Politics & Policy

Worse Than Tom and Dan?

Peter, we mean.

EDITOR’S NOTE:

This article appears in the July 26, 2004, issue of National Review.

“My mother…was pretty anti-American. And so I was, in some respects, raised with anti-Americanism in my blood, or in my mother’s milk at least.”

That’s Canadian-born reporter Peter Jennings, appearing on Letterman, in September 2002. Jennings–who’s been the sole anchor on ABC’s World News Tonight since 1983–became a dual U.S. citizen just last year. As anchor, Jennings is elegant, urbane, and a touch condescending: He speaks slowly, like a teacher to his pupils, nodding seriously and often. But for all Jennings’s apparent desire to educate viewers, some media-watchers consider him the worst–the most ideologically liberal and consistently biased–of the network news anchors. And given that he attracts, on average, between 8 and 9 million viewers each night, that charge isn’t something to take lightly.

Studies of Iraq-war coverage by the Center for Media and Public Affairs found that World News Tonight had “the most anti-war coverage” of the nightly newscasts on the three major networks in both 1991 and 2003. The 2003 study found that Jennings’s show aired the most criticism of the Bush administration and featured the most opposition to the war. (For example, Jennings found plenty of time for anti-war rallies, but said not a word about a pro-troops rally in New York City that drew 15,000 people.) Even before the release of the study, Jennings said: “We have been criticized…by people who think I was not enough pro-war. That is simply not the way I think of this role. This role is designed to question the behavior of government officials on behalf of the public.”

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