The watchdogs at the Media Research Center (MRC) are flagging the big network news operations for failing to cover the vile comments of MSNBC host Martin Bashir. In his Nov. 15 show, Bashir said that conservative icon Sarah Palin would be an “outstanding candidate” for a barbaric punishment visited upon slaves — that of being forced to eat excrement. In his next broadcast, Bashir came forth with a strong apology.

MRC’s Geoffrey Dickens writes of the newscasts of ABC News, NBC News and CBS News: “The number of Big Three network stories in the two weeks (November 15, 2013 – November 29, 2013) after Bashir suggested that Palin would be an ‘outstanding candidate’ for excretory punishments? Zero. The hypocrisy from the supposed civility cops in the liberal media is stunning.”

That hypocrisy, argues Dickens, surfaces when you compare the Big Three reaction to Bashir to its reaction to the offenses of radio host Rush Limbaugh, who in early 2012 called then-Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute.” Dickens: “In the two weeks (February 29, 2012 – March 14, 2012) after Limbaugh made his crude Fluke joke, that he apologized for, the Big Three networks aired a total of 32 stories or interview segments that were full of calls for Limbaugh to apologize to the liberal activist Fluke, to get advertisers to abandon the show and demand that Republicans condemn the talk show host.”

So, 32 to 0. What a blowout.

But does the comparison work? First, the comments themselves: Bashir suggested that Palin be subjected to a sanction suitable for slaves, as a means of alerting Palin that her remarks comparing slavery to public debt were misguided; Limbaugh called a woman a “slut” for advocating that contraception coverage be included in health insurance plans. Though not the same, the two outrages are similar enough to occupy the same fruit basket.

Second, the bad actors. Bashir is a pipsqueak who does his work in what BuzzFeed cable-TV fiend Dorsey Shaw calls the “super-dead zone” of daytime MSNBC programming; Limbaugh is an American giant. They’re not even close to being comparable from the standpoint of newsworthiness. Yet! The victim of Bashir’s outburst was none other than Palin, a woman who, like it or not, has a massive following in the United States. That factor evens things out a bit.

Comparability analysis notwithstanding, the Bashir incident is simply a good story, not only because it involves one of the country’s most controversial political figures. It also features history and race — not to mention the politics of apology, a topic on which every American seems to have strong opinions.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.