Robert Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Company, speaking at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday, insisted that ABC News had acted impartially in the 2016 presidential election campaign and that criticism of ESPN for espousing leftism was “exaggerated.”
Iger’s response was triggered by questions from Justin Danhof of the National Center for Public Policy Research, who noted that Iger had said the year before that Disney’s outlets were free from bias. Danhof noted that President Trump had labeled ABC “an enemy of the American people.” He pointed out Wikileaks had provided “plenty of evidence” that Disney was not requiring its organizations to be politically neutral.
Danhof cited various examples of how bias was evident in some of Disney’s operations, including the Wikileaks revelation that ABC’s George Stephanopoulos colluded with the Clinton campaign to attack Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer. He also recalled two ESPN hosts bemoaning the bias at the network, with one stating, “I feel that there’s so many people I work with, every show, every topic, every angle is hoping to be right, destroying the political right on every single thing that comes up. I hear it every single day,” prompting the co-host to respond, “Can you imagine if I teased this show and said, ‘Coming up: Why all of you are wrong about Trump and why he’s awesome.’” The first host replied, “We wouldn’t make it through the commercial.”
Danhof disputed Iger’s prior claim that bias in Disney’s operations was “very, very rare.” He said, “It’s not rare at all.”
I’m going to disagree with just about everything you said, but I’m not going to address everything you said. First of all, the charge that ESPN is exhibiting significant political bias in its programs is just completely exaggerated. You’re taking, I think, one small communication, and you’re blowing it up into something that sounds a lot larger than it is. Watch ESPN; you’re not going to see political bias at ESPN, as a “for instance.”
As it relates to ABC News, ABC News has reported to me, directly or indirectly, for almost 25 years. I’m an expert on ABC News, and I can stand here today, look you in the face, and say that I’m proud of the efforts of ABC News, I respect ABC News, and I believe they work very, very hard to present news in an extremely fair way. There are always going to be people – yourself included and perhaps the president – who are going to believe that it is not being presented in a manner that’s consistent with their own beliefs. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are being unfair.
I think what’s happened here is that there’s been an indictment made about the press simply because some of the press do not necessarily toe the line with positions that are being taken by others.
Of course, Iger completely ignored the firing of former MLB star Curt Schilling and removing NFL legend Mike Ditka from Sunday NFL Countdown.
As David Hookstead wrote at The Daily Caller of Schilling’s firing:
The former Red Sox pitcher has been very open about his conservative views in the past. He was previously suspended by ESPN for comparing ISIS to the Nazis. ESPN might have no problem getting rid of conservative pundits, but the network has tolerated extreme liberal positions in the past without firing anybody. ESPN employee Tony Kornheiser compared the Tea Party to ISIS and insinuated the Tea Party was attempting to “establish a caliphate.” Kornheiser is still cashing pay checks from ESPN.
As for Ditka, he was removed after expressing his open support for Donald Trump.
When Danhof asserted that ABC News was adversarial toward President Trump but had left Barack Obama unscathed, Iger responded, “If you were to ask many people in the Obama Administration, they would cite numerous cases when ABC News was their adversary.”