Steve Rendall

Steve Rendall

: Photo from Creative Commons / Author of Photo: edenpictures


* Senior analyst for the “media watchdog” organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)
* Co-host of FAIR’s syndicated radio show CounterSpin
* Co-author of the book The Way Things Aren’t: Rush Limbaugh’s Reign of Error
* Favors the restoration of the so-called Fairness Doctrine

Steve Rendall is a senior analyst for the “media watchdog” organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), which was founded in 1986 by Jeff Cohen. Rendall is also co-host of FAIR’s syndicated radio show CounterSpin, which is heard on more than 125 noncommercial stations across the U.S. and Canada.

According to his FAIR biography, Rendall “studied philosophy and chemistry at San Francisco State University, the College of Notre Dame and UC Berkeley.” The bio adds that Rendall also “contributed stories to the International Herald Tribune from France, Spain and North Africa; worked as a freelance writer in San Francisco; and worked as an archivist collecting historical material on the Spanish Civil War and the volunteers who fought in it.” Those volunteers were members of the Lincoln Brigade which was organized by the Communist Party to fight for Stalin’s side in the war.

FAIR’s principal claim is that America’s mainstream media are slanted to the political right. Rendall has become the organization’s chief articulator of this dogma, whose catechism is a September-October 2004 article (titled “I’m Not a Leftist, But I Play One on TV — Progressives Excluded As Right Battles Center”) in FAIR’s magazine Extra! Authored by Rendall and fellow FAIR staffer Anna Kosseff, this piece offered, as evidence that the establishment media tilt right, the observation that on political TV and radio shows “centrist pundits are routinely substituted for the left on panels, while progressives are often excluded altogether.”

“A common pattern” in media, Rendall and Kosseff elaborated, was that “[c]onservative guests espousing views from the right wing of the Republican Party square off with centrists advocating positions from the right wing of the Democratic Party. Since conservative Republicans and centrist Democrats both tend to be corporate-friendly, such face-offs may be pleasing to television’s owners and sponsors, but leaving the left out of the debate is bad news for democratic discourse.”

Rendall and Kosseff identified the Cable News Network (CNN) as a “center-right” operation. The hosts of the popular CNN show Crossfire at that time, Democratic Party political consultants Paul Begala and James Carville, were denied left bona fides by Rendall and Kosseff. The authors disapprovingly quoted Begala as once having said: “You know, Bill Clinton saved the Democratic Party with Al Gore by pulling us back to the center, by disagreeing with the liberals on welfare reform and on crime and on trade.” They likewise quoted Carville praising President Clinton for having moved “the Democratic Party to the center.” Carville also earned Rendall and Kosseff’s wrath because he had “served as a political gun-for-hire for conservative Greek Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis in a losing 1993 campaign against socialist Andreas Papandreou … and … [had] worked for the Venezuelan opposition in its recent failed attempt to oust President Hugo Chavez, a left-wing populist, in a recall referendum.”

Also branded as a “Progressive Imposter” by Rendall and Kosseff was liberal New Republic magazine editor Peter Beinart, who, to the authors’ dismay, had led his magazine “to endorse Senator Joseph Lieberman, the most conservative Democratic candidate in the [2004] primaries.” “Beinart,” they wrote disparagingly, “has been a forceful cheerleader for the Iraq war and occupation and freely plays the patriotism card against those he considers too far to the left.”

Another liberal targeted by Rendall and Kosseff was Time magazine columnist Joe Klein, who they quoted as having written in praise of the moderate Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), and as having applauded the DLC for “gleefully assault[ing] the reactionary left — the trade unions and bureaucrats who had a stake in the old system.”

Next, Rendall and Kosseff assailed columnist Matthew Miller, a former New Republic senior editor who called himself a “Tony Blair Democrat” and advocated “radical centrism.” They quoted Miller as having written in 2003 that “What American politics urgently needs is not a new left, but a new center.”

Further expanding their indictment of liberals they deemed unworthy of representing the authentic left in media face-offs, Rendall and Kosseff criticized Democratic Party strategist Susan Estrich for her tendency to speak in a civil manner with conservative debate opponents on television. They also damned MSNBC’s Chris Matthews for including conservatives who were smarter than the liberals invited on his show Hardball.

Rendall today favors the restoration of the so-called “Fairness Doctrine,” which was originally instituted in the early days of the Federal Communications Commission “to ensure that all coverage of controversial issues by a broadcast station be balanced and fair” and was repealed in 1987. As the conservative political blogger Ed Morrissey writes, the original Fairness Doctrine “did not require broadcasters to present issues in a ‘fair and honest manner’; it required them to turn their stations into ping-ponging punditry if they allowed opinion to appear on the air at all. It created such a complicated formula that most broadcasters simply refused to air any political programming, as it created a liability for station owners for being held hostage to all manner of complaints about lack of balance.”

Complaining that “virtually all of the leading political talk show hosts are right-wingers,” Rendall approvingly quotes a Eugene, Oregon attorney named Edward Monks, who, after having studied the content of the two commercial talk stations in his town, concluded that: “Political opinions expressed on talk radio are approaching the level of [conservative] uniformity that would normally be achieved only in a totalitarian society. There is nothing fair, balanced or democratic about it.”

Rendall co-authored (with Jeff Cohen) the 1995 book The Way Things Aren’t: Rush Limbaugh’s Reign of Error.

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