The jury is in on Dan Lett. The verdict: Guilty of Political Bias.
Who said: " Any columnist who claims that personal bias is not an element of his/her writing is a liar"?
It was Dan Lett, the, ahem, political columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press. Now, you didn't hear his confession of bias because he made it in February on the Internet in a response to comments about his alleged pro-NDP bias when writing a column about Manitoba Hydro.
Of course, Lett denied his bias favoured the NDP, adding "But bias is not the issue; fairness and balance is. I leave the readers to assess my success in that regard."
Well, since then, the jury has delivered its verdict and it's so very not good for Dan Lett.
When the NDP delivered their latest provincial budget, Lett wrote how they were showing restraint by cutting spending by almost 4 percent from last year. That was like saying the drunken sailor has stopped buying triples on your credit card and promises to stick to doubles from now on. Is there no end to this austerity?
Commenters on-line swarmed Lett for being the only pundit in Manitoba to see restraint in a budget that promises higher spending than the government forecast for last year, pre-flood. He responded by attacking his challengers as Conservative partisans. The only problem was that the Winnipeg Free Press editorial board agreed with the commenters and said so in print. Pshaw, said Lett. They're entitled to their opinion.
But he outdid himself when the NDP packed the Legislature with pro-government activists to provide themselves with a photo-op to prove they're standing up to the federal Conservatives over changes to immigrant settlement services.
To the government's shock, four Conservative Members of Parliament showed up to answer everybody's questions about the proposed changes. There they were--Shelly Glover, James Bezan, Joy Smith and Candice Hoeppner --- in person.
Not having to be chased through the parking lot like Health Minister Theresa Oswald.
Standing up to be counted.
It was an amazing example of political accountability and courage.
Even the Free Press Legislature reporter, Bruce Owen and Larry Kusch, recognized that.
But not columnist Dan Lett, whose bias was running rampant.
In his "fair and balanced" opinion, it was the NDP that were the heroes of the day---for saving the Conservative MP's from the fury of the mob. (A mob they invited, sure, but Lett's not go there.)
"It is unlikely Winnipeg Tory MP Shelly Glover will ever thank provincial officials for what they did Thursday, although there is no doubt they did her a solid."
"What Glover didn't count on were about 300 to 400 immigration activists, invited to the legislature by provincial officials to show their support for the resolution and opposition to Ottawa's plan... as word spread there were federal Tory MPs in the building, ready for a scrap."
"Thankfully, some legislature staff moved the activists into committee rooms on the same floor, where they could watch the debate on closed-circuit television. NDP officials would not admit they were trying to avoid a confrontation, but the result was that when Glover went to address reporters, only a handful of activists was there to hear her. And that stopped what many reporters predicted would be a public stoning."
In fact, as reported, Manitoba MLA Myrna Driedger tweeted this to Jason Kenney, the federal immigration minister:
"The MB NDP plan to fill the gallery with immigrants tomorrow ( scooped up all the passes ) and intend to skewer Cdn gov't."
Many reporters predicted (or hoped for) a public stoning? Who?
Lett is big on insisting everyone give their names, except when it comes to covering up for, ahem, "professional" reporters.
"Where Kenney had been measured and defensible, Glover was relentless and unbridled in her partisan barbs." wrote Lett. Fair and balanced?
He failed to mention the presence of NDP Member of Parliament Pat Martin in the Legislature. And what Martin said, as noted by the Free Press political reporters. He called the Conservative MP's "a bunch of bullies and thugs" and "a gang of goons".
Nope, no unbridled partisan barbs there, eh, Dan.
Dan Lett often declares that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts, yet he seemed not to take his own advice.
Dan Lett, columnist
"The four MPs sat in the opposition loges in the Manitoba legislature during question period, a courtesy granted to visiting legislators."
Winnipeg Free Press Political Reporters
"They had to sit in the house because they could not get passes for the public gallery. "
Dan Lett, columnist
"What Glover didn't count on were about 300 to 400 immigration activists."
"Some of the 100 to 150 people who came to the Manitoba legislature on Thursday afternoon to protest changes to the provincial nominee program. (Katie Nicholson/CBC)"
Lett asked the public to judge whether his bias was bleeding over into his columns by measuring how fair and balanced he was. Well, here's your answer.
There's a saying: Google is your friend.
We sat down with our friend and, like many people these days, we examined the FP's news story on the immigration battle in closer detail, starting with who was quoted in opposition. (The FP apparently didn't think it important to find any citizens who are in favour of the change.)
And Alfred Koineh? That would be Alfred Koineh of Mount Carmel Clinic. A social worker. It looks like, before coming to Winnipeg, he was, a former National Chairman of the National Coalition for Anti-deportation Campaigns in the UK. Does that mean he was fighting to keep illegal immigrants in the U.K., one of whom was himself.
The things you learn on the Internet.