Congressional Democratic leaders are complaining to the cable news networks that their coverage of politics is biased in favor of the White House.
"In the last few months, Democratic leaders have held dozens and dozens of press events, but received extremely little coverage from cable news channels," wrote Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) in a letter to CNN's Walter Isaacson, Fox News Channel's Roger Ailes and MSNBC's Erik Sorenson. "The White House, meanwhile, has received an extraordinary level of attention and coverage of their events."
To back up their criticisms, Daschle and Gephardt cited studies that counted CNN's running 157 live events featuring officials from the Bush Administration, with only seven events featuring elected officials from the Democratic party.
"Anecdotal evidence indicates that Fox News and MSNBC follow the same pattern," they wrote.
"The difference is not due to a dearth of press activities," they said. "Virtually every day Congress is in session, either of us holds a press conference to field questions, and many of our colleagues will often appear publicly to discuss the issues of the day. While very few of these events get covered, CNN, Fox and MSNBC will often have live broadcasts of the White House press secretary's daily briefing."
The two congressional leaders granted that much of the coverage of the White House was related to the war on terrorism, and rightfully so, but said the cable news nets also more frequently cover White House events related to domestic affairs than Democratic events related to anything, including terrorism.
"We don't expect the cable news networks to use a stopwatch and a scale when it comes to determining their political coverage, but we are concerned that cable news coverage tilted toward the White House muffles the voice of the Democratic party, undermines our ability to communicate our ideas to our constituents, and undercuts the debate that is the heart of our democracy," they wrote.
In response, the news nets said they cover the news as they see fit.
"CNN, like all news organizations, makes decisions about its coverage based on the stories of the day," said CNN in a statement. "CNN is committed to a diverse array of viewpoints on all subjects and goes to great lengths to provide ample opportunity to both sides of the political spectrum."
"Given the current news cycle we are in, it is necessary to cover the administration making the decisions," MSNBC said in a statement.
Fox News Channel had no comment.