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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from Press Run

Is Politico jumping out the frying pan and into the fire?

The influential bible for savvy-obsessed Beltway insiders, Politico already has a strong tendency to disappoint by viewing the world through a Republican prism. Eagerly propping up Dems in Disarray storylines, Politico remains committed to portraying Republicans as being forever shrewd, and stands at the ready to amplify whatever phony outrage the GOP is pushing.

It was Politico that that famously detailed "How Ron DeSantis Won the Pandemic" this year, after 30,000 Floridians had already died from the virus. Today, the Sunshine State remains a global epicenter of the raging virus. The "won" coverage was part of Politico's larger, and wildly misguided, DeSantis charm offensive:

• "Covid wars launch DeSantis into GOP 'top tier'

• "Ron DeSantis Is Very Pleased With Himself"

"I consistently remind you that Politico is terrible," journalist Soledad O'Brien recently reminded her Twitter followers.

Politico's hallmark, clickbait failures are likely to become more pronounced because the publication was just sold for $1 billion to an openly conservative media giant based in Germany, Axel Springer. Named after the company's founder who has been referred to as Germany's Rupert Murdoch, all Springer employees must pledge their allegiance to the company's "Essentials":

1. We stand up for freedom, the rule of law, democracy and a united Europe.
2. We support the Jewish people and the right of existence of the State of Israel.
3. We advocate the transatlantic alliance between the United States of America and Europe.
4. We uphold the principles of a free market economy and its social responsibility.
5. We reject political and religious extremism and all forms of racism and sexual discrimination.

Politico employees will not have to sign the pledge, according to the New York Times. Still, they will understand what the clear political leanings of their German owners are and that they demand fealty, which could lead American journalists to pander to their bosses. (News reporters signing any kind of worldview "pledge" is a bad idea.)

In a strange, collective oversight though, virtually none of the mainstream media coverage about the blockbuster, $1 billion deal has mentioned the proud conservative preferences of Politico's new owner. That salient fact regarding the purchase of a powerful political media outlet in Washington, D.C., has been conveniently ignored. Reuters, CNN, CNBC, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal all covered the Politico sale without mentioning the buyer's politics.

If an unabashedly liberal, international publisher that demanded its employees sign an oath supporting socialism had swooped in to buy a mainstay of American political journalism, do you think its partisan DNA would be mentioned in the news coverage? I certainly do. In fact, it would be mentioned in every headline.

The deafening media silence is curious since over the years Axel Springer's rightward lurch has not been a secret. Two years ago, The Guardian profiled the "German company founded in 1945 by the rightwing publisher of the same name." When the founder died back in 1985 the Los Angeles Times was straightforward. "Axel Springer, Conservative W. German Publisher, Dies," read the headline. The Times noted that all of Springer's media properties "served as staunch supporters of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's conservative Christian Democratic Union."

As The Tablet observed recently, "Springer was the closest thing that the Germans had to a Rupert Murdoch. Springer's politics were decidedly conservative: capitalist (though comfortable with the German consensus on a "social market economy"); traditionalist; ferociously anti-communist, and pro-American. And much as Murdoch has come to embody everything that bien pensant liberals loathe, Springer was hated by the West German left."

In 1952, Springer founded Bild, a national tabloid daily that soon became the most-read newspaper in Europe, with a circulation that peaked at 6 million. Der Spiegel once characterized the paper as "serv[ing] up tripe, trash, tits and, almost as an afterthought, a healthy dose of hard news seven days a week." It added that Bild, "has taken on the role of a right-wing populist party, which does not yet exist in Germany."

Over the years "Bild decried long hair on men and the marriage of its top models to foreigners. It genuflected before South African apartheid, Greek dictatorship, Bavarian sedans and American Pershing missiles," The Guardian noted. Today, "Bild'smain attack targets remain Germany's "Gutmenschen" – the do-gooders, vegetarians, Greens and 1968ers who are treated as parasites and irritants to Germany's robust economy and middle class."

Added the Columbia Journalism Review, "Some aspects of Bild's conservatism would be familiar to any weary observer of the US culture wars."

The daily recently launched its own TV station, which the Irish Times dubbed "a milder, German equivalent of Fox News."

That's who now owns Politico, which is only going to get worse.

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