Princeton Election Consortium

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Forbes’s top 25 “liberals”

January 23rd, 2009, 11:22pm by Sam Wang


Forbes has an article on the “25 most influential liberals in the U.S. media.” It’s unintentionally amusing.

At the top of the list are Paul Krugman and Arianna Huffington, natural choices. But further down, some names clearly don’t belong: Andrew Sullivan, Maureen Dowd, Chris Hitchens, Chris Matthews, Fareed Zakaria, Tom Friedman, and Fred Hiatt. Update: Sullivan punctures their bubble (and again).

The problem appears to be that “liberal” was not a clearly defined term (although the authors claim to have used concrete criteria such as a desire for universal health care and opposition to the Iraq war). Perhaps the practical criterion was “liberals plus people who annoy us Republican loyalists.” In this light the list makes more sense. Too bad they didn’t pause to consider that many of these people annoy quite a broad political demographic.

There’s a second advantage to defining liberalism in a way that includes nonideological or middle-of-the-road pundits. It never hurts to work the referee, i.e. call someone liberal as a way of getting him/her to lean further rightward. In this light, the inclusion of the NYT and WaPo op-ed directors (Shipley and Hiatt) as well as the WSJ news director (Seib) makes perfect sense. Even assuming these three people are actual liberals, in practice they don’t carry out editorial policies that lean left. For example, they publish Brooks, Kristol, Krauthammer, and Will.

The full list:
25 Michael Pollan
24 Kurt Andersen
23 Kevin Drum
22 Ezra Klein
21 James Fallows
20 Gerald Seib
19 Andrew Sullivan
18 Glenn Greenwald
17 Hendrik Hertzberg
16 Matthew Yglesias
15 Maureen Dowd
14 Christopher Hitchens
13 Bill Moyers
12 Chris Matthews
11 Fareed Zakaria
10 Markos Moulitsas Zuñiga (Kos)
9 David Shipley
8 Josh Marshall
7 Rachel Maddow
6 Oprah Winfrey
5 Jon Stewart
4 Thomas Friedman
3 Fred Hiatt
2 Arianna Huffington
1 Paul Krugman

Tags: 2008 Election

14 Comments so far ↓

  • Sam Wang

    Evans, thanks for those useful reminders of what newspapers do. I appreciate it.

    The last displayed post by JC is based on a false statement. In 1952, the Washington Post endorsed Eisenhower (also see Halberstam). From 1956 to 1972 no endorsements were made. Since then the endorsements have gone to Democrats except for 1988, when the paper explicitly declined to endorse either Bush or Dukakis.

    It does not seem controversial to point out that the Washington Post editorial page currently leans to the right.

    The other posts, which included a number of obscenities, are redacted. Goodbye, JC.

  • Evans

    “Has the Wash Post editorial board EVER endorsed a Republican for President? NOPE, NOT ONCE since FDR. As Reagan was winning 49 states in a HUGE LANDSLIDE back in 1984, the Post was endorsing Walter Mondale.

    No bias there, right Wang?”

    Aside from the ridiculous way in which you’re asking questions and disrespecting a professor at Princeton (who I’m guessing may know more than you about a lot of things, even if this happens not to be one of them)… no, this does not necessarily mean a newspaper is biased. As 501c3 organizations, they can editorially back whoever they want, for any reason. As news organizations, if the news they publish isn’t objective, then they won’t be around for very long (although Fox News and MSNBC both seem to be toeing that line pretty hard right now).

    Seriously though, quit the caps and whining, and do try to make sense every now and again. Editorials are editorials and news is news. MSNBC is trying to portray the president favorably to get high ratings from liberals, FoxNews is doing the opposite to get high ratings from conservatives. CNN is… well, just not focusing on news anymore, but if you like bear attacks, fashion shows, entertainment tonight, or other infotainment from the uninformed squad, ask them.

    So we’re left with real news programs like Meet the Press, This Week, and World News along with respected print media like the Tribune, Times, Post and Globe to try to get unfiltered news. And yes, regardless of what you think of Krugman, or Herbert, or whoever, the news in newspapers is still news.

  • JC

    Has the Wash Post editorial board EVER endorsed a Republican for President? NOPE, NOT ONCE since FDR. As Reagan was winning 49 states in a HUGE LANDSLIDE back in 1984, the Post was endorsing Walter Mondale.

    No bias there, right Wang? 8-).

  • Sam Wang

    JC, this is a site in which comments are moderated. Minimum requirements are a real email address and that the comment be civil and substantive. In this case I will leave your comment above up for a day or so (with obscenities redacted).

    Your previous comment cited a statement by Deborah Howell, ombudsman at the Washington Post, to the effect that coverage there was pro-Obama. I must point out that the press is routinely accused of favoring the winner of an election, whether it be Clinton, Bush, or Obama. Also, her views are regarded by many as being not particularly fairminded. Finally, it is plain that several op-ed writers there are sympathetic to the right, including Krauthammer, Will, Hiatt, and now Kristol.

  • JC

    So you CENSORED my comment from yesterday? ON WHAT BASIS? That I disagreed with the post by Mr. Wang? Gee, some blog you have here.

    F*** YOU MR WANG!! Got it p****? 8-)

  • Carlo

    Colbert, or at least his TV persona, is not liberal, but rather faux-conservative. I have no idea what the real man’s political beliefs are, but while they’re presumably liberal, we can’t know that for sure because he uses his satirical skills primarily for humor, not political advocacy.

  • chamblee54

    Thank you for presenting a list of the terrible twenty five. The Forbes method is to put twenty five names on twenty five pages, which is a nuisance.

  • George Smiley

    The contemporary GOP is defined solely by what it is not; and anything that is not GOP is “liberal.”

    Unfortunately for the contemporary GOP, the selection criteria exclude a substantial majority of voters in the United States, and several demographic trends are conspiring to increase the size of that majority.

    In aggregate, this delights me.

  • obsidian

    They left Colbert of because they don’t get the gag.

  • Sam Wang

    Given the type of article this is, it would be undesirable to list too many people from any one organization.

    Maddow could easily be considered to be more influential than Olbermann, who has a strong following but preaches to the converted. As for picking Stewart over Colbert, that seems like a mistake considering what Colbert did at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Dinner. But Stewart does have quite a lot of viewers.

    What a bummer it must be to be Keith Olbermann, Frank Rich, or Bob Herbert, and learn that you didn’t make the list – but that Maureen Dowd and Fred Hiatt did.

  • Joel

    It’s really a piece of score-settling.

    Interesting that Jon Stewart receives a mention, but not Stephen Colbert. I’m assuming that these clowns actually fear the latter.

  • Ottovbvs

    Interestingly, one of their defining characteristics of a “liberal” was belief in universal healthcare. Got that…Conservatives and Republicans are opposed to universal healthcare. They continue to believe it should be rationed by one’s ability to pay. Glad we got that straight.

  • Brian Westley

    Aw, they probably have Olbermann listed under ‘Communist’

  • David Voegtle

    It’s also interesting that Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews make the list, but Keith Olbermann does not.