Schadenfreude as media bias

The Observer reports that in a conversation with Rupert Murdoch, Tony Blair “denounced the BBC’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina as ‘full of hatred of America’ and ‘gloating’ at the country’s plight.” It says that at his confab in New York, Bill Clinton “also attacked the tone of the BBC coverage at a seminar on the media. He said it had been ‘stacked up’ to criticise the federal government’s slow response.”

The BBC’s report on the criticism says:

Earlier, the BBC’s world editor Jonathan Baker defended its coverage to Newswatch after similar criticisms from some BBC News viewers and users.

He said most of its output had been “absolutely down-the-line straightforward reportage”, but added the president had made himself the “figurehead” of the disaster response.

“If things are not going well, he is there to be criticised, and if they were going much better he would expect to take the credit,” he said.

That’s an odd thing to say: There’s plenty of substance to criticize without having to make a “figurehead” as a sponge of criticism.

I haven’t seen the BBC’s coverage, so I can’t get specific in return. But we all saw last week’s Economist cover: The shaming of America. And God knows what other foreign press is saying about us, bringing us down a few pegs. But then again, what did we say about the French when they let their old people whither and die in a heat wave after they had acted so high and mighty about Iraq?

Is the bias anti-Americanism? Or is it a nationalistic bias of knocking the other guy who knocked us? Or is it a journalistic bias of schadenfreude?