COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — Bernie Sanders’s long-simmering disdain for the media seems to have reached a boiling point.
With the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses barely five weeks off, hardly a stop goes by where
He complained during a rally here this week that news outlets prefer “political gossip” to real issues, and he told an audience in Storm Lake that the media “thinks that you’re pretty dumb and all you can deal with is six-second sound bites and one issue at a time.”
Such bashing is far more common for Republicans, who have long complained about a liberal bias among journalists. This year, GOP hopefuls Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have made accusing reporters of slanted coverage a central part of their campaigns.
For Sanders, the complaints are more likely to be about the corporate giants who own news outlets. While those at his rallies lap up such critiques, experts say Sanders’s message is less likely to win over the more moderate Democrats he needs in order to catch Clinton.
“People on both sides of the political spectrum trust the press less than they used to,” said Georgetown University public policy professor Jonathan Ladd, author of the book “Why Americans Hate the Media.” “But it’s something that resonates more with Republicans, because they’re used to hearing it more.”
Sanders, who often reads campaign coverage on his iPad between events, says he’s convinced that more — and better — media coverage would improve his standing in the polls. He has seized upon a study that showed the nightly ABC, CBS and NBC newscasts had dedicated a combined 234 minutes of coverage exclusively to Trump this year, compared with just 10 minutes exclusively for Sanders. In an interview, Sanders said he has started talking more about Trump in campaign appearances, partly as a strategy to get the attention of news organizations he sees as obsessed with the GOP front-runner.
“The nature of our campaign is not something that fits into the way corporate media covers campaigns,” said Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist. “And I think, to some degree, our views are in conflict with the ownership of corporate media as well.”
Complaints about news coverage have served as rallying cry for die-hard Sanders supporters like Patrick Brown, who traveled several hours from a Chicago suburb to see the Vermont senator speak in Red Oak, Iowa, on Wednesday.
“There’s just a blackout,” said Brown, a 40-year-old chef who was seeing Sanders in person for the fourth time. “He’s just not corporate-friendly. But the more they black him out, the more I want to help him.”
Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University, said other Democrats could see Sanders’s jabs “as a sign of weakness.”
“Typically, when you’re having trouble with your campaign, you attack the media,” Goldford said.
Sanders has faced criticism in recent weeks for not talking more about topics dominating the news, including the terrorist attacks in Paris and the mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. While touching on those events, Sanders has stuck to his core message on economic issues — something for which he makes no apologies.
“We have to tell the corporate media that we are smart enough to deal with more than one issue at a time,” he told his audience here in Council Bluffs.
Sanders made a similar argument in Mount Vernon, Iowa, where he said his campaign was “taking on a corporate media establishment that tells us everything we need to know except what’s most important for working families.”
“Don’t allow the front pages of the newspapers and what you see on TV to determine what in fact are the most important issues,” Sanders implored his audience.
Those on the right typically attack the media for having a liberal bias, as Cruz did during a Republican debate hosted by CNBC. “Everyone home tonight knows that the moderators have no intention of voting in a Republican primary,” the candidate said.
Criticism from the left, in contrast, is built on the notion that only a handful of corporations control major media outlets, which as a result are disinclined to run stories contrary to the economic interests of their owners.
“The positions that I advocate, which demand that the wealthy and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes, those are not necessarily the views that corporate America likes or that corporate media likes,” Sanders said during a recent stop at a senior center in New Hampshire.
Sanders does not attack individual reporters personally, as Trump has done. Earlier in his presidential campaign, he accused news outlets of covering politics like a “soap opera” or “baseball game.’
Partly to compensate for getting less news coverage, Sanders said, his campaign has spent a lot of time and money building its presence on social media — Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and the like. He said that may be part of the reason his campaign is doing well with younger voters, who are more inclined to get information from social media than traditional news outlets.
Goldford, the Drake professor, said Sanders bears some responsibility for drawing relatively less news coverage. The candidate often gives the same hour-long stump speech at his rallies, focused on income inequality and other issues impacting working-class voters, which provides little new material for reporters to write about.
“Look at the word ‘news,’ ” Goldford said. “The press wants to know what you have for us today that’s new.”
Abby Phillip contributed to this report.