporations who benefit from these trade agreements. American media fundamentally changed when news became a for-profit venture. Cable news networks and network news divisions generate huge amounts of profit for their owners, and the way to keep those profits rolling in is to cover cheap gossipy stories.
Hard news is expensive. It costs money to establish and run news divisions around the world. The corporate media discovered that devoting airtime to the latest celebrity scandal was cheap and brought easy ratings. This same mentality has spilled into presidential campaign coverage. The media is more interested in the soap opera storylines of presidential campaigns than the issues.
The majority of American news consumers are either misinformed or underinformed. There is a lack of basic current events knowledge in our society. Most people get their news from television, and television has decided not to cover serious issues.
Media coverage is biased against facts and issues. The corporate press is biased against informing the public. Our electoral system is based on the assumption of an informed electorate, but networks like Fox News are undermining the system by intentionally misinforming.
Sen. Sanders is one of the lone voices who is using his presidential campaign platform to call for a better and more responsible media. Bernie Sanders is fighting for your right to be informed, and the corporate press is getting a lesson in what the American people should expect from the media.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA.Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association