Reprinted with permission from Press Run
Hours after Republican House members forced Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) to surrender her leadership role for the sin of denouncing Trump lies about his election loss, Republicans at a House Oversight Committee hearing addressing the Capitol Hill insurrection spent the same day spreading misinformation about Trump's attempted coup.
Claiming that what transpired that day really wasn't a riot but instead a collection of misguided enthusiasts voicing their concerns, Republicans made clear not only would they not assign blame to Trump for stoking the deadly assault, but they were going to defend the rioters and rewrite history about that ugly day on Capitol Hill.
From Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA): "There was no insurrection. To call it an insurrection is a bold-faced lie."
In normal times, if the public sacking of Cheney for lack of fealty and the public support for insurrection had happened in the same calendar year, it would have been considered a shocking turn of events for a mainstream political party in this country. The fact that both events happened within hours of each other this week only highlighted how radical, dangerous, and anti-democratic the GOP has become, as it hurtles far beyond the mainstream and into the abyss.
Unfortunately, the Beltway press has no idea how to cover this story. It still refuses to use the proper tools and language to put the troubling actions of the GOP in context via its straight news coverage. Hiding behind Both Sides journalism, timid language, and purposeful naïveté, news outlets still aren't being honest about the dire threat Trump Republicans now pose to the country.
Watching the party maneuver itself to be able to invalidate future elections — by passing voter suppression laws, installing local election boards that refuse to certify wins, empowering state legislatures to refuse to certify their state tallies, and electing a Republican majority in the House of Representatives that will deny the Electoral College count — means the United States faces the most entrenched, internal political threat since the Civil War. That's no exaggeration, considering the defining loyalty test for the GOP today is backing Trump's claim that the 2020 election was stolen, which in turns positions the party to question all future election results.
The GOP and its followers have become consumed in deliberate lies, yet the press still views the party as a serious entity whose views deserve to be treated respectfully.
"It's time the media stop covering the GOP as a political party - it's not," tweeted SiriusXM radio show host Dean Obeidallah. "Today's Republican party is a white nationalist, fascist movement and those exact words need to be used by the media so everyone gets the threat the GOP poses to our nation."
It's clearly a conservative movement that's flown off the rails, and resembles nothing we've seen before in modern American politics.
Just in recent days:
• Republicans in Arizona running the clown 'audit' of the 2020 election are searching for traces of bamboo in paper ballots to prove they are counterfeits smuggled in from Southeast Asia.
• A Colorado State representative referred to a colleague as "Buckwheat" while addressing the House.
• QAnon loyalist and Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene aggressively confronted Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in the halls of Congress, and falsely accused her of supporting "terrorists."
• 124 GOP-friendly retired generals and admirals released an open letter spreading the lie that President Joe Biden stole the election, while labeling him a "Marxist" and "tyrannical" threat to America.
• A Republican lawmaker in Michigan wants to force non-partisan "fact checkers" to register with the state and face $1 million fines if public officials prove "wrongful conduct" in their work.
Nervous about claims of "liberal media bias" though, the press holds back.
After witnessing Taylor accost Ocasio-Cortez this week, Washington Post reporter Marianna Sotomayor told CNN that the ugly encounter "really does speak to the polarization that exists and the tensions between both parties, Republicans, and Democrats." [Emphasis added.] Wrong. What Taylor's deranged behavior speaks to is a Republican Party that has torn down the guardrails of common decency.
The New York Times recently published a long piece about the deepening "era of endemic misinformation — and outright disinformation." The article highlighted obvious partisan lies pushed by right-wing media and conservatives, such as Biden's going to force Americans to eat less meat. Instead of framing the epidemic as a Republican-created one, the Times pretended the avalanche of right-wing conspiracies represent a larger, cultural issue.
The press for years has consistently misreported on the increasingly extreme nature of the Republican Party. Specifically, journalists have pressed the faulty notion that GOP members are supposedly worried about Trump. Last summer, the Times announced Republicans were "despairing" over Trump's erratic and authoritarian behavior.
The Times' coverage looks deeply naïve in retrospect. Just like when, in the wake of the January 6 insurrection, the Beltway media insisted a "reckoning" was looming for the GOP over Trump. Instead, Republicans just purged Liz Cheney for criticizing his anti-democratic behavior.
All last winter, the D.C. press told us not to worry about Trump's refusal to acknowledge Biden's lopsided victory — Politico insisted it was just "bad sportsmanship."
Today, there are some glimmers of media hope. CNN on Sunday night is airing a special report, "Radical Rebellion: The Transformation of the GOP," which hopefully won't downplay the rebellion, or what's now at stake. And more news outlets are now using "lies" to describe Trump claims about the 2020 election. That language change is welcome, although long overdue.
The Beltway press has never had to cover a political party that openly embraces anti-democratic policies, such as undermining free and fair elections in America. It's a defining media challenge.
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