Disney CEO Bob Iger found himself on the defensive at the company’s annual shareholders meeting in Chicago last week when a representative from the National Center for Public Policy Research grilled him on liberal bias. Asked whether the company had taken any steps to reform that bias in the wake of a scandal involving This Week host George Stephanopoulos, Iger said there was nothing to correct.
“Are we perfect? No. But I believe the overall presentation of ABC News, the reputation of ABC News, is one that we are and will continue to be proud of,” Iger said. “We’re well aware of the George Stephanopoulos situation. I watch George often. George is a person of integrity. We believe that George is presenting to his public a fair and unbiased look at news.”
Iger said that he had reviewed interviews Stephanopoulos had conducted with the 2016 presidential candidates and concluded that the former Clinton strategist was fair. “He seems to be equally aggressive in terms of looking for criticism, looking for applause, demanding facts and opinions from all of them,” Iger said. “I assure you, if we felt George was not presenting it fairly or were bias, he would not be on our air. It’s something we take very, very seriously, and we monitor closely.”
That Stephanopoulos had a long history of involvement with the Clintons was never a secret, but viewers were taken aback when it was revealed that he had donated $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation over the last three years. The revelation came just after Stephanopoulos grilled conservative author Peter Schweizer, whose book Clinton Cash argues that Hillary and Bill used her position as secretary of state to trade political favors for donations. The reports forced Stephanopoulos to make a public apology.
“I should have gone the extra mile to avoid even the appearance of a conflict,” he said on GMA. “I apologize to all of you for failing to do that.”
While Stephanopoulos recused himself from moderating the network’s presidential debates in the wake of the controversy, he did not suffer any official penalty from ABC or parent company Disney.
The flap over donations was the biggest black mark on the network over the past year, but it was hardly the only moment liberal bias reared its ugly head at ABC News. In September, the official network website ran an article – not an opinion piece – comparing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to the Pope.
“The teachings of Pope Francis, 78, and campaign messages from the Brooklyn-born Sanders, 74, have a lot in common,” wrote MaryAlice Parks. “Both men share a deep frustration about the status quo and, speaking on a range issues from climate change to wealth inequality, their words echo each other.”
And of course, the network was right in line with the rest of the mainstream media in ignoring the Planned Parenthood tapes while giving unwarranted legitimacy to the Black Lives Matter movement. That bias isn’t going anywhere, but at least the CEO has to address it every now and then.