National Press Club

Host and founder of The Young Turks blasts mainstream media, touts role of digital media in progressive movement

October 28, 2018 | By Kristina S. Groenning | ksgroennings@gmail.com

Cenk Uygur, founder of The Young Turks, talks with National Press Club President Andrea Edney.

Cenk Uygur, founder of The Young Turks, talks with National Press Club President Andrea Edney.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Cenk Uygur, host and founder of progressive digital news outlet The Young Turks, delivered a blistering attack on the mainstream media Friday at the National Press Club.

Uygur railed against what he described as a mainstream media beholden by corporate money to the status quo.

“I don’t think it has a liberal bias, I don’t think it has a conservative bias, I think it has an establishment bias,” Uygur said of the mainstream media. Referring to CNN, he said, “Why are they in favor of the status quo? They don’t want to rock the boat. It’s their boat. If you’re a multibillion dollar corporation you do not want change.”

Specifically calling out Wolf Blitzer, Uygur said, “His problem is he does have a perspective and he might not even know it. His perspective is the status quo is awesome - so Hillary Clinton is acceptable, Jeb Bush is acceptable, Bernie Sanders is not acceptable, Donald Trump is not acceptable - it oozes out of every broadcast.”

This establishment bias, Uygur said, leads to inadequate and unfair coverage of progressives.

“Progressives, they’re either to be dismissed and ignored or derided,” he said. Yet establishment candidates “already have coverage. They already have power. You don’t need to shower them with more. But you do,” Uygur added.

If the media wants to be more fair and accurate in its coverage, Uygur believes it should place greater emphasis on candidates with large numbers of small non-corporate donors and volunteers.

“If you saw how many volunteers Ocasio-Cortez had, if you saw how many small donors she had, you would’ve had a pretty good idea that she was gonna win. That’s how we knew.," he said. "She got almost no coverage in the mainstream press. We had done 34 videos about her - before the election.”

Uygur also said traditional media sacrifices truth to maintain neutrality.

“Neutrality is not objectivity. It is the wrong standard," Uygur said. "If you call everything 50/50, you will equate the lies and truth, and that gives lies an enormous advantage.”

He specifically recalled coverage by The New York Times of Gavin McInnes, founder of Proud Boys, a far-right organization that admits only men as members. Uygur said the Times coverage did not give sufficient mention to McInness' calls for violence.

“To soften right-wing fascists like that is despicable,” Uyger said. “(The media] are not anywhere near liberal. You’re not anywhere near objective. All you want is neutrality at the expense of the truth,” he added.

Uygur counters that digital media platforms such as The Young Turks are “in the business of truth.” He cited the organization's quick reporting of right wing conspiracy theories as false.

"We’re not worried about, hey are my ratings gonna go down if I insult or offend Republicans," he said.

The Young Turks is funded by its audience, he said. “They’re our boss, instead of giant sponsors or donors," he said.

Despite the harsh criticism, Uygur said he sees a role for mainstream media.

"We’re not the right wing," he said. "We don’t call you 'the enemy of the people'. We want you to do a better job. We want you to get to the truth.”

Wrapping up the event, Club President Andrea Edney , a journalist of nearly 25 years, defended her colleagues in the mainstream media.

“All of the reporters and editors I know work so hard to get it right," she said. "Objectivity is incredibly important. It is incredibly important to have a fair and unbiased standard of reporting. I just want to recognize here, that the reporters and editors working for newspapers and TV work really hard to get it right.”