Dick Morris: Times Playing Politics With Best-Seller List

Thursday, 17 Mar 2011 08:03 PM

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The New York Times is politicizing its powerful best-sellers rankings to keep conservative authors who contribute to Fox News off of the most influential part of the list, according to political strategist and Newsmax columnist Dick Morris.

Morris is among several Fox News analysts with new political books hitting shelves this past week. But while the Wall Street Journal and Amazon.com list such books among best-selling nonfiction works, the Times has relegated them to its lesser-known “Advice, How-To and Miscellaneous” List.

On the Times list set to be published Sunday, readers will find Morris’ “Revolt: How to Defeat Obama and Repeal His Socialist Programs,” Mike Huckabee’s “Simple Government,” and Dr. Frank Luntz’s business book “Win” alongside titles such as “The 4 Hour Body” and “Weight Watchers New Cookbook.”

“What do those authors have in common?” Morris wrote on his blog at DickMorris.com Wednesday. “Just one thing: Huckabee, Morris, and Luntz are all Fox News contributors.”

dick,morris,fox,news,ailes,bestseller,listMorris says the Times’ “ghettoization of the Fox News books” to its How-To list comes directly from Executive Editor Bill Keller’s disdain for Fox News and its audience. Keller has been widely quoted saying regular viewers of Fox News are “among the most cynical people on planet.”

“The New York Times is once again showing its liberal bias in overtly politicizing the best-sellers list,” Morris says. “Now, it's not just the news that's way over left, it's the best-sellers, too.”

More importantly, the politicization of the Times’ list could have a profound impact on sales, Morris adds. Once the new list is published, many booksellers won't put “Revolt!” or “Simple Government” in prime retail positions with the other nonfiction best-sellers. Instead, Morris complains, they’ could be relegated to the shelves of self-help, marital advice, and diet books.

New York Times Co. spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said she was unfamiliar with Morris’ complaint. After hearing a synopsis of the claims of bias against authors who work for Fox News, Murphy declined to comment but said that she would check on Morris’s complaint. further.

A represenative of Barnes and Noble Inc. in New York City also declined to comment. A local bookstore manager in West Palm Beach, Fla., who asked not to be identified, said books not on the Times’ nonfiction best-seller list would indeed miss out on optimum storefront display. But beyond that, the books would normally be organized by the category determined by the publisher, not The New York Times. The books by Morris and Huckabee, for example, should be in nonfiction-politics, while the Luntz book can be found in business-management.

Established in 1942, The New York Times Best-Sellers list employs a secretive methodology involving the survey of more than 3,000 bookstores and 20,000 retail outlets in order to come up with its weekly list of hot reads. The list heavily influences both consumer purchasing and retail display of books, according to a 2005 Stanford Business School analysis. The system is far from perfect. Authors have had success in the past gaming the list by making concentrated purchases of their own books at select stores known to report to the Times.

The New York Times added the Advice, How-to and Miscellaneous category in 1985 when a glut of self-help and instructional books began crowding out the general nonfiction list.

It’s not the first time political controversy has touched the Times best-sellers list.

In November 2010, Fox News host Glenn Beck complained that his book, “Broke” was ranked lower than the autobiography “Life” by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, even though “Broke” had significantly higher sales. Beck remains one of a tiny number of authors to have have books debut at No. 1 on four of the Times' lists: hardcover fiction, hardcover nonfiction, paperback nonfiction and children's. Critics also charged that the Times consistently pushed Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue” down the list despite stellar overall sales figures.

The Times doesn't seem to have a problem with conservative authors in general. The Times’ Hardcover Nonfiction top 10 list this week does include “Known and Unknown” by Donald Rumsfeld, “Decision Points” by former President George W. Bush, and “Against All Odds” by Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass.

Morris thinks he knows why. “Fox News commentators need not apply,” he concludes.

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