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John Stossel: How I Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media

Sunday, 10 April 2005 12:00 AM

His book was personal, not political, but he has long been well liked in the liberal media world. After our books came out, I turned on the radio, and the first thing I heard was Imus gushing about how wonderful my wife's ex-boyfriend was. Even my wife rolled her eyes. Imus had him on more than once. My publisher couldn't get me on Imus.

My wife's ex became a regular on NPR, and got on big national shows, like Fresh Air, that had no use for my book. He was on CNN with Larry King and Paula Zahn, and on PBS with Charlie Rose. He got four columns in the New York Times; my book was never mentioned. I would have been happy with a critical review. It seemed odd to get not even one word about an eleven-week bestseller that discusses public policy.

I shouldn't complain. I got to discuss my ideas with dozens of talk radio hosts, and on Fox News (where Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity have audiences CNN only dreams about; my publisher says their passionate audiences buy the most books). I did sell more books than my wife's ex did. But where was the "open debate" I'm always hearing about? Aren't the media supposed to welcome many points of view?

Conservative hosts had me on their programs even though some loathed my libertarian ideas. Maybe it's because conservatives in media are used to people disagreeing with them. In fact, if they live in NYC, as I do, they are used to liberals shrieking at them. Conservative students invited me to speak at their schools. Few conservatives wanted to spend much time debating drug prohibition (Sean Hannity was the rare exception) or my other libertarian arguments, but at least they heard me out.

But most liberals didn't want to talk at all. This was frustrating because the liberal talk shows give authors much more time! Larry King gives guests an average 19 minutes. O'Reilly segments last less than five, and Sean Hannity's guests average less than seven (I timed the shows for several weeks). NPR offers authors huge chunks of time for talk, but they mostly talk to liberals, as do the big PBS hosts, Charlie Rose and (until his recent retirement) Bill Moyers, who have captured a full hour of government-subsidized television time. But they wouldn't talk to me.

Of course I know that being thought conservative is not a good thing in my business; my colleagues say "conservative" the way they say "child molester." Even though I'm a libertarian, media people call me conservative because they don't know better, and because my publisher described me on the book cover as " the Scourge of the Liberal Media."

Still, I thought liberal shows would have me on their programs if only to trash my arguments. I looked forward to a spirited debate. But debate rarely happened. Nearly every media invitation came from publications and talk show hosts who agreed with my ideas. Those who disagreed didn't want to talk about it.

There were a few exceptions: Robert Redford, of all people, flew me out to his Sundance Book festival. Alan Colmes grilled me on his radio program. Larry King eventually had me on; it was only his weekend show, but he said he'd have me back on a weekday. I'm still waiting.

I thought I'd have a shot at a fair debate with Al Franken because we're acquaintances (our kids went to school together) and I'm actually a fan of his radio show. But no such luck. He had me on, but he barely let me make an argument, instead using the air time to suggest I was lying about something on page 305. I did have a wonderful time on Air America's, "Morning Sedition," with a host who was furious that government doesn't stop Americans from eating so many Big Macs.

I treasure the moment of silence that followed my saying that a government that's big enough to tell what you eat ... is government big enough to tell you with whom you can have sex.

That's the debate the media's supposed to advance. I couldn't find much of it in the "open-minded" liberal media.

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His book was personal, not political, but he has long been well liked in the liberal media world.After our books came out, I turned on the radio, and the first thing I heard was Imus gushing about how wonderful my wife's ex-boyfriend was. Even my wife rolled her eyes. Imus...
John,Stossel:,How,Became,the,Scourge,the,Liberal,Media
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2005-00-10
Sunday, 10 April 2005 12:00 AM
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