Meet the Press Executive Producer Betsy Fischer says that a study by Media Matters For America purporting to show that the network Sunday news shows have skewed toward Republican and conservative guests during the Bush administration is "incomplete" and "misleading."
The Media Matters study, released Tuesday, looked at Meet the Press, Face the Nation and This Week in the second term of President Clinton vs. the term to date of George W. Bush. "The conclusion is clear," said the group: "Republicans and conservatives have been offered more opportunities to appear on the Sunday shows - in some cases, dramatically so."
In its study, "If It's Sunday, It's Conservative," Media Matters said:
"The balance between Democrats/progressives and Republicans/conservatives was roughly equal during Clinton's second term, with a slight edge toward Republicans/conservatives: 52 percent of the ideologically identifiable guests were from the right, and 48 percent were from the left.
"But in Bush's first term, Republicans/ conservatives held a dramatic advantage, outnumbering Democrats/progressives by 58 percent to 42 percent. In 2005, the figures were an identical 58 percent to 42 percent."
Fisher pointed out that if it had included Clinton's first term, the same analysis would have found that, on Meet the Press, for example, the guests skewed heavily toward Democrats.
"During the first two years of the Clinton Administration - when Democrats controlled both the White House and Congress," said Fischer, "the breakdown of ideological guests were as follows: 1993 (72 Democrats, 29 Republicans -or a ratio of (71% Dem to 29% GOP); in 1994 ( 71 Democrats and 47 Republicans - or a ratio of 60% Dem to 40% GOP).
"When both House of Congress shifted to Republican control in 1995 - the number Republican guest appearances also increased and resulted in almost an even number of Republican and Democratic appearances."
There is something intuitive in the findings, given that key administration figures are the plum guests on those shows.
Media Matters shot back that it did not study Clinton's first term because of limitations of the data and the fact that it had to cut it off somewhere.
And what of that intuitive skew toward the party in power?
Paul Waldman, senior fellow at Media Matters and author of the study, told B&C that if difference between the "ruling party" and "opposition" were the same for Democrats and Republicans, it would be one thing, but it wasn't. "We saw a big advantage for Republicans, We also saw an advantage for conservative journalists as guests during the Clinton administration and an even bigger one during the Republican administration."
No matter what party was in power, the journalist roundtables should have been balanced, he said, but weren't.