Bruce Maiman

Bruce Maiman: Conservative media outlets refuse to take responsibility for Sterling error

Published: Thursday, May. 1, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Thursday, May. 1, 2014 - 9:02 am

Anyone who makes a living gathering facts, we would assume, cares about accuracy. And, we would assume, such a person would care enough about accountability to make corrections when he or she gets something wrong.

There is something about the Donald Sterling train wreck that hasn’t been said enough, or barely at all by those who need to say it most.

It is disgusting and shameful that certain conservatives and conservative media outlets desperately attempted to tie Sterling’s racism to Democrats. And then, when corrected, they doubled down on illogical fallacies or hid under a rock to avoid accountability – which seems doubly disgusting, given that these are the same people constantly complaining that our society is so lacking in accountability.

For whatever reason, Politico decided Saturday morning to report Sterling’s political donations and found he had contributed a total of $11,000 to three Democrats in the early 1990s and once more in 2002: then-Sen. Bill Bradley, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy and former California Gov. Gray Davis.

For a man worth $1.9 billion, $11,000 is pocket change, but it was enough for some of the conservative world’s most popular and trusted sources – the National Review, Fox News, the Daily Caller, NewsBusters and Matt Drudge – to conclude that Sterling was a Democrat.

But, as Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik first noted on Sunday, voter records showed that Sterling has been a registered Republican since 1998.

Suddenly, Drudge – who on Sunday tweeted to more than 264,000 followers, “NYT informed the unwashed how Bundy is a Republican. Leaves out NBA Sterling is a Democrat” – deleted his tweet without explanation. Newsbusters, a site that claims its purpose is “exposing and neutralizing liberal media bias,” failed to note the bias of its own error.

I understand: You’re meeting an audience expectation, and your audience hates Democrats. But do you have to lie, or be sloppy, and then refuse to take responsibility for it? Why trust such sources?

For all the conservative whining about “liberal media,” I don’t hear “unwashed” conservatives criticizing the sniveling hypocrisy of these websites to which they have loyalties. That makes you a hypocrite, too, no? Or maybe, with all the crow the conservative media had to eat over Cliven Bundy, their stomachs were too full to backpedal from yet another bandwagon they had recklessly jumped on.

Only the National Review had enough integrity to offer a mild correction while changing its blog entry headline from “Racist Clippers Owner Donald Sterling Is a Democrat” to “Racist Clippers Owner Donald Sterling Has Only Contributed to Democrats.”

Meaning what? Sterling is racist; Sterling donated to Democrats; ergo Democrats are the real racists? You get an A in partisan windbaggery, but an F in Aristotelian logic.

Sterling’s political associations shouldn’t even matter, yet some think they do. I don’t see, however, any acknowledgment from the rabid right of UCLA’s decision to reject Sterling’s $3 million pledge for kidney research. Is it because conservatives dare not give kudos to institutions they consider “evil bastions” of liberalism?

And if political donations are the ethical metric, shall we then accord Democrats the same praise unanimously being showered upon NBA Commissioner Adam Silver? Silver, after all, is a frequent donor to Democrats, records show, and was an early supporter of Barack Obama. Doesn’t that count for something, or does it only matter when it reflects badly on the people with whom you disagree?

Some will argue that these mental contortions are little more than desperate attempts by some conservatives to foist their larger fantasy narrative: that Democrats are the true racists, not Republicans.

Sorry, racism has no party allegiance, but I find it disturbing that once again, what’s on display is the mechanism through which millions of Americans are intentionally misinformed every single day. It’s as if these outlets and pundits are so desperate to rid themselves of the stench of racism to which they are stereotypically associated, they latch onto inaccuracies without ever vetting them, all in a rush to paint a political adversary as the bad guy. What does any of that accomplish other than to divide people, and aren’t we already divided enough?

And will conservatives who whine about the media they don’t trust at least be consistent enough to call out the media they do trust when those outlets are wrong, and perhaps even stop trusting them altogether when they refuse to hold themselves accountable, as they demand that others do?

Bruce Maiman is a former radio host who lives in Rocklin. Contact him at

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