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Complaints Of Media Bias Come From All Sides This Season

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's been quite an election for the media. Donald Trump attacked the media again yesterday, calling out an NBC reporter by name.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: And we have massive crowds. There's something happening. They're not reporting it. Katie (ph), you're not reporting it, Katie. But there's something happening, Katie. There's something happening, Katie.

INSKEEP: Trump gave no evidence of media bias, except to claim that his crowds aren't covered while people on the left consider Trump way over-covered. The conservative media has been deeply divided this year, with a media CEO running Trump's campaign while other conservatives are horrified. We've had several perspectives on all of this. Let's hear now from John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary magazine. Welcome to the program, sir.

JOHN PODHORETZ: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Did the Republican candidate get a fair shake from the mainstream media this year?

PODHORETZ: I think he got more than a fair shake. I think that the mainstream media helped immeasurably in him securing the nomination by covering him in some cases 60 times more in depth than his Republican rivals in the primaries. Since then, the coverage has turned extraordinarily negative but he secured the nomination. And one can't exactly say that the coverage of Mrs. Clinton has been all that positive.

So the idea that he is in a unique position, you know, generating media hostility I think is based on his effort to stir classic conservative Republican feelings about the media to rally his base.

INSKEEP: Did I just hear a conservative say the media did OK for Donald Trump in 2016?

PODHORETZ: The media certainly did OK for Donald Trump in 2015. I don't think that he would be where he is today if cable news in particular didn't basically turn, you know, three news channels over to him as a kind of personal broadcasting system.

INSKEEP: How divided are the conservative media really now.

PODHORETZ: They're extraordinarily divided. I mean, you can sort of line it up between sort of internet-only publications I would say and...

INSKEEP: Breitbart, for example.

PODHORETZ: ...Breitbart is the most obvious, right. And then publications like Commentary, my own, or National Review or the Weekly Standard, which are print primarily with a web presence, you know, older - pitching to an older and I would say more serious, more intellectually engaged audience which have been expressing extreme skepticism about Trump and his relation to the ideas that have fueled the conservative movement for, you know, 75 years.

INSKEEP: Does this election leave the Republican Party in grave danger?

PODHORETZ: Yes (laughter). There's no question that win or lose, the Republican Party is split. And split in a way that I don't think any political party in the United States has been split in my lifetime. I'm 55 years old. I mean, the Democratic Party, you know, had a very serious left wing and a very serious non-left wing in the '60s, '70s, and '80s that kept it out of the White House with one sort of, you know, post-Watergate break for, you know, 28 years - or 24 years, excuse me - from '68 to '92. And we could be getting close to that with the Republican Party if the divisions continue.

INSKEEP: I just have to read a tweet of yours after the Cubs won the World Series last night. You wrote now the curse will be on the GOP, which will elect a president next in 108 years.

PODHORETZ: Right. Well, I did say ducks after, which means I'm being...

INSKEEP: You're ducking (laughter).

PODHORETZ: ...Mildly facetious. But I do want to qualify the word facetious because, you know, we really are I think at a tipping point in which you could see a genuine split of the sort that the United States political system has not seen since in - since the 19th century.

INSKEEP: John Podhoretz of Commentary magazine, thanks very much.

PODHORETZ: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.