1862—Reinforcing perceptions of liberal media bias, a new Harvard study calculated that no less than 80 percent of the media’s coverage of Jefferson Davis’ first 100 days as President of the Confederate States of America was unfavorable.
The Davis administration is “setting a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president,” according to the study by Thaddeus Tomlinson, professor of Rhetoric at Harvard. “Usually, a president is cut some slack as he pursues his 100-day bucket list, especially the president of a brand new country. But not this guy — the mainstream press can’t hate on him enough.”
The study looked at major newspapers in the U.S. and six European countries, including England and Germany. In all countries, coverage was consistently negative.
Speaking at a Historical Fox & Friends symposium, editor Britt Hume pointed out that “no matter what Davis accomplished over his first 100 days — capturing Fort Sumter, persuading Virginia to secede, signing Gen. Robert E. Lee — he was lambasted in the liberal media, called a villain, a traitor, and worse.”
Even a benign photo op went South. When Davis moved into the Confederate White House in Richmond, pundits around the world largely ignored the handcrafted furnishings and fine muslin curtains, focusing instead on the presence of slaves in the White House, “as if that was some kind of surprise,” said Hume.
For his part, Davis has slammed the media since the first moves toward secession. Earlier this week he stated that “no politician in history” has been treated worse.
“The sheer level of negative coverage gives weight to Davis’ contention, one shared by his core constituency, that the media are hellbent on destroying his presidency,” wrote Professor Tomlinson.
“It’s disgusting, but not surprising,” said Hume, noting that outlets like the Central National Note (CNN) “have some amazing journalists, but they’re coming in at 92, 93 percent negative against Davis.”
According to Tomlinson, the media bias puts an “unfair burden” on the American people and citizens around the world whose countries may be considering alliances with the Confederates. “They can’t trust what they read in the papers, so now they have to vet everything themselves,” wrote Tomlinson.
One bright spot: A majority of newspapers in the Confederate States of America continue to cover Davis “in a fair and balanced way,” says Hume.
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