Does ESPN Have a Pro-Obama Bias?

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When ESPN's Stuart Scott gave a fawning interview to Barack Obama last month, I thought it reflected poorly on Scott as a journalist, but I didn't think it reflected any type of institutional bias on the part of ESPN.

However, it is easy to see how someone could think there's a larger pro-Obama bias among ESPN's editorial employees. A database search of donations to the campaigns of Obama and John McCain reveals that at least six ESPN editorial employees -- Desmond Howard, Scoop Jackson, Kelly Naqi, John Saunders, Bill Walton and Stephen A. Smith -- have given to Obama's campaign. No ESPN editorial employees are listed as donors to McCain's campaign in the records at

I asked ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz what ESPN's policy is on political donations, and he told me:

For ESPN in general, decisions on political donations are made by employees entirely on their own. For specifically folks with editorial roles, we discourage public participation in matters of political advocacy or controversy.

Discouraging people with editorial roles from engaging in political advocacy is sound policy, and it's surprising that Howard, Jackson, Naqi, Saunders, Walton and Smith decided to ignore that discouragement.

Even more surprising is that ESPN allows editorial employees to comment on campaigns even after they've made donations: Scoop Jackson was just on ESPN's Outside the Lines this afternoon talking about Obama's campaign, and neither he nor Outside the Lines host Bob Ley disclosed that Jackson is an Obama campaign contributor.

I'm not convinced that ESPN, as an organization, is biased in favor of Obama, and in fact ESPN President George Bodenheimer donated to the McCain campaign. But I am convinced that ESPN should strive for an appearance of neutrality in this year's presidential campaign, and so far ESPN is missing the mark.

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