Jon Stewart: What's With TV's Bias Against Ron Paul?

The libertarian candidate for the Republican nomination is treated dismissively when he is acknowledged at all

In the clip above, The Daily Show turned its attention to Rep. Ron Paul, the Texas Republican who almost won the Ames Straw Poll, documenting the broadcast media's habit of conspicuously ignoring him, or at best flaunting the dismissive way that they treat him and his campaign for the GOP nomination. Even the folks at Fox News, the network that employed Glenn Beck and signed Sarah Palin to a multimillion dollar contract as a news analyst, acts as if he's too crazy to cover, even though he is sure to influence the race, whatever his prospects for winning.

As it happens, I agree with the general consensus that Rep. Paul advocates some kooky policies. But I'd sure prefer him to a lot of other candidates, whose craziest stances never seem to be held against them.

Words I wrote about Rand Paul's Senate race apply: "Forced to name the 'craziest' policy favored by American politicians, I'd say the multibillion-dollar war on drugs, which no one thinks is winnable. Asked about the most 'extreme,' I'd cite the invasion of Iraq, a war of choice that has cost many billions of dollars and countless innocent lives. The 'kookiest' policy is arguably farm subsidies for corn, sugar, and tobacco--products that people ought to consume less, not more.

"These are contentious judgments. I hardly expect the news media to denigrate the policies I've named, nor do I expect their Republican and Democratic supporters to be labeled crazy, kooky, or extreme. These disparaging descriptors are never applied to America's policy establishment, even when it is proved ruinously wrong, whereas politicians who don't fit the mainstream Democratic or Republican mode, such as libertarians, are mocked almost reflexively in these terms, if they are covered at all."

A media just a bit more focused on policy, and a bit less obsessed with the horse race, might lead to a national conversation about foreign policy among Republican hopefuls, rather than permitting the whole field to ignore Paul except when directly confronted by him in debates, despite the fact that on many issues, the policies he favors are more popular even among Republicans than the positions they favor. Alternatively, broadcasters could obsess about Palin, who isn't even in the race, like the anchor in the clip above, and utterly ignore Congressman Paul.

Whose interests does that serve?

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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